I moved to the University of Stirling in early 2008, having previously taught at SOAS in London, England, and been a guest lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Pavia, Italy. My first degree was in Divinity (theology) at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland/University of Erlangen, Germany. I spent several years working mostly in the NGO sector in the UK and the Middle East, including a period as a lobbyist for the UK churches on Israel/Palestine, Iraq and Sudan, before returning to academia. I wrote my PhD on Scottish missionaries to Palestine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, graduating in 2003.
My main research interests centre on European colonial engagement overseas, particularly in the Middle East. I have published on Scottish and English missionary activity in Palestine, and I am currently working on two major projects:
- The first seeks to address questions of gender norms and modernity in Palestine in the period 1918-1939, comparing missionaries from Scotland and Germany. The period between the two World Wars in both these countries saw many changes in the understanding of these issues, and my work centres on the communication of these understandings – or lack of it – abroad, and how this can help our understandings of modernity in Palestine at this time.
A number of issues arise in these areas, such as the need to reflect on questions of identity construction, ascription and designation in various forms: religious, national, employment etc. As (conventionally understood) competing national and religious identities struggled over questions of political control, with the Zionist movement aided by the British Mandate power eventually stymieing Palestinian Arab attempts at self-determination, divergent understandings of modernity became ever more significant, and so I find much of my work reflects on questions of multiple, competing modernities as well as issues of periodisation. Of course, since gender is a central paradigm to this work, questions of the construction of girlhood and boyhood and the ‘making of women/men’ are paramount. This in turn raises issues of normativity, difference and ambivalence in reflecting on gender and other categories of analysis, and Critical Religion offers inroads into reflecting on some of these categories.
- I am also working on a smaller project tentatively entitled ‘The politics of transnationalism’. This has its origins in a paper I gave at a conference in autumn 2011 that explored the apparent contradictions between the generally positive attitude to transnationalism in much of Western historiography with the class and race divides it can also create or reinforce. My critique of transnationalism takes several forms, one of them explicitly formed by a Critical Religion perspective. My blog postings in the next year or so are likely to include various reflections on these themes.
I have also worked on contemporary understandings of religion and politics, including political conflict transformation. Beyond academia I have worked as a lobbyist on Middle East issues, and I have interests in the ways in which concepts of ‘religion’ are used in the political sphere, in both the Middle East and European contexts. To this end, I also write occasional comment pieces for Ekklesia, the UK’s premier religious think-tank, of which I am also an Associate. My membership of the Iona Community is also an expression of a desire to integrate the categories of ‘religion’ and ‘the public sphere’ in meaningful ways.
I also use my personal Twitter account to discuss all these issues and more, and I welcome interaction in the ‘Twitterverse’ – follow me here: @MichaelMarten.
I teach at postgraduate level in various contexts, including with Timothy Fitzgerald on a ‘Religion and Politics’ module, that I convene. This is part of the MRes in Humanities that Stirling offers.
I also welcome enquiries relating to postgraduate supervision, particularly in the following areas: European colonialism, missions to/from/in the Middle East and elsewhere, Oriental churches, postcolonial studies, theology/religion and gender/politics. Please use the form below to contact me directly.
Existing postgraduate supervision addresses a number of the interests mentioned above:
- Safaa Abdulrahim (Arab-American diasporic literature)
- Rajalakshmi Kannan (Indian music in a postcolonial setting)
- Inbal Livne (the collection of Tibetan artefacts in Scottish museums)
- L. Stephanie Tait (representations of Salah al-Din in Hollywood films).
To see all my blog postings on the Critical Religion website, click here.
Contact me using the form below: