The Woolf Institute's Research Day 2019 was held on 13 November 2019. More than twenty researchers and students associated with the Institute presented their work in eight-minute presentations. The Research Day offers a unique opportunity to evaluate and further develop our diverse research into contemporary religion and society. It aims to give a short, accessible insight into the breadth of all our research in a single day.

Listen to the presentations of the Woolf Institute researchers as they discussed their research and proposed ideas for the future. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date with future videos. 

Research Day 2019

The full programme can be downloaded here.

Click on each section below to watch the individual presentations.

Dr Julian Hargreaves: Islamophobia and Antisemitism

Watch Dr Julian Hargreaves' presentation here.

Julian Hargreaves joined the Woolf Institute in January 2017 after completing a two-year post as a Research Associate in the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge.

Julian holds an MRes (Distinction) in Criminology and a PhD in Applied Social Science, both from Lancaster University. His main research interests are: British Muslim communities; issues around anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crime; relations between Muslim communities and the state; and community responses to radicalisation and extremism. These interests are pursued using mixed research methods and evidence-based approaches that include the analysis of large-scale social survey statistics alongside the use of interviews and focus groups.

Julian's recent work has been published in the British Journal of Criminology and Ethnic and Racial Studies and presented to the Royal Statistical Society.

As part of his work at the Woolf Institute, Julian teaches on the MPhil in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (Pathway A: Muslim-Jewish Relations) together with the Institute's Executive Director, Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner.

Julian is a member of the Expert Group of the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE). The CCE is a Home Office-funded body established to better understand the nature and scale of extremism in the UK and to advise the Government on new counter-extremism policies to deal with extremism.

Dr Katherine O'Lone: Measuring the Effectiveness of Interfaith Dialogue

Watch Dr Katherine O'Lone's presentation here.

Dr Katherine (Kitty) O'Lone joined the Woolf Institute in March 2019 after completing her PhD in Social Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London under the supervision of Professor Ryan McKay. Kitty is conducting a two-year research project entitled Measures of Success: Evaluating the Impact of Interfaith Dialogue. The project is aiming to develop a set of indicators that measure the impact of direct and grassroots interreligious dialogue initiatives.

Kitty holds a BA (1st Class Hons) in Linguistics from UCL, an MA (Distinction) in Cognition and Culture from Queen's University, Belfast and an MSc and PhD in Applied Social Psychology, both from Royal Holloway, University London.

Further information on the research project, Measures of Success: Evaluating the Impact of Interfaith Dialogue can be found here.

Danielle Padley: Choral Movements in Victorian Britain: From Oxford to West London

Watch Danielle Padley's presentation here.

Danielle Padley is a musicologist, researching the interaction between Jewish music and its wider contexts, with a focus on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Britain. Her work on the Anglo-Jewish liturgical music sung in and published for Victorian synagogues has been heard on BBC Radio 3 ('Symphony of Psalms', Easter Sunday Feature 2018), and was the subject of a video documentary for the Woolf Institute's Living in Harmony project in April 2018. Her first journal article was published in Nineteenth-Century Music Review (CUP) earlier this year, on the subject of Jewish music beyond the Synagogue. Another article, co-written with Professor Susan Wollenberg, University of Oxford, is forthcoming in Ad Parnassum Studies. Danielle is also Musical Director of Kol Echad, Cambridge's Hebrew choir which performs a variety of liturgical, folk and concert repertoire in Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino. Kol Echad regularly participates in events to promote Jewish-Christian relations through the sharing of musical heritage, including performances at Peterborough Cathedral, Michaelhouse Chapel, Corpus Christi and Churchill Colleges, and at Beth Shalom Reform Synagogue. Danielle has also sung in and conducted the choir at Edgware and District (now Edgware and Hendon) Reform Synagogue since 2000, where she first found the inspiration for her academic work.

Mohammed Ahmed: Islam's Engagement with Judaism:Belief Similarity and Religious Identity in the Early Islamic Era

Watch Mohammed Ahmed's presentation here.

Mohammed Ahmed is an awardee of the Woolf Institute Cambridge Scholarship and works on Muslim-Jewish relations in the Medieval Period. He joined the University of Cambridge and the Woolf Institute in 2019 to start his MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Mohammed hopes to show that Muslim-Jewish religious relations were complementary in the Early Islamic era.

