Author Archives: bengidley

About bengidley

Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Science, History and Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London.

Anya Topolski on race after the Shoah

issue cover imageA really insightful and provocative review essay by Anya Topolski on Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? edited by James Renton and me, and Whites, Jews, and Us: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love by Houria Bouteldja. Some really nice words, and makes some important criticisms too.

Opening extract:

Race remains a taboo term and topic in Europe today. This post-Shoah silence is both political and, until very recently, academic.1 The two books under review aim to break this silence by tackling the complex and entangled questions of antisemitism, islamophobia, and white (Christian or secular) supremacy and to demonstrate that racism in Europe cannot be separated from the question of religion (and I would add well beyond Europe). The essays collected in Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, edited by James Renton and Ben Gidley, provide the rich histories and complexities concerning the race-religion intersection, in terms of [End Page 280] the shared stories of antisemitism and islamophobia, in Europe.2 Whites Jews and Us: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love, by Houria Bouteldja, is a passionate political appeal for action against the violence, exclusion, and power games experienced by excluded groups in Europe today.3 Read together, these two books offer a theoretical and applied analysis of racism in Europe today.

Let me first provide the reader with a summary of the contents. When Renton and Gidley selected and edited this volume, based on the proceedings of a 2008 conference, what was their ambition? With the nuance of erudite scholars, nuance sometimes lacking in Bouteldja’s book, Renton and Gidley refuse to take up the question of the complex relationship between antisemitism and islamophobia in a reductive or simplistic manner. Is it possible to focus on similarities without sacrificing differences or vice versa? The approach chosen by the editors is, in this vein, judicious. “We have to excavate and concentrate on a shared story of evolution; in short, we need a diachronic framework, in which we can identify moments of beginning, change, separation (6).” The aim is thus to focus on how this relationship has changed or unfolded over time which leads to the four-part diachronic structure of the book: Christendom, empire, divergence and response. While I welcome the aim, it might have been too ambitious as it would have required more active engagements with the respective contributions and an editorial conclusion. As it is, several of the essays feel rather misplaced. This is unfortunate as the structure and aim creates possibilities that would have been both timely and relevant. One concrete example is that of antizyganism. While the editors, and several authors, mention discrimination against the Roma, none consider how the exclusion and persecution of Roma might be related and entangled in this relationship—precisely because of the diachronic structure, this might have been possible.

READ THE REST.

Details: Continue reading

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The vicious circle of Islamist terrorism and far-right extremism

When most people think of the Bataclan these days, it’s not the venerated theater where rock bands have been playing since the 1970s which comes to mind. Rather, it’s Islamist terrorism, after 89 people were killed there during a concert in November 2015.

So when news spread this fall that a rapper named Médine, who once named an album “Jihad” and is openly critical of secularism in France, will play the Paris venue in the fall, the far right was outraged. “Is it normal that a militant, fundamentalist Islamist goes to the Bataclan to express his hatred and defend ideas that I believe are inciting crimes?” asked France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

An article in CS Monitor by  (Correspondent) and  (Staff writer). Colette interviewed me for the article. Here are the extracts with me in them:

“It’s partly about the politics of the spectacle of confrontation,” says Ben Gidley, a senior lecturer of sociology at Birkbeck, University of London who worked on a 2014 study on what drives extremism in British society. “Every time [a far right leader] is on television saying something inflammatory, that fuels the anger about extreme Islamism which gives an opportunity to the entrepreneurs of panic on the right to put their message into the public sphere. Once you have a spectacular appearance on one side, it gives a platform to the other.”

And:

Mr. Gidley in Britain says that labeling far-right violence “terrorism,” whether in political discourse, media coverage, or within civil society, is a solution to breaking the cycle. “It’s really important,” he says, “to challenge the association of terrorism and Islamism which contributes to the anti-Muslim discourses that feed the far right and to have clarity to challenge it properly, that there is a problem with right-wing terrorism.”

He also says policy makers need to create more space for cultural mixing and frank talk about people’s concerns amid demographic change. “There need to be more opportunities for people to air their grievances, to feel listened to,” he says. “If there are concerns about migration or foreign policy, instead of making them into taboo topics, create opportunities to allow people to feel listened to so they don’t get channeled into extremist ideology.”

I think in the first quote, there’s a slight leap out of context. I think where it puts “a far right leader” in square brackets, I was referrring to Anjem Choudary, the British hate preacher the UK mainstream media love almost as much as they love “Tommy Robinson”. My point was that each time he appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamism that feeds the far right (just as every time “Robinson” appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamophobia that fuels Islamism.

