Category Archives: Diasporas

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

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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.


The Impact of Diasporas/Diasporas Reimagined

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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.

 


How EasyJet and anti-Zionism are turning British Jews into Israelis

Ben Judah and Josh Glancy have been writing a fascinating series, A Polite Hatred, on Jews and antsemitism in Britain, for the US-based Jewish magazine The Tablet. Part 5, “We Are All Zionists Now: How EasyJet and anti-Zionism are turning British Jews into Israelis“, was published on 30 April.

Ben Judah interviewed me for it. The article is really interesting. Here is the two sections that quote me:

benjudah-tablet20april2015These two kinds of Jews—heritage Jews and hummus Jews—increasingly struggle to grasp each other and may end up on opposing sides of the debates, especially at times of war in Israel, which means that British Jews are moving in two opposite directions at once. Ben Gidley is one of Britain’s leading experts on Jewish sociology. “What we saw in the last census,” he said, “was that there was an increasing concentration and an increasingly dispersion of Jews in the U.K. For the first time there are Jews in every local authority in Britain. For the most part those Jews thinning out are living religiously unaffiliated, assimilated lives, with practically nothing to do with Israel.”

“However,” he continued, “there is also a parallel greater than ever concentration of Jews into North West London—where they are living more than ever in some kind of bubble. What media Jews are reading plays a big part of that bubble: they are increasingly reading transnational Israeli or American English language Jewish publications.”

[…]

“The trouble for British Jews is the British don’t understand Jewish ethnicity,” said Ben Gidley. “Is it a race? Is it a religion? Are they the same ethnicity as the Israelis? Or is it racist to associate them with Israelis? The British don’t understand.”

It may well be the case that many British Jews don’t fully appreciate the complexity of their new identity either. Or what the implications of this will be if Israel does indeed become a pariah state to Europeans, as many of its detractors hope it will.

Continue reading


Towards a transnational perspective on residential integration

As part of the European Interact project (“Researching Third Country Nationals’ Integration as a Three-way Process – Immigrants, Countries of Emigration and Countries of Immigration as Actors of Integration”), which explores migrant integration from a sending country perspective, I wrote, with Maria Luisa Caputo, a discussion paper entitled Residential Integration: Towards a Sending Country Perspective. Here is the report in the MPC repository; here is a direct link to the pdf; here is the paper on academia.edu.

Abstract
This position paper explores the key issues relating to how residential integration – a foundation dimension of migrant and minority integration – might be understood and further researched from a  “country of origin” perspective. A series of questions are addressed: Are there transnational residential strategies of migrants? Is residential integration an indicator of integration, e.g. can owning a house be an indicator of integration? Are residential patterns in the receiving country negotiated in any way by  the state of origin? And what is the role of home country institutions in assuring residential integration or separation? Looking at the nature and quality of the housing that minorities occupy, assessed in terms of factors such as tenure, overcrowding and disrepair, and at the patterns of migrant residence in receiving societies, including clustering or its absence, the paper covers the existing state of the art and methodology used in the field, before arguing for a shift to a country of origin perspective, beyond simply using country of origin as a variable in determining residential integration outcomes, but instead re-framing the issue in a transnational perspective. It introduces a new theoretical and methodological framing, shifting the emphasis from a static “social physics” to a processual, pathwayfocused approach. Continue reading


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.


EVENT: Annexation, Autonomy, or Independence? The Politics of Cuban Identity in the Émigré Communities of New York and Florida, 1840s-1890

ElProductorEvan Daniel, Queens College, City University of New York

“Annexation, Autonomy, or Independence? The Politics of Cuban Identity in the Émigré Communities of New York and Florida, 1840s-1890s”

Thursday 18th April 2013, 2 pm – 3.30 pm

Seminar Room, Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS

Hosted by the ESRC Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS)

This seminar will explore the changing modalities of diasporic identities among émigré Cuban workers in the nineteenth century, including tensions between Creole and Peninsular orientations, and tensions between different conceptions of nationalism and internationalism in the anarchist and labour movements.

For information, please contact Ben Gidley, COMPAS ben.gidley@compas.ox.ac.uk

Directions and map at: http://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/about/how-to-find-us/

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An Economy Built on Trust and Goodwill

Eastleigh, Nairobi’s commercial hub: Photo essay by Neil Carrier, on the Oxford Diaspora Programme website

Photo Credit: Neil Carrier

Here.


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.