Photographer: Marleen de Witte

dr. M. (Marleen) de Witte

  • Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
    Programme group: Globalising Culture and the Quest for Belonging
  • Visiting address
    REC BC
    Nieuwe Achtergracht 166  Room number: C5.18
  • Postal address:
    Postbus  15509
    1001 NA  Amsterdam
    T: 0205252731

Dr. Marleen de Witte joined the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in January 2013. She previously held research and teaching positions at the VU University and Université de Poitiers. She holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Amsterdam (2008).


Marleen’s main anthropological research interests are religion and media, globalization, the senses and the body, cultural heritage, popular culture, urban Africa and African diaspora. Her current project, titled ‘African by Design: self-styling among Afro-Dutch youth in Amsterdam,’ was awarded a VENI grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research NWO. The project explores how and why second-generation Africans (mainly Ghanaians) and Afro-Caribbeans (Surinamese, Antilleans) produce Africanness in media and expressive culture and how Afro styles are appropriated or contested in everyday practices of self-styling and incorporated into new forms of Dutchness.


Marleen has conducted extensive fieldwork in Ghana. Her PhD project studied the use of modern media by charismatic Christianity and neo-traditional African religion, and the processes and challenges involved in the mediatization of religion. Theoretically situated at the crossroads of media, religion, and the senses, the research explored the generation, spread, and adoption of new, mass-mediated forms of religion in Ghana’s new public sphere and compared how media reconfigure the sensory mediation of religious experience in both religions. She discovered that both religions are much closer entangled than their media expressions might suggest at first sight. In 2012 she received the Keetje Hodshon Award from the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen for her dissertation ‘Spirit Media: Charismatics, Traditionalists, and Mediation Practices in Ghana’ and her other publications.


Marleen’s more recent research in Ghana studied the politics and aesthetics of Africanness in cultural heritage formations in Ghana, focusing on the intersecting domains of the state, religion, and media. This project, ‘Styling Sankofa,’ was part of the NWO project ‘Heritage Dynamics: Politics of Authentication and Aesthetics of Persuasion in Ghana, South-Africa, Brazil, and the Netherland’ ( A remarkable outcome was the revitalization and commercialization of African heritage as creative style among young people in Accra, spreading via media and popular culture and closely connected to ‘global Africa.’


Marleen is co-editor of the anthropological journal Etnofoor (




  • de Witte, M. (2017). Heritage, Identity, and the body in Afro-Dutch self-styling. Jahrbuch für Europäische Ethnologie/Yearbook of European Ethnology, 12, 127-146.
  • de Witte, M. (in press). Buy the Future: Charismatic Pentecostalism and African Liberation in a Neoliberal World. In A. Afolayan, O. Yacob-Haliso , & T. Falola (Eds.), Pentecostalism and Politics in Africa Palgrave.
  • de Witte, M. (in press). Corporeality TV and the Authentication of 'African Heritage'. In M. P. J. Van de Port, & B. Meyer (Eds.), Sense and Essence: Heritage and the Cultural Construction of the Real Oxford, New York: Berghahn.
  • de Witte, M. (2017). Review of Birgit Meyer, Sensational Movies: Video, Vision and Christianity in Ghana. Anthropos, 112(1), 338-339.
  • de Witte, M. (2017). Spirit Media and the Spectre of the Fake. In M. Opas, & A. Haapalainen (Eds.), Christianity and the limits of materiality (pp. 37-55). (Bloomsbury Studies in Material Religion; Vol. 1). London: Bloomsbury Academic. [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2016). Encountering religion through Accra's urban soundscape. In J. Darling, & H. F. Wilson (Eds.), Encountering the city: Urban encounters from Accra to New York (pp. 133-150). New York: Routledge. [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2015). Media Afrikania: styles and strategies of representing "Afrikan traditional religion" in Ghana. In R. I. J. Hackett, & B. F. Soares (Eds.), New media and religious transformation in Africa. (pp. 207-226). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. [details] 
  • de Witte, M. (2015). Touch. In S. B. Plate (Ed.), Key terms in material religion (pp. 261-266). London: Bloomsbury Academic. [details] 
  • de Witte, M., de Koning, M., & Sunier, T. (2015). Aesthetics of religious authority: introduction. Culture and Religion, 16(2), 117-124. DOI: 10.1080/14755610.2015.1058524  [details] 



  • Meyer, B., & de Witte, M. (2013). Heritage and the sacred: introduction. Material Religion, 9(3), 274-280. DOI: 10.2752/175183413X13730330868870  [details] 
  • de Witte, M. (2013). The Electric Touch Machine Miracle Scam. Body, Technology, and the (Dis)authentication of the Pentecostal Supernatural. In J. Stolow (Ed.), Deus in machina: religion, technology, and the things in between (pp. 61-82). New York: Fordham University Press.
  • de Witte, M., & Oosterbaan, M. (2013). Introduction: Gold. Etnofoor, 25(1), 7-13. [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2012). Buy the Future, Now! Charismatic Chronotypes in Neoliberal Ghana. Etnofoor, 24(1), 80-104.
  • de Witte, M. (2012). Neo-traditional religions. In E. Bongmba (Ed.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to African Religions. (pp. 173-183). Oxford: Blackwell.
  • de Witte, M. (2012). Television and the gospel of entertainment in Ghana. Exchange, 41(2), 144-164.
  • de Witte, M., & Meyer, B. (2012). African Heritage Design: Entertainment Media and Visual Aesthetics in Ghana. Civilisations, 61(1), 43-65.