In the second quote, I am arguing that the far right and Islamists resemble each other in channeling real (as well as imaginary) grievances in dangerous directions.

These ideas are developed more fully in a chapter I wrote with David Feldman in this report.


CUCR podcast: Identity, belonging and citizenship in urban Britain

From the CUCR blog:

In this CUCR podcast, Les Back talks to Steve Hanson and Ben Gidley about their new report with Sundas Ali Identity, Belonging & Citizenship in Urban Britain (CUCR, 2018).  This study of UK cities was conducted before the Brexit vote but in many respects it anticipated its outcome.  In this report they argue that urban spaces  can be characterised on a continuum with ‘English cities’ at one end and British cities at the other.  They also talk about the politics of Englishness and urban multicultural conviviality and what makes a good city.
The full report can be downloaded for Free here and copies are available from directly from CUCR.
Steve Hanson’s book Small Towns, Austere Times: The Dialectics of Deracinated Localism is available from Zero Books.

James Renton: Does the World Really Need More Experts on Racism and anti-Semitism?

By my co-author James Renton in Ha’aretz. Extract:

In our current age of populism, the expert is much maligned. The UK government minister and Brexit champion Michael Gove famously declared in 2016 that “People in this country have had enough” of them. In the United States and on the world stage, Donald Trump’s presidency is the embodiment of anti-intellectualism. Shooting (quite literally) from the hip is the order of the day.

The side-lining, or absence, of experts in public debate has been particularly marked in the furor over anti-Semitism and other racisms in the last few years. This is no coincidence; populism is a result and vehicle of multiple crises of racism around the world.

We (the experts) must respond. As a big step in this direction, the European University Institute in Florence, Italy has launched an online magazine to bring academic expertise on racism to global public debate, collaborating with NGOs, policymakers, and public institutions such as museums….

Earlier this year, our magazine co-organized with the All-Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism an event at Westminster on anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim prejudice. The research briefing emphasised the complexities of how these two racisms have been connected (but also distinctive) over the last millennium.

This research shows that focusing on only one racism in one political party in one country means missing a crucial context: a much bigger, inter-connected European and global picture of multiple racisms across political divisions. This is the sort of expertise that could change completely public debate, and it needs to be known.

READ THE REST.

 

 

For all posts on our book Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Storyclick here.


Coming soon: Identity, Belonging & Citizenship in Urban Britain

A new CUCR occasional paper:

Ben Gidley, Steve Hanson and Sundas Ali Identity, Belonging & Citzenship in Urban Britain [pdf]

 


In Tbilisi

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[More pictures at the end of the post]

From the Georgian State Commission on Migration:

Academic Conference on Migrants Integration Held in Tbilisi

Conf 1

On 8-9 February 2018, an international conference “Dialogue on Migrants’ Integration – Challenges, Benefits and Good Practices” was held in Tbilisi, co-organised by SCMI Secretariat and ICMPD. The conference brought together local and international practitioners, policymakers and scholars to discuss best practices and lessons learned with regard to the integration of migrants within the EU Member States and in EaP area, substantiated by the global migration processes of the last decade and increasing need to agree upon and develop well-thought integration policy and practices in destination countries.

The conference was opened by the Deputy Minister of Justice of Georgia who focused on the existing framework of migration management and the planned steps of involved state ministries – members of the SCMI to develop the immigrant integration policy in Georgia. A keynote speech on migration and integration was given by Dr. Christian Joppke, University of Bern, while the next day started with the lecture on the general integration framework by Dr. Ben Gidley from the University of London, and continued with panel discussions involving Georgian policymakers, practitioners and international experts around certain aspects of integration such as structural integration (access to the labour market, education, and health care), social and cultural integration, and immigrant integration indicators. The presented topics were discussed in a comparative manner by analyzing and assessing practical samples by applying an academic viewpoint. Continue reading


MONITOR Event Report: UK Houses of Parliament – Islamophobia & Antisemitism

From Monitor:

In 2017, antisemitism and Islamophobia were, along with other racisms, on the rise around the world. In Charlottesville in the United States, far-right militants marched chanting against the world Jewish conspiracy. In Myanmar, Muslims fled for their lives to Bangladesh. In the UK and Europe, these racisms also continue to flourish. But are they connected? In the aftermath of 9/11, controversy has raged about whether Islamophobia is the new antisemitism.

