Chapter 9 The Avoidance of Love? Rubbing Shoulders in the Secular City

In: Jews and Muslims in Europe
Author: Ruth Sheldon

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Drawing on ethnographic research with Haredi women in Stamford Hill to explore the limits of the secular vocabularies which dominate sociological diversity discourse, I ask why an assumed Jewish-Muslim enmity became its focus. First my response explores how a political theology of European Christendom, and a particular conjuncture of its race-religion constellation (Topolski 2018) finds expression in a secular concept of conviviality that regulates possibilities for intimacy in Hackney. I develop the claim that rationalist ideals of liberal sociality are in part mobilized to repress and contain violent histories of assimilation and exclusion in the borough. Second, I turn to Haredi women’s expression of an alternative Jewish-Muslim picture through intimacies that diverge from a convivial grammar. This leads me to tentatively explore how a vernacular Hasidic concept of chesed might hold together antinomies of care and violence, and offer alternatives for being-with, and mourning-with the neighbour in violent times.