  • de Witte, M. (2011). Business of the Spirit: Ghanaian Broadcast Media and the Commercial Exploitation of Pentecostalism. Journal of African Media Studies, 3(2), 189-205. DOI: 10.1386/jams.3.2.189_1 
  • de Witte, M. (2011). Fans and Followers: Marketing Charisma, Making Religious Celebrity in Ghana. Australian religion studies review, 24(3), 231-253.
  • de Witte, M. (2011). Of Corpses, Clay, and Photographs: Body Imagery and Changing Technologies of Remembrance in Asante Funeral Culture. In M. Jindra, & J. Noret (Eds.), Funerals in Africa: Explorations of a Social Phenomenon. (pp. 177-206). New York and Oxford: Berghahn.
  • de Witte, M. (2011). Touch. Material Religion, 7(1), 148-155. DOI: 10.2752/175183411X12968355482466 
  • de Witte, M. (2011). Touched by the Spirit: Converting the Senses in a Ghanaian Charismatic Church. Ethnos, 76(4), 489-509. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2011.620711 


  • de Witte, M. (2010). Religious Media, Mobile Spirits: Publicity and secrecy in African Pentecostalism and traditional religion. In G. Hüwelmeier, & K. Krause (Eds.), Travelling Spirits. Migrants, Markets, and Mobilities. (pp. 83-100). New York: Routledge.
  • de Witte, M. (2010). Transnational Tradition: The Global Dynamics of ‘African Traditional Religion’. In A. Adogame, & J. Spickard (Eds.), Religion Crossing Boundaries: Transnational Religious and Social Dynamics in Africa and the New African Diaspora. (pp. 253-285). Leiden: Brill.


  • de Witte, M. (2009). Modes of Binding, Moments of Bonding: Mediating Divine Touch in Ghanaian Pentecostalism and Traditionalism. In B. Meyer (Ed.), Aesthetic Formations: Media, Religion, and the Senses. (pp. 183-205). New York: Palgrave.



  • de Witte, M. (2005). Insight, secrecy, beasts, and beauty: struggles over the making of a Ghanaian documentary on "African Traditional Religion". Postscripts, 1(2/3), 277-300.
  • de Witte, M. (2005). The Spectacular and the Spirits. Charismatics and Neo-Traditionalists on Ghanaian Television. Material Religion, 1(3), 314-335. [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2004). Afrikania's Dilemma. Reframing African Authenticity in a Christian Public Sphere. Etnofoor, 17(1). [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2003). Altar Media's Living Word. Televised Charismatic Christianity in Ghana. Journal of Religion in Africa, 33(2), 172-202. [details] 
  • de Witte, M. (2003). Money and Death. Funeral Business in Asante, Ghana. Africa, 73(4). [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2002). Accra's Charismatic Screens. Etnofoor, 15(1/2), 222-228.


  • de Witte, M. (2001). Long Live the Dead! Changing Funeral Celebrations in Asante, Ghana. Amsterdam: Aksant Academic Publishers. [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (1997). Highlife en Juju: Muzikanten als Motor van West-Afrika. Etnofoor, 10(1/2), 112-127.


  • de Witte, M. (in press). Religion and Media. In H. Callan (Ed.), Wiley International Encyclopedia of Anthropology New York: Wiley-Blackwell.


  • de Witte, M., de Koning, M., & Sunier, T. (2015). The Aesthetics of Religious Authority. Culture and Religion, 16(2), 117-241. [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2009). Eigen ogen en levende lijven. Antropologie, media en de fetisj van het face-to-face. In T. Sunier (Ed.), Antropologie in een zee van verhalen. (pp. 111-135). (Antropologie Academie; No. 8). Amsterdam: Aksant.


  • Meyer, B., & de Witte, M. (2008). Die Special Effects der Prediger. Ghana: Massamedien, Demokratie und Religion. Afrika-Post, 2008(4), 34-35.


  • de Witte, M. (2005). The Holy Spirit on Air in Ghana. Media Development, 42(2), 22-26. [details] 


  • de Witte, M. (2014). [Review of: K. Pype (2012) The making of the Pentecostal melodrama: religion, media and gender in Kinshasa]. Nova Religio: Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 18(2), 99-101. DOI: 10.1525/nr.2014.18.2.99  [details] 



  • de Witte, M. (2011). [Review of: M. Tomlinson. In God’s Image: the Metaculture of Fijian Christianity]. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 53(3), 708-709.


  • de Witte, M. (2012): VENI Grant (Innovational Research Incentives Scheme, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)). Project title: ‘African by Design: Self-styling among Afro-Dutch youth in Amsterdam’.
  • de Witte, M. (2012): FSW Onderzoeksprijs 2012 (VU).
  • de Witte, M. (2012): Keetje Hodshon Award (Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen).

Journal editor

  • de Witte, M. (editor) & Spronk, R. (editor) (2014): African Diaspora (Journal).
  • de Witte, M. (editor) & Oosterbaan, M. (editor) (2013): Etnofoor (Journal).
  • de Witte, M. (editor) & Meyer, B. (editor) (2013): Material Religion (Journal).

Talk / presentation

  • de Witte, M. (invited speaker) (25-9-2014): Spirit Media and the Spectre of the Fake, Christianity and the Limits of Materiality, Turku, Finland.
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