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Presentation gender migration and intercultural by jennyyingdi


Religion, gender and migration

                UNIBO, IMIR, UPSPS,

                       Renata Pepicelli
                       University of Bologna
General goal of the research
The general aim of the research was to explore the re-positioning
  of religion in public and private sphere in particular among
  migrant women and to challenge the idea of exceptionality of
  Islam as the only religion that poses exceptional challenges to
  European secularism and majiority religion of the host country.
  This issue was addressed in different ways in the 4 countries
  analyzed. The 4 research carried out present infact different
  case studies with very different respondents’ profiles for
  countries of origin, faith, relationship to religion, attendance of
  places of worship.
Goal of the 4 case studies
   Italy: the aim of the research was to explore the Islamic and
    the Christian revivalism among Sunni Muslim and Baptist
    Rumanian Christian women in Rome, and in particular in its
    south-east periphery (Centocelle).

   Greece: the aim of the research was to analyze the diversity of
    religious identities (muslim, christian and atheist) represented
    within of bulgarian and albanian immigrant communities.
   Bulgaria: the study aimed to investigate the process
    of negotiation of religious and gender identities in the
    context of Muslim migration and to analyze the role
    of religion in the adaptation of Muslim immigrant
    women in the secular society of Bulgaria, a country
    with an important local Islam.

   Turkey: the main focus was on women within the
    Christian faith and their experience in a country
    where the majority of the population is Muslim.
Main results
4 key concepts

1- In XXI century religion is re-positioning in women’s lives

2- Diaspora enables transformations in religious practices and

3- Visibility and invisibility characterize bodily performances

4- Religion can be a tool of women’s empowerment, but also of
  1- Re-positioning
  of religion in women’s lives

After years of marginalization, religion is once again
   emerging in the public sphere in the East and in the
   West. The repositioning of religion is a phenomenon
   concerning all religions and is one of the elements that
   most characterizes the end of the XX century and the
   beginning of the XXI. As the 4 case studies show,
   religion re-appears in the private and in the public
   sphere among immigrants from muslim majority
   countries as from former communist countries. Women
   are not passive victims of this religious realignment,
   they can infact be very active in this process (it is
   particularly evident in the Greek and in the Italian
2- Transformations in religious practices
and identities enabled by diaspora

For many first and second generation immigrant, religion
  serves as a means of returning toward one’s own
  roots, offering spiritual support in order to deal with the
  difficulties of daily life and in same cases (Italy,
  Bulgaria, Greece) building social networks far from
  home. In all the 4 works carried out, migration is
  described as a painful, lonely and difficult experience.
  In this context religion can become an important
  reassurance, an irreplaceable solace.
A- The italian case

All the respondents, Baptists and Muslims alike, point out that in
    diaspora their religiousness gains strength; and thanks to the
    frequent attendace of places of worship, their ritual system
    become strongly codified.
The Italian case points out that turning to religion is a free choice and
    all-encompassing experience that does not mean turning to the
    past, but instead living wholly in the present and having access to
    the public sphere. Going to places of worship can become a way
    to get out of the house, meet people, discuss religious principles
    and norms.
B - The Bulgarian case

Upon migration the ritual system of Muslim immigrant women
  undergoes changes in two major directions: incorporation and
  celebration of local (Christian and secular holidays) and
  reduction of the number of traditional holidays that are
  celebrated rather modestly with a simplified cuisine. All
  respondents indicate that in Bulgaria they started to celebrate
  the central local holidays – Christmas and Easter. Their
  religious experience is characterized by heterogeneous
  religious practices as it is shown by Muslim women
  attendance of churches and the attraction for the Focolare
  Movement, a Catholic organization.
C - The Turkish case

The research results point out that Christian migrant women
  usually experience hybrid religiosity through engaging in
  different Islamic religious practices such as fasting during
  Ramadan, or celebrating Islamic holidays along with the rest of
  the society. They justify this behavior saying that they do not
  differentiate among monotheistic religions as they practice
  worship and/or prayer in a transnational manner both in the
  public and private realm. For those women faith is an internal
  source of strength rather than publicly claimed identity.
  D - The Greek case

Hybrid religiosities/hybrid practices characterize religion in diaspora
  and represent forms of intercultural and interreligious
  interactions, as the case of women that, without converting,
  attend Greek orhodox churches (to pray and light candles)
  shows. This kind of practice reproblematises the assumption that
  Greek orthodox churches are ethnically homogeneous spaces
  where the same language, attitude and religious faith are
  practiced. The research results underline that the attempt of re-
  reading religion, of re-interpreting the practices and traditions of
  the Greek Orthodox community by migrants has a radical
  potential. It serves as a critique towards existing religious
3- Bodily performances between
visibility and invisibility

