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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 Assistant Professor of Anthropology (tenured) and co-director of the AISSR research program group 'Globalizing Culture and the Quest for Belonging'. She is currently co-coordinator and Senior Researcher in the ERC funded program Problematizing Muslim Marriages. 

    Her work in this global comparative project examines contestations around how marriage is concluded in Kyrgyzstan and the way this ties 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 Relgion in Kyrgyzstan is in press with the Univeristy 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).

  • Publications


    • 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. (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., & Pelkmans, M. (2008). Turning Marx on his head: missionaries, ‘extremists,’ and archaic secularists in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. Critique of Anthropology, 28(1), 87-103. DOI: 10.1177/0308275X07086559 [details]


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


    • van Eijk, N. (Author), Roessler, B. (Author), Zuiderveen Borgesius, F. (Author), Oostveen, M. (Author), et al., U. (Author), van Son, R. (Author), ... Taylor, L. (Author). (2014). Academics Against Mass Surveillance. Web publication/site, Retrieved from [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; No. 32). London [etc.]: I.B. Tauris. [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. (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. DOI: 10.1111/plar.12043 [details]


    • 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]

    Talk / presentation

    • McBrien, J. A. (speaker) (13-9-2013). How Kyrgyz girls became young Muslim women: Reflections on academic classifications, Workshop on Research standards for the study Islam in Central Asia, OSCE Academy, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan..
    • McBrien, J. A. (speaker) (27-8-2013). On Dreams and Disillusions of young Kyrgyz Women, Staff Seminar, Nazerbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan..
    • McBrien, J. A. (speaker) (18-11-2009). Why she stayed: on choice in bride abduction, Invited lecture, University College Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
    • McBrien, J. A. (speaker) (13-11-2009). Watching Clone: Brazilian Soap Operas and the debate over Muslimness in Southern Kyrgyzstan, Conference ‘Popularizing Islam, Recasting the Political Organized by the Social Science Research Council, New York and the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, Amsterdam, ASSR in Amsterdam.
    • McBrien, J. A. (speaker) (9-10-2009). Listening to the Wedding Speaker, Research Seminar on Anthropological Theory, Invited lecture, London School of Economics and Political Science. London, the UK.
    • McBrien, J. A. (speaker) (28-11-2008). New wedding parties and the Islamic critique of post-Soviet life, Paper presented at the conference ‘Understanding Immanent Critique: Cultural Politics and Islamic Activism’, at the ISIM¸ Leiden University, Leiden.
    • McBrien, J. A. (speaker) (15-9-2008). Tolerating Diversity: Secularism and political Islam in Europe and Central Asia, Paper presented at the International Conference on ‘Cooperation with Central Asia: the EU’s Central Asia Strategy’ at the Evangelische Akademie, Loccum.


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