Sarah Bracke is Professor of Sociology of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Amsterdam. Before joining the Sociology Department at the UvA in 2017, she worked as a senior researcher at the Center of Expertise on Gender, Diversity, and Intersectionality (RHEA) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels and as Associate Research Professor of Sociology at Ghent University.
She was trained in Sociology of Religion and Culture as well as Philosophy at the KU Leuven, and holds a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from Utrecht University. She previously held appointments as Marie-Curie Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz, as Visiting Fellow in the Program in Critical Theory, UC Berkeley, as Research Associate and Visiting Professor in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School, and as Visiting Scholar at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Award, an Andrew Mellon fellowship, a FWO project grant, and a NWO Vici and Aspasia grant.
Bracke’s main fields of research include gender, religion (Islam and Christianity), the secular and secular governmentality, and multiculturalism in Europe, with a focus on questions of subjectivity and agency. She has also investigated neoliberal forms of subjectification (such as the ethos of ‘resilience’) as well as the current anti-gender ideology movements against gender as an analytical category. She has produced the documentary Pink Camouflage (2009) on the use of the rhetoric of LGBT rights within current civilizational geo-politics. She is an executive editor of Ethnography and the on-line journal Religion and Gender.
This project investigates the role of gender and sexuality in the 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
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
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: Dr. Elise Rondelez (PhD defense on 27/04/2018)
Postdoctoral researcher: Dr. Caroline Vandekinderen