Europe is currently reshaping itself and at the same time anxiously questioning the wisdom of those changes. In some countries (the Netherlands and Belgium, for example) recent abrupt shifts in social policy have been motivated mainly by worry about integrating new immigrants. In others (France and Britain, for example), civil unrest and terrorism concerns have prompted new worries about national social models. Throughout Europe, refiguring of regional identities and powers has coincided with rethinking the role of religion in public life, particularly (but not only) regarding Islam. And almost all of the new nation-states issuing from the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia confront challenging, and in some cases still explosive, problems involving national minorities; and across Europe, the question of race is returning to public debates.

Most studies of these topics have focused on one country and have been shaped by the concerns of one discipline—the politics of Muslim integration in France, the ethnography of language choice in Wales, the social organization of Catholics in Germany. But the burning issues in Europe today cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Understanding debates about the place of Islam, for example, requires going beyond the sociology of religion to also learn about the historic patterns of immigration and the legal frameworks for governing religion across a variegated landscape of nation-states, regions, and the European Union. Understanding the processes and politics of ethnic identifications requires studying everyday encounters in towns and cities, the deep historical shifts of boundaries and loyalties, and the problem of European identities.

Methodologically, the research field "Rethinking Europe" provisionally distinguishes three approaches. One provides a range of actor-oriented approaches, and includes the study of everyday social interactions, the use of formal interviews, long-term informal conversations, and textual analyses. Another concerns the use of comparative frameworks, often juxtaposing a small number of contrasting cases in order to highlight the specific features of each, or comparing across time frames to examine either cross-temporal processes or the range of possibilities within one nation-state. The third offers a broader range of questions than are usually found in any single discipline, from asking about the class dimensions of religious movements, to examining the theological issues behind the political integration of a religious minority.


  • Avraham Astor

    University of Michigan, Sociology

    Regional Variation and the (Re)Making of Islam in Modern Spain
    Inter-religious conflict in Europe has provoked much discussion about what many see as an inherent tension between Islam and the West. Such discussion, however, generally neglects the tremendous diversity of Muslim practice in different European societies and in different regions within these societies. I plan to study the mechanisms that have given rise to competing conceptions and practices of Islam in different regions and locales within Spain. Spain provides a particularly interesting context in which to study this issue due to the profound increase in the Muslim population over the last decade, the powerful historical presence of Islam in the Iberian Peninsula, and recent events, such as the Madrid bombings, which have forced Muslim leaders to take a more active role in publicly articulating their competing understandings of the place of Islam in Spanish society. In studying the mechanisms driving diverse practices of Islam in Spain, I plan to analyze the religious fields (in Bourdieu’s sense of the term) in which Muslim leaders in different locations are situated, paying specific attention to how recent events have altered the dynamics of these fields. I will carry out my analysis by conducting semi-structured interviews with Muslim leaders in Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, and Córdoba, as well as by engaging in ethnographic study of religious and social institutions in these cities.
  • Abigail Anne Dumes

    Yale University, Anthropology

    Musical Citizenship: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Belonging among African Gospel Performers in France.”
    In the secular (laïque) Republic of France, where religious practice is constitutionally anathema to the public sphere, gospel music is flourishing. Indeed, since the mid-1990s, gospel groups have become increasingly popular attractions, performing in churches throughout France and marketing themselves to a non-immigrant French audience. Paris, in particular, has a long-standing history as a “refuge” for African American artists and the development of their arts; however, unlike jazz music, gospel music in France is performed predominantly by west and central African immigrants. Sung in English and advertised as “authentically African-American,” the phenomenon of African gospel performance is a compelling site from which to analyze shifts in the articulation of subjectivities. Situating Paris as an historically embedded node in a global circuit of transnational flows, I will explore the ways in which the practice and consumption of African gospel performance sheds light on: 1) a localized production of blackness and its articulation with national and transnational processes and 2) everyday negotiations with individual and institutional constructions of the sacred and secular. I am ultimately interested in how, through gospel performance, west and central African immigrants and non-immigrant Parisians negotiate the politics of belonging in France’s Janus-faced times of cosmopolitanism and autochthonous revival.
  • Crystal Fleming

    Harvard University, Sociology

    Cultural Boundaries and Public Performance: The Politics of Ethnicity in French and American Spoken Word Poetry Venues
    My dissertation will assess how minorities in France and the United States talk about ethnicity and identity in spoken word poetry venues. This work brings sociological methods and analysis to bear on questions usually relegated to cultural studies by providing a systematic examination of how marginalized groups explore the politics of identity through public performance. Spoken word is a contemporary form of performance poetry held in a wide range of public spaces including cafes, bars, classrooms, prisons and community centers. Closely associated with the hip hop movement, the genre first emerged in the United States during the mid-1980s and has since diffused throughout the world, particularly in Europe. Although the ethic of French Republicanism continues to frame group-based interventions in the public sphere as illegitimate, preliminary fieldwork reveals that spoken word poetry venues in France allow participants to explore the politics of identity, ethnicity and citizenship. I will utilize three methodological tools to examine the circumstances under which poets of African descent in France and the U.S. use the stage to explore racial identity and politics: (1) participant observation at 50 poetry events in Paris and New York (2) in-depth interviews with 30 performers in each site and (3) content analysis of performances.
  • Gulseren Kozak-Isik

