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Being Shia in Europe? Identity and Belonging in the Modern Age

As a minority within a minority, there is a noticeable gap in research pertaining to the experience of Shia Muslims in the UK and Europe in the current climate of increasing Islamophobia post 9/11 and sectarian tensions.  Dr Emanuelle Degli Esposti presented her PhD and post-doctoral work on Shia identity followed by informal discussion with feedback to help further her research. Her current research examines the public forms of activism undertaken by Twelver Shias in the West. As well as exploring the way in which Shia communities view and understand themselves, the project seeks to illuminate the ongoing encounter between Islam and Europe and the evolving dynamics between different Islamic sects. She posed the question of Shia identity in the West differing from Shia identity in the Islamic world citing examples of novel campaigns in the UK. Organisations such as “Who is Hussain”, which is now an international campaign, and “Imam Hussain Blood Donation” aim to propagate the message of Imam Hussain in a manner that is more appropriate outside the Islamic world. They promote alternative palatable means of expressing grief that move away from traditional expressions involving self-flagellation. Aside from the UK, Dr Esposti is also exploring Shia activity in Europe, especially those that might be said to be geared towards the cultivation of a “European Shi’ism”.

Emanuelle Degli Esposti is a current Research and Outreach Associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge. A specialist in the politics and emotions of minority identities, Emanuelle received her doctorate in Politics and International Studies from SOAS, University of London. Emanuelle holds an MSc Middle East Politics from SOAS and an MA and BA in French and Philosophy from Oxford University. She is the editor and founder of the online journal The Arab Review, and has previously worked as a freelance journalist.

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