Category Archives: East London

Jewish and Muslim UK Immigration Experiences: Echoes of the Past, Influences on the Present

Next talk: 

“Jewish East London and the Myths of Integration” Jewish and Muslim UK Immigration Experiences: Echoes of the Past, Influences on the Present, Cambridge Muslim College/Woolf Institute Cambridge, December 2018.

From the Woolf Institute website:

The Woolf Institute and the Cambridge Muslim College are jointly organising a one-day conference on ‘Jewish and Muslim UK Immigration Experiences: Echoes of the Past, Influences on the Present’ on Thursday 6 December 2018.

This conference will be looking at the similarities in experiences in immigration between the British Jewish and Muslim communities. It has become clear to several researchers in the field that the experiences of British Muslims are in some ways similar to the experiences of British Jews from a century earlier. This conference will allow researchers who wish to explore such connections an opportunity to present their ideas and research. The number of attendees is limited to 40 as the aim is to encourage an atmosphere of discussion, engagement and exchange amongst participants.

The morning session and lunch will take place at the Cambridge Muslim College, 14 St Paul’s Road, Cambridge CB1 2EZ, between 9.15am – 1pm, The afternoon session will run between 2.30pm – 6pm at the Woolf Institute, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0UB, followed by a reception.

Speakers include:

Dr Ed Kessler MBE, Founder Director of Woolf Institute

Dr Ben Gidley, Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London

Prof Humayan Ansari OBE , Professor of History of Islam and Culture, Royal Holloway

Bryan Cheyette, Chair in Modern Literature and Culture, Series Editor of New Horizons in Contemporary Writing

Dr Mohammed Seddon, Research Associate, British Muslim Heritage Centre

Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Jewish Theology and Philosophy; Talmud

Alyaa Ebbiary, PhD Candidate & Nohoudh Scholar, Dept. of Anthropology & Sociology, SOAS

Programme

9.15 Arrival at Cambridge Muslim College and introductions by Dr Ed Kessler MBE and CMC

9.30-11.00 – Panel 1

Prof Humayun Ansari, Professor of History of Islam and Culture, Royal Holloway and Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon

Coffee

11.30-1pm – Panel 2

Dr Ben Gidley, Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London and Dr Mohammed Seddon, Lecturer, University of Chester

Lunch (followed by walk/taxi/cycle to Woolf Institute)

2.30-4pm – Panel 3

Prof Bryan Cheyette, University of Reading and Alyaa Ebbiary, PhD Candidate & Nohoudh Scholar, Dept. of Anthropology & Sociology, SOAS

Coffee

4.30-6pm – Panel Discussion and Conclusion

Dr Ed Kessler and Alyaa Ebbiary, PhD Candidate & Nohoudh Scholar, Dept. of Anthropology & Sociology, SOAS

6pm – Reception at the Woolf Institute

Speaker Abstracts

Prof Humayun Ansari, Professor of History of Islam and Culture, Royal Holloway

A brief historical exploration of the similarities and differences between Jewish and Muslim religious claims, between their political engagement with wider society, and between antisemitism and Islamophobia in the context of and recent debates surrounding multiculturalism.

Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon

Experiences of immigrant Jewish families

Tracing the experience of three families of Jewish immigrants over three generations, one family each from Germany, Poland and Egypt. How were the original immigrants received in the UK, and how did they adapt to the new culture? In the second and third generations, how did individuals acculturate, and how and why did some break with the original culture while others sought ways to return to their ‘roots’?

Dr Ben Gidley, Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London

Jewish East London and the myths of integration

The East End of London is an iconic site of migrant arrival and integration, and its history and present are conventionally narrated through a story of ethnic succession as each “wave” of migrants arrive, settle, integrate, move up and move out to make way for the next “wave”. In this narrative, Jews are often framed as a “model minority”, against whom other minorities are judged (and usually found wanting). This paper, based primarily on archival research on early 20th century East London), explores some of the flaws in this narrative, by emphasising different responses to integration among the Jewish migrant population, forms of inter-ethnic contact (including Jewish-Muslim contact), and other Jewish trajectories which cut against the successionist narrative.

