Marten, Michael

Visiting Research Fellow, Heythrop College, University of London

Michael Marten

Michael Marten

I am a Visiting Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of London, having previously been at the University of Stirling, the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Pavia, and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Before returning to academia with the writing of my PhD, I worked 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. I have also worked in business contexts in Scotland and the Middle East.

In terms of discipline, I am primarily a historian. My main research interests centre on European colonial engagement overseas, particularly in the Middle East. I have published widely on European missionaries in the Middle East, and in 2015 I received recognition for this work in being elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

I am currently engaged in two longer-term research projects.


Scottish Women on a Mission

The first major project I am involved in examines the ways in which Scottish women missionaries in the Middle East articulated and lived their identity as women in the period 1918-1948.

I am also working on a larger funding application in relation to this theme with Drs Alison Jasper and Rajalakshmi Nadadur Kannan, which will expand the areas of study to China and India respectively.

Al-Aqsa Mosque, East Jerusalem

Al-Aqsa Mosque, East Jerusalem

The period immediately after World War One saw the transformation of women’s societal roles in Scotland, so I am interested in the ways in which processes of acculturation and reculturation informed, affirmed and challenged understandings of gender roles. 1948 was a significant year that marked a point of transformation in Palestine (and if our joint funding application is successful, that year is also of great significance to China and India).

I seek to offer insights into the creation of contemporary gender roles in various contexts, as well as into cross-cultural communication processes and connections between communities: in a period of global conflict, often ostensibly based on constructions of ‘religion’, I seek to highlight ways in which the contestation of ideological framings can perhaps be addressed more constructively. This has important implications for cross-cultural communications in the contemporary period.

The Politics Of Transnationalism

In connection with this, I am also working on another project that seeks to address issues around the politics of transnationalism. I expect this to be a short book that raises moral issues around the perceived positive nature of transnationalism, and I am pursuing this through the questions of historicisation and postcolonial theory, with case studies from mission history, education, and immigration. Socio-economic class, race and gender are key themes that I am using to illustrate the problems that exist around the theme of transnationalism in historiography.

Other interests

I have also worked on contemporary understandings of religion and politics, including political conflict transformation. I have interests in the ways in which concepts of ‘religion’ are used not only historically but also in the contemporary political sphere, in both the Middle Eastern and European contexts. To this end, I also write occasional comment pieces for Ekklesia, the UK’s premier religion 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 have an academic website of my own that includes course information (especially for my undergraduates), but is also the home to an occasional blog about my research; this is linked to a Twitter account: @DrMMarten.

To see all my blog postings on the Critical Religion website, click here.

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