Coming soon!

Very excited that two book projects that have been very close to my heart for some time are both moving towards publication. First, in a few months, Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, edited with James Renton (actually he did far more of the work than me) will be out with Palgrave.

This is the first book to examine the relationship between European antisemitism and Islamophobia from the Crusades until the twenty-first century in the principal flashpoints of the two racisms. With case studies ranging from the Balkans to the UK, the contributors take the debate away from politicised polemics about whether or not Muslims are the new Jews. Much previous scholarship and public discussion has focused on comparing European ideas about Jews and Judaism in the past with contemporary attitudes towards Muslims and Islam. This volume rejects this approach. Instead, it interrogates how the dynamic relationship between antisemitism and Islamophobia has evolved over time and space. The result is the uncovering of a previously unknown story in which European ideas about Jews and Muslims were indeed connected, but were also ripped apart. Religion, empire, nation-building, and war, all played their part in the complex evolution of this relationship.  As well as a study of prejudice, this book also opens up a new area of inquiry: how Muslims, Jews, and others have responded to these historically connected racisms.

The volume brings together leading scholars in the emerging field of antisemitism-Islamophobia studies who work in a diverse range of disciplines: anthropology, history, sociology, critical theory, and literature. Together, they help us to understand a Europe in which Jews and Arabs were once called Semites, and today are widely thought to be on two different sides of the War on Terror.

Here are the contents:

1 Introduction: The Shared Story of Europe’s Ideas of the Muslim and the Jew—A Diachronic Framework | James Renton and Ben Gidley

Part I Christendom

2 Ethnic and Religious Categories in the Treatment of Jews and Muslims in the Crusader States | Andrew Jotischky

3 Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Conspiracy Theory of Medical Murder in Early Modern Spain and Portugal | François Soyer

Part II Empire

4 Fear and Loathing in the Russian Empire | Robert D. Crews

5 The End of the Semites | James Renton

Part III Divergence

6 The Case of Circumcision: Diaspora Judaism as a Model for Islam? | Sander L. Gilman

7 Islamophobia and Antisemitism in the Balkans | Marko Attila Hoare

8 Antisemitism and Its Critics | Gil Anidjar

Part IV Response

9 Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Search for Common Ground in French Antiracist Movements since 1898 | Daniel A. Gordon

10 The Price of an Entrance Ticket to Western Society: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heinrich Heine and the Double Standard of Emancipation | David J. Wertheim

11 The Impact of Antisemitism and Islamophobia on Jewish–Muslim Relations in the UK: Memory, Experience, Context | Yulia Egorova and Fiaz Ahmed

Further in the future, my first sole-authored monograph, Citizenship and Belonging: East London Jewish Radicals, has a publication date with Manchester University Press in the Racism, Resistance and Social Change series edited by John Solomos, Satnam Virdee and Aaron Winter.

Racism, Resistance and Social Change is committed to providing a forum for the publication of challenging and innovative scholarship on questions about race, racism and ethnic relations. We have seen intense debate about these issues both globally and within particular geopolitical environments. Our main objective in this series is to provide a forum for scholars from a range of theoretical and political perspectives to publish their work and to develop a dialogue that has an international and multidisciplinary focus. We aim to publish both theoretically driven research as well as research with a more historical and empirical frame.


Authors will be asked to address at least one central theme:

  • Mapping the changing forms and nature of racism in the contemporary age
  • Understanding racism over the longue duree, or re-connecting the present to the past
  • Anti-racism as intellectual and social movement

Forthcoming Books in series:

  • Margarita Aragon, African and Mexican American Men and Collective Violence, 1915-1965: Racial problem headaches (Autumn 2017)
  • Ben Gidley, Citizenship and belonging: East London Jewish Radicals 1903-1918 (winter 2017)

Series Editors: John Solomos, Warwick University, Satnam Virdee, University of Glasgow and Aaron Winter, University of East London,


Yulia Egorova on Jewish-Muslim relations

At the LSE Religion and the Public Sphere blog:

Jewish-Muslim relations are often constructed in the public discourse as problematic due to the conflict in the Middle East. Based on her recent study conducted with Jewish and Muslim participants in the UK with Fiaz Ahmed, Yulia Egorova suggests that Jewish-Muslim relations are instead shaped by and, at the same time, reflect wider public attitudes towards ‘minority communities’ in general and towards Jews and Muslims in particular.


