I am currently developing a research program on religious architecture, in particular new purpose-built mosques in Europe . Although the building of new mosques often stirs political and social controversy in Europe - see the ban on minarets in Switzerland -, these debates are not my prime concern. I am more interested in the design of new mosques built by a set of actors - commissioning mosque committees, architects, government officials - for most of whom a new mosque project creates a process of reflection on the place and role of Muslims in a Western society. I compare these processes historically with earlier examples of religious architecture revival and the emancipation of religious minorities, such as the building of synagogues in Germany or Catholic churchesin the Netherlands . Besides, since I believe that European Islam does not only have roots in Islamic history but is also increasingly influenced by contemporary European religiosity, I compare new mosques with other examples of contemporary religious architecture. Going beyond a perspective on religious buildings as representing already existing identities and perceptions of the divine, I am interested in how the building, including the process of fund raising, planning and design, shape or alter these identities and perceptions. The project includes case studies in the Netherlands , Spain , and Germany , and will in the future also contain case studies in Turkey and North America .
In 2006, the Dutch government introduced a naturalization ceremony for foreigners wishing to become Dutchcitizens. Local bureaucrats who organize the ceremony initially disapproved of the measure as symbolic of the neonationalist approach to migration. I analyze how their criticism is undermined in the process of designing the ritual, the form of which continues to express a culturalist message of citizenship, despite organizers'explicit criticism or ridicule.Using the concept of "cultural intimacy," I showhow nationalism builds on a shared embarrassment among local bureaucrats, from which the new citizens are excluded by way of the ceremony. Publications about this project include an article in American Ethnologist ( http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.2010.37.issue-1/issuetoc ) and a book in Dutch entitled Ritueel Burgerschap: Een Essay over Nationalisme en Secularisme in Nederland .
Cities are charismatic entities. Both in and of themselves by virtue of their history and their mythologies, but also as sites where charismatic figures emerge on the basis of their capacity to interpret, manage and master the opacity of the city. The specificity of the urban can neither be understood through the city's functions nor the dynamics of its social networks. The urban is also a way of being in the world and must be understood as a dense and complex cultural repertoire of imagination, fear and desire. In an edited volume in Critique of Anthropology ( http://coa.sagepub.com/content/29/1.toc ) Thomas Blom Hansen and I propose to understand the urban and its charismatic potential through three registers: the sensory regimes of the city; the specific forms of urban knowledge and intelligibility; and the specific forms of power, connectivity and possibility which we call urban infra-power.
As part of the research program on 'illegal but licit' border practices in Asia, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), I co-operate with colleagues from the Peshawar University in a research project about cultural politics in the so-called 'Tribal Areas'. We critically explore the notion of 'tribal culture' that legitimizes the stateof exception in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands, which effectively excludes its population from the Pakistani state of law. We analyze the relative success of militant Islamic organizations within the area as partly a response to this exclusion.
I have a long-standing research interest in ethnic and religious politics in the south of Pakistan , especially the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad , both of which have a majority population of Muhajirs, or former migrants from India . I analyze how a political migrant identity has been created on the basis of Islamic traditions of travel, (in)-justice, and an attachment to the land. This work also includes an interest in the interrelatedness of various forms and styles of violence, such as state violence, youthful vandalism, Islamic martyrdom, and modern terrorism. See, among other publications, my monograph on migrant identity in Hyderabad ( http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7774.html ), which was mentioned as Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2004.