    University of Minnesota / Twin Cities, Sociology

    A comparative study of Islamic Legal, Religious and Political Institutions in Europe and the USA: A Political Approach to Institutions.
    The sudden growth of Muslim populations in the west creates challenges for host countries and Muslim immigrants alike. Both host country governments and Muslim communities in Europe and the United States are engaged in discussion about the adaptability of Islamic religious, cultural and legal traditions to western democratic settings. My dissertation will focus on the compatibility—or lack thereof—between basic principles and institutions of contemporary Western democracies and Islamic law and religion. Key concepts within Islam, such as identification with and loyalty to umma—group consciousness of all Muslims—and gender inequalities built into Islamic family law are in tension with key concepts of Western democracy, including citizenship within nation-states, secularism, individualism, and gender equality. My study will focus on the question of how Islamic traditions and organizations persist and reproduce themselves, while adapting and changing, when they migrate to the west and are confronted with alternative, possibly conflicting western values and principles of organization and behavior. To explore how variation in western receiving contexts shapes processes and outcomes or organizational adaptation, I will design a comparative study of major Islamic umbrella organizations and Islamic legal organizations such as fatwa councils- in the US and Europe.
  • Sheila Nowinski

    University of Notre Dame, History

    Postwar French Catholic Political Culture, 1944-1958
    In 1944, the French Catholic leaders who emerged from the resistance had to extricate French Catholicism from its association with collaboration. For the first time, Catholics dedicated to democratic institutions and cooperation with parties on the left, including Communists, were the leading voices of French political Catholicism. My project examines how postwar French Catholic leaders re-shaped French Catholic political culture after Vichy. These leaders defined French Catholic political culture not by a rejection of democracy, but rather by support of republican institutions, and in particular, of the French Christian Democratic party, Mouvement républicain populaire. This shift was not simply a change in Catholic voting habits, but a redefinition of the French Catholic community’s political values and its relationship with the state and society. Political historians have noted the important role of French Catholics in shaping the policies of the Fourth Republic, in particular for the crucial role the party played in bringing Catholic support to the institutions of the Fourth Republic. I argue that this ralliement of French Catholics to the republic reflected a change in political culture. I examine this process outside of electoral politics—in the words and actions of journalists, intellectuals, and social activists.
  • Elayne M. Oliphant

    University of Chicago, Anthropology

    Laïcité and Discreet Religiosity: Experiences of Catholicism in Secular France
    This research will explore experiences associated with contemporary Catholicism in France in the context of more general concerns about the role of religion in public life. Debates surrounding the space occupied by religion in France have a long history but are most often connected to concerns surrounding the relationship between the state and religious institutions and the “visibility” of religious symbols in the public sphere. These anxieties have been most clearly expressed in the law declaring laïcité in 1905 and that regarding conspicuous religious symbols in 2004. While historians have grappled with the role of Catholicism in France’s past, few scholars have closely examined its more recent expressions, presuming modern France to be a space in which religion is (or should be) absent. Current analyses of religion in France, therefore, have tended to focus on Islam. This trend is revealing of the many ways in which Catholicism is an unmarked category of identification in France. By examining the institutions, practices, rituals, symbols, and discourses associated with Catholicism as they are expressed in the "archdiocese" of Paris, I will attempt to make visible discreet practices and modes of belonging, thereby filling in gaps currently residing in discussions of la laïcité.
  • Michael F. O'Toole

    University of Chicago, Music

    Modeling Multiculturalism: Discourses of Multiculturalism and the Experience of German-Turkish Musicians in Berlin, Germany
    My research offers an ethnographic study of arts organizations in Berlin, Germany that are engaged in actively promoting a discourse of multiculturalism through musical performance. Through this research, I hope to address the specific ways in which different models of multiculturalism are put into practice by a wide range of cultural institutions, radio stations, musicians and listening communities in Berlin. I focus in particular on the ways in which these multicultural models intersect with the musical practices and professional experiences of musicians in Berlin’s heterogeneous German-Turkish communities.
  • Zeynep Ozgen

