Impression of the project’s Start Meeting in Utrecht, August 29-30, 2012
By Jenny Loh, PhD Student at SOAS, University of London (UK)

It was a pleasure to be invited to participate in the first Research and Networking Project for ‘Interdisciplinary Innovations in the Study of Religion and Gender: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives’.  Held in the beautiful and historical city of Utrecht, this event gave an opportunity for those belonging to the participating research institutions—both senior scholars and junior researchers alike—to meet one another, learn about one another’s work and interests, and take part in informative and important discussions about the future plans for this three-year project.

It was wonderful to meet academics from numerous disciplines and with such diverse interests.  It was even better that everyone was part of this same project, trying to find innovative ways of informing the intersecting fields of religion and gender while bringing different strengths to the project.  On the first day, we had an informal lunch, followed by networking sessions in order to get an idea of individual participants and an overview of the participating institutions.  It was fascinating to learn about individuals’ research interests, and also important to find out what each institutions’ aspirations and expectations were for the project.  The day was wrapped up with a historical walk regarding ‘Traces of Slavery’ in Utrecht: this presented an enjoyable way to see the city, as well as discuss with participants more about themselves and the day’s events.

The second day was themed towards funding and future collaboration.  We had a specific talk on European funding opportunities, followed by a group discussion on ways in which to apply and work towards grant applications for this project.  I enjoyed this discussion particularly; it was great to see scholars from a variety of disciplines and interests finding ways in which to collaborate and conceive of exciting innovations for the field of religion and gender.  What was welcoming about the meeting was the presence of junior researchers, as well as an insistence of their participation.  As a junior researcher, it is often daunting to be in such situations, but I found that the senior scholars were interested in this aspect of collaboration, and as such it was a unique opportunity to participate in this meeting.  After a delicious lunch in an old Gentlemen’s club ballroom converted into a beautiful restaurant, we wrapped up the event by discussing some of the more practical aspects of the project, including future workshops, conferences, and publications, and how to proceed with grant applications.  It is exciting that we are holding the first workshop on ‘Postcolonial Intersections’ in December at SOAS, the institution I am based at, and I am greatly looking forward to the future workshops located in other institutions.

It was a wonderful experience to be included in this initial event, and I am most grateful to the event organisers for giving us ‘junior researchers’ this exciting opportunity and a chance to be part of this network of scholars. I am excited for the December workshop and look forward to seeing many familiar faces from our event in Utrecht!

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