Beyond Religion versus Emancipation 2016-2021

As of June 2016, prof. Anne-Marie Korte is the project leader of the NWO research project “Beyond ‘Religion versus Emancipation’: Gender and Sexuality in Women’s Conversions to Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Contemporary Western Europe.”

In post-9/11 Western societies and academic debates, the notion that religion and women’s emancipation are fundamentally conflicting has regained plausibility. Consequently, women’s deliberate religious conversions are a pertinent academic, religious and socio-political issue. In face of this religion/emancipation paradox, this research project will apply interdisciplinary methods to study women’s processes of conversion as the acquisition of new religious subjectivities in which gender and sexuality play a formative role. The project hypothesizes that gender equality and women’s sexuality are ‘battlefields’ on which converting women negotiate their position and subjectivity. It assumes that the conversion process is notably acted out in the context of public debates and religious prescriptions that highlight women’s positions and sexualities in adversative directions. By studying female conversion as an ongoing and multi-layered negotiation between secular and religious gender discourses, the project develops an innovative model of interpretation, based on a diversification of notions of choice, embodiment and religion. Its operationalization takes place through three sub-projects: a qualitative empirical PhD research on women’s embodied conversion processes in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; a postdoctoral cultural analysis of British, Dutch and Flemish public debates on controversies about traditional religious groups, gender and sexuality; and a postdoctoral religious studies approach investigating women’s positions and practices as narrated and regulated within Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. This comparative interdisciplinary project will contribute substantially to the public and academic understandings of tensions between religious and secular gender discourses through in-depth analysis of the experiences of women positioned at the intersection of both. The project includes three sub-projects based on three different approaches. The innovative combination of approaches (qualitative empirical, cultural analytical, and religious studies) is indispensable for answering the empirical and theoretical questions of the project at large.

Research team

This NWO-funded project is based at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University. Fellow researchers are:
Dr. Nella van den Brandt, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University.
Lieke Schrijvers MA, PhD candidate at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University. Joint doctorate with the Centre for Research on Culture and Gender, Ghent University.
Anneloes van Schuppen, project assistant.

Advisory board

Prof. dr. Chia Longman, Ghent University, Belgium. Main advisor & co-promotor Lieke Schrijvers.
Dr. Kristin Aune, Coventry University, United Kingdom
Prof. dr. Sarah Bracke, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
Prof. dr. Annelies Moors, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Prof. dr. Melissa Raphael, University of Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
Prof. dr. Elina Vuola, University of Helsinki, Finland


For more information about this project, contact A separate project website is coming soon.