Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Representations of Everyday Islam in Europe: Scholars and the ‘Real World’

What forms does Muslim religiosity take in daily life? What is the relation between representations of Islam and Muslims by scholars and the views that exist in the ‘real world’?

Nathal Dessing

This project studies everyday Islam in Europe, both inside and outside religious institutions, and explores the relationship between representations of Islam and Muslims by scholars and the views that exist in the ‘real world’ outside academia. It seeks to provide information about Islam and Muslims in Europe from a scholarly perspective, but also to engage with broader society by living science through collaborative projects with artists and journalists. This project is as much about Muslims in Europe as about the relation of scholars who study them and the ‘real world’ outside university.

Dessing’s collaboration with Nadia Jeldtoft, Jørgen Nielsen, and Linda Woodhead for the edited volume Everyday Lived Islam in Europe (Ashgate, 2013), has led Dessing to focus in her research to a greater extent on new ways of studying lived Islam, on the non-institutional dimensions of religion, away from the visible dimensions of religiosity in the representation of Muslims in Europe. However, the results of such a study of lived Islam and the fieldwork experience of scholars in this area of expertise often remain in flat contradiction with the representation of Islam and Muslims in the media and the views of society at large.

The standard response of scholars to this contradiction is to provide the world outside with more facts and findings, without necessarily engaging on a deeper level with the experiences and feelings underlying these differences. This research project seeks to do so by practicing knowledge through collaborative projects with artists and journalists. The aim is to deeply engage with society by conducting fieldwork at neighbourhood level, using new methods resulting from the collaboration with artists and journalists, and thus to reinvent the relationship of academia and society at large.

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