It appears that for many British Jews and British Muslims, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia constitute a significant factor that determines their place in the vexed picture of Jewish-Muslim relations in Europe, and it can be argued that the social hesitation that some British Jews and British Muslims have against each other is a symptom of wider problems in the way ‘minority’ groups are perceived and treated in society.

Both personal and historical experiences of discrimination were frequently referred to in our respondents’ accounts of their view of Jewish-Muslim relations and of their perception of the other group. In the case of the Jewish communities, historical and personal memories and experiences of discrimination, combined with exposure to public and mass media discourses that construct Muslims as a security threat in general, and a threat for Jewish persons and organisations in particular, forces some members of the Jewish constituency to view Muslims with suspicion. The responses that we received from our Jewish interviewees about their experiences of interactions with British Muslims were positive, however, almost every respondent talked about the concern present in their congregations. It is clear that some of their hesitation stems from the rhetoric of the ‘war on terror’ that is common in the mainstream mass media and public discourse, and is not at all limited to the Jewish constituency.


This article is based on a paper by Yulia Egorova and Fiaz Ahmed, “The Impact of Antisemitism and Islamophobia on Jewish-Muslim Relations in the UK: Memory, Experience, Context” in Ben Gidley and James Renton, eds., Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? due out in December. 

About the author
yuliaDr Yulia Egorova
is Reader in Anthropology at Durham University and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture, Society and Politics.


Migrant Metropolis

When:  14 Sep 2016 – 18:3020:30


Autograph ABP – Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA

An evening of film, photography, radio, theatre and debate on how the movement of people is shaping our city. 

Organised by Migrants Right Network.

Stories of arrival, belonging, struggle and longing that prompt us to reflect on what it takes to be an open and inclusive city, told by some of our favourite artists, writers and activists.

With the participation of:

  • Alia Syed, experimental filmmaker and artist. Alia’s work proposes an ongoing investigation of the nature and role of language in intercultural communication, with a focus on borders and boundaries, translation and the trans-cultured self.
  • Kavita Puri, Editor, BBC Our World. Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s award-winning series Three Pounds in My Pocket, that tells the stories of the pioneering migrants who came to Britain from the Indian subcontinent in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Anthony Lam, a photographic artist whose work examines and explores notions and (un)realities of boundaries and borders.
  • Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, reporter and writer that exposes the impact of government policy on ordinary lives. Writer in residence Lacuna Magazine, shortlisted for the George Orwell Prize for Politcal Writing 2012 & 2015.
  • Amina Gichinga, Music educator and community activist with Take Back the City, former City & East London Assembly Take Back our City candidate.
  • Ben Gidley, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychosocial Studies, University of Birbeck. Ben’s ethnographic research focuses on the question of how we live together with difference in urban settings.
  •  Inua Ellams,  award winning poet, playwright and performer. Identity, displacement and destiny are recurring themes in his work.

There will be a drinks reception after the event to continue the conversation.

FREE. Register here

Antisemitic anti-Zionism: the root of Labour’s crisis

Alan Johnson’s submission to the Labour Party’s Chakrabarti inquiry on antisemitism and other forms of racism, published by Fathom, quotes my work. Here are some extracts:

Antisemitism is the most protean of hatreds and it has shape-shifted again (Gidley 2011). … Continue reading

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations

routledgehandbookNewly published:

Edited by Josef Meri

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations invites readers to deepen their understanding of the historical, social, cultural, and political themes that impact modern-day perceptions of interfaith dialogue. The volume is designed to illuminate positive encounters between Muslims and Jews as well as points of conflict within a historical framework. Among other goals, the volume seeks to correct common misperceptions about the history of Muslim-Jewish relations by complicating familiar political narratives to include dynamics such as the cross-influence of literary and intellectual traditions. Reflecting unique and original collaborations between internationally renowned contributors, the book is intended to spark further collaborative and constructive conversation and scholarship in the academy and beyond.

