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Nativism, Islamophobism and Islamism in the Age of Populism: Culturalisation and Religionisation of what is Social, Economic and Political in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ISLAM-OPHOB-ISM (Nativism, Islamophobism and Islamism in the Age of Populism: Culturalisation and Religionisation of what is Social, Economic and Political in Europe)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-12-31

Two substantial crises, namely the global financial crisis and the refugee crisis, further escalated ethnocultural and religious tensions in the European Union. Focusing on France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, this project questions how and why some young European citizens generate an Islamophobist discourse to express their discontent while others generate essentialist forms of Islamism. Although many youths in this generation produce exclusionary discourses, they share the frustration of those they exclude. Among the reasons for discontent are the de-industrialization of former manufacturing environments, marginalization in the job market, perceived discrimination, insecurity, isolation, and humiliation in various social settings. At this historical juncture, ISLAM-OPHOB-ISM utilizes a single optical lens to analyze the factors and processes behind the radicalization of European youths. Our fundamental premise is that the economic, political, and cultural shocks led by the flows of globalization act as a driving force behind radicalization, be that Islamist or Islamophobist.

ISLAM-OPHOB-ISM distinguishes radicalism from fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism based on theoretical as well as empirical assessments. As opposed to approaches that take radicalization as a process to be curbed, this study takes radicalization as a symptom and possibly a quest for resolving the aforementioned problems. Therefore, it demonstrates a colorful set of foundational claims that youths make in reaction to their socioeconomic, political, spatial and/or nostalgic grievances. The project’s overall objective is to emphasize the value of radical and critical thinking patterns while problematizing the monopoly of culturalism.

While questioning how and why various forms of radicalization occur, this research project scrutinizes the alternative cultural, psychological, and structural explanations for the process. As a result, it reframes youth disillusionment as a matter of socioeconomic and political cleavages rather than cultural and religious incompatibilities. In doing so, it problematizes the neoliberal form of governance, which underpinned the turn to identity by outlawing radicalisms that fall outside the market of cultural or religious repertoires. ISLAM-OPHOB-ISM emphasizes the socioeconomic, political, and psychological processes common to various segments of the European public, including native or migrant-origin populations.
State of the art may be analyzed separately in terms of literature review, data collection, data analysis, and dissemination. As of June 2021, the research team completed its (1) literature reviews on radicalization from cultural, political, and psychological perspectives; (2) country reviews of Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, city narratives on interview locations; and (3) literature reviews on our migrant-origin interlocutors’ countries of origin, Morocco and Turkey, including their diaspora politics since the 1960s, political systems, official interpretations of Islam, histories of emigration to Europe, and competition to spread their influence in Europe. All reviews have been uploaded to ZENODO (with respective DOI numbers), linked to the project’s OpenAIRE website, and published on the project’s website (https://bpy.bilgi.edu.tr/en/) administered by the project team at Istanbul Bilgi University.

After completing the first round of interviews in December 2020, our field researchers have started the second round in March 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic influenced the data collection in two significant ways. Firstly, we made an amendment to “Annex 1 - Description of Action (part B)” to incorporate online interviews into the methods of the project. Secondly, in accordance with an exchange of ideas with ERCEA, we have scaled the total number of interviews from four hundred down to three hundred twenty. One hundred ninety-four anonymized interviews have so far been deposited to the secured file sharing system of the European University Institute in Italy.

Data analysis is conducted by the desk researchers located at Istanbul Bilgi University. Based on a detailed coding manual accompanied by various supplementary material on value analysis and narrative inquiry, the coding of one hundred thirty interviews has been completed on the qualitative data examination computer software, NVivo 12. The project team started to use the processed data in several studies, which are currently under review by peer-reviewed journals. After each data analysis cycle, the desk researchers organize periodic meetings with the field researchers to exchange their preliminary arguments and share insights on specific country contexts and interview narratives.

The research team targets a wide array of audiences through peer-reviewed scholarly publications, blog posts, reviews, workshops, lectures, and social media campaigns. Since the project’s initiation, we have published one book, eleven journal articles and book chapters, thirty-four blog posts, and twenty-one literature reviews in the form of a working paper, most of which are accessible in the project website, https://bpy.bilgi.edu.tr. Meanwhile, we presented our ongoing work in fifty-five invited talks and held two workshops with the participation of the advisory board members in France and Germany. To inform students and the broader academic community in Turkey, we organized a three-day certificate program entitled “Radicalization, Populism, and Islamophobism.” Our most remarkable social media campaign rests on a hashtag, #LendThemYourEars. This initiative we started on Twitter and our website aims to keep our interlocutors’ voices as they want them to be heard by the broader public.
The following months will focus increasingly on publications while continuing the data analysis and planned dissemination activities. In the immediate future, we expect six research papers that are currently under review to be published by peer-reviewed journals. Among them are a co-authored article on the project’s methodology and papers on participatory approaches in the study of radicalization, neglected fault-lines between violent extremism and radicalism, and the concentration of radicalism on the secular-religious axis.

By the end of this process, the field researchers will have completed the second round of interviews in December. After analyzing the data as a whole, the research team will support the abovementioned studies with research agendas that address the main project objectives. These agendas include an analysis of self-identified Muslim and native youths’ common disappointments with the welfare system, their sentiments of socio-economic, spatial and nostalgic deprivation, divergent and shared values, social practices beyond values, and the in-group class stratifications that challenge their cultural identities.

In this period, the advisory board members will review the academic progress in two workshops that will take place in the Netherlands and Belgium. In addition, each advisory board member will have a week at Istanbul Bilgi University to scrutinize the data analyses. Two week-long meetings, including a set of roundtable sessions, will be organized by field and desk researchers. The blog posts will continue to share our findings with the broader medium in a simple and understandable language. The blog will also continue to invite relevant scholarly names to make contributions from their own research. The #LendThemYourEars campaign will reach a wider audience thanks to our broadening social media network.
LendThemYourEars example on Social Media
Conference Series on New Europe at Bilgi, 2019
Interview with the PI in Hurriyet Daily News, 16 Dec 2019
PRIME Youth Interviews Round1
Cover of the Book
LendThemYourEars example on PRIME Youth Website
Bilgi ERC Project Logo