MONITOR chose this pressing issue for its first public event. The location: the UK’s Houses of Parliament, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

The magazine aims to bring cutting-edge research into global public debate, and this collaboration was the ideal place to start. The Editor, Monica Gonzalez Correa, flew in especially from Florence.

[READ THE REST]

Podcast:


Video: On my Monitor parliamentary event report on Islamophobia and antisemitism

This is a trailer for my article in the new website Monitor:

Follow the Monitor YouTube channel.


Symposium: Bordering, everyday racism and the ‘hostile environment’ – 21 February: The Academy of Social Sciences Study Group on Refugees, Migration and Settlement

An Academy of Social Sciences event I am involved in organising:

February 21 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Birkbeck College, Malet St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX, (Room TBA)

Les Back and Shamser Sinha, Goldsmiths University of London:  The politics of waiting: Migration, dead time and freer life

Ben Gidley, Birkbeck University of London: Everyday racism and migration: Researching the material and affective impacts of xeno-racism

Ann Phoenix, Thomas Coram Research Unit UCL: Children, epistemic violence and migration

Chair: Floya Anthias, University of East London

 

To book seats: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bordering-everyday-racism-and-the-hostile-environment-tickets-42528711521

Abstracts and biographical notes 

Les Back and Shamser Sinha: The politics of waiting: Migration, dead time and freer life
 This paper examines how understanding migration involves an appreciation of the experience of time in an unfolding life. The debate about belonging is so often coded around those who are seen to ‘really belong’ because they and their kin have put ‘time into’ society.  Migrants by contrast are viewed as itinerant and passing through.  Drawing on research conducted with thirty adult migrants in London over the past ten years we explore the politics of time in the context of the contemporary debate about migration.  We argue that hierarchies of belonging are also accompanied by an ordering of the migrants’ relationship to time. We focus in particular on the experience of waiting as an existential straightjacket that restrains and comes to define life in the migrant city. Through the experiences of our participants we develop an analysis of the temporal-straight jackets or time traps that are produced within the immigration system.  We show how participants in this study struggle to break free from these limitations through developing ‘vitalising strategies’ that help them move out of dead time and a future that is confined by a sense of their lives being ‘on hold’.
Les Back teaches sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His work attempts to create a sensuous or live sociology committed to searching for new modes of sociological writing and representation. This approach is outlined in his book The Art of Listening (Berg 2007). He also writes journalism and has made documentary films. He has juts completed a book about the experience of young adult migrants in London with Shamser Sinha called Migrant City (published by Routledge later this year).  This book is attempts a sociable sociology that re-design social observation so that participants not only observe their own lives but also become credited authors too.

Ben Gidley: Everyday racism and migration: Researching the material and affective impacts of xeno-racism
This paper explores how social scientists can understand the relationship between public policies and discourses on migration, public attitudes towards migrants and minorities, and everyday experiences of exclusion and conviviality, using the concept of “xeno-racism”, as developed by the late Ambalavaner Sivanandan. The paper will draw on fieldwork in inner South London, and focus in particular on what we can learn from psychosocial and ethnographic approaches.
Ben Gidley is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. Previously, he worked at the ESRC Centre for Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. His most recent book is Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared History? with James Renton. Continue reading


VIDEO: James Renton on antisemitism and Islamophobia

Details:  Continue reading


Parliamentary event: Understanding Islamophobia and Antisemitism in Europe and the UK in 2018

10 January 2018 10 am-11.30

This event presents recent academic research findings, based on the book Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, newly published by Palgrave Macmillan and edited by Dr James Renton (Edge Hill University/European University Institute, Florence) and Dr Ben Gidley (Birkbeck, University of London). The discussion, aimed at politicians, policy-makers and civil society, will focus on questions such as:

  • How have antisemitism and Islamophobia related to each other in different European contexts, historically and today? How can we understand this connection?
  • How did the term “Semite” come to refer to the Jews, and how is it connected to the term “antisemitism”?
  • Is Europe a secular continent – or a Christian one? And what does this mean for Jews and Muslims?
  • How can we combat antisemitism and Islamophobia together today? What historical resources can we draw on in building solidarity against racism?

For details of the book, see http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9781137412997.

Hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. Co-organised by Monitor: Global Intelligence on Racism, based at the Robert Schumann Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.

The event introduced and chaired by Nusrat Ghani MP, will include a short presentation of research by the co-editors, followed by a panel discussion and questions. Panellists will be Omar Khan (Runnymede Trust), Karen Pollock MBE (Holocaust Educational Trust) and Danny Stone MBE (Antisemitism Policy Trust).

Please email Ben to register to attend.


