Impression of the project’s Start Meeting in Utrecht, August 29-30, 2012
By Alexandra Rijke
RMA Student Gender and Ethnicity & International Development Studies, Utrecht University
On the 29th and 30th of August the first conference concerning the NWO project ‘Interdisciplinary Innovations in the study of religion and gender: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives’ took place in Utrecht. Being invited while being (only) a master student was surprising, exciting and raised certain questions, ‘what will my place in this project be?’, ’what do they expect from me?’. On the first day of the conference the main goal was getting to know each other and we heard a lot about each other’s research. My question concerning my place in the project changed from ‘what will my place be’ to ‘will there be a place for me?’. While studying International Development Studies and Gender Studies religion always played a factor in my research, but was never the leading subject. Secondly, my knowledge of religion was restricted to knowledge of Islam, while Christianity seemed to become dominant in this European project. I went to bed thinking I met wonderful people, but that this project would not relate to my upcoming research or experience in the past.
During the second day the goal was to come up with themes and ideas for further collaboration. Because the research interests discussed on the first day were all very different, I wondered whether or not a shared theme would be discovered during just one brainstorm meeting. However, when the brainstorm started, something very special happened and I felt truly lucky to be present. It could be seen how great minds came together, listened to each other, respected each other and all wanted to discover a shared passion. The participants started discussing topics they would find interesting, which at first sounded (again) very different, but this time they not only listened to each other but incorporated the ideas of the others in the topics they brought forward themselves. In an incredibly fast pace they came up with truly interesting and innovative problem statements. At the end of the brainstorm meeting the general theme was agreed upon: ‘(Re)-Imaginations’ and everyone seemed excited to be part of this project. I went home happy because I do see a possible place for my own research in the theme discussed and I truly hope to stay connected to this fascinating and inspiring group of women and men.