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New book January 2014: ‘Migration and Religion in Europe: Comparative Perspectives on South Asian Experiences’, Edited by Ester Gallo, with chapters on Tamils in Europe

December 13, 2013

Migration and Religion in Europe: Comparative Perspectives on South Asian Experiences


Migration and Religion in Europe
  • Imprint: Ashgate
  • Edited by Ester Gallo, Gediz University, Turkey


  • Religious practices and their transformation are crucial elements of migrants’ identities and are increasingly politicized by national governments in the light of perceived threats to national identity. As new immigrant flows shape religious pluralism in Europe, longstanding relations between the State and Church are challenged, together with majority-faith traditions and societies’ ways of representing and perceiving themselves. With attention to variations according to national setting, this volume explores the process of reformulating religious identities and practices amongst South Asian ‘communities’ in European contexts, Presenting a wide range of ethnographies, including studies of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Islam amongst migrant communities in contexts as diverse as Norway, Italy, the UK, France and Portugal, Migration and Religion in Europe sheds light on the meaning of religious practices to diasporic communities.  It examines the manner in which such practices can be used by migrants and local societies to produce distance or proximity, as well as their political significance in various ‘host’ nations. Offering insights into the affirmation of national identities and cultures and the implications of this for governance and political discourse within Europe, this book will appeal to scholars with interests in anthropology, religion and society, migration, transnationalism and gender.


  • Contents:
  • Introduction: South Asian migration and religious pluralism in Europe, Ester Gallo;
  • A universal Hinduism? Dancing coloniality in multicultural London, Sitara Thobani;
  • ‘Our future will be in India’: travelling nuns between Europe and South Asia, Gertrud Hüwelmeier;
  • The status and role of the Norwegian-Pakistani mosque: interfaith harmony and women’s rights in Norway, Farhat Taj;
  • The mobility of religion: settling Jainism and Hinduism in the Belgian public sphere, Hannelore Roos;
  • Sikh associational life in Britain: gender and generation in the public sphere, Kaveri Qureshi;
  • Temple Publics as interplay in multiple public spheres: public faces of Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu life in Switzerland, Rafaela Eulberg;
  • Buddhist, Hindu, Kirati, or something else? Nepali strategies of religious belonging in the UK and Belgium, David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner and Bal Gopal Shrestha;
  • Hindutva and its discontents in Denmark, Stig Toft Madsen and Kenneth Bo Nielsen;
  • Sikhs in Italy: Khalsa identity from mimesis to display, Federica Ferraris and Silvia Sai;
  • ‘Our Lady of Carmo is the patroness of our family’: migration, religion and belonging of Portuguese-Goan Brahmans converted to Catholicism, Marta Vilar Rosales; Ganesha Caturthi;
  • Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Paris: inventing strategies of visibility and legitimacy in a plural monoculturalist society, Anthony Goreau;
  • From Sanskrit classicism to Tamil devotion: shifting images of Hinduism in Germany, Kamala Ganesh;
  • A suitable faith: Catholicism, domestic labour and identity politics among Malayalis in Rome, Ester Gallo; Index.


  • About the Editor: Ester Gallo is Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Gediz, Izmir, Turkey.


  • Reviews:
  • ‘In recent years, South Asian religions and people have increasingly made themselves visible in European towns and cities. New grand architecture and open processions, but also societal controversies, shifted South Asian minorities from invisibility to public awareness accompanied by both tribute and trouble. The volume brings together new and fascinating research and highlights the diversity and vitality of South Asian religions in Europe.’ Martin Baumann, University of Lucerne, Switzerland
  • ‘Migration and Religion in Europe will stimulate readers’ understanding of the diversity of minorities’ migration experiences and religious profiles in many states of Western Europe. Particularly fascinating are the disclosures of intersections between gender, politics and caste in this series of expert ethnographies.  The comparative dimension of many chapters (between groups and between historical periods) is particularly illuminating.’   Eleanor Nesbitt, University of Warwick, UK

New article: ‘Diaspora identification and long-distance nationalism among Tamil migrants of diverse state origins in the UK’

October 25, 2013

Jones, Demelza (2013) ‘Diaspora identification and long-distance nationalism among Tamil migrants of diverse state origins in the UK’, Ethnic and Racial Studies. I-First


Accounts of Tamil long-distance nationalism have focused on Sri Lankan Tamil migrants. But the UK is also home to Tamils of non-Sri Lankan state origins. While these migrants may be nominally incorporated into a ‘Tamil diaspora’, they are seldom present in scholarly accounts. Framed by Werbner’s (2002) conception of diasporas as ‘aesthetic’ and ‘moral’ communities, this article explores whether engagement with a Tamil diaspora and long-distance nationalism is expressed by Tamil migrants of diverse state origins. While migrants identify with an aesthetic community, ‘membership’ of the moral community is contested between those who hold direct experience of suffering as central to belonging, and those who imagine the boundaries of belonging more fluidly – based upon primordial understandings of essential ethnicity and a narrative of Tamil ‘victimhood’ that incorporates experiences of being Tamil in Sri Lanka, India and in other sites, despite obvious differences in these experiences.