James Renton: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are Dynamic Phenomena

At Promosaik blog:

by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V. – My interview with Dr James Renton

Dr James Renton is Reader in History at Edge Hill University, UK, and co-editor, with Ben Gidley, of Antisemitism and Islamophobia: A Shared Story?, which is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan.

Milena Rampoldi: How would you define anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Which are the common aspects, what are the main differences between them?

James Renton: At base, we can use the terms anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as straight forward labels for anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms. But can we offer a fixed definition of these two fields of prejudice? The histories of the terms themselves tell us something of value in this connection. Within these stories, we find helpful insights into the complex relationship between the two: their differences, similarities, and, significantly, connections. It is essential, however, that any such discussion of this subject acknowledges that European ideas about Jews and Muslims, about Judaism and Islam, do not stand still. They are dynamic, like any field of human thought. We must not treat them as fixed prejudices that operate outside of time, or indeed place. Certainly, both racisms possess very powerful continuities, which are hugely important. But the interplay between these underlying structures of thought and the dynamism of cultural, political, social, and economic change must not be ignored.

The word ‘anti-Semitism’ was invoked at the end of the nineteenth century, at a time in which the pseudo-science of race predominated in European political thought. Jews and Judaism were at the forefront of Europe’s imagined political problems in this period— or Questions to use the terminology of the day— that demanded solutions. The process of Jewish emancipation (incomplete as it was) in central and Western Europe became a focus of ire in these zones as societies grappled with profound economic and political crises and transformation: from depression and warfare in Europe (particularly Germany’s defeat of France in 1870) to concomitant escalating conflict between European imperial states over resources and territory in Africa and Asia.


CIRIS Interview on London’s diaspora communities

This was published on the Cambridge Institute on Religion and International Studies blog.  Huge thanks to Margot and Chris for the interview and transcript.

12249599_670502763092886_1394241603932128199_nIn November 2015 Birkbeck University’s Dr Ben Gidley gave a lecture at CIRIS on Christian, Muslim, and Jewish diaspora communities in London. Here CIRIS research associates Margot Dazey and Chris Moses ask Gidley about the state of diasporic research, his own research on diaspora groups within London’s famously diverse East End, and the policy implications of such research.

CIRIS: Can you tell us about the main aims of the Oxford Diasporas Programme, as well as those of your specific project? Continue reading

Shifting markers of identity in East London’s diasporic religious spaces

A new article in The Impact of Diasporas: Markers of Identity, a special issue of Ethnic and Racil Studies produced by the Leverhulme diaspora programmes at Oxford and Leicester universities. The issue is edited by Joanna Storey and Iain Walker.

Ethnic and Racial Studies Vol. 39 , Iss. 2,2016

This article discusses the historical and geographical contexts of diasporic religious buildings in East London, revealing – contrary both to conventional narratives of immigrant integration, mobility, and succession and to identitarian understandings of belonging – that in such spaces and in the concrete devotional practices enacted in them, markers and boundaries of identity (ritual, spatial, and political) are contested, renegotiated, erased, and rewritten. It draws on a series of case-studies: Fieldgate Street Synagogue in its interrelationship with the East London Mosque; St Antony’s Catholic Church in Forest Gate where Hindus and Christians worship together; and the intertwined histories of Methodism and Anglicanism in Bow Road. Exploration of the intersections between ethnicity, religiosity, and class illuminates the ambiguity and instability of identity-formation and expression within East London’s diasporic faith spaces.

