ORA Joint Research Project
Muslim-Jewish encounter, diversity & distance in urban Europe:
Religion, culture and social model (ENCOUNTERS)
Dr. Ben Gidley, Birkbeck University of London, Department of Psychosocial Studies (Main Applicant and Principal Investigator)
Professor Dr. Anne-Sophie Lamine, Social Science Faculty, University of Strasbourg (Principal Investigator)
Professor Dr. Steven Vertovec Ph.D., Max-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung multireligiöser und multiethnischer Gesellschaften, Göttingen (Principal Investigator)
Professor Dr. Matthias Koenig, Heidelberg University, Max-Weber-Institute for Sociology (Co-Investigator)
Funded by the Open Research Area (ORA) for the Social Sciences, this joint research project studies intercultural, interethnic and interreligious encounters as exemplified by Jews and Muslims in urban Europe. The largest European populations of these two groups - overwhelmingly urban, concentrated in the same cities, and, strikingly, often in the same neighbourhoods - are in France, Germany and the UK, countries which on the face of it have followed different models of framing majority-minority relations, creating ideal conditions for a comparative study of the possibilities of living together in urban Europe. Although previous academic studies indicate that negative attitudes to Jews and to Muslims correlate with each other in wider society, current public discourse has instead emphasised growing antagonism between them, relating to events in the Middle East (including the Israel/Palestine conflict) and to the rise of Islamist terror and its counteraction. For instance, commentators have pointed to Muslims as key perpetrators of antisemitism. However, there is some ethnographic evidence that relations in urban neighbourhoods are often more complex: everyday commercial exchange, cultural traffic within music and arts scenes, spontaneous and institutionalised interfaith initiatives, nostalgic attempts to retrieve periods of conviviality, and banal contact in the street are among the many forms these relations can take. To address the lack of empirical and conceptual research of encounters between these two minorities, the project pursues a comparative research agenda that combines attitudinal quantitative data analysis with qualitative methods (ethnographies and discourse analysis).
The transnational collaborative project explores the specificities of and commonalities between Muslim-Jewish encounters in urban Europe, shaped by different national histories of integration including the place of religion in social and political life, but also by local arrangements of diversity, to better understand how different types of relations might arise. At the national scale, this includes an examination of migration and colonial histories, and of classical models – British "pluralism", French "republicanism", German "federalism" – that involve different settlements between the public sphere, national and ethnic identities, and confessional or religious diversity. However, as the picture can radically differ on local level, the project will be grounded in urban sites: two diverse city-regions in each country including significant Jewish and Muslim populations with distinctive histories and differing approaches to urban governance. The project advances interdisciplinary collaboration across six leading European research universities, involving sociologists, anthropologists, urbanists and migration policy experts, with a history of collaboration. Project funding for the Max Planck Institute and for the University of Heidelberg comes from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).