Recently, my second refereed article appeared in print - in which I present the struggles of two Muslim female peace activists from Gujarat to make an argument about the ambivalence and ambiguity of the sacred. Publication is not quite a cause for celebration, though, at least not yet: now, I also want the article to be read and critiqued... With today's post, I thus try to lure you into downloading it (I negotiated open access), by telling part of the story behind the text.1 I do so in English, even though the article itself appeared in German only (but don't worry: I posted a shorter version of my argument a fortnight ago on this blog). While unfortunate for non-German speakers, this was a necessary step to prevent the paper from jeopardizing ongoing negotiations for my monograph on Gujarat - which is now forthcoming from Sage, New Delhi.2 Book publishers don't like it if too much material from any given project is already in print - writing in German, and thus addressing a different audience, was my way around this. Anyway, what is this paper all about and why should you read it if you can? Have a look at the (English) abstract and get the PDF - before I tell you how this all came about:

Recourse to religion can escalate as well as de-escalate intergroup conflict – so far the emerging academic consensus. But the "ambivalence of the sacred" (Appleby 2000) concerns not only violent or non-violent movements or ideologies, it is also experienced on the micro-level of religious identities and individual agency. This article demonstrates at the example of two female Muslim peace activists' biographical narratives and psychometric profiles how the ambivalence and ambiguity of religion towards violent conflict unfolds as a decisively personal dynamic. Both women struggle with and fight for religion in Gujarat, India – and both experience their own Muslimness as ambivalent and ambiguous. Their narratives further emphasize the relevance of explorative empirical methods on the personal micro-level for an adequate understanding of religio-political conflict.

Now: the origin of this article was a conference presentation at the German Orientalist Convention. Yes, I hesitated for more than a while whether I want to have such a conference title on my CV - but it is, unfortunately, still the name of a major disciplinary meeting for area studies in Germany. And there were good reasons to present there: unwritten departmental expectations to do so (the convention took place at the University of Marburg, where I taught comparative politics at the time); the fact that the panel which I eventually joined was organized by colleagues from the (now defunct) Research Network on Religion and Conflict; and most importantly my pending plans to kickstart the transformation of my diploma thesis into a proper research monograph (after having shelved it for a year). What better way to get into (book) writing mode than to warm up with a smaller paper?

So I sat down, digged up some data which I had not originally used in my dissertation, wrote 2 hours a day for three weeks - and had a nice enough paper to present. Unfortunately, the audience at our panel was rather small, but those who listened encouraged me so much with their feedback, that I chose to rework the paper into a stand-alone article (the panel organizers got another fresh chapter for their edited volume in compensation).

Having done this, the first journal I submitted the article to - Friedenswarte - rejected me outright. Bam! Turned out they, too, liked the paper, but I had completely mis-matched the journal. So I took better advice next time, asked my then boss Claudia Derichs, and submitted to Internationales Asienforum. It was important to me to choose an outlet with peer review, and the Asienforum arguably counts as the most prestigious interdisciplinary Asian studies journal in Germany. Reach high and see what happens!

And indeed: the peer review went smoothly, and after minor clarifications and the usual copy-editing, the article actually appeared in end 2011. Well, officially at least - the actual post-print arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago. The politics of dating journal volumes should be looked into by someone, I feel. Anyway: one and a half years from conference paper idea to printed, referreed article is not that bad I think - even though the really interesting part of the story is yet to begin: please download the thing, read it, and let me know what you think (through a comment below or an email). I am curious how the story continues...

  • 1. Background: these days, I fetched a tweet about an interesting altmetric publication impact experiment: putting your research on twitter, blogs, and social media sites is said to multiply readership. Lets see it this actually works...
  • 2. Another cause for celebration, of course - though I could need some help: in case anybody is interested in data visualization strategies, please leave me a note - I plan a website to go along with the book, and am looking for beta testers...