Sarah Bracke is Professor of Sociology of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Amsterdam. She was trained in Sociology of Religion and Culture as well as Philosophy at the KU Leuven, and holds a PhD (2004) in Women’s Studies from Utrecht University.
Before joining the Sociology Department at the UvA in 2017, she worked in Belgium at the KULeuven (Assistant Professor of Sociology of Culture and Religion), Ghent University (Associate Research Professor of Sociology), and the VUB (Senior Researcher at RHEA, the Center of Expertise on Gender, Diversity, and Intersectionality), and in the US at the Harvard Divinity School (Research Associate at the Women's Studies in Religion Program). She held visiting appointments at the Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz (as Marie-Curie Fellow), at the Program in Critical Theory, UC Berkeley (as Visiting Fellow within an Andrew Mellon project), at the Harvard Divinity School (as Visiting Assistant Professor), and the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University (as Visiting Scholar). She is the recipient of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship, a Fulbright Award, two project grants by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), and a Vici and Aspasia grant by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
At the Amsterdam Institute for Social Sciences Research (AISSR), she is a board member of the Amsterdam Research Centre for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS) and was the centre's director between 2019 and 2022. She has been both a member and the chair of the Sociology Bachelor and Master Programme Committees between 2017 and 2021 and a member of the FMG works council between 2021 and 2023.
Bracke’s main research activities are situated at the intersection of gender and sexuality, religion and secularity, and culture and race, with a theoretical focus on questions of agency, subjectivity, and governmentality and a regional focus on Europe. She is the Principle Investigator of the research project EnGendering Europe's 'Muslim Question' funded by the NWO Talent scheme Vici grant (2018-2024) and a partner in the collaborate project ReVisualize: Muslim Women's Empowerment funded by Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission (2022-2025). She has also investigated contemporary forms subjectification in relation to political economy (such as the neoliberal fostering of ‘resilience’) as well as contemporary anti-gender movements and the politics of refusing gender as an analytical category as well as a social reality.
Her work has been published in scholarly journals such as the British Journal of Sociology; Theory, Culture & Society; European Journal of Women's Studies; Feminist Review; Critical Research on Religion; Cultural Studies and Subjectivity. Her most recent book, with Luis M. Hernández Aguilar, is an edited volume entitled The Politics of Replacement: Demographic Fears, Conspiracy Theories, and Race Wars (Routledge, 2023). She has also produced the documentary Pink Camouflage (2009) on the deployment of the rhetoric of LGBT rights within current civilizational geo-politics.
Bracke has served as editor of the Dutch journal of Gender Studies, Tijdschrift for Genderstudies (Amsterdam University Press) and the international journal Religion and Gender (Brill), and has been the Sociology Editor-in-Chief of the SAGE journal Ethnography since 2018. She has a long-standing engagement with Sophia, the Belgian Gender Studies network (board-member, coordinator, and currently part of the general assembly), and has been a board member of the NOG (Nederlandse Onderzoeksschool Genderstudies, the Dutch Research School for Gender Studies) since 2019.
This project investigates the role of gender and sexuality in the systematic problematization of Islam and Muslims in Europe today. Two deliberate theoretical and methodological strategies are used to this achieve this objective. First, by shifting the analytical and methodological focus from ‘the Muslim other’ to the ‘European self’. This shift enables three subsequent theoretical moves: (1) the analysis of the problematization of Islam and Muslims in Western Europe, in which problematization is a research strategy taken from Foucault and focused on the study of how and why something becomes a social problem; (2) the carefully mapping out of the resonances and differences with Europe’s Jewish Question, which represents a paradigmatic instance of the racialization of a religious minority in Europe; and (3) further thinking and accounting for the conceptual entanglement of race and religion in Western Europe.