Historicising Diaspora Spaces

A new chapter

Image result for Religion in Diaspora Cultures of CitizenshipIn: Religion in Diaspora: Cultures of Citizenship, edited by Sondra Hausner and Jane Garnett

Part of the series Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship pp 55-79

Historicising Diaspora Spaces: Performing Faith, Race, and Place in London’s East End

Nazneen Ahmed with Jane Garnett, Ben Gidley, Alana Harris, Michael Keith


From the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, there has been a prevailing tendency to orientalise the East End of London. The idioms have changed, but underlying distortions of perspective have remained, from ‘darkest London’ through myths of the Blitz to ‘the new East End’ (Dench et al., 2006; Gidley, 2000; Walkowitz, 1992). This orientalised east London has been framed through (and served as an icon for) two conventional narrative tropes in the history and social science of migration in Britain, one temporal and one spatial. Both narratives are embedded in often-unspoken assumptions about the exercise and practice of citizenship. In particular, east London histories privilege the trajectories of migrant minorities that arrive in London’s lower echelons and are rescued from the abyss through self-improvement and civic engagement. The stories of Huguenot refugees, the Jews of the East End, the Maltese, the Indians, and the Irish are all in some ways redemptively showcased as plot lines of model minority integration. This familiar chronological script is mapped onto an equally familiar cartography as migrants move up, move out of the ghetto and into the suburbs, and leave space for the next wave of settlement. In spatialised Chicago School geography, stories of invasion, succession, and neighbourhood change, as, in chronologies of ladder-climbing minorities, we tend to find cast lists that are relatively unblemished by the presence of traces of difference. The ethnic mosaic is the key metaphor here: it implies social worlds that pass each other by relatively untouched.

VIDEO: The Flexible City – Everyday Urban Life

Via The World Bank:

The Flexible City – Everyday Urban Life Session: Ben Gidley (Oxford University)

Talks by Ben Gidley (University of Oxford), Ahmed Soliman (Alexandria University) and Colin McFarlane (Durham University). Ben Gidley presents findings from studies on urban migration and recommendations for municipal responses to challenges.

This is based on the Global Migration and the Future of the Cities project at COMPAS, part of the Oxford Future of Cities programme led by Steve Raynor and Michael Keith.

Conflicto y convivencia en los barrios urbanos diversos de Europa

New publication, in Spanish:

Nuevo libro colectivo sobre diversidad cultural y conflictos en la UE

Tras un año de intenso trabajo, se acaba de publicar en la editorial Tirant lo Blanch el volumen colectivo Diversidad cultural y conflictos en la Unión Europea. Implicaciones jurídico-políticas, editado por Ángeles Solanes, profesora de Filosofía del Derecho en la Universidad de Valencia. El libro es el fruto de una colaboración entre nueve miembros del proyecto de investigación “Derechos humanos, sociedades multiculturales y conflictos” y de autores invitados procedentes de la Universidad de Nantes y la Universidad de Oxford. A lo largo de sus 286 páginas se examinan de forma crítica y rigurosa cuestiones de indudable trascendencia y actualidad como las políticas urbanas en las ciudades globalizadas de Europa, los conflictos normativos en el ámbito familiar, las formas de violencia vinculadas a la diversidad y el papel del cine como instrumento para el conocimiento del otro. También se reflexiona sobre la importancia de los derechos humanos como guía de acción y mecanismo vertebrador de un pluralismo inclusivo, alejado de la estigmatización y criminalización de la diferencia.

Para consultar el índice y realizar la compra del libro, pinche aquí.