    University of California / Los Angeles, Sociology

    Rethinking the Role of Identity in Daily Life: Social Interaction in Antakya
    Since the 1980s Turkish politics have been shaken by the mobilization of ethnic (Kurdish), religious (Islamic) and ethnoreligious (Alevi) identities and the demands for wider recognition of these identities in the public sphere. The prospect of European Union accession has only increased the salience of these issues. Although the role of ethnic and religious identities in public life and the integration of minorities into a common framework have been discussed at the elite level in Turkey, little consideration has been given to the ordinary experiences of identity in daily life. This research examines the expression of ethnic identity in everyday experiences in the ethnically heterogeneous city of Antakya. Instead of taking "ethnic groups" as the unit of analysis, the research focuses on the social domain of marriage, where people with diverse ethnic and religious allegiances interact and the boundaries between groups crystallize. This research will help explain the everyday experiences of how people identify and define themselves, how ethnicity matters and whether or not ethnicity is politicized and translated into conflict in everyday encounters. It also aims to understand through which discourses, categories, analytical frameworks, and perceptions of past experiences and future expectations people express their identities in daily life.
  • Nell Quest

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Anthropology

    Security, Embodiment, & Development in Euromediterranean Marseilles' Franco-Maghrebi Communities
    This project will examine second-generation Franco-Maghrebi immigrants’ experiences in Marseilles, France, within the context of a redefinition of the city initiated by the EU’s Euro-Mediterranean Project. The international Project seeks to establish the Mediterranean region as a transnational zone of cooperation and security; Marseilles uses the same name and rhetoric in an urban renewal project which aims to redefine the city as a trans-Mediterranean metropolis of cultural diversity to appeal to tourists, businesses, and gentrifying classes from throughout France and Europe. Projet Euroméditerranée marketing of the city often deploys this idea by depicting North African cultural products and experiences in advertising. However, contact is discouraged between “immigrants” and desirable tourists, gentrifying classes and businesses, and the presence of actual North African-descended populations is minimized in marketing literature. In this research, I will explore how second-generation Franco-Maghrebi citizens’ experiences of Marseilles are impacted by the paradox of being perceived as threats to French national security and cultural identity while their familiar cultural referents are simultaneously packaged in new ways for consumption by outsiders.
  • Susan Beth Rottmann

    University of Wisconsin / Madison, Cultural Anthropology

    The Predicaments of Belonging to Europe: Ethnicity, Religion and Class for German-Turkish Return Migrants
    This project explores the predicaments of belonging to a Europe that is struggling to embrace multiculturalism through an examination of how German-Turkish return migrants navigate the micropolitics of ethnicity, religion and class. German-Turkish migrants are at the center of controversies over national identity in Germany and Turkey, where encounters with racial, cultural and religious differences are increasingly challenging strong ethno-nationalist sentiments. These challenges to national identity are particularly apparent in deliberations surrounding Turkey’s pending European Union membership. Research on returning migrants’ viewpoints and everyday practices will provide new perspectives on these debates over the identity of Europe and its nation-states. German-Turks experience racial and religious discrimination in Germany, but they also face rejection in Turkey for their lack of Turkish cultural knowledge, their unfamiliar commitments to “European Islam,” and their conspicuous consumption. Examination of return migrants’ responses to these quandaries through ethnographic interviews and observations at “home” in Istanbul and Antalya, will expand understanding of transnational migration circuits. Furthermore, analysis of how migrants maneuver within or remain constrained by ethnic, religious and class orders will shed light on issues surrounding larger European social and political transformations.
  • Alex L. S. Street

    University of California / Berkeley, Political Science

    Testing, Testing, A, B, C: The Politics of Language and Civics Tests in Europe
    In recent years a number of European countries have introduced language and civic knowledge requirements for immigrants who wish to acquire permanent resident status, citizenship, or even to enter the country. In some cases these requirements are part of broader, compulsory integration programs. The trend started in the Netherlands in 1997 and has spread to Austria, Belgium (only in Flanders), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom. I will compare the knowledge requirements, the political debates surrounding their introduction, and the support available to help immigrants pass the tests, in three countries: Austria, Denmark and the United Kingdom. I argue that there are different uses to which such requirements can be put. They can be opportunities for politicians to shape the discourse around immigration and nationality. They can serve as hurdles to immigration. Or, when combined with language classes and job training, they can provide newcomers with useful skills. I will investigate the various (and overlapping) goals that politicians have pursued in these three countries, and link the new requirements to changes in the context of European immigration that help explain how and why the politics of immigration is being re-thought.
  • Rebekah K. Tromble

    Indiana University / Bloomington, Political Science

    Framing Islam: Hizb ut-Tahrir's Transnational Call to Action
    This project will examine how Hizb ut-Tahrir, a transnational Islamic organization with an apparently rigid and particularistic ideology, frames its message in order to attract adherents across the globe. Using survey questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, I hope to investigate which of Hizb's specific messages resonate (and why) in two very different social and political contexts where the organization has demonstrated a degree of success in recruiting and maintaining members: Western Europe and former Soviet Central Asia. DPDF support will be used to begin to explore the feasibility of my dissertation research; refine my questions, hypotheses, and instruments; and continue to establish contacts within Britain, where the organization has established its international headquarters.