Abstract: Among Syriac Orthodox Christian migrant communities in the Netherlands, liturgical performance is a site of controversy over where and how to draw a boundary between “religious” and “ethnic” identity. Tensions materialize in discordant singing styles and modes of performance, echoing complex historical encounters with Dutch, Syrian, and Turkish secularisms. These encounters, I argue, have refashioned the liturgical tradition’s role as a central axis of ethnoreligious social life and kin relations across the diaspora. Secular state practices shape a diasporic sensory culture that is met with a distinct form of vocal agency. Syriac Orthodox liturgical experiments show how the voice can transform the sensorial interface between human subjectivity and social intelligibility, in turn transforming how categories of secular modernity—whether ritual, art, ethnicity, or politics—are distinguished and lived.
Bakker, Sarah. 2013. Fragments of a Liturgical World: Syriac Christianity and the Dutch Multicultural Debates. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Santa Cruz, CA: University of California-Santa Cruz.
Abstract: This dissertation explores the reconfiguration of Syriac Orthodox liturgical tradition among Aramaic-speaking Christian refugees in the Netherlands. Under the pressures of Dutch integration policy and the global politics of secular recognition, the Syriac liturgy is rapidly losing its significance as the central axis of social life and kinship-relations in the Syriac Orthodox diaspora. As such, it has become a site for debate over how to be religiously, culturally, and ethnically distinct despite the narrative binary of Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East that dominates Dutch multiculturalism discourse. Every week, young Syriac Orthodox women and men congregate at their churches to practice singing the liturgy in classical Syriac. What they sing, and how they decide to sing it, mediates their experiments in religious and ethical reinvention, with implications for their efforts at political representation. Singers contend not only with conditions of inaudibility produced by histories of ethnic cleansing, migration, and assimilation, but also with the fragments of European Christianity that shape the sensory regime of secular modernity. Public debates over the integration of religious minorities illuminate this condition of fragmentation, as well as the contest over competing conceptions of ethical personhood inherent in the politics of pluralism in Europe.
Publisher’s Description: Faith in the familiar is an ethnography of religious change in the Netherlands, discussing Catholicism and popular forms of New Age. It focuses on the location of religion in local life and how people relate to religious authority.
Abstract: Why do recent converts in new evangelical churches desire to be re-baptized by immersion despite their previous infant baptism in mainline churches? This article addresses this question through a discussion of the observed shift in baptism practices from that of ‘sprinkling’ infants (in Protestant mainline churches) to full bodily immersion of adults (in new evangelical churches) in the Netherlands. Based on an ethnographic comparison of these two baptism practices, I demonstrate the performative effect of rituals as well as the importance of connections between material forms, embodiment and doctrines. The call for different baptism practices, I suggest, illustrates a broader shift in Dutch Protestantism from a didactic to an experiential form of Christianity in which the encounter with the sacred is increasingly located in the body. At the same time, it demonstrates how religious authority has moved from institutions to individual believers.
Knibbe, Kim (2011) ” ‘How to Deal with the Dutch’: The Local and the Global in the Habitus of Saved Souls.” In Dedele and Blanes, eds, Encounters of Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices. Oxford, Berghahn Books.
Excerpt: “How do we shout Halleluiah?” Enthusiastically, her audience responded with a shout of “HALLELUIAH!” accompanied by exuberant arm movements. “And how do the Dutch shout Halleluiah?” Her audience laughed, and tried to imitate the lack of enthusiasm they perceived among the Dutch in different ways: a shortly mumbled hallelujah, huddled and hesitant arm movements that barely raised the hands above the head and kept elbows firmly clipped to the sides. Approvingly, she continued with her next question, encapsulating the problem in one distinct contrast: “And how do they shout when they are watching a football match?” To this, her audience responded like the crowd in a bar when the Dutch football team scores during a soccer match: loud shouting, flinging arms upwards and jumping up and down.