The objectives of this interdisciplinary project are to explore the migrant experiences of Middle Eastern Christian communities in Europe in order to identify the cultural encounters taking place and to examine their impact on defining and shaping identities. The European context is central to understanding the similarities and differences of these experiences and can add to current understandings of the categorisation of migrants and its implications on integration and the construction of identity within migrant groups. The case studies of the Coptic Orthodox (sub-state but global identity), Suryoye (Assyrians / Syrians – transnational supra-state identity) and Iraqi Christians (state identity) offer several strategies of identity construction including diasporic, particularistic and national. These in turn are shaped by existing integration strategies and church-state relations. The case study countries of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden allow a crosscountry comparison of these cultural encounters, while exploring the transnational nature of the communities.
Through the use of core but contested concepts, notably identity, minority, diaspora, transnationalism and integration, the project seeks to advance knowledge on the following issues. First, the factors that determine identity strategies will be outlined. Second, the internal debates within the communities relating to these cultural encounters will be examined with acknowledgement that different communal actors compete for influence and that variables such as gender, generation and migration patterns also have an impact. Third, the perceptions of these encounters in the host countries will be identified at both state and societal level. Finally, the relations between the communities and other migrants from the homeland will be explored with reference to experiences in the homeland. Through interviews, fieldwork, archival research and workshops, this project will address Middle Eastern Christian migrant experiences from a social and cultural perspective while analysing the implications of these encounters, thus contributing to a wider understanding of the impact of faith-based communities on European states and societies.