Yafa Shanneik


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Potential research students who would like to work in any of the following areas can contact me to discuss their ideas further:

Gender and Islam
Migration and asylum
Sunni and Shia Muslim communities in Europe
Transnationalism and diaspora communities
Anthropology of religious practices and rituals among Muslims in Europe and the Middle East
Marriage and Divorce in Islam
Heritage and identity


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


I joined the University of Birmingham in 2017 after holding a number of academic positions at various UK and European universities. 

Research interests

Negotiating Relationships and Redefining Traditions: Syrian and Iraqi Women Refugees in Jordan

Funded by British Academy Sustainable Development Programme

This project focuses on the changing nature of family structures, within sexual and conjugal relationships among Iraqi and Syrian refugee women in Jordan. It examines: a) how heritage is re-defined to empower women to gain dignity and resilience as refugees in Jordan; b) how the refugee context places women in positions of added vulnerability, subjecting them to interpersonal or structural violence; and c) what support mechanisms exist within the law, civil society and among NGOs, which are religio-culturally sensitive and can be used by women to oppose violence within their refugee context. An interdisciplinary team from the UK and Jordan will employ innovative research methods, including art and Virtual Reality (VR) technology, and offer judicial training programmes and awareness sessions for refugee women and social work students. The project seeks to improve gender socialisation among refugees in Jordan feeding into SDP Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Reconsidering Muslim marriage practices in Europe: the case of Iraqi and Syrian war-widows 

Funded by British Academy: Tackling the UK’s International Challenges 2017

This pilot study offers a perspectival shift on Muslim marriages by placing the experiences and voices of Muslim women at the centre of research. It focuses on Iraqi and Syrian war-widows who have settled in the UK and Germany since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011. The project employs an innovative combination of ethnographic, legal and artistic research approaches. Life narratives will be collected and two art workshops will be conducted to examine the women’s agency in developing new forms of Muslim marriages. By analysing two recent legal case studies in each country, the project further investigates to what extent these new forms of marriages are recognised within English and German law. Finally, it examines what other alternative support mechanisms – outside of secular legal systems – exist in the two countries for women to avail of their marital rights. This project is in collaboration with Prof Annelies Moors (University of Amsterdam) and Prof Mathias Rohe (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg).

Women’s leadership and authority within communities in Europe and the Middle East:

My research combines Islamic normative discourses and their communal and individual reception among Muslim communities in Europe and the Middle East. Since 2009 I have been engaging with the Qur’anic text as well as with the diverse Sunni and Shia hadith collections in their original Arabic language and examining their interpretations by various Muslim groups in the contemporary world. I focus in particular on how these sources are used by Sunni and Shia women today to challenge traditional gender dynamics within Muslim communities in Europe and the Middle East. I analyse how community members engage with these texts and make them relevant to contemporary questions especially through the lens of ritual practices.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
  • Islam
  • GN Anthropology
  • European Ethnology
  • Ritual practices
  • JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
  • Refugee and asylum policies


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