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Dr. J.A. (Julie) McBrien

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Exploring Diversity
Photographer: Tim Stet

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

    Dr. Julie A. McBrien

    Julie McBrien is Associate Professor of Anthropology and director of the Amsterdam Research Center for Gender and Sexuality. Her research focuses on the politics of belonging. She examines the intimate encounters of daily life and asks how they are tied up with global forces and national politics. She attends especially to the politics surrounding gender, religion, and culture. 

    McBrien is Senior Researcher in the ERC funded program Building a Better Tomorrow: Development Knowledge and Practice in Central Asia and Beyond, 1970-2017. In this interdisciplinary project, she investigates questions of nationalism, international development and the politics of the future by interrogating late-Soviet and post-Soviet era interventions into martial practices in Central Asia. 

    This research built directly on her work in two previous projects.  McBrien was co-coordinator and senior researcher in the ERC funded program Problematizing Muslim Marriages: Ambiguities and Contestations in which she studied contestations around marriage conclusion in Kyrgyzstan and how they were woven into larger debates and practices of gender, age, and national belonging. She also investigated the ‘Dreams and disillusions of young women in Kyrgyzstan'  during  a post-doctoral research position funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) at the AISSR and ISIM from 2008-2009. This project examined topics like marriage and kinship (bride abduction), migration, and labour. 

    McBrien has published on ethnic violence and conflict. She also continues to research and publish on issues of religionpolitics, 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 were 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 ).

    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

    Shakrbanu Bagheri, 2021 - present. 

    Davlatbegim Mamadshoeva, 2021 - present

    Dilys Amoabeng, 2021 - present

    Iris Kolman, 2018 - present

    Rahma Bavelaar, 2014 - present

    Ibtisam Sadegh, completed 2023

    Annerienk Fioole, completed 2021

    Dina Zbeidy, completed 2020


  • Publications


    • McBrien, J. (2024). Struggling to interpret Islam in Central Asia: Religion, politics, and anthropology. In J. Féaux de la Croix, & M. Reeves (Eds.), The Central Asian World (pp. 68-81). (The Routledge Worlds). Routledge. [details]


    • McBrien, J. A. (2023). Troublesome Marriages and the Politics of the Future in Kyrgyzstan. In J. McBrien, & A. Moors (Eds.), Muslim Marriage and Non-Marriage: Where Religion and Politics Meet Intimate Life (pp. 33-59). (Islam, Culture and Society). Leuven University Press.
    • McBrien, J. A., & Moors, A. C. A. E. (2023). Muslim Marriage and Non-Marriage: Where Religion and Politics Meet Intimate Life. (Islam, Culture and Society). Leuven University Press.
    • McBrien, J. A., & Moors, A. C. A. E. (2023). Muslim Marriage and Non-Marriage: Religion, Politics, and Intimate Life. In J. McBrien, & A. Moors (Eds.), Muslim Marriage and Non-Marriage: Where Religion and Politics Meet Intimate Life (pp. 9-30). (Islam, Culture and Society). Leuven University Press.


    • McBrien, J. A. (2022). On Mothers- and Daughters-in-law. In D. W. Montgomery (Ed.), Central Asia: Contexts for Understanding (pp. 339). (Central Eurasia in Context). University of Pittsburgh Press.



    • 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. (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). 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.


    Prize / grant

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

    Membership / relevant position

    • 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).


    • Sadegh, I. (2023). Convivencia, crossing borders and boundaries: Muslim-Christian couples in Ceuta. [Thesis, fully internal, Universiteit van Amsterdam]. [details]


    • Fioole, J. C. C. M. (2021). Publicity, discretion, and secrecy through becoming a Moroccan couple. [Thesis, fully internal, Universiteit van Amsterdam]. [details]


    • Zbeidy, D. (2020). Marriage and displacement among Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan. [Thesis, fully internal, Universiteit van Amsterdam]. [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