Oxford Diasporas Programme

This Project is now complete

Oxford Diasporas Programme: Religious faith, space and diasporic communities in East London: 1880s-present

A major Leverhulme-funded 5-year interdisciplinary project on the impact of diasporas in the modern world.  


Religion in Diaspora: Cultures of Citizenship
Research Aims

The Oxford Diasporas Programme, funded for 5 years (2011-15) by the Leverhulme Trust, consists of 11 projects looking at the social, economic, political and cultural impact of diasporas (transnational communities of people dispersed from their homeland) through a range of disciplinary perspectives and research methods. The projects cover case studies from both the global North and South.  Jane Garnett and Alana Harris are working with Ben Gidley and Michael Keith (of COMPAS - Centre on Migration Policy and Society – part of the School of Anthropology in Oxford) on one strand of this global project, entitled  ‘Religious faith, space and diasporic communities in East London: 1880s-present’. It analyses the contested histories of faith-based civil-society institutions in the East End of London from the late nineteenth century to the present, focusing in particular on Jewish, Christian and Muslim cultures.  Standard views of migration and diaspora have often ignored the complex and multivalent dimensions of belonging, identification and faith – especially the ways in which journeys are rarely simply in one direction. Sometimes such journeys remain within traditions, and sometimes take people across boundaries of nation, denomination or ethnicity. This project challenges the hegemony of such conventional markers of identity, and teases out the complexity of diasporic experience. It tracks how movements, individuals, faiths and communities move through and between spaces, sometimes along and sometimes against the grain of diasporic routes.  The sites focused on include formal places of worship, associational and domestic spaces.  Creatively interdisciplinary in its methodological reach –employing documentary archival research, oral history interviews, mapping techniques, visual methods and ethnography - the project’s spine is historical. By addressing questions across the historical span of the long twentieth century, and by interrogating patterns of international and intra-national (and often highly localized) migration, the aim is to enhance understanding of the impact of faith-based community organizations on diaspora inclusion and exclusion in a world city.

  • Alana Harris