Narratives of Migrating Minorities: Muslims and Jews as similar "Others"

The project examines processes of identity formation among minorities in Austria by comparing two Jewish and two Muslim groups. Vienna is home to one of the world’s largest communities of Jews from Central Asia, who have a shared cultural background with Muslims from the Persianate world. We will assess which aspects of this cultural background are used or discarded in the process of creating communal boundaries. This is the first research in the German-speaking academia that approaches Muslim and Jewish experiences as connected, conducted by a research team with organic connections with both Jewish and Muslim communities. The research specifically looks at how heightened political polarization in Austria—as well as internationally—informs images of the Self and the Other, as well as how experiences of individuals in everyday life actually differ from these official topoi.

The qualitative research methods contain both biographic interviews and innovative forms of textual interpretation in focus groups in order to tease out which differences and similarities between the groups are employed in the process of identity formation. We will thereby cross the disciplinary borders that have to date shaped research on Jewish and Muslim communities. Biographic research will point out how religious and ethnic identities are transformed in the process of migration, and relate these transformations to the role of the respective communities beyond Austria, as well as to the influence of media and new forms of nationalism.

The project is kindly funded by the FWF (1000 Ideas Programme) and it is a cooperation between Yuval Katz-Wilfing and Ariane Sadjed from the ÖAW / Institute for Iranian Studies.