If other network members have new articles, chapters, events or initiatives they would like to share, please email or tweet @Melzi_J

‘Roots of Diaspora’ project

October 25, 2013

Roots of Diaspora is an interactive project on refugeehood and migration which aims to collect personal and family stories of flight and immigration of Tamils from Sri Lanka dating back as far as 1948. The project aims to trace the routes, modes of transportations, encounters and experiences of an estimated one million Tamil refugees and immigrants who left the island of Sri Lanka to reach sanctuaries abroad. The aim of the study is to map journeys of (pre)war migration to provide visual understanding and context for the impact of racialized forms of violence and discriminatory policies on affected communities.

With this project we aim to find answers to questions such as what happened following the final departure? Where did Tamils move to? Which points of transit did they move through? How did they cross borders and natural boundaries? What did they experience throughout their journeys? What was the context of borders and geographies then? Which policies aided/obstructed their decisions on their final pathways?

The study intents to historicise our departures, arrivals and importantly the period between both departure and arrival. As a community we have so far spent few efforts and resources on documenting the many stories of hardship, violence and displacement we have faced. With this project, we hope to counter the profound silence surrounding questions of migration amongst the Tamil community. To counter the erasure and silencing of our stories and voices, we aim to begin a meaningful conversation about our diasporic presence, identities and memories.

Please do lend us your support and keep your ears and eyes open for more news to follow.

‘Roots of Diaspora’ is on Facebook and Twitter (@rootsofdiaspora)

London photography exhibition: ‘Healing Gods – Rituals and Memories of a Waltham Forest Community’

August 19, 2013

The photographer Chiara Contrino is holding an exhibition in Waltham Forest, London this week (18 – 24 August). The exhibition depicts the festivals and Hindu rituals in the Tamil Temples in the borough, and features the stories of local Tamil people who Chiara interviewed.

healing gods leaflet A5

New article on the experiences of student and young professional migrants from Tamil Nadu

August 5, 2013

My new article on the experiences of students and young professional migrants from Tamil Nadu in the UK has just been published in Ethnicities.

‘Cosmopolitans and ‘cliques’: Everyday socialisation amongst Tamil student and young professional migrants to the UK’


Among student and young professional migrants to the UK the opportunity for a global or cosmopolitan experience emerges as a motivating factor for migration. This article takes the example of student and young professional migrants to the UK from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and explores how this cosmopolitan ambition plays out in the formation of UK social networks. Two ‘types’ of research participant are identified; ‘self-conscious cosmopolitans’ whose social networks are cross-ethnic, and others whose networks are largely co-ethnic and who are often derided by their self-consciously cosmopolitan counterparts as ‘clannish’ or ‘cliquey’. The article asks how ethnicity emerges as salient (or not) in these migrants’ talk and practice around UK social network formations. It then considers whether a co-ethnic social network necessarily limits the cosmopolitan experience, or whether this interpretation reflects a narrow understanding of cosmopolitanism which excludes the multiple inter-cultural encounters these migrants experience in their everyday lives.

Why are asylum seekers disbelived?

July 23, 2013

Extract from a longer piece on the ‘Free Movement’ blog, written by barristers in the immigration team at London’s Renaissance Chambers.

Why are asylum seekers so often disbelieved? How is it that clinical evidence of torture is oftentimes rejected on the grounds of ‘credibility’? Why has the UK judged so many Tamil asylum seekers not to be at risk, forcibly returning them to Sri Lanka where they have gone on to be tortured? All who are involved in asylum work wrestle with some or all of these questions.

Professor Anthony Good, Professor Emeritus in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, has sought to provide answers through conducting analysis of Home Office policy documents and guidance for asylum caseworkers. Professor Good presented his findings at a MEDACT conference last month. Drawing heavily upon his excellent analysis, we follow suit in examining the Home Office guidance and policy materials. Analysis of these documents goes far to explaining why the Home Office has rejected asylum claims from Sri Lanka despite the applicants demonstrably being at risk.

PhD thesis on Tamil migrants in the UK

May 31, 2013

For anyone  interested, here is my PhD thesis which was examined and passed at the University of Bristol last month, and which looks at the everyday identifications experienced by Tamil migrants of diverse state backgrounds in the Midlands and South West of England.

Diversity and Diaspora – Demelza Jones



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