Dr. Elisabeth Becker Topkara

Max-Weber-Institut für Soziologie
Universität Heidelberg
Bergheimer Str. 58
69115 Heidelberg

Room: 03.019b


Personal profile

Elisabeth Becker Topkara is a Freigeist Fellow at the Max-Weber-Institute-for-Sociology, Heidelberg University. She is a cultural sociologist trained at Cornell University (BA in Sociology), Oxford University (MSc in Forced Migration and Refugee Studies), and Yale University (MPhil and PhD in Sociology). Elisabeth previously held an Ad Astra/Assistant Professor position in Sociology at University College Dublin, and a Post-Doctoral Fellowship with the Religion & Its Publics project and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

Elisabeth’s research centers on the cultural construction and contestation of borders and boundaries. Her research explores the experiences and place-making practices of religious, racial, and ethnic minorities— Muslims and Jews in particular—in both Europe and the United States. Elisabeth has contributed to sociological debates on how migration and pluralism shape contemporary societies, including the continued exclusions faced by Muslims in Europe through a theory of incivility and undercaste status; and the agency of Muslim and Jewish populaces to foster social change in the urban centers of Europe and the United States. Her book, Mosques in the Metropolis: Incivility, Caste, and Contention (University of Chicago Press) offers a unique look into two of Europe’s largest urban mosque communities, providing a complex picture of Muslim life, while highlighting the failures of European pluralism.

Elisabeth’s work has appeared in various scholarly publications, including: Ethnic & Racial Studies, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, American Journal of Cultural Sociology, European Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion, and Social Science & Medicine.

Elisabeth is also a public scholar who works with non-profit organizations (e.g. the New America Foundation, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, and the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies) and writes for mainstream publications to communicate research to a public audience. Her writing has appeared in such publications as the Washington Post, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Religion & Politics, and Tablet Magazine, and she has been featured on BBC Radio.

Elisabeth’s research has been generously supported by numerous funders, including: the Volkswagen Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Center for Islam in the Contemporary World, the Academy for Islam in Research and Society, and the Religious Research Association.

Areas of Research and Teaching

migration, race and ethnicity, sociology of religion, Islam in Europe, Jewish-Muslim relations

Current funded research projects

2021-2027 Freigeist fellowship, Volkswagen Stiftung, “Invisible Architects: Jews, Muslims, and the Making of Europe”

Selected publications

Elisabeth Becker. 2021. Mosques in the Metropolis: Incivility, Caste, and Contention in Europe (University of Chicago Press)

Elisabeth Becker and Ufuk Topkara. Forthcoming. “Living Between the Lines: German Jewish and German Muslim Intellectuals on Questions of Belonging.” Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion.

Elisabeth Becker. 2021. “Incivility and Danger: Theorizing a Muslim Undercaste in Europe.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology.

Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “Commitment Without Borders: Jewish-Muslim Relations and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Habitus in Berlin.” Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion.

Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “Reconstructing the Muslim Self in Diaspora: Socio-spatial Practices in Urban European Mosques.” International Journal of Islamic Architecture.

Elisabeth Becker. 2017. “Good Mosque/Bad Mosque: Boundaries to Belonging in Contemporary
Germany.”  Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

Elisabeth Becker. 2014. “Little of Italy? Assumed Ethnicity in a New York City Neighborhood.” Ethnic and Racial Studies.

Editorial activities

Civic Sociology, associate editor

Cultural Sociology, editorial board

Patterns of Prejudice, special issue editor