Daan Beekers

Postdoctoral research fellow,University of Edinburgh

Year of birth: 1981

Current position: Postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Past positions: Postdoc Religious Studies, Utrecht University Postdoctoral researcher in the HERA research project Iconic Religion (Utrecht University) Doctoral researcher (VU University, Amsterdam)

Personal Profile:

I am an anthropologist working on religious pluralism in the Netherlands. I obtained my PhD at VU University Amsterdam in 2015, based on an ethnographic study of religious commitment among Muslim and Christian young adults in the Netherlands. From 2014 to 2016, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University within the HERA project Iconic Religion, which looked at the material presence of religion in the urban sphere. Focusing on the (secular or religious) re-use of church buildings in Amsterdam, I investigated in what ways the material, social, and religious legacies of church buildings continue to play a role in their current use.

Within Religious Matters in an Entangled World, I will further develop my research on the abandonment and potential reuse of church buildings in the Netherlands, by shifting my focus from the use of already converted churches to the process of abandonment itself. Hundreds of churches have closed their doors in the last couple of decades and, according to recent estimations, an astonishing average of four churches a week will face the same fate in the coming years. This continuing abandonment of churches arouses passionate reactions among different sections of the Dutch public. These include not only the church congregations who have to leave their buildings, but also a variety of heritage organizations, advisory committees, and government bodies, as well as local residents concerned about the fate of ‘their’ neighbourhood churches. Evidently, the perceived value of church buildings goes well beyond their function as places of Christian worship.

In this study, I conduct ethnographic fieldwork at a number of church buildings that are in the midst of being closed down. Concentrating on sites in Utrecht, Amsterdam, and nearby smaller towns and villages, I examine in detail the debates, emotions, and practices at play. I am particularly interested in the involvement of actors who aren’t church-going Christians themselves and, in relation to this, the subtle transformation that church buildings appear to be undergoing from sites of lived religion to sites of religious heritage. I further aim to pay attention to the ways in which public engagement with abandoned churches is shaped by today’s dynamic field of religious pluralism, which is characterized, among other things, by the presence of Islam and its built environment, (post)secular discourses, and changes in Christian communities and their use of buildings.

Recent scholarly papers/books:

  1. D. Beekers & P. Tamimi Arab. 2016. “Dreams of an Iconic Mosque: Spatial and Temporal Entanglements of a Converted Church”, Material Religion 12(2): 137-164, 2016
  2. D. Beekers. 2015. Precarious Piety: Pursuits of Faith among Young Muslims and Christians in the Netherlands, PhD Dissertation, VU University Amsterdam
  3. D. Beekers. 2014. “Pedagogies of Piety: Comparing Young Observant Muslims and Christians in the Netherlands”, Culture and Religion 15(1): 72-99

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