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Religious Dynamics and Cultural Diversity


Prof. dr. G.A. (Gerard) Wiegers

Faculty of Humanities


Research description

This interdisciplinary research group focuses on historical and current practices of religion in Europe, situated in its wider Mediterranean, Eurasian and global, contexts, as a complex, plural field that is characterized by continuous processes of change and transformation over time.

Contrary to traditional notions of a monolithic “Christian occident” (das Christliche Abendland), our emphasis is on religion in Europe in its full social and cultural diversity and a keen interest in aspects of memory, cultural heritage and identity. We are particularly focusing on processes of discursive transfer and exchange of practices and ideas in and between Jewish, Christian, and Islamic communities, the literary transmission of “pagan” and other traditions within these contexts and the emergence, since the 18th century, of a new religious landscape under the impact of processes of modernization, secularization, individualization, romanticization, commercialization, as well as – beginning in the second half of the 19th and gaining particular force from the second half of the 20th century onwards – of migration and globalization. Complex processes of competition by means of polemics and apologetics, persecution, exclusion and syncretism, innovation and inclusion by means of selective borrowing can be observed in all these contexts.

The research group intends to be not just multidisciplinary, but also interdisciplinary and even transdisciplinary: participants come from a variety of specialisations and disciplinary backgrounds (e.g. historical research, textual analysis, anthropology, sociology, psychology, study of the arts, methodological approaches and history of science), but are encouraged to collaborate across traditional disciplinary and geographical boundaries.

In order to stimulate such an approach, the research output will be categorized not according to the affiliation of scholars to specific disciplines, but on the basis of the actual contents of their various publications from year to year and existing or upcoming collaborations in research projects.


RDCD is the overall platform under which several funded research projects are carried out. In 2020, members were active both at UvA as well as at other universities and abroad. One of the aims of the platform was to function as a scholarly meeting place for the funded and non-funded PhD and Postdocs.

The funded projects

  • Delicate Relations: Muslims and Jews in Amsterdam and London (NWO funded, 2014-2020).  Both PhDs defended their dissertations, Suzanne Roggeveen on 13 March and Susanne van Esdonk 27 November 2020. In 2020-2021 Gerard Wiegers and Sipco Vellenga have researched an written a synthesizing study as the last part of this project, which is now ready to be submitted to an international publisher.
  • Lucia Admiraal (NWO, Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen) Entangled loyalties. Middle Eastern Jewish views on Nazism and anti-Semitism in Europe in the Arabic Jewish press 1933-1948 will defend her thesis on 16 December 2021
  • MIDA, Mediating Islam in the Digital Age (Marie Curie Horizon ITN 2020, 2019-2022). Researchers at UvA: Rukayyah Reichling and Mohamed el-Moursi (EHESS-UvA).
  • EuQu (ERC synergy Project, 2019-2025). At ASH, part of the EuQU programme is carried out at UvA: In March 2019 Gulnaz Sibgatullina started her postdoc research project and worked on it until September 2021. Adrián Rodríguez Iglesias (CSIC-UvA, PhD joint Degree) started in 2020.
  • Nanouschka Wamelink (NWO, Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen) (with Jacqueline Borsje), Interpreting The Unseen Spectacle Of The Past. A performance-theoretical approach to medieval ideas about saintly self-starvation. Expected defense: 2022.
  • George Muishout (with Hanneke van Laarhoven, Oncology, AMC-UvA): Perspectives on Palliative Care of Muslim Care Recipients and Muslim Care Providers in The Netherlands (started 2015). George received an ASH finishing fellowship. His defense is expected in 2022.
  • Shekoufeh Behbehani (with Dr Murat Aydemir and Prof dr Annemarie de Korte (UU), Cinema and Gender Politics in Contemporary Iran: Subversive or Co-extensive? (ASCA, internally FGW funded PhD)



  • Qur’ān Translations and interpretations by European Muslims, March 5, 2021. UvA-Online (ASH, EuQu, organisers: Gerard Wiegers and Gulnaz Sibgatullina)
  • The Morisco Diaspora and Morisco Networks across the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, online Amsterdam, 16 and 17 September 2021.  This conference was sponsored by IS-LE COST Action (CA18129) Islamic Legacy: Narratives East, West, South, North of the Mediterranean (1350-1750) and the ERC Synergy Project the European Qur’ān (EuQu), organisers: Gerard Wiegers and Mercedes García-Arenal (CSIC, Madrid)

Reading Groups

  • Since the end of 2019 two reading groups exist. The first is the Religion and Theory group, which includes funded as well as  external/non funded PhDs and researchers at UvA and abroad (amongst others, Marburg, prof dr. Albrecht Fuess, KU Leuven, Prof dr Amr Ryad). Studies are chosen after consultation with all participants, and corresponding with their (theoretical) interests and (online, zoom) meetings take place every 1.5 month. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a monography. The second is the Global Quran-EuQu-Uva reading group (EuQu researchers -research team Prof dr. Johanna Pink, Freiburg, ERC the Global Qur’an which meets online every two months.

Visiting Scholars

  • We organized presentations by visiting scholars, by MIDA and EuQu researchers. On November 1 2020 John Tolan (PI EuQu, Nantes) presented his research (in combination with the RmA class on Current Issues in Religious Studies and Western Esotericism).

Activities next years

  • We will continue the Theory and Religion Reading Group Meetings (ca. 9 meetings a year-online) and the Global Qur’an reading group.
  • We have started a New Research Group in Islamic Studies, which is both part of ASH and ARTES, “Kazan, Cairo, Córdoba: Muslim Cultures and Societies”, next to the RCDC group, which will continue to exist, perhaps with another coordinator.  Gerard Wiegers will coordinate the new group, which at the moment consists of 25 researchers. One of the planned activities is presentations of ongoing research and serve as a platform for different funded research project carried out at the Faculty.
  • Plan and prepare applications for funding.
  • Organise guest lectures (in cooperation with Current Issues in Religious Studies and Western Esotercism, Dr Jacqueline Borsje)
  • Organise an ASH ARTES conference with the Kazan, Cairo, Córdoba: Muslim Cultures and Societies group.

Societal impact

Research into the social and historical dynamics and cultural diversity of religion is unquestionably of great relevance to society. For instance, many of the political and social conflicts that dominate world news are linked directly to the internal dynamics of monotheistic religions and their complex involvement in processes of modernization, secularization, individualization, and so on. Much of what happens around us today is impossible to understand without analyzing its embeddedness in a longue durée of specifically European polemic and apologetic religious discourse. The particular strength of this program is that it brings together social scientific, comparative and historical approaches, and studies not only the role of the dominant monotheistic and scriptural religions but combines this with a unique emphasis on the underestimated relevance of pagan, heterodox, or esoteric discourses for understanding the emergence of modernity and the processual dynamics of the contemporary “religious supermarket”.