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€1 million project investigates the place of Muslim and Roma minorities across European nations

A consortium of universities across Europe, including the Universities of St Andrews and Dundee, have been awarded a prestigious €1 million grant by the Volkswagen Foundation to explore the experience of minorities and the ways this affects their inclusion in or their alienation from the majority in society.

The research focuses on two specific minorities: Muslims and Roma people. It will explore the challenges of misrecognition, i.e., the experience of being treated as if one does not belong to a society one has grown up in and feels part of. The cross-European collaboration is framed around three core questions:

  • In their everyday lives, do minorities feel as if they are recognised as ordinary members of the community or treated as outsiders? In particular, what is the impact of systems of surveillance (such as CCTV cameras in public places) upon minority group members?
  • What is the impact of feelings of misrecognition upon the social inclusion of minorities in society, upon their attitudes towards authorities, and upon their willingness to listen to those who advocate anti-authority viewpoints?
  • To what extent – and under what conditions – do experiences of misrecognition play a part in explaining how some people become involved in acts against authority and society? Are such experiences turning points in the trajectories of those who have gone down the path towards active opposition?

The research will provide a new way of looking at core social issues such as inclusion, integration and security. It places a critical emphasis on the way in which minorities are treated by the majority and, more specifically, investigates the critical role played by the experience of misrecognition in undermining the social attachment of Roma people and of Muslims in European countries.

One of the co-leaders of the project, Professor Stephen Reicher of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at St Andrews, said: “If we want to understand how minorities orient to authority and society, we must look at things through their eyes, and examine how many seemingly small things in their everyday lives, such as the sense of being under constant surveillance, add up to a big message as to whether they do or don’t belong in the community.”

Professor Nick Hopkins from the University of Dundee said: “We are tremendously proud to be part of this world class research team and to have been successful in obtaining this highly prestigious grant. Our own contribution to the project involves examining how members of the Muslim community in Scotland experience being under surveillance as they go about their everyday lives and the impact this has on their sense of belonging to Scotland.”

The other co-leader of the project, Professor Andreas Zick of Bielefeld University, said: “We are delighted to be awarded this grant. It provides a new way of looking at the processes of inclusion and opposition, one which seeks the answers in the actual experiences of minorities and asks what it is in those experiences which might make the voices of extremists credible and attractive to them.”


The project is entitled ‘MisMiE: Misrecognizing minorities in Europe’. The main partner universities in the project are: University of Amsterdam (Netherlands); University of Bielefeld (Germany); University of Dundee (UK); Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary; University of Paris, Nanterre (France); and University of St Andrews (UK).

The project runs for two years from the start of 2019.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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