Universiteit Leiden

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Verena Meyer

University lecturer

Dr. V.H. Meyer
+31 71 527 2281

I am an Assistant Professor (Universitair Docent) of Islam in South and Southeast Asia at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies. In my work, I draw on ethnographic field research, training in contemporary critical theory, and literary studies in Javanese, Malay, and Arabic to investigate questions of Islamic identity, the role of memory and the formation of heritage, and the transmission of knowledge across time and space. Before coming to Leiden, I received my PhD at Columbia University and held a postdoc in Norway.

More information about Verena Meyer

Fields of interest

- intellectual/spiritual networks and lineages of transmission in the Islamic world
- ambiguity and paradox in pre-modern and modern Islam
- memory and constructions of religious identities
- textuality and its materiality
- religious encounters and complexities in Southeast Asia


My first book project, entitled Future’s Past: The Politics of Memory in Islamic Java, is based on extensive ethnographic, archival, and literary research. I investigate how Indonesia’s two largest Islamic mass organizations — one self-identifying as traditionalist, the other as modernist — draw on the historical memory of their founding figures to express and actualize their respective positionings as Muslims. The past, curated in a wide range of media, offers fertile grounds for negotiating and articulating normative religious identities and social visions for both organizations. As constructions of the past are called into the service of different, highly contextual demands, these historical visions often fail to produce coherent self-representations. Yet the ensuing tensions among different memories are often productive, allowing the articulation of complex positionalities beyond the traditionalist-modernist binary. With its focus on contradictions, the book argues against the familiar notion that contemporary Islam, especially in its modernist variant, has lost its tolerance of ambiguity and its ability to make productive use of polyvalence. Grounded in empirical research on Indonesia, the book seeks to offer a theoretical intervention into broader debates within the study of Islam. 

Grants and awards

Columbia University, Early Career Postdoctoral Fellowship
Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI) Doctoral Dissertation Write-Up Fellowship 
Mellon Humanities International Travel Fellowship for Dissertation Research
American Academy of Religion Collaborative International Research Grant (twice)
Columbia University, Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life Research Fellowship (twice)

Curriculum vitae

2022-2023 Postdoctoral Fellow, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society
2021-2022 Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University, Department of Religion
2015-2021 Columbia University, Department of Religion, PhD in Islamic Studies

Selected publications

Meyer, V. (2023). “Murdering Mangir: Literature and Memories of Violence in Islamic Java.” Philological Encounters. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1163/24519197-bja10047.

Meyer, V. (2023). “Where is Mecca? Or, Map and Territory: Reflections from Java.” In R. Ricci (Ed.), Storied Islands: New Directions in Javanese Studies. Leiden: Brill. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004678897_009.

Meyer, V. (2022). “More Than Diacritics: Writing, Power, and the Porosity of Language and Script in Java.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 53(1-2), 356-358. Retrieved from https://doi:10.1017/S0022463422000339

Meyer, V. (2021). A Wali’s Quest for Guidance: The Islamic Genealogies of the Seh Mlaya. Wacana: Journal of the Humanities of Indonesia, 22(3), 675-692. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.17510/wacana.v22i3.1084

Meyer, V. (2021). “Traces of the Other Form of Life: The Rural, the Urban, and Indonesians’ Social Mobility in Candra Aditya’s Dewi Pulang.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 177(2-3), p.234-242. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1163/22134379-bja10031

Meyer, V. (2020). “Neo-Sufism in Indonesia: A Reconsideration of Nurcholish Madjid’s Development of Fazlur Rahman’s Thought.” In K.P. Ewing & R. Corbett (Eds.), Modern Sufis and the State: Rethinking Islam, Scholarship, and the State in South Asia and Beyond. New York: Columbia University Press.

Meyer, V. (2019). “Translating Divinity: Punning and Paradox in Hamzah Fansuri’s Poetic Sufism.” Indonesia and the Malay World, 47(139), p.353-372. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/13639811.2019.1654216

University lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Indonesie



  • No relevant ancillary activities
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