At the core of Longman’s research interest is sexual difference and gender as an organizing principle of society in relation to resources of power and agency. How is sexual difference socially reproduced, challenged and changed individually, locally and globally across space and time? What gender arrangements are oppressive, unjust or harmful, and when might they contribute to more fairness, equality and well-being for all?

The primary research domain in which she is specialized is gender and religion, approaching ‘religion’ as a cultural expression, and vehicle of the human psycho-social reproduction of gender and sexual difference. Longman has carried out and supervised empirical studies on the subject of women’s religious agency; with a trajectory of ethnographic research in various religious communities and traditions that emphasize gender binaries. She is co-founder and now advisory board member of the journal Religion and Gender and board member of the International Association for the Study of Religion and Gender. Longman’s scholarly work in the field of gender and religion is seconded by more collaborative work and publications in related fields in gender and culture or gender studies more broadly, with the development of several research lines including kinship and mothering and harmful cultural practices.

Orthodox Judaism and gender

Longman was one of the first in Europe to study (1) Orthodox Jewish women (various denominations in Antwerp, London), including the Charedi (strictly Orthodox) community of Antwerp.  

Tensions between diversity and equality

Her second area of research concerns societally relevant debates and political challenges regarding the question of (2) accommodating religious and cultural diversity when in tension with norms of liberal gender equality. For the European context, my field research involved studies of burgeoning Muslim women’s emancipation (e.g., pro-hijab activism, migrant women’s organizing), next to more theoretical and edited works on feminism and multiculturalism. She was among the first to publish on the hijab debate in Belgium, and has participated in various networks, projects and publications on gender equality and cultural and religious diversity from a comparative perspective in the European context.

Harmful cultural practices

This topic has been followed up by a more global perspective on tensions between gender and culture with a research line on (3) ‘harmful cultural practices’, a concept that is increasingly used in policy and public debate, yet rarely interrogated in scholarly discussion, similarly leading to international collaborations, invited lectures, publications, and acquired project funding.

Kinship, parenting & reproduction

In the field of (4) kinship, parenting, mothering and reproduction Longman has mostly collaborated on and supervised various projects (undocumented mothers, adoptive parents, Muslim marriage migration and motherhood, mothering practices etc), contributing to the theorization on the relationship between mothering/parenting and intersectional inequalities.

Spirituality, self-care and wellbeing

Her most recent research project ‘Postsecular Femininities’ has involved a return to the field with intermittent intensive ethnographic research in three countries and looks at the way femininity is creatively being redefined among women active in the growing area of (5) spirituality, self-care and wellbeing practices including women’s coaching, circles and festivals across Europe. 

ID/Bart Dewaele 2019