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Transnational practices in local settings

A research project investigating the relationship between the local and transnational citizenship experiences of Bangladesh-origin Muslims in London and Birmingham.

This project examines how local political identities influence processes of transnational engagement. It also considers how transnational identities and relationships inform local political subjectivity. 

The project is funded by the ESRC as part of an ESRC Future Research Leaders Grant (ES/N000986/2). 

The project began in July 2016 and ended on the 31 December 2020.

Background

Local experiences of citizenship

The project investigates local experiences of citizenship in relation to:

  • different histories of settlement
  • different population profiles in terms of ethnic concentration
  • age
  • gender
  • socio-economic background
  • length of residence and naturalization status
  • different social and political environments of the two cities. 

It then considers how these local experiences of citizenship influence transnational relations, and vice versa.

Transnational relations

The project deviates from the majority of the literature on Muslim transnational relations in which the focus is very often on the characteristics of the population, or the characteristics of Islamic culture, in a way that ignores 'the role of social and political circumstances in shaping how people make sense of the world and then act upon it' (Kundnani, 2014). 

In the context of the ongoing ‘War on Terror’, and an increasing political and media focus on a security threat that is ‘home grown’, the transnational practices of British Muslims have generated particular concern. 

This has fed into a range of recent policy proposals with respect to the treatment of British subjects who engage in transnational activities the government does not support, and brings the constitutionally protected activities of a large number of people under increasing surveillance (Kundnani, 2014). 

In popular debate and the practice of public policy, therefore, transnational ties may affect local experiences of citizenship but more research is needed to understand how transnational activity is situated in social, cultural and political milieu. 

Research questions

This project aimed to answer the following research questions:

  • How do the different histories of Bangladeshi Muslim settlement in London and Birmingham, as well as their different population profiles and the different socio-political environments of these cities, influence experiences of citizenship? 
  • How do local political identities in these cities inform processes of transnational political and religious engagement? 
  • Does transnational engagement influence the creation of local political space?
  • What can this tell us about the relationship between transnational activity and local belonging? 
  • How can comparing experience across different urban centres feed into the activity of Government agencies, and connect to gaps in civil society service provision, in order to strengthen citizenship experiences among the Bangladeshi population in these field sites? 
Methodology

In each location, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with Bengali individuals in the form of same-sex parent/child dyads. The use of same-sex parent-child dyads helps to draw out generational dimensions and to focus the issues of continuity and change over time.

In addition, oral history interviews and civil society interviews were conducted in each location, producing a total of approximately 75 interviews (with approximately 120 people), complemented by ethnographic observation with the Bangladeshi community in all the field sites.

Field Sites

Tower Hamlets (Inner London) 

Dyad interviews with parents and children - 15 
Oral history interviews - 5 
Civil society interviews - 5 
Total interviews - 25

Luton (Outer London)

Dyad interviews with parents and children - 10 
Oral history interviews - 3
Civil society interviews - 3
Total interviews - 16

Smethwick (Birmingham)

Dyad interviews with parents and children - 20
Oral history interviews - 6
Civil society interviews - 8
Total interviews - 34

Total by interview type

Dyad interviews with parents and children - 45
Oral history interviews - 14
Civil society interviews - 16
Total interviews - 75

Outputs

Publications

Blogs

Events

Conference speakers below. First row (from left to right): Kusha Anand, Stephen Timms MP and Khalid Mahmood MP. Second row (from left to right): Liam Caroll, Victoria Redclift and Katarina Zajacova.

Speakers at the online Parliamentary Roundtable Conference. Image: courtesy of Kusha Anand
Team

Principal Investigator 

Research Fellows