University Lecturer Anthropology of Religion
Nathal Dessing is a scholar of religion whose research focuses on everyday lived Islam in Europe. She is the director of the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS) and education director at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies/Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LIAS/LUCSoR).
Leiden Islam Blog
Dessing’s discipline is anthropology of religion, and she has worked particularly on the anthropology of Islam and Muslims in Europe. She has researched Muslim practices around birth, circumcision, marriage and death in the Netherlands, and examined forms of religiosity among Muslims. Her fieldwork quickly showed her that the realities of lived Islam are often vastly more complex than the image painted in the public debate and by the media.
Dessing received her training in Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Religious Studies of Leiden University and earned her PhD at the same department in 2001. She was a researcher and education coordinator at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM), Leiden, from 1998 to 2008. She is the author of Rituals of Birth, Circumcision, Marriage, and Death among Muslims in the Netherlands (Leuven: Peeters, 2001).
Dessing was leader of the NWO-funded research programme “Individualization, Fragmentation of Authority, and New Organizational Forms among Muslims in Europe” (€485,000, 2006–2012). This programme aimed at defining forms and elements of Islam in Europe by analyzing the interplay between the individual, participation, and religious authority. Her research within this programme focused on Muslim women’s organizations in the Netherlands. The programme also included two Ph.D. projects studying two other organizational forms: Muslim student associations (Loubna El Morabet) and institutions of Islamic higher education (Firdaous Oueslati).
This research programme and Dessing’s collaboration with Nadia Jeldtoft, Jørgen Nielsen, and Linda Woodhead for the edited volume Everyday Lived Islam in Europe (Ashgate, 2013), has led her to focus 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, without losing sight of the force of Islam as a discursive tradition.
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