Muslim Women in the Balkans between Nationalism and Transnationalism

April 3, 2017

Ina Merdjanova discussed her book Rediscovering the Umma: Muslims in the Balkans Between Nationalism and Transnationalism (Oxford, 2013) at Duke University on March 28, 2017. Merdjanova is a professor at Trinity College Dublin and formerly the Director of the Center for Interreligious Dialogue and Conflict Prevention at Sofia University in Bulgaria. She is a specialist on Islam in Europe, and particularly in the Balkans, and has written extensively on the subject. 

Her talk, entitled "Muslim Women in the Balkans between Nationalism and Transnationalism," was held in the Blue Parlor in the East Duke Building on East Campus. She discussed her research and her conclusions that as Muslims in Southeast Europe became more self-aware culturally and politically, they expressed this through two main frames of reference: the national and transnational. Even though these perspectives have an innate tension with each other, they were also deeply intertwined. Wider influences and traditions from the transnational Islamic experience underpinned and reinforced the various ethno-national identities of Muslims in this region, which then led to a "radical redefinition" of religious allegiances. Merdjanova observed that, "In spite of the powerful secularization processes under communism and the ensuing transformation of religious institutions, authorities, practices, and levels of faith commitment, the religious factor remained an important cultural force and identity marker in the Balkans. Moreover, religious outlooks continued to shape and inform gender regimes. Post-communist developments in the Balkans brought about a significant redefinition of the roles and status of Muslim women — both in the Muslim communities themselves and in the larger societies. Drawing on literature from the region and on my own fieldwork, I've noticed shifting roles of Muslim women in different spheres of life such as the family, religious education and the public arena under national and transnational Islamic influences."

The event was co-sponsored by the Duke Middle East Studies Center, the Duke Council for European Studies, and the Department of International Comparative Studies.