Unequal Partners? An Ethnographic Study of Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim Couples in the Netherlands

Since February 2022, I am working in the VIDI project ‘Unequal Partners? An Ethnographic Study of Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim Couples in the Netherlands’ at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam.


Prof. dr. Marianne Moyaert, P.I.
Luca Naus, PhD candidate
Deniz Aktaş, PhD candidate

Project summary

Since 9/11 Muslims are framed as ‘others’ and Antisemitism has recurred. Current waves of prejudice specifically target Jewish and Muslim practices (ritual slaughter, veiling) while Christian practices are still privileged. Scholarly literature frames these ritual controversies as a conflict between secular culture and (orthodox) religion. What remains under-theorized is how current prejudice builds on histories of Antisemitism/Islamophobia and how modern ideas about good/bad religion are intertwined with normative Christian assumptions. Consequently, scholarly literature not only fails to theorize the complexities of Islamophobia and Antisemitism, it may also reaffirm the problematization of the Jewish/Islamic other, while reproducing the norm of (secularized) Christianity. This project, in response, proposes a sophisticated theoretical framework to study the current ritual controversies against the background of a cultural archive consisting of normative Christian assumptions, modern ideas about good/bad religion, and lingering anti-Jewish/Muslim prejudices. Methodologically this project is ground-breaking. If most research into Islamophobia/Antisemitism either consists of case studies that fail to contribute to theorization or are heavy on theory but lacking in empirical substantiation, this project combines an innovative theoretical framework with an elaborate plan for fieldwork that accepts native voices as sources of knowledge. Concretely, it takes an ethnographic approach focused on mixed couples involving one partner embodying the norm of (secularized) Christianity and one partner belonging to a Muslim/Jewish minority. This specific focus stems from the finding that mixed couples are microcosms for analysing societal norms, inequalities, and social change. Combining theory and ethnography, this project offers rich data on whether and to what extent these couples are affected by the Dutch cultural archive. It will also provide a fascinating laboratory to understand the creative ways in which they tackle societal and intimate prejudice. This in turn will help to better understand some of the complexities related to antisemitism and islamophobia.

Website: https://www.nwo.nl/projecten/vividi191078