Researching Muslim-Jewish encounters always risks reifying categories and foregrounding faith-based identities over other – for instance ethnic or class – identities. The “diversity turn” in scholarship provides one way to address this, highlighting multiple and intersecting lines of identity, but risks erasing the dynamic role of race’s power geometries and of the state in shaping emic identifications. This interview with urban scholar Michael Keith focuses on his research in in East London, a site conventionally narrated as the point of arrival for Eastern European Jewish and later South Asian Muslim migration to the UK, and now represented in some sensationalist media and pseudo-scholarly discourses as an “Islamised” “no-go zone” for Jews. Keith argues that a rigorous commitment to the empirical, granular attention to space’s productivity, and openness to the fragility and contingency of all identity categories of can help avoid such lachrymose caricatures as well as de-politicised versions of the “diversity” frame.
The Jew and the Muslim are historically among the primary figures of alterity in Europe, the constitutive outsiders who have shaped what Europe is, notably around questions of conflict, migration and integration. However, on the ground contemporary Jewish and Muslim communities have often been at the forefront of critical engagement with these questions, for example with regard to the Mediterranean migration crisis and heightened societal security concerns. This introduction sets out the main questions and themes of this volume.