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Shana Cohen - Department of Sociology/Woolf Institute, Small Grant Award Nov, 2014

“Conflict or Commonality?: Migration and Interfaith Relations Between Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe”

Shana Cohen, Department of Sociology/Woolf Institute, CAMMIGRES Small Grant Award, November, 2014

Project summary

This work has led to the development of a major research proposal which focuses on the impact of migration on the relationship between religious identity, national identity, and inter-relations between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim migrants from the Middle East. The project will compare sites that have experienced different historical waves of migration of these three communities in Berlin, London, and Los Angeles (see Image 1; Anti-Zionists join a protest against anti-Semitism in Berlin, Sept 2014).

Research activities

The CAMIGRES grant provided funding to hire Philip Luther-Davies, a first year PhD candidate in Sociology, as a research assistant to support the preparation of a grant application. He has conducted a scoping exercise to help determine the area of research and research questions, as well as the choice of locations and methodology. The intent is to apply for a Leverhulme research grant and potentially a European Research Council grant over the next academic year.

The grant was to prepare an application on religious identity and migration. We focused on a scoping exercise on the impact of migration on the relationship between religious identity, national identity, and relations with other faith groups of the same region. The application focuses on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim migrants from the Middle East, analyzing the change in religious identity amongst these three groups and how they perceive and interact with the other groups. The study will compare sites that have experienced different waves of migration of the three communities: Berlin (recent and economic migration rather than refuge from war), London (mix between older and newer waves of migration), and Los Angeles (oldest migrant community, as a destination for Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Egyptians for several decades).

Other studies of migrant communities from the Middle East have tended to focus on one faith and not relations between faith communities. To investigate these relations, the study aims to analyze different arenas of interaction, such as advocacy for political causes in the country of origin, peace and reconciliation initiatives, interfaith dialogue, and commerce.

In analyzing relations within these areas and across sites, the study will examine the influence on attitudes and behavior of class mobility, socio-economic and religious differences with other communities of the same faith, and international, national, and local political and material support for constructive or negative interaction.

The study seeks to address the influence of migration through investigating changes in attitudes and political, economic, and social behavior, both in relation to the local context and conflict or tensions in the country of origin.  For example, do Israelis participate in peace initiatives or is their interaction with Arab Christians or Muslims, if there is any, through political campaigning or business? Once out of the conflict zone, is there an effect on the importance of differences in faith or do other forms of identity become more significant? Following this question, the study will aim to generate guidelines for how relations between migrants can inform conflict resolution.  On a theoretical level, the project will interrogate assumptions about the causes and sustainability of prejudice, antagonism, or identification in a context where socio-economic status, membership in a minority religious and ethnic group, and opportunities for cultural expression and economic gain differ from the county of origin.


Launched in January 2014, by Co-Founders Professors Madeleine Arnot and Loraine Gelsthorpe, and Research Associate Dr Jessica Wheeler, the Cambridge Migration Research Network, funded by the Vice-Chancellor’s Endowment Fund, brings together a superb tract of migration research, spanning 23 University of Cambridge faculties, departments and centres, including researchers in anthropology, archaeology, history, politics, economics and land economy, geography, sociology, gender studies, psychology, health and education studies, management studies, linguistics, theology, criminology and law.

CAMMIGRES researchers' interests orient around the impacts of past and present migration in relation to human evolution and development, social, legal, and economic policy, governance, professional knowledge, institutional practice and social relations.