Representations of Jewish-Muslim Relations in Contemporary France

UoM administered thesis: Phd

Abstract

This thesis examines representations of Jewish-Muslim relations in contemporary French newspaper discourse, literary writing, and interreligious dialogue initiatives. Specifically, it analyses the extent to which a dominant discourse of inherently tense binary Jewish-Muslim relations exists and how individual Jewish and Muslim writers and interreligious dialogue activists navigate this difficult socio-political terrain. While I conceptualize some aspects of literary writing and interreligious dialogue as counter-narratives, this thesis does not simply seek to counterbalance the dominant narrative of polarization found in the media, but to demonstrate, first, how this narrative constructs public Jewish and Muslim identities and shapes the terrain on which interactions between Jews and Muslims occur. My thesis reveals that Jewish and Muslim writers and interreligious activists are deeply invested in challenging the oppositional model of Jewish-Muslim relations. However, my research also suggests that their level of success depends in large part on their ability to navigate normative understandings of Jewishness and Muslimness that are often overdetermined by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, this thesis traces how Jewish-Muslim relations are defined and constructed in the media, focusing on the national dailies Le Monde and Le Figaro due to their considerable agenda-setting and framing power as elite and prestigious sites of journalistic expression. Subsequently, I consider how a set of contemporary novelists, Emilie Frèche, Thierry Cohen, and Nadia Hathroubi-Safsaf, formulate their visions of intergroup relations within this broader context. The novelists in this project have been included in the extent to which their works can be read as—and often are explicitly stated by these authors to be—a set of political interventions into the contemporary and highly politicized category of Jewish-Muslim relations. Finally, I examine how Jewish and Muslim activists promote interreligious dialogue and the challenges they face in doing so within a French republican framework that privileges the non-differentiation of ethnoreligious specificities. I conclude that the initiatives most likely to effectively challenge the dominant model of polarized Jewish-Muslim relations in contemporary France are those that de-emphasize Jewishness and Muslimness as separate and mutually exclusive categories, and instead emphasize hybrid identities and shared histories, while adopting an embodied, differentiated approach to solidarity.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2020