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Dr. J.A. (Julie) McBrien

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Programme group: Globalising Culture and the Quest for Belonging
Photographer: Tim Stet

Visiting address
  • Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
  • Room number: B5.08
Postal address
  • Postbus 15509
    1001 NA Amsterdam
Contact details
  • Profile

    Dr. Julie A. McBrien

    Julie McBrien is Senior Lecturer of Anthropology, director of the AISSR research program group 'Globalizing Culture and the Quest for Belonging' and co-director of the Amsterdam Research Center for Gender and Sexuality

    McBrien was co-coordinator and Senior Researcher in the ERC funded program Problematizing Muslim Marriages: Ambiguities and Contestations In this project, she investigated contestations around marriage conclusion in Kyrgyzstan and the way this tied into debates and practices of gender, age, and national belonging. Her research on marriage builds on her previous investigations into the lives of young Kyrgyzstani women. The project  'Dreams and disillusions of young women in Kyrgyzstan' began during her a post-doctoral research position funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) at the ASSR and ISIM from 2008-2009. It examined topics like marriage and kinship ( bride abduction), migration, and labour. In both projects she has been keenly interested in the way her interlocuters build their futures.

    McBrien has published on ethnic violence and conflict. She also continues to research and publish on issues of religion , politics , and secularism the work she began during her doctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Research Cluster: Religion and Civil Society). Research and writing for this project was funded by the Max Planck Society and the Social Science Research Council, New York. She received her PhD from the Martin Luther University , Halle-Wittenberg. Her book From Belonging to Belief: Modern Secularisms and the Construction of Religion in Kyrgyzstan was published in 2017 with the University of Pittsburgh Press. 

  • Past (ongoing) Projects

    Dreams and Disillusions of Young Muslim Women in Kyrgyzstan

    Having followed a group of Kyrgyz women for the last ten years, McBrien explores their shifting dreams of a fulfilling, adult life and charts how their attempted enactments of these fantasies have been blocked, altered or fulfilled. Love, marriage, and bride-kidnapping; work and children; and labor migration are the key themes in this exploration of young women's lives.

    McBrien's research, titled 'Dreams and Disillusions of Young Muslim Women', was begun as a post-doctoral project at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) and continued from January 1, 2009 at the ASSR (now AISSR). The project was funded by a Rubicon Grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research ( NWO ).

    Young women on the streets of Osh frequently encounter advertisements which spur on dreams for their futures, like this one for a photography studio specializing in weddings (Photo: J. McBrien, 2009)

    Fruit of Devotion: Islam and modernity in Kyrgyzstan

    McBrien's first research project explored the politicization of Islam in southern Kyrgyzstan following the collapse of the USSR and its state-enforced atheism. Her research was particularly concerned with the effects of Soviet and post-Soviet modernization projects on conceptions of religion, politics, and ethno-national identity, and the way these impacted on the return of religion to the public sphere and the (re)construction of social life in a period of post-socialist decline.

    The research project was funded by the Max Planck Society and the Social Science Research Council, New York. It was part of the research project on Religion and Civil Society at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthroplogy, Halle, Germany (2003 - 2006).

  • PhD Students

    Rahma Bavelaar, 2014 - present

    Annerienk Fioole, 2014 - present

    Ibtisam Sadegh, 2014 - present

    Dina Zbeidy,2014 - present

    Iris Kolman, 2018 - present


  • Publications



    • Baas, S., van Hooff, L., Koopman, W., Lopez, A. M., McBrien, J., & Veenhoven, N. (2020). On Futures: Multi-Modal Reflections on Studying the Anthropology of the Future. Etnofoor, 32(1), 123-138. [details]
    • McBrien, J. A. (2020). Regulating, Recognising, and Religionizing Nike in Kyrgyzstan. Hawwa. Journal of women of the Middle East and the Islamic world.


    • McBrien, J. (2017). From Belonging to Belief: Modern secularisms and the construction of religion in Kyrgyzstan. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. [details]


    • McBrien, J. (2013). Afterword: In the aftermath of doubt. In M. Pelkmans (Ed.), Ethnographies of doubt: faith and uncertainty in contemporary societies (pp. 251-268). (Library of modern religion; Vol. 32). London: I.B. Tauris. [details]




    • McBrien, J. (2010). Mukadas's struggle: veils and modernity in Kyrgyzstan. In F. Osella, & B. Soares (Eds.), Islam, politics, anthropology (pp. 121-137). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. [details]




    • McBrien, J. A. (2006). Listening to the wedding speaker: discussing religion and culture in southern Kyrgyzstan. Central Asian Survey, 25(3), 341-357.


    • McBrien, J. A. (2020). Roundtable XXI-53 on King. Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century. H-Diplo Roundtable Review, XXI(53), 14.


    • McBrien, J. (2018). [Review of: D.H. Price (2016) Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, The Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology]. American Ethnologist, 45(3), 443-444. [details]


    • McBrien, J. (2016). [Review of: P. Finke (2014) Variations on Uzbek Identity. Strategic Choices, Cognitive Schema, and Political Constraints in Identification Processes]. Anthropos (Salzburg), 111(2), 684-685. [details]


    • McBrien, J. (2013). [Review of: S. Luehrmann (2011) Secularism, Soviet style: teaching atheism and religion in a Volga republic]. Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 36(2), 375-377. [details]


    • McBrien, J. (2009). Tolerating diversity: secularism and political islam in Europe and Central Asia. Loccumer Protokolle, 55/08.


    • McBrien, J. A. (2007). Brazilian TV and Muslimness in Kyrgyzstan. ISIM Review, 19, 16-17.


    • McBrien, J. A. (2006). Extreme conversations: secularism, religious pluralism, and the rhetoric of Islamic extremism in southern Kyrgyzstan. In C. Hann (Ed.), The post-Socialist religious question: faith and power in Central Asia and East-Central Europe (pp. 47-73). Munich: LIT Verlag.


    • McBrien, J. (2010). Muslim life in a Kyrgyz-Uzbek town. In C. Hann (Ed.), Religion, Identity, Postsocialism: The Halle Focus Group 2003- 2010 (pp. 37-40). Halle/Saale: Max Planck Institute for Scoial Anthropology. [details]


    • McBrien, J. A. (2008). Rubicon Grant for Postdoctoral Research.


    • McBrien, J. A. (2019). Board member, Amsterdam Research Center for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS).

    Media appearance


    • McBrien, J. A. (other) (2012 - 2014). International Scholar, Central Asia and Caucasus Research Training Initiative (other).


    • Fioole, J. C. C. M. (2021). Publicity, discretion, and secrecy through becoming a Moroccan couple. [details]


    • Zbeidy, D. (2020). Marriage and displacement among Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan. [details]
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    • No ancillary activities