Vanessa Rau is a post-doctoral research fellow in the department of Socio-Cultural Diversity and part of the ZOMiDi project, “Civil Society Organizations and the Challenges of Migration and Diversity: Agents of Change” in the sub-section “Disability and Sexual Minorities”.
Before joining the institute, Vanessa completed a PhD in Sociology at the University of Cambridge focusing on migration and diaspora, religion, secularities and the politics of identity in diverse urban spaces. Her dissertation “Contesting the Secular and Converting Space in Berlin? Becoming Jewish in an Urban Scene” examines a newly emerging Jewish-Hebrew scene in Berlin and investigates how religious and secular belonging are negotiated under specific discursive representations. Based on fieldwork in Berlin and Israel, her study combines ethnography with biographical-narrative research and looks at trajectories of migration and conversion as identity constructions and their entanglements with gender, sexuality, religion and aesthetic practices (particularly music) in a specific socio-political and historical setting. With a background in Social and Political Science, Anthropology as well as Religious Studies (University of Cambridge; Humboldt University/Free University Berlin), her research interests include migration and diversity, the theory and politics of religion and secularism, identity and belonging, gender and sexuality as well as post-colonial approaches to race and ethnicity and the politics of difference. She has worked with different community and development organizations particularly in the context of intercultural/inter-religious dialogue in different parts of the world including the US, Chile and Rwanda and is interested in social and political engagement and the arts beyond the academy.