Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
tel. +358-(0)50-563 63 07

Eeva Korteniemi
tel. +358-(0)50-4150 571

aleksanteri-fellows [at]

Aleksanteri Institute
P.O.Box 42 (Unioninkatu 33)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

aleksanteri [at]
firstname.lastname [at]

Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2014-2015

Ina Merdjanova, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

“Interreligious Dialogue for Peacebuilding in the Balkans: A Gender-Critical Perspective"
(September-October 2014)

Ina Merdjanova is a senior researcher and an adjunct assistant professor in religious studies at Trinity College Dublin. She previously served as director of the Center for Interreligious Dialogue and Conflict Prevention at the Scientific Research Department of Sofia University, Bulgaria (2004-2010). She had held visiting fellowships at Oxford University, Birmingham University, the Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at Edinburgh University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Central European University in Budapest and Radboud University in Nijmegen. Dr. Merdjanova has also won research grants from the British Academy, DAAD, Volkswagen Foundation, the Unites State Institute of Peace, and the European Commission. She is the author of four books and numerous articles on religion and politics in post-communist society. Her research has been focused religion, nationalism and civil society in Eastern Europe, interreligious dialogue and peacebuilding in the Balkans, Islam in the Balkans and in Western Europe, gender activism,  religion, politics and society in Turkey. Her most recent publications include Religion as a Conversation Starter: Interreligious Dialogue for Peacebuilding in the Balkans (with Patrice Brodeur; Continuum, 2009), and Rediscovering the Umma: Muslims in the Balkans between Nationalism and Transnationalism (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Abstract of current research:
During my fellowship at Aleksanteri Institute, I will work on an article on gender, religion and peacebuilding in the Balkans. Drawing on a sociological theory of interreligious dialogue for peacebuilding, which I developed together with Patrice Brodeur in “Religion as a Conversation Starter: Interreligious Dialogue for Peacebuilding in the Balkans,” I will use the case of the Balkans to suggest a further step, a “gender-critical turn”, in the theory and practice of interreligious dialogue as a method in conflict transformation and peacebuilding. My gendered critique is grounded in a feminist analysis, and yet it expands its strategies of deconstruction to include further hierarchies of power beyond a maleness/femaleness polarity. It critically engages other culturally and politically produced dichotomies, too, such as Christianity versus Islam (specifically in the case of the Balkans), and religious hierarchies (the invariably male clergy and leadership) versus lay people (men and women) in both Christian and Muslim communities throughout the Balkans. Highlighting the significant role and contribution of women in interreligious dialogue, while at the same time emphasizing the interrelatedness rather than polarity of “maleness” and “femaleness,” will serve to re-describe definitions of interreligious dialogue for peacebuilding in a more inclusive and participatory way.

Email: merdjand [at]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Aino Saarinen and Kaarina Aitamurto