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Sara Lei Sparre

(In)visibility and the Muslim other: Narratives of flight and religious identity among Iraqi Christians in Denmark

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This article investigates belonging and identification among Christians of Iraqi origin in Denmark through narratives of flight and inter-religious relations and with a particular focus on the underlying dynamics of a widespread anti-Muslim discourse. Based on qualitative interviews and informal conversations with Chaldean and Assyrian Christians from Iraq, I examine how they present themselves to me through their stories of flight from Iraq and settlement in Denmark. The analysis draws on the ambiguous concept (in)visibility, understood both as something structurally enforced and how individuals and groups experience their (in)visibility and strive towards mobility and recognition in the eyes of their beholders. In addition, the analysis incorporates insights and discussions from literature on racialization and minority-majority relations, while particularly focusing on religious identity and Muslim-Christian relations.
Against experiences of racialization and a dominant integration discourse of equality understood as sameness, I draw attention to three different yet simultaneous narratives put forward by the Iraqi Christians: flight from political oppression, flight from Muslim persecution in the Middle East, and Islam as a threat against Europe. I argue that Iraqi Christians interpret and navigate the experience of being bodily invisible as Christians but visible as immigrants and Middle Eastern Muslims by rewriting narratives of their flight from Iraq to Denmark. Consequently, they also rewrite their relations to both the ‘Christian other’ in Denmark and the ‘Muslim other’ in Denmark and Iraq. The article contributes with insights into the diversity within assumingly homogenous ethnic groups.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthnicities
ISSN1468-7968
Publication statusSubmitted - Apr 2019

    Research areas

  • Iraqi Christians, Muslim-Christian relations, religious identity, narratives, Racialisation and visibility, Denmark, refugees

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