  • El reto que plantea el incremento de la multiculturalidad en Europa obliga a revisar las tensiones que afectan a los derechos humanos. apostando por la necesidad de alcanzar una democracia que permita afrontar las demandas de la diversidad cultural. En diferentes Estados de la Unión Europea. han surgido con” flictos en torno al alcance general de los derechos de los extranjeros y al desafío que supone el acceso equitativo tanto al espacio público como a la distribución de poder y de recursos. atendiendo a los principios de libertad e igualdad. En este trabajo. se aborda la gestión de la diversidad cultural desde disciplinas como la sociología. la antropología. la ciencia política y el derecho. A partir de este enfoque multidimensional se propone un examen crítico y riguroso de cuestiones escogidas como las políticas públicas en el contexto europeo de las ciudades multiculturales. los conflictos en el ámbito familiar y las formas de vio” lencia vinculadas a la diversidad. Además. se analiza el papel que el cine juega como instrumento idóneo para ampliar el estudio de una realidad plural en la que es fundamental la presencia del “otro”. Este libro. en síntesis. reflexiona sobre la importancia de los derechos humanos como guía de acción y mecanismo vertebrador del pluralismo inclusivo. tratando de no criminalizar lo que la diferencia supone para la convivencia en las actuales democracias.

My chapter:

Ben Gidley: Conflicto y convivencia en los barrios urbanos diversos de Europa: reintroducir los derechos humanos y la justicia social en el debate sobre la integración, pp.31-44.

My chapter is based mainly on the projects Concordia Discors and Global Migration and the Future of the City. Here is the opening section in English: Continue reading

Speaking of the Working class

Citizen and its Others - Anderson and HughesNew chapter:

Speaking of the Working class” in Bridget Anderson, Vanessa Hughes (eds) Citizenship and its Others. London: Palgrave (November 2015), pp.177-183.

The chapter is a response to Ben Rogaly’s chapter in the book. Here are my opening paragraphs:

Citizenship is inextricably bound up with voice, with the act of speech and the act of listening. At the edges of accounts of the Athenian polis and of the Roman republic, we can faintly hear the clamour of the demos, those with no voice and have not counted, insisting on being heard. In the Roman republic, the proletariat were those who were heard last, if at all, in the assembly; it was property that gave weight to voice, that made a voice count, and the proletarians were counted in the census only by their number of offspring (proli) instead of their property.

For Aristotle, while all animals have voice, only humans have speech. Discussing a tale told by Livy of the Roman plebs on Aventine Hill, as retold by Pierre-Simon Ballanche in 1829, Jacques Rancière talks of the plebs claiming the human facility of speech. ‘They [the plebs] do not speak because they are beings without a name, deprived of logos – meaning, symbolic enrolment in the city. Plebs live a purely individual life that passes on nothing to posterity except for life itself, reduced to its reproductive function. Whoever is nameless cannot speak.’ Just as Plato called the demos a ‘large and powerful animal’, the Roman patricians heard the sounds of the plebs as – in Ballanche’s words – ‘only transitory speech, a speech that is a fugitive sound, a sort of lowing, a sign of want’: a voice that did not count, that held no meaning to them.

In today’s modes of citizenship, not all voices are heard as speech, as carrying the weight of meaning in the community of value.

Link to book; Amazon; ebook via Springer. Continue reading

Action for Inclusion

Caroline Oliver has written a COMPAS blogpost on the Action for Inclusion in Europe project we are working on. Here is the opening:

You’ve had to deal with 30,000 refugees?….in the region?’

‘No…in the city’

This was how a ‘getting-to-know-you’ conversation began two weeks ago, as six senior officials responsible for migrants’ educational achievement at city or municipal level arrived in Hamburg for a new COMPAS initiative. We were meeting at one of a series of short but intensive action-oriented meetings, aimed at bringing together city officials working on migrant parental involvement in young people’s education, in order to develop plans for tangible reform in their policy or practice.

This activity is part of a wider body of new work at COMPAS, the Action for Inclusion in Europe Initiative, funded by the Open Society Initiative for Europe. In early October, we began with an Autumn Academy, for a five day residential workshop that brought together 19 policy officers and practitioners from European city authorities, an International Governmental Organisation and NGO. All were working in various capacities on migrant integration.

