Dr. Elisabeth Becker-Topkara

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

Telefon: 06221-54 2991
Raum: 03.019b

Sprechzeiten nach Vereinbarung

Latest Academic Presentation

“Strangers from Another Time. Muslims, Jews, Unsettling Echoes.”
Einstein Forum, Berlin, 18.11.2021. -> watch on youtube

Latest Journalistic Publications 



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  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”

Academic publications

  • 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. 2022. “Strangers across the ages: The muslim other in Europe.” Forschungsmagazin University of Heidelberg 19/2.2022: 126-133
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2021. Mosques in the Metropolis: Incivility, Caste, and Contention in Europe (University of Chicago Press)
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2021. “Incivility and Danger: Theorizing a Muslim Undercaste in Europe.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2020. “The Ethical Substance of Salvation: Materialism and the Religious Rejection of the World in a London Mosque.” European Journal of Sociology 61(1): 129-158.  
  • 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 8(2): 389-414.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2018. “Guiding as a Pious Place-Making Practice: Tour Guides at the Sehitlik Mosque in Berlin.” Annals of Tourism Research 73: 81-90. 
  • 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

Research Reports 

Elisabeth Becker. 2018. Muslims for American Progress: An Impact Report of Muslim Contributions to New York City. Washington, D.C.: Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Journalistic Publications 

  • Elisabeth Becker. 2021. “Jerusalem on the RhineTablet Magazine.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2021. “A revived congregation’s new vision has old roots.” Tablet Magazine.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2021. “Stumbling over history in Berlin.” Tablet Magazine.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “The world mourned for Notre Dame, but France still struggles to accept French Jews and Muslims.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “Blinded by the Israel-Palestine conflict, Muslims and Jews in America overlook need for unity.” The Washington Post.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “Anti-Semitism hit me close to home, so I value Hanukkah all the more this year.” The Washington Post.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “What it’s like to see my husband’s mosque on fire.” The Washington Post.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “The invaluable lesson I learned from a Holocaust survivor.” The Wisdom Daily.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2019. “The Angel of History.” Image Journal.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2018. “Jewcomer.” Tablet Magazine.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2018. “Can our child be both a Muslim and a Jew?“ The Washington Post.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2018. “How these Muslim women became NYC civic leaders.” Religion & Politics.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2018. “Die Moscheen sollen sich in Luft auflösen.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2017. “Breaking bread in Berlin: Jews and Muslims come together.” A Beautiful  Perspective.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2017. “Sehitlik’s retreat from cosmopolitanism.” Berkeley Forum.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2017. “The toddler as ethnographic assistant.” Kveller.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2015. “Notes from the field: Europe’s harvest of fear.” Global Dialogue, 5(2).
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2015. “Keep calm: Not a terrorist.” Discover Society, 22.
  • Elisabeth Becker. 2015. “Five myths European leaders are spreading about refugees in order to scare people.” UN Dispatch.

Selected Academic Presentations

  • “Strangers from Another Time. Muslims, Jews, Unsettling Echoes.” Speech, Einstein Forum, Berlin, 18.11.2021. -> watch on youtube
  • “The Uncivil Sphere: Muslim-Jewish-German Triangulation in the Struggle for Inclusion.” Presenter, Civil Sphere Working Group Conference, 2021.
  • “Thinking the Cityzen: Muslims in the European Metropolis.” Presenter, Council for European Studies, 2021.
  • “Jews, Muslims and Political Formation in Europe.” Workshop participant, University of Virginia, IASC, 2020.
  • “The Ethics of Boundary Making in European Mosques”. Workshop participant, Cambridge University, Woolf Center, 2019.
  • “How Islamic Ethics Informs Social Action in London and Berlin”. Presenter, American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, 2018.
  • “Multiple Secularities.” Presenter, Critical Realism Conference, Montreal, 2017.
  • “Lessons from Women in the Mosque” (Islamophobia, the Body, and the State in Contemporary Europe). Presenter, American Academy of Religion, Boston, 2017.
  • “From Caste to Purity in European Mosques.” Presenter, American Sociological Association, Montreal, 2017.
  • “John Bowen’s On British Islam: Religion, Law, and Everyday Practice in Shari’a Councils.” Invited discussant, Council for European Studies, Glasgow, 2017.
  • “Foreign Conversations: How Northern Europe differs from Southern Europe.” Invited presenter, American Sociological Association, Seattle, 2016.
  • “The Everyday Ethnographic Study of Highly Securitized Populations.” Presenter, American Sociological Association, Seattle, 2016.
  • “The Aftermath of Charlie Hebdo.” Invited discussant, Council on European Studies, Philadelphia, 2016.
  • “Re-Placing Stigma? The Reception of Purpose-Built Mosques in Contemporary Germany.” Presenter, Social Science History Association, Baltimore, 2015.
  • “A Little Italy in Identity: An Example of Assumed Ethnicity.” Presenter, Social Science History Association Conference, Chicago, 2013.
  • “Global and Transnational Roundtable.” Discussant, American Sociological Association, New York City, 2013.

Awards, Grants, Fellowships / External

  • Sandra Barnes Anti-Racist Scholarship Award, American Sociological Association Religion Section, 2022
  • Akademie für Islam in Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft (AIWG) Fellowship, 2021
  • Volkswagen Stiftung, Freigeist Fellowship, 2020
  • CICCW, Book Manuscript Grant, 2019
  • Global Religion Research Initiative Research Grant, University of Notre Dame, 2019
  • Humility & Conviction in Public Life Writing Grant, University of Connecticut, 2018
  • Religious Freedom Research Project Doctoral Fellow, Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and
    World Affairs Research Grant, Georgetown University, 2017 
  • Constant H. Jacquet Award, Religious Research Association Research Grant, 2017  
  • Robert Dentler Student Award, American Sociological Association for public sociology, 2017
  • Connecticut Academy of the Arts and Sciences (CAAS), Graduate Fellowship
  • NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant, 2013  
  • DAAD Research Grant, 2013  
  • Marshall Scholarship, 2007
  • Humanity in Action Fellowship, 2006
  • Truman Scholarship, 2005

Professional Services and Editorial activities

  • Editor: Patterns of Prejudice
  • Associate Editor: Civic Sociology
  • Editorial Board Member: Journal of Cultural Sociology
  • Special Issue Editor, Patterns of Prejudice: “Decolonizing the Metropolis: Vitality and Decay”
  • Member: Religion and Race forum (University of Virginia), American Sociological Association, Council for European Studies, European Jewish Studies Association, American Academy of Religion, Social Science History Association
  • Peer-Reviewer: Civic Sociology; Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies; American Sociological Review; Qualitative Sociology; American Journal of Cultural Sociology; Journal of the American Academy of Religion