 From the research it appears that female immigrants’
     clothing strategy is highly situational. Bodily
     performances are the product of interactions with
     at least three factors: the body politics of the
     receiving country, the immigrant community’s
     values and women’s desires. By wearing or not
     wearing religious symbols, such as veils and
     crosses, immigrants asserted themselves in the
     public sphere along the axes of visibility and, or,
Bulgaria: The research results describe different clothing strategies
    as outcome of negotiation with men in the family and of different
    accommodation strategies in the host country.
1)  from mild changes (lighter dress with brighter colors with
    keeping the kerchief) to full removal of the veiling.
2)  preservation of the dress code of the home country with very
    minor changes.
3)  veiling of immigrant women who did not use to veil (rarely).
Generally there is the tendency to become invisible in the public.
Turkey: the general tendency is to be invisible. The Christian
  respondents report that they would rather be invisible than
  visible in the public sphere. They want to blend in to the
  public in order to avoid the critical looks and judgments
  associated with the Russian and Eastern Europe sex workers
  who first came to Turkey.
The research results show that the issue of how to deal with
  cross necklaces as a matter of fact, is a very critical sign of
  migrant women’s awareness of otherness-foreignness in a
  Muslim society. Some times they felt like they had to hide
  their cross necklaces with a scarf or a turtle neck blouse
  which does not show their necks.
Italy:‘Modesty’ is a key concept in defining the roles and ideal
    behavior of women in Islam as among Baptists.
Over and over Muslim respondents express their discomfort with
    the general assumption that a woman’s liberty depends on how
    she dresses and stressed the fact that veiling is their own
    choice. All the respondents wear the veil, considered a duty of
    a Muslim woman, even if it cannot be imposed.
In the church Baptist women wear a small veil, or a head band as
    a sign of respect to God, and in some traditional churches it’s
    even obligatory to put on a long gown.
Greece: According to the results of the research,
  religious dress codes seem to be dictated by the
  prevailing ethno-religious trends that make public
  expressions of Christianity dominant in the everyday
  life of Athens, while Islamic expressions are still
  considered inappropriate for the public space. All of the
  women who participated in the focus group discussions
  and those who gave interviews were against the
  wearing of the hijab in public. In this context, it is
  more likely that even immigrant women who would like
  to wear the hijab in public would be reluctant to do so.
  On the contrary, none of the respondents-male or
  female- expressed negative views about people of
  different nationalities who wore the cross.
4 - Gender and religion: empowerment
and disempowerment

The adoption of religious identities by migrant women constitutes
  a terrain of possibility that it is very differently threated in the 4
  case studies. If in Italy and partially in Greece it can potentially
  play a role for the integration of migrant women in society,
  enable their participation in public life, and allow the
  contestation of existing gendered practices in the public; in
  Turkey and Bulgaria, it is not a terrain of implementation of
  women’s rights and it can become a means of reinforcing
  gender inequalities and asymmetries within migrant
  communities and amongst migrants and the host societies.
The particularity of the Italian case
By analyzing the results of the research, it emerges that religion
  can make women visible and empowered (rather than
  emancipated) in the public (rather than in the private). For
  example, by attending the mosque, a traditional male space,
  muslim women get out of the house and break their seclusion;
  increase their knowledge in Islamic studies and in the Italian
  language; take on roles of leadership in the community life;
  participate in the social and political realm (organizing social
  activities such as parties, dinners, conferences and taking part
  to political demonstrations).
  Conclusion: poliphony of voices
The research results show that national historical political context
  of the host country as the origin country affect in different way
  the relationship between gender religion and migration. Despite
  the globalization we cannot talk about a unique european
  model reproduced everywhere in Europe and particullarly in the
  4 countries of WP6. The relationship between gender, religion
  and liberal secularism is particularly diverse and depends on
  the local context. The same notions of secularism, as well as
  religion, should also be contextualized. For one thing, there is
  no secularism or religion in general, but French laicite or Italian
  fragments of secularism, as interpretations of Islam and
  Christianity. For another, the exclusive association of religion
  with Islam obscures the analysis of the possible ransformations
  that entrench different religions in Europe.
Policy recommendations

In Europe the debate on the incompatibility, or the
   presumed incompatibility, between women’s rights,
   European identity/culture and Islamic values is very
   sensitive and obscures other themes regarding
   immigrant women and religion. This transnational study
   suggests to redefine the terms of debate by observing
   similarities and differences in the process of the public
   transformation of minorities’ religions.
Main recommendations
   Taking religious identities seriously in our thinking about
    migration policies.
   Considering religiosity as a dynamic social practice determined
    by collective and personal experiences (multidimensionality
    and multiple meanings of religion).
   No considering Islam as an exceptional challenge to the
    european context.
   Paying attention to the local differencies in the costruction of
    the relationship gender/migration/religion.
   Paying attention to the role that religion can play in immigrant
    women’s lives for the effective social participation of
    themselves, their families and their communities in the public
   Defending the right of building places of worship as places able
    to support immigrant women participation in the public sphere
    and to promote the building of social networks.
   No stigmatizing Islam as an enemy religion coming from
    abroad, but considering it as part of the European social,
    cultural and religious identity.
   Promoting further investigation on the topic of gender,
    migration and religion as the results of the research open new
    grounds of debate and understanding of migrations for both
    academic literature and policy decisions.

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