Elisabeth Becker Topkara is currently pursuing four lines of research, while also focusing on the deepening of Europe-wide networks in the areas of religion, race, ethnicity, and migration.
- Freigeist project: "Invisible Architects: Jews, Muslims, and the Construction of Europe"
Placing Jews and Muslims at the center of Spanish, German, and French nation-state formation, this project questions deep-seated assumptions about the formation of Europe as an exclusively Christian-cum-secular body of nation-states. By interweaving comparative-historical analysis, archival research, and interviews with Jewish and Muslim leaders in Spain, Germany, and France, this research group is constructing an alternative socio-legal genealogy from the 15th century to the present, showing the agency of Jews and Muslims in the making of Europe. Ultimately, this project pushes the boundaries of how we think about European nation-states, and the idea of Europe as a whole: suggesting that Europe was - and is - not formed in juxtaposition to, but by its ethno-religious minorities.
- "Abrahamic Strangers: German Jewish and German Muslim intellectuals in conversation"
This co-led project focuses on the “Abrahamic stranger,” an insider-outsider positionality shared by Muslims and Jews in Europe. It explores the post-WWII German Jewish intellectual terrain, while also turning to a productive conversation between contemporary German Muslim intellectuals and 19th-21st century German Jewish intellectuals, in order to explore the possibilities and limitations of their inclusion in the German academic milieu.
- "Expanding Intersectionality: the Religion-Race-Ethnicity Nexus"
This line of research focuses on the current othering of Muslims and Jews in both the European and US contexts. It includes co-publications on the classification of Muslims in the US and Europe, as well as an analysis of how and when certain group categories are invoked to other Muslims and Jews. It also entails an examination of how and when religious, racial, and/or ethnic identities are agentively invoked on the local, national, and transnational levels.
- "Decolonizing the Metropolis"
This line of research includes the editing of a special issue of Patterns of Prejudice entitled “Decolonizing the Metropolis: Vitality and Decay.” It also includes publications on the concept of “cityzenship,” that is belonging rooted in the city rather than the nation-state, as both a reactive (to national exclusions) and enactive form in the contemporary European metropolis. This project entails collaborations (on the special issue, research on intimate entanglements between Muslims and Jews in European and post-colonial metropoles, and digital humanities trainings) with Dr. Sami Everett at Cambridge University.
Literaturempfehlung / Recommended reading
Elisabeth Becker. 2021
Mosques in the Metropolis: Incivility, Caste, and Contention in Europe. University of Chicago Press
Mosques in the Metropolis offers a unique look into two of Europe's largest mosques and the communities they support. Elisabeth Becker provides a complex picture of Islam in Europe at a particularly fraught time, shedding light on both experiences of deep and enduring marginalization and the agency of Muslim populaces. She balances individual Muslim voices with the historical and structural forces at play, revealing, in all their complexity, the people for whom the mosques are centers of religion and community life. As her interlocutors come to life in the pages, the metropolis emerges as a space alternative to the nation in which they can contend with degrading images of Islam and Muslims. Ultimately Becker insists that caste is a crucial lens through which to view Muslims in Europe, and through this lens she critiques what she perceives as the failures of European pluralism. To amplify her point, she brings Jewish history and twentieth-century Jewish thought into the conversation directly, drawing on scholars such as Walter Benjamin, Zygmunt Bauman and Hannah Arendt to describe both Jewish and Muslim life and marginality. By challenging Eurocentric notions, from “progress” to “civility,” “tolerance” to “freedom” and “equality, what is at stake, Becker insists, is the possibility of a truly plural Europe.
Steffanie Richter, M.A.
Samia Hathroubi, M.A.