Dr Mohammed Seddon, Research Associate, British Muslim Heritage Centre

Jewish and Muslim Communities in Nineteenth Century Manchester

Contemporary relations between the Muslim and Jewish communities in Britain have been largely shaped and marred by international politics as a result of the creation of the state of Israel in the aftermath of the Second World War. However, historically the two distinct communities have enjoyed long periods of cultural proximity and cross-fertilisation, particularly in their migration and settlement experiences in Britain. From as early as the late-eighteenth century Maghribi and Levantine Muslim and Jewish traders migrated into the ‘Cottonopolis’ of industrial Manchester and their shared middle-eastern traditions and cultures ensured that both communities enjoyed a lengthy reciprocal relationship of inter-religious tolerance and collective community development. This paper explores some of the issues, experiences and historical details relating to Muslim and Jewish communities in 19th century Manchester.

Professor Bryan Cheyette

“Good/Bad Jews, Good/Bad Muslims: Some Theories and Contexts”

My talk will explore the ways in which Jews and Muslims have been racialized in relation to mainstream discourses within British culture. It will look at some theoretical work (especially around supersessionism) to show that both Jews and Muslims are bifurcated into “good” and “bad” versions which play off each other in the form of racialized tolerance. The talk aims to understand the mechanisms of this bifurcation and the ways in which such distinctions function culturally, socially and politically within the British nation-state and beyond. Such processes, in differing historical contexts, apply to both Jews and Muslims now and then.

How to book

Registration is free an includes lunch and evening reception.

Tickets must be booked in advance on Eventbrite here.

For further information, contact Claire Curran at cc640@cam.ac.uk.

BACK TO EVENTS

Continue reading


France and England on the verge of a nervous breakdown

From Kenan Malik’s Pandaemonium:

The French journalist Ilana Navaro has made a superb four-part radio documentary series for France Culture on social policies towards immigration and integration in France and Britain. Entitled La France et L’Angleterre au bord de la crise de nerfs (‘France and England on the edge of a nervous breakdown’), the documentary visits a ‘theological cafe’ in Paris and the Cambridge Muslim College, a sharia council in Birmingham, Goutte d’Or, an area in the 18th arrondissement in Paris with a large North African and sub-Saharan population, Brick Lane in East London, and Walsall, in the English Midlands. Among those interviewed are the anthropologist Sam Everett, the sociologists Ben Gidley, Amine El Yousfi and Benoit Coquard, the historian Nazneen Ahmed, Amra Bone of the Sharia Council of Birmingham, Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters, Shaista Gohir of the Muslim Women’s Network, the Parisian imam Mohamed Bajrafil, the religious historian and trainer, Samia Hathroubi, and myself. (My interviews are in episodes 3 & 4.)

Kenan posts the audio too, illustrated by some beautiful Arabic calligraphy.

Here’s episode 3:

https://www.franceculture.fr/player/export-reecouter?content=b93feec0-b60a-4b38-9070-8287ec083796


Sharia Councils: a user’s guide

From France Culture:
Réécouter La France et l’Angleterre au bord de la crise de nerfs (2/4):
Sharia Councils, mode d’emploi
55min | 17.01.2017

Exporter https://www.franceculture.fr/player/export-reecouter?content=eea81f3a-f459-47a8-8d47-5934677510da


Religion, Social Action & Urban Policy: London Paris face to face

From the GSRL blog:

Religion, Social Action & Urban Policy: London Paris face to face / Religions, action sociale et politique urbaine: Paris et Londres en face à face

On 17 March 2016, a conference took place in Paris at the GSRL. It was organised within the exchanges between PSL Research University and the University of Cambridge by Samuel Everett (postdoctoral researcher at the GSRL/Woolf Institute). Read the conference program.
My bit:
Secularism Faith & Community

While in London civil society is often openly infused with religious values, social initiative in Paris and its periphery is structured by laïcité. This panel explores these conceptions of state secularism and questions the realities of these ‘models’ within local urban contexts as ideas of class, race and religious identity increasingly intersect.

Ben Gidely [sic!] discussed three historical-social science research projects on which he has worked focusing on his historical and ethnographic work in East and North East London.

He argued that national-level policy can mould how people live together and in the UK.

He discussed the theory attributed to this idea: “conservative pluralism” in which the Church of England maintained overall religious supremacy by mediating for minority faiths.

Space and place nevertheless impact on interreligious relations such as those on Brick lane which fosters neighbourhood narratives of cosmopolitanism.

Finally, somewhat paradoxically, his research has shown that how people interact with one another does not necessarily concur with how they talk about each other i.e. racist speak can belie good relations.

The post includes videos. Here’s mine:

 


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,

 


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

Abstract:

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.