Second, by centering the analysis in gender and sexuality. This is warranted by the salience of questions of gender and sexuality in Europe’s 'Muslim Question' (e.g. debates on women’s rights and homosexuality) as well as the potential of gender analyses to generate new knowledge. This strategy enables the project to unpack how gender and sexuality function as privileged terrains upon which Europe’s 'Muslim Question' comes into being, as well as to consider the effects of the Muslim Question upon pre-existing regimes of gender and sexuality. The project combines elaborate conceptual work with an ‘ethnography of a problematization’ focused on studying public debates and more precisely key texts in the realms of policy-making and public debate, as well as interviews with key figures. The empirical inquiry focuses on three topics: gender segregation, violence against women, and toleration of homosexuality. The empirical study is focused on the Netherlands, with contrasting case-studies from France, Germany, and Belgium.
Principle investigator: Prof. dr. Sarah Bracke
Postdoctoral researchers: Dr. Luis Manuel Hernández Aguilar & Dr. Anna Esther Younes
Doctoral researchers: Sherilyn Deen, Lou Mousset & Berna Toprak
Research assistence: Pilar d'Alò, Aslıhan Öztürk
Research intern: Roxane Kroon
As a collaborative research and transmission of knowledge between universities and associations, ain other words, this project aims to cross the scholarly gaze with expertise in the field, around the following questions: How do new Muslim women actors within social networks negotiate the construction of feminine/feminist religious subjectivity at the intersection of their faith and the digital world in societies plagued by Islamophobia? How do they proactively deconstruct the image of a subjugated Muslim woman who is forced to wear a headscarf, presenting it instead as a "power grab" and creative act to assert a positive image of women's bodies that have hitherto been singularly invisibilized, dehumanized and even violated? In so doing, the project questions both power dynamics in the field of global digital culture as well as within structures of Islamic authority.
Consortium: Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles (BE); Plurivers'Elles: Etudes et formations (BE); Université de Lorraine (FR); Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (GE); University of Amsterdam (NL)
Coordinators: Dr. Maryam Kolly (UCL Saint-Louis) & Dr. Malika Hamidi (Pluriver'Elles)
Website: Re Visualize
When marriage migrants leave their familiar environment they face the double challenge of building partner and family relationships and integrating into a new society. Regardless if this new place is a better one, it still involves struggles and difficulties. Especially for female marriage migrants, family and kinship ground the social order and form a crucial network of support. Hence the role of the immediate new family, kinship ties, and local community cannot be underestimated.
This ethnographic research project aims to uncover the agency of Muslim female marriage migrants and female partners in Belgium, attending in particular to how they use their cultural and religious capital to negotiate and navigate gender relations, and as such counter some of the challenges of marriage, migration and integration. These specific constraints and challenges require a different way of looking at and valorizing agency because much of what these women do, besides physical moving, is foregrounded by imagining, strategizing, and negotiating.
The project draws on postcolonial, feminist and gender theories that valorize individual experiences and struggles by approaching gender in relation to other identity markers such as ethnicity, class, religion, and sexual identity, as a principal structuring force in shaping the life experience.
Supervisors: Prof. dr. Chia Longman (UGent), Prof. dr. Nadia Fadil (KULeuven), Prof. dr. Sarah Bracke
Doctoral researcher: Amal Miri (PhD defense on 09/11/2021)
Muslims with a migrant background are largely underrepresented in established mental healthcare services in Western-Europe. At the same time, they also seem particularly at risk for mental health problems. This conundrum has been identified, conceptualized, and approached from a number of perspectives. Yet not been many studies have provided an in-depth and dynamic understanding of what happens in the interactions between mental healthcare professionals and diasporic Muslims.
This project explores questions of underrepresentation and interactions both in theoretical and empirical terms. Following a Foucaultian approach that recognizes that mental health institutions shape the subjects that pass through them, the project zooms in on processes of subjectification that diasporic Muslims go through in established mental healthcare services. This focus on subjectification is further elaborated with critical insights from the study of disability, religion, ethnicity, migration, and gender. In empirical terms, the research is located in the city of Ghent, Belgium, and based on in-depth interviews with mental health care providers in various kinds of health care services and diasporic Muslims with mental health issues with different trajectories through, and experiences of, established mental health services.
Supervisors: Prof. dr. Sarah Bracke; Prof. dr. Griet Roets (UGent); Prof. dr. P. Bracke (UGent)
Doctoral researcher: Elise Rondelez (PhD defense on 27/04/2018)
Postdoctoral researcher: Dr. Caroline Vandekinderen