Over recent weeks, other thematic working groups were held that engaged senior officials working on migrant homelessness and civic participation, as well as last week’s event on migrant parental engagement in schools. The events have reached 35 participants from 26 European cities, including representatives from Antwerp, Aarhus, Birmingham, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Ghent, Glasgow, Hamburg, Helsinki, London, Rotterdam, Torino and Vienna among others.

new_logo_exchangeSo what were we doing? The process has been guided by a broad principle of ‘knowledge exchange’ central to the work of the new arm of COMPAS, the Global Exchange in Migration and Diversity. This knowledge exchange involves COMPAS researchers or associates (including myself, Ben Gidley, Jonathan Price and Sarah Spencer). Throughout the events, we offer insights from academic research, frame key themes and debates in the topics of the working groups and facilitate city participants to collectively consider their experiences in practice.


The Impact of Diasporas/Diasporas Reimagined



The Oxford Diasporas Programme (and its sibling Leverhulme diaspora programme, based at Leicester) celebrated its fifth birthday at the Royal Geographical Society in September. A photo gallery is here, including two nice photos of me here and here.

The event launched our collection Diasporas Reimagined: Spaces, Practices and Belonging, edited by Nando Sigona, Alan Gamlen. Giulia Liberatore and Hélène Neveu Kringelbach. The book can be downloaded here, including my chapter, “Cultures of translation: East London, diaspora space and an imagined cosmopolitan tradition”, here.


Blogging migration research

All of my COMPAS blogposts, which I have featured on this website, have now been migrated to the new COMPAS website and archived in one place. Here they are, with links to the new permanent url:

Continue reading

It’s time to do much, much more to help Europe’s refugees

I was one of many signatories of this letter, published yesterday in the New Statesman. Thank you to Rob Ford and Maria Sobolewska for writing it. Continue reading

MIPEX UK press coverage

I helped provide the UK data to MIPEX, the Migrant Integration Policy Index, published this month. The UK findings are here.
Here is some of the coverage of the UK findings. The first three pieces are by me.

The Conversation

The UK tumbles out of top ten in key immigration ranking

Jul 1, 2015

After five years of coalition government, the impact of tighter controls on immigration is beginning to register. In a global index of how committed countries are to integrating legal migrants, the UK has dropped out of the top 10. [By me. Original at The Conversation.]

It’s time to put integration back on the agenda

Jun 30, 2015

Since the introduction of the concept by then-Labour home secretary Roy Jenkins in the mid-1960s, integration has never been a priority for UK governments. [By me. Original at Left Foot Forward.]


An evidence base for a rights-based approach to migrant integration policy

June 16, 2015
As we continue to see high migration numbers, is cutting integration wise? The new MIPEX findings raise the question of how much integration should be prioritised as UK slips in the international tables. [By me. Original at MRN Migration Pulse]

Continue reading

Javier Muñoz:

Dibujo que recrea el asesinato de la emperatriz Sissi a manos del anarquista Luigi Lucheni, a orillas del lago Quai de Mont-Blanc, en Suiza.

Drawing heavily on the article I wrote for La Vanguardia earlier this year, El Correo columnist Javier Muñoz has written a piece on online extremism which quotes me extensively. Here are some extracts.

Ningún país escapa al goteo de jóvenes que un día abandonan la delincuencia, dejan de fumar porros o mandan los estudios y el trabajo a paseo para luchar por el califato en Mesopotamia. Un profesor de la Universidad de Oxford, Ben Gidley, se fijó en uno de esos individuos; una chica criada en el barrio londinense de Lewisham que se marchó a Siria durante el verano de 2014, cuando las cancillerías europeas empezaron a tomarse en serio al Ejército Islámico. Gidley se interesó en el caso porque él reside en Lewinsham, un lugar en su opinión anodino. Revisó lo que la yihadista escribió en Twitter mientras su cuenta se mantuvo activa y lo primero que comprobó es que el perfil era la foto de un niño con un fusil.