James Renton: Does Europe’s Far Right Hate Muslims the Same Way They Hate Jews?

By my co-author James Renton in Ha’aretz. Extract:

Protesters carry Polish flags and a banner declaring 'Islam = Terror' during a rally organized by far-right nationalists to mark 99th anniversary of Polish independence in Warsaw. November 11, 2017

President Donald Trump’s retweeting of anti-Muslim videos propagated by Britain First has made millions more people around the world aware of the European far-right’s crude Islamophobia.

Is this racism a retargeting of familiar tropes of anti-Semitic hatred? Or does anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hatred have a more complex relationship, both in history and in our current moment?

Prejudice toward Islam and Muslims is endemic in the Europe of 2017. The “Muslim Question” is central to the politics of the far right, which has achieved success unprecedented since WWII at the polls this year, from France to the Czech Republic via Austria and Germany.

More significantly, the fear of Muslims as potential terrorists has become an integral part of mainstream European politics and the European security state, as has been identified by Amnesty International, among others.

Several commentators and academics have argued that this groundswell of Islamophobia, which began in earnest with the “war on terror” after 9/11 and has gathered pace since 2015, has made Muslims the “new Jews” of Europe. They contend that today’s emergency is redolent of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, or of the late 19th century.

READ THE REST.

For all posts on our book Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Storyclick here.


Reply to Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon wrote – and Ha’aretz published – a reply to my op ed about him. Here is my reply to his reply, which I did not send to Ha’aretz.

Gilad Atzmon starts his letter by calling me a “Zionist”. Normally, I would reject that designation, but Mr Atzmon has called my friends in the (anti-Zionist) Jewish Socialist Group “anti-Zionist Zionists” because their commitment to Jewish culture and identity marks them out as “tribalists” and therefore “Zionists”, so maybe from him I should take it as a compliment.

Tellingly, he continues that I “failed to properly source a single accusation” against him, and that I instead cited “opinions printed in extreme Zionist and Jewish outlets”. My article indeed cited a couple of Jewish outlets, such as the Jewish Chronicle and the Community Security Trust, although to most people these wouldn’t count as “extreme” Jewish outlets. But mainly I cited anti-racist and left sources: the anti-fascist Hope not Hate, Socialist Unity’s Andy Newman, the former SWP activist Richard Seymour, and Palestine solidarity campaigners such as Ali Abunimah and As’ad AbuKhalil. Anyone who thinks those are “extreme Zionist and Jewish outlets” has, well, issues.

Mr Atzmon continues “in my entire career I have never referred critically to Jews or anyone else as a race, biology or people”. The “as a race, biology or people” bit is essential, because his attacks on what he calls “Jewishness” are not framed biologically, but as attacks on “Jewish ideology”, “Jewish identity” and “Jewish power”. However, his writings tend to short-circuit rapidly from this distinction to race. For example he has written that “I contend that all forms of Jewish politics are ethno-centric and to a certain extent, racially driven.”

And he uses all the standard tropes of racial antisemitism when he talks about Jewishness: in his Reading talk he spoke of Jewishness as “following mitzvot” and said the “Jewish lobby is a cosmopolitan lobby”. In his other recent writings, he has repeatedly insisted that “Jewish power is the capacity to silence the discussion of Jewish power”. He obsessively uses the word “tribal”. He repeats alt-right conspiracy theories, for example muttering about “[George] Soros’ funded front (Antifa, Black lives Matter, LGBTIAP groups etc.)”.

As the legacy of the Holocaust has left explicit raciology toxic in our culture, many racists on the far right have avoided openly using the language of race science, preferring for instance to dwell on “cultural” rather than racial difference and to use terms from the classical lexicon of racial antisemitism or names like Soros as code-words for the deeper agenda. Atzmon’s writings on “Jewishness” fit well into this paradigm.

On one point Mr Atzmon concedes my charges are “correct”: that his writings “are circulated by some right-wing and conservative outlets and thinkers”. That, however, is not a charge I made. I said they are “widely circulated on far right websites”. It is not mainstream conservative websites who like Atzmon, but Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

He qualifies his concession: “they are at least as popular within left-wing outlets and progressive circles.” I am curious which outlets he refers to, as his views have become increasingly toxic to the point where even those few left sites which once gave him a platform, such as the Socialist Workers Party, now seem to find him an embarrassment.

Ben Gidley, London


Cities acting for migration

The Columbia Global Policy Initiative has made a submission about the role of cities to the Special Representative of the Secretary General for International Migration in relation to the Global Compact for Migration. It includes this claim:

local authorities and mayors in particular play a crucial role in framing greater diversity as a complex but fundamentally fruitful outcome of globalization.

