Claiming the Researcher’s Identity

Anthropological Research and Politicized Religion


  • Martijn de Koning Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Edien Bartels VU University Amsterdam
  • Daniëlle Koning VU University



Islam, Netherlands, religious organizations, social work, students, youth


In this chapter we will discuss the consequences for doing research in the case of a topic and field that has become subject to intense public debate. In three cases involving research on Islam and Muslims we will take up questions pertaining to inter-subjectivity, and show how research on public issues, the relation between the worldviews of informants and those of the researcher, and processes of inclusion and exclusion during fieldwork are influenced by the politicization of Islam. We show how sudden changes in the societal context influence local identifications and allegiances. In our cases these changes produced a politicization of the field which, in turn led to the construction of the researchers as ‘natives’ by the informants. We argue that a reflection on this construction is necessary in order to better analyse processes of signification among informants and render a more adequate representation of the researched.


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Author Biographies

Martijn de Koning, Radboud University Nijmegen

Martijn de Koning studied anthropology at the VU University and defended there his PhD on religious identities among young Moroccan-Dutch youth. He is a participant in the ISIM/Radboud University research project “Salafism as a Transnational Movement.” In his project he looks at how young Muslims actively engage with the writings of major Salafi religious leaders in the Middle East and their representatives in the Netherlands. He maintains his own weblog:

Edien Bartels, VU University Amsterdam

Edien Bartels received her PhD in 1993 (on the topic of Arabic women, symbols and power relations between men and women) and is a senior research fellow at the VU University, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Together with Martijn de Koning she conducted research on Moroccan and Islamic youth, and partner choice. She also conducted research on female circumcision, Islamic law, women and children who have been left behind. Recently she started a research project on Islam, consanguineous marriages and preconceptual testing.

Daniëlle Koning, VU University

Daniëlle Koning studied cultural anthropology at the VU University and graduated with an MA thesis on Muslim students in Amsterdam and their engagement with the religion versus science question. She currently is finishing her PhD on Christian immigrant churches in the Netherlands and their involvement with evangelicism, to their various ethnic groups as well as to “native” Dutch.


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How to Cite

de Koning, M., Bartels, E., & Koning, D. (2012). Claiming the Researcher’s Identity: Anthropological Research and Politicized Religion. Fieldwork in Religion, 6(2), 168–186.