Mathijs Pelkmans is a specialist in the anthropology of the Caucasus and Central Asia. He has conducted field research in Georgia and in Kyrgyzstan. His first major fieldwork was carried out from 1999-2001. During that time he worked on the anthropology of borders, tracing the social biography of the iron curtain between (Soviet) Georgia and Turkey. By documenting changing patterns of everyday life along the border, he demonstrated why the demise of the iron curtain was unexpectedly accompanied by a hardening of social and cultural boundaries. His ongoing fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan, conducted first in 2003-2004 and followed by several shorter research trips, deals with the religious dimension of post-socialist change. Focusing on Protestant as well as Muslim missionary activity, this project studies the dynamics of conversion and re-conversion, and analyses concomitant reconfigurations of the 'secular' and the 'religious' in a 'post-atheist' Muslim-majority context. Dr Pelkmans received his PhD at the University of Amsterdam in 2003. Before joining the LSE in 2007, he held a postdoctoral position at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, and taught at the University of Amsterdam and University College Utrecht. He was editor of ISIM Review and is now co-editor of Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. He is consumed by doubt, a preoccupation which so far has resulted in an edited volume titled Ethnographies of Doubt, and is central to a book manuscript on Fragile Convictions, based on his research in Kyrgyzstan, which he is currently trying to finish.
In press. “Powerful documents: Passports, passages, and dilemmas of identification on the Georgian – Turkish border.” In L. Bacas and W. Kavanagh (eds), Border Encounters: Asymmetry and Proximity at Europe's Frontiers. Berghahn Books.
2013. “Outline for an Ethnography of Doubt.” In M. Pelkmans (ed.), Ethnographies of Doubt: Faith and uncertainty in contemporary societies, pp. 1-42. I.B.Tauris.
2013. “A Wider Audience for Anthropology? Political dimensions of an important debate,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19: 398-404.
2013 “The Affect Effect”, Anthropology Of This Century, issue 7.
2012. “Chaos and Order along the (Former) Iron Curtain,” in H. Donnan and T. Wilson. The Blackwell Companion to Border Studies, pp. 269-82. Wiley Blackwell.
2011 (with Rhys Machold). “Conspiracy Theories and Their Truth Trajectories,” Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, issue 59: 66-80.
2010. "Religious crossings and conversions on the Muslim – Christian frontier in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan," Anthropological Journal of European Cultures 19 (2): 109-28.
2009. "The transparency of Christian proselytizing in Kyrgyzstan," Anthropological Quarterly 82 (2): 423-446.
2009. (with Chris Hann). "Realigning Religion and Power in Central Asia: Islam, nation-state and (post)socialism," Europe-Asia Studies 61 (9): 1517-41.
2009. “Introduction: Post-Soviet space and the unexpected turns of religious life.” In M. Pelkmans (ed.), Conversion after Socialism: Disruptions, Modernisms, and the Technologies of Faith. Berghahn Books, pp. 1-16.
2009. "Temporary Conversions: Encounters with Pentecostalism in Muslim Kyrgyzstan." In M. Pelkmans (ed.), Conversion after Socialism: Disruptions, Modernisms, and the Technologies of Faith. Berghahn Books, pp. 143-61.
2008. (with Julie McBrien). "Turning Marx on his Head: Missionaries, 'extremists,' and archaic secularists in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan," Critique of Anthropology 28 (1): 87-103.
2007."'Culture' as a tool and an obstacle: Missionary encounters in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(4): 881-899.
2006. Defending the Border: Identity, religion, and modernity in the Republic of Georgia. Cornell University Press.
2006. "Asymmetries on the 'religious market' in Kyrgyzstan," in The Postsocialist Religious Question: Faith and Power in Central Asia and East-Central Europe, Chris Hann et al, pp. 29-46. Berlin: Lit Verlag.
2005. "On transition and revolution in Kyrgyzstan," Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, issue 46, pp. 147-57.
2003. "Rural credit institutions in Kyrgyzstan: A case-study in the practice of transition aid," in: Transitions, Institutions and the Rural Sector, Max Spoor (ed.) Lexington Books, pp. 183-195.
2003. "The social life of empty buildings: Imagining the transition in post-Soviet Ajaria," Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, issue 41, pp. 121-136.
2002. "Religion, nation and state in Georgia: Christian expansion in Muslim Ajaria." Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 22 (2): 249-73.