This claim is referenced with a citation to a report I co-wrote: Elizabeth Collett & Ben Gidley, ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford, Attitudes to Migrants, Communication and Local Leadership
(AMICALL) — Final Transnational Report (2012) see at https://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/media/PR-2012-AMICALL_Transnational.pdf .


Pourquoi les progressistes anglais célèbrent encore un grotesque antisémite et un négationniste ?

A French translation of my Ha’aretz op ed is published here.

Full text: Continue reading


Gilad Atzmon in Reading

I have published my first op ed in Ha’aretz. The title is theirs not mine. It’s online here, the opening below.

Opinion Why Are U.K. Progressives Still Celebrating a Grotesque anti-Semite and Holocaust Denier?
When a publicly-funded community center hosted the Jew-hating Gilad Atzmon, it blocked anti-racists on Twitter who challenged the decision. For many on the U.K. left, the denial of anti-Semitism has become a reflex

Ben Gidley Oct 30, 2017 10:30 AM Continue reading


Florence event: Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe

NYU Florence:

Oct 26, 2017 / 18:00 – 19:00 / VILLA SASSETTI

Are today´s Muslims Europe’s “new Jews”? Is Islamophobia the same as, or an aspect of, Antisemitism? Controversy over this question has raged over the last decade or so. From a historical point of view, is there a dynamic relationship between Antisemitism and Islamophobia and, if so, how has it evolved over time and space? Religion, empire, nation-building and war, they have all played their part in the complex evolution of this relationship. What does Europe have to say about the fact that Jews and Arabs were once called Semites, but are now widely thought to be on two different sides of the “War on Terror”?

Historian James Renton and the EU Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, will debate the relationship btween the two racisms and Europe’s response to it.

Moderated by Marcella Simoni, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Moderator


Being Jewish After Balfour: The 1917 Revolution

Date: Thursday 23 November 2017

Time: 7-8pm

Price: Free with Museum entry

Categories: talks

In this talk, Dr James Renton will discuss how the Balfour Declaration transformed what it meant to be a Jew in the world. Rather than a story of Jewish empowerment, he will argue that this revolution was shaped by the interests and power of imperial states and a global political system. At its heart, the talk will grapple with the controversial question of how much control do Jews have over their own identity?

In October 1917, only a minority of Jews believed in Zionism, and many were strongly opposed. Jews who were desperate to be accepted as loyal citizens in the countries that they called home were horrified by the idea of a Jewish nation. Even those who were indifferent to Zionism shared the mainstream assumption that the movement was a utopian dream. This situation changed overnight with the Balfour Declaration- an event that permanently altered the politics of being a Jew.

Dr James Renton is the author of The Zionist Masquerade: The Birth of the Anglo-Zionist Alliance, 1914-1918, and co-editor with Ben Gidley of Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? He is Reader in History at Edge Hill University and Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute.


Islamophobia and Antisemitism in Christian Europe: an Intertwined History

Pears Institute Lunchtime Seminar

Speaker: Ben Gidley, Birkbeck, University of London
Date: Tue, Oct. 10, 2017
Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Venue: Birkbeck, University of London
Free event for scholars: Email pearsinstitute@bbk.ac.uk for further information.
Details: This paper, drawing on a newly published book edited by James Renton and Ben Gidley, explores the changing ways the figures of the Jew and the Muslim have been used to mark the borders of European identity – an identity that remains normatively Christian despite a rhetorical drift to secularism, the “Judeo-Christian” or the multifaith. The paper argues that these two figures have been constitutive outsiders shaping what Europe is. Both forms of racialisation have mutated over time and in different parts of the continent, and understanding this, the paper argues, requires a rigorously comparative and rigorously diachronic perspective. Each form of racialisation has occurred independently of the other, but more often they have taken on meaning in relation to each other, and so analysing both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racism is enhanced through case studies which excavate their relationship

Me vs Jeremy Irons

I was quoted in London Student‘s article about Jeremy Irons telling the striking security workers who work next door to my office at the University of London to “be reasonable”.

Here’s the quote:

The Twitter reaction to Irons wading into the conflict was largely negative. Daniel Stone called his speech “utter condescension”, while Ben Gidley accused him of “whitesplaining to migrant workers”, calling his speech “appalling”. Seambreamlatte wrote: “How patronising and historically ignorant can you get”.

Here’s my tweet:

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