Los tuits estaban impregnados de una violencia extrema. La muchacha aseguraba haber visto cómo se esclavizaba a mujeres yazidíes (herejes según los yihadistas) y cómo se decapitaba a prisioneros. Buscaba enlaces para contemplar el asesinato de un periodista británico en la web y expresaba el deseo de ser la primera combatiente del Reino Unido en matar con sus propias manos a un cautivo occidental.

Con relatos como ése, dice Ben Gidley, se pone en cuestión el modelo británico de integración de los inmigrantes basado en el multiculturalismo. Sin embargo, a su modo de ver, los hechos desmienten esa teoría. “En realidad -escribe el docente en un artículo publicado en La Vanguardia Dossier-, los reclutas británicos que han viajado recientemente a Siria para luchar con el Estado Islámico presentan a menudo un alto nivel educativo y unas trayectorias profesionales de éxito”.

Gidley duda de que la chica de Lewinsham pueda ser catalogada como una musulmana no integrada. Se educó en una sociedad libre, se topó con los “comportamientos patriarcales de los ancianos de su mezquita” y se sintió “aburrida por la vida londinense”. Conocía la jerga de las redes sociales, hablaba de tiendas, del tiempo y de su círculo de amigos.

El Reino Unido ha contabilizado más de 700 yihadistas locales, un colectivo que, según el primer ministro, David Cameron, ha surgido por la pasividad de la comunidad musulmana. Sin embargo, su ex ministra Sayeed Warsi, abogada de origen pakistaní y miembro de la Cámara de los Lores (dimitió del Gobierno conservador en 2014 por su política en el conflicto palestino), no está de acuerdo. Admite que las familias y los clérigos musulmanes pueden hacer más, pero se queja de que se responsabilice a estos últimos de la atracción que la violencia despierta en ciertos jóvenes, un fenómeno que recuerda los magnicidios de algunos anarquistas de finales del XIX y comienzos del XX.

Asesinato de Sissi emperatriz

Continue reading

With Arendt on 7/7: The left, social theory and terror

DissentI wrote this originally for the Centre for Urban and Community Research’s Street Signs magazine in September 2007. I re-wrote it for Dissent in September 2010. Dissent’s website migration means all the formatting has been lost, so I am re-posting it here, for the anniversary of 7/7.

When the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York happened, I was in my office in London, trying to finish a report that was overdue. A colleague came in to tell me what was happening. It seemed unreal; my first thought, of which I am now ashamed, was that this was a distraction I didn’t need. I went downstairs to the communal office where people were standing around the radio listening to events unfold on the BBC, then after a while returned to my office to try to finish off the report. It was only when I arrived home and started to watch the images on television that it began to feel more real. And then it began to feel painfully real when I spoke on the telephone to my mother—a New Yorker transplanted to Yorkshire.

Within hours of the attacks, I got an email from a friend describing them as “chickens coming home to roost” for American foreign policy, specifically U.S. sponsorship of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, as part of the final stages of the war on communism. In this sense, the phrase has a certain chilling accuracy. But the more general claim behind the phrase was the idea that America’s foreign policy would inevitably lead to “blowback,” to use another phrase that soon afterward appeared in an email from another friend—in other words, that the responsibility for the attacks was somehow America’s; responsibility and culpability shifted away from the terrorists themselves and onto a larger system. In the days and weeks after September 11, the “chickens coming home to roost” emails came thick and fast.

In July 2005, when my adopted hometown, London, was attacked, exactly the same pattern of responses followed. I received my first email from a friend with the words “chickens coming home to roost” within hours of the 7/7 bombs—while I was still waiting to get through to close friend who lives very near Tavistock Square and who I feared had been caught up in the rush hour atrocity. Now it was not American international policy in general, but the Iraq War specifically, and Britain’s involvement in it, that was the chicken that had come home to roost.

