Rhythms of Love: Enduring Romantic Relationships at Midlife
In 2023 I was awarded an NWO-Vidi grant for the project Rhythms of Love, which aims to explore how people in midlife (age 35-60) maintain long-term romantic relationships during life transitions. It seeks to understand the complexities of enduring love in the face of societal challenges like work stress, parenting, and societal pressures. The project will develop the concept of "rhythms of love" to analyze the temporal aspects of midlife love across three domains: partnership, parenthood, and other significant relationships. It will focus on diversity factors such as gender, socioeconomic status, race, and religion to avoid treating midlife love as a one-size-fits-all concept.
The research will be conducted in the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden using various methods, including ethnographic research, informal conversations, love-life histories, emotion diaries, and photographic essays. The project will culminate in academic publications, a conference, newspaper features, podcasts, and blog posts for the public, and undergraduate research involvement, aiming to advance theories of contemporary changes in intimacy. A social science advisory board and a knowledge utilization committee will provide guidance throughout the project.
In 2018, I obtained an NWO-Veni grant for a postdoctoral project (2019-2022) entitled, The Paradox of Romantic Love: Negotiating Autonomy and Commitment in Intimate Relationships in the Netherlands. This project investigated the seemingly contradictory values of autonomy and commitment to untangle the paradox of romantic love in the Dutch context. Pursuing the ideal of romantic love is perceived as an essential component to personal wellbeing and happiness in contemporary western societies. Yet this ideal is challenged by a relatively high rate of divorce and separation, singlehood and loneliness. The paradoxical values of autonomy and commitment underlying late-modern romantic love clash in the quest for establishing and maintaining intimate relationships and achieving happiness as promoted by a widespread therapeutic discourse.
This project asked how autonomy and commitment are negotiated by individuals within long-term monogamous relationships or non-monogamous arrangements and by singles looking for a partner in Dutch society. It focused on the themes of a) ongoing personal reflection, b) communication and c) negotiation in daily practices of d) intimacy, e) sexuality, f) parenthood and g) cohabitation. An intersectional perspective, using gender, class, race and religiosity as analytical lenses, was employed to provide a diversity-sensitive approach to the constructions of love and intimacy. These constructions were examined both at the level of everyday life and in various formal and informal therapeutic and self-help practices by employing ethnographic research methods consisting of in-depth interviewing, informal conversation, participant observation and text analysis.
In my previous position as a postdoctoral researcher at the Radboud University Nijmegen, I was the content coordinator of an international and interdisciplinary NWO-WOTRO project on experiences of ‘shame’ among different actors involved in adolescent sexuality education in Bangladesh. Combining postcolonial, queer and post-secular perspectives, I studied the epistemological underpinnings of international aid development focusing on collaborations between Dutch and Bangladeshi organisations on the promotion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in this country.
During my PhD project (2009-2014) about Iranian Dutch immigrants, I investigated the role of sexuality in processes of collective identification in this diasporic context. The concept of ‘sexual self-fashioning’ was developed to analyse the positioning of the self in relation to modernity based on ideas and ideals about sexuality and gender.
Creating space for difference was the central theme in another collaborative project on ‘proper gayness’ in which a critical account of the dominant ‘coming out’ imperative was provided by engaging with counter-narratives from civil society actors supporting sexual and ethnic diversity in the Netherlands and Flanders.
During my position as a researcher at Atria, Institute for Gender Equality and Women’s History, I led several projects to affect policy. In collaboration with Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (SCP), a qualitative study was conducted, using the concept of ‘emotion work’ to analyse women’s emotional investments in managing the household and underlying Dutch dominant perceptions of appropriate mother- and womanhood. Moreover, I coordinated a comprehensive and international research project on women’s rights in the Gulf countries for The European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
Between 2014 and 2016, I participated as a fieldworker in an oral history project on life stories of refugees in the Netherlands for the European Commission, coordinated by Stichting Bevordering Maatschappelijke Organisatie (BMP). This project resulted in data bases in various Dutch archives and cultural activities by and about refugees for a large audience.