From Eastern Europe to the East End to Essex and beyond

I’m very honoured to be working with Eastside Community Heritage on the wonderful intergenerational and interfaith oral history project, “Jewish Migration Routes: From East End to Essex”, on Jewish international and internal migration, funded by the Rothschild Foundation. Yesterday, a fantastic day with King David High School students in Oxford:


Diasporic Memory and the Call to Identity: Yiddish Migrants in Early Twentieth Century East London

I have a new article published, with the above title, in the Journal of Intercultural Studies, Volume 34, Issue 6.

Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the associational politics and diasporic memory of Jewish migrant workers in early twentieth century East London. It examines the ways in which associational activity, and specifically landsmanshaftn (hometown associations), tied migrants to sending contexts in both material and affective ways. This meant that diasporic memories were woven into the day-to-day political practices of these migrants, and were mobilised politically in response to the call to identification represented by traumatic events ‘back home’, as is illustrated in two examples, the protests at the 1903 Kishinev pogrom and solidarity with the civilian victims of the First World War. The article also shows that these mobilisations exemplify the ways in which such processes made a difference to the forms of identity and identification available to Jewish migrant workers in this period.

View full text; Download full text.

This appeared in a special issue, Refugee and Diaspora Memories, edited by Thomas Lacroix and Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh. Read the introduction here.


From Ben’s archive: The First War on Terror

I just saw this at Hari Kunzru’s website:

Bande a Bonnot

Anyone interested in political history or theory should visit Christie Books, the publishing house and anarchist archive run by Stuart Christie, would-be assassin of General Franco and author of the entertaining memoir My Granny Made Me an Anarchist. The site contains a great deal of audio and video, including a documentary I made for BBC Radio 3 in 2008 called The First War on Terror. It’s about the anti-anarchist panic that gripped Europe in the late Victorian period, and the responses by writers (from pulp novelists to greats like Conrad and Chesterton) to the fears of a social order without gods or masters. Listen to the program here.

I feature (fairly briefly) in the programme, taking Hari on a walking tour of East London, including Freedom Books, which was firebombed this week, probably by fascists (and not for the first term), along with Clive Bettington of the Jewish East End Commemoration Society (far more radiogenic than me), talking about Joseph Conrad, Rudolf Rocker and more.

Here’s the BBC’s page on it:

b00dp1phNovelist Hari Kunzru explores how pulp fiction writers and great novelists got to grips with the UK’s first major ‘war on terror’ – against the Anarchists of Victorian and Edwardian times. These ‘scare novels’ responded to the Anarchists’ wish to abolish the State by depicting outlandish scenarios such as political assassinations and large-scale bombings.

He also explores the world of the real anarchists in London’s immigrant communities – most of whom were peaceful and cultured East End Jewish activists, trying to improve conditions in the garment trade – in contrast to these terrorists the novelists imagined and the popular press feared.

Bringing the programme up to date, Hari and literary scholars Laurence Davies and Deaglan O’Donghaile also briefly consider the modern response to 9/11, asking whether novels on terrorism ever get it right.


Gefilte fish and syndicalism

From the website of Donnacha DeLong’s The Circled A show on Resonance FM:

Commemorating the strikes of 1912 meeting On 23 May, the Jewish Socialists’ Group held a meeting in the library of the Bishopsgate Institute to discuss the history and continuing relevance of the 1912 tailor’s strike, inspired by Rudolf Rocker. The meeting covered the history of unionism in the East End, including the Docks, the history of the rag trade and sweatshops, the strike in 1912 and what it can teach the contemporary trade union movement. The meeting was chaired by David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists and included talks by Ben Gidley, senior researcher at Compas at Oxford University working on East End Jewish radical history, and Donnacha DeLong, President of the National Union of Journalists.

File 1: David Rosenberg opens the meeting

Part 01 rocker event intro

File 2: Ben Gidley talks about the history of the unions in East London and the history of the rag trade

Part 02 rocker event ben gidley

File 3: Donnacha DeLong talks about the broader context of the strike and its relevance for contemporary trade unionism

03 rocker event donnacha delong

File 4: Audience Q&A

Part 04 rocker event Q and A

UPDATE: Versions of mine and Donnacha’s talks have since been published in Jewish Socialist magazine.


Religion and diaspora in East London

My video for the Oxford Diasporas Programme. Not my finest moment:

Ben Gidley on the Diasporas of East London from Ann Cowie on Vimeo.

Read about the project here.