At the other end of the spectrum, of course, were those describing the bombers in terms of evil. The focus on the terrorists as evil, common in politicians’ speeches and newspaper editorials, removed the attacks from any kind of social or geopolitical context. It focused responsibility for the act squarely on the moral agency of the terrorists themselves.

These two responses—chickens coming home to roost on one side and pure evil on the other—demonstrate two opposite failures of thought, or, more precisely, failures of understanding. The claim that the attacks were evil was often accompanied by an insistence that seeking any explanation beyond the purity of evil was illegitimate and would somehow violate the sanctity of those who had been killed in the attacks. The concept of evil comes from moral—and more specifically religious—language, connoting the ineffable, the incomprehensible. To insist on this ineffability is to deny the possibility of rational analysis. The insistence on ineffability is a refusal to think about the attacks and shows a rush to judgment. In these statements, the attacks are a moral outrage, and to think about them, to try to understand their causes, is tantamount to excusing them.

For those whose drive is to analyze, particularly for those of us with a commitment to secular values, there is a basic reaction against the use of the concept of evil itself. Intellectuals, trained to refuse such moral categories, naturally reject this sort of rush to judgment. But there is no doubt that, if the word evil has any meaning, the indiscriminate mass murder of civilians—regardless of age, gender, race, religion, politics, or any other category—qualifies precisely as evil. To deny the evil status of the terrorist attacks is to deny the possibility of moral judgment.

The refusal of moral judgment typical of secular intellectuals does not, however, shy away from apportioning blame. The formula of “chickens coming home to roost” however, apportions blame not to evil individuals but rather to the underlying structures of global society. This has the effect, I believe, of removing the events from the agency of their perpetrators. The bombers cease to be protagonists but become pawns in some much larger game: global capitalism or Western imperialism. Such a refusal may be an intellectual strength, allowing us to reach for a deeper analysis than the politicians and newspaper editors, but it can be a moral failure, too. Continue reading

The right to have rights: children and destitution

My June COMPAS blogpost was on safeguarding children from destitution. The original is here. This is an extract.

The legal framework that governs how a child in Britain with migrant parents can access welfare rights is incredibly complex: on the one hand, a century of immigration and nationality legislation that has created a seemingly endless proliferation of statuses and entitlements short of those of full citizens; on the other hand, the sedimentation of case law, of European and UK legislation on the rights of children and families, and the heritage of a welfare system based on universal provision.

foldersWhile public opinion deals in terms such as “illegal migrant” and “bogus asylum seeker”, for service providers working with migrant families, the categories are infinitely more complicated. An alphabet soup of acronyms and initials that specify who has rights to which benefits – NRPF, s17, ARE, ILR, LLR, DVR, and many more – spell out the formula by which a family may claim housing benefit or carers allowance, or not, and under which conditions. Navigating this complexity is left to local authorities, and specifically to the frontline workers (“street level bureaucrats”, as they are called in the research literature) tasked with granting or denying families access to the welfare state.

Researching the right to have rights

Understanding how this works in practice – how different categories of migrant families do or don’t access social rights – has been a key question for researchers at COMPAS for some time now. A series of projects have explored this for different groups. Undocumented Children in the UK, funded by Barrow Cadbury, explored experiences and everyday lives of irregular migrant children in the United Kingdom, including experiences of schooling and pathways to work. Service provision to irregular migrants in Europe, funded by the Open Society Foundations, explored the extent of, and rationales for, entitlements to service provision for migrants with irregular immigration status in EU countries, mapping entitlements to health and education for both children and adults with irregular migration status (see the blogpost by Sarah Spencer and Nicola Delvino on the Italian part of the research). An OSF-funded pilot study explored city-level responses to those without entitlement, focusing on Berlin and Madrid (see Jonathan Price’s blogpost here). Exploring Migration: Research and Drama in Schools used drama and the findings of the ‘Undocumented Migrant Children in the UK’ project to explore how school students understand issues around irregular migrants (see Ida Persson’s blogpost here). Continue reading