In this presentation, Mohammed Ahmed discusses a new approach to our understanding of Muslim-Jewish creedal relations in the early Medinan period. He wishes to use the Quran and the Constitution of Medina as the main sources to re-evaluate early Muslim-Jewish relations. These sources present conflicting Islamic attitudes towards Judaism and the Jews, with both positive and negative assertions and allegations. Mohammed questions whether the relationship between early Muslims and the Jews of Medina was as distinct as Islamic sources present them to be, or whether perhaps they shared beliefs and practices that have been overlooked by Islamic and Western scholars and theologians for centuries.

Details of the MPhil in Middle Eastern Studies: Muslim-Jewish Relations & the Woolf Institute Cambridge Scholarship can be found here.

Dr Krisztina Szilagyi: Muhammad and the Jews: Alternative Narratives

Watch Dr Krisztina Szilagyi's presentation here.

Lina Molokotos-Liederman: Bringing Jews, Christians and Muslims Together One Joke at a Time? Humor and Interfaith Engagement

Watch Dr Lina Molokotos-Liederman's presentation here.

Dr Lina Molokotos-Liederman holds a PhD in sociology of religion from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris (2001). Her current research interests include faith and fashion, and humour and religion. Lina has developed a research project on humour and religion for which the Woolf Institute is fundraising. In this project, she hopes to explore the uses of humour as an innovative tool in interfaith engagement. She is also co-founder of the Humour and Religion Network (HRN). She has worked on "Faith & Fashion" at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts (UAL), where she is now working part-time as a Research Fellow on an AHRC-funded project on "Modest Fashion in UK Women's Working Life". She has served as Editorial Manager of Religion, State & Society journal and is now a member of the Editorial Board. She has worked as a project-based researcher for organisations such as Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre (CRS), Sweden; Centre for European Studies, University of Exeter; and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Her conference papers and publications (in French and English) cover topics including religion and social welfare in Europe; faith-based humanitarian action; and religion and education.

Read Lina's blog post on humour and religion here.

Dr Tobias Müller: Strictly Observant Encounters: Contesting Family and Gender in London

Watch Dr Tobias Müller's presentation here.

Dr Tobias Müller joined the Woolf Institute as Junior Research Fellow in November 2018. He is a political scientist working in the fields of political theory, political anthropology, gender, secularism and religion. Tobias is the principal researcher of the project Strictly Observant Religion, Gender and the State on which he is working with Dr Ed Kessler MBE. The project aims to understand how groups that claim strict observance to their religion interact with the state regarding questions of gender and sexuality. It seeks to investigate how gender and sexuality emerge as fields of contestation between religious people and the secular-liberal order advanced through the modern state.

Further information on the research project, Strictly Observant Religion, Gender and the State can be found here.

Dr Mohammad Sakhnini: Aleppo in British Eyes: 18th Century Muslim-Jewish Encounters

Watch Dr Mohammad Sakhnini's presentation here.

Dr Mohammad Sakhnini studied for an MA and PhD in the department of English, the University of Exeter. I wrote my PhD on early modern and Enlightenment British travel writings about Syria. In the years following the completion of my PhD in 2015, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Linnaeus, Sweden. I also taught at the Universities of Sussex and Brighton. Currently I am the head of Humanities department in the King Fahad Academy, London and also an affiliated researcher at the Woolf Institute, Cambridge.

Christopher Wadibia: Herding Towards Peace: Muslim-Christian Relations and Nigeria's 2019 Presidential Election

Watch Christopher Wadibia's presentation here.

Christopher Wadibia is a second year PhD Theology and Religious Studies candidate at Selwyn College, Cambridge and an Honorary PhD Scholar at the Woolf Institute. Mr. Wadibia's Research Day presentation examined the Fulani-Christian sectarian violence in Nigeria and this conflict's involvement in Nigeria's 2019 presidential election discourse. Mr. Wadibia's presentation included a historical introduction to the conflict, as well as an elucidation of the influence of climate change, the colonial legacy, ethno-religious affiliations, and economic impairments on the multi-dimensional violence, as well as an outlining of potential solutions to the component of the conflict associated with cattle herding. Mr. Wadibia's presentation concluded with assessing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's response to accusations of tribal favouritism, which stems from President Buhari sharing the same Fulani ethnicity as a number of the conflict's perpetrators.

Dunya Habash: Syrian Musicians in Turkey: Playing and Replaying the Cultural Imaginary

Watch Dunya Habash's presentation here.

Dunya was awarded a Woolf Institute Cambridge Scholarship to commence her PhD studies in Music under Dr Matthew Machin-Autenrieth. Her ethnographic research will examine Syrian musicians in Turkey. Dunya hypothesizes that the Syrian cultural imaginary is shifting as a result of ‘emplacement’ into Turkish society, and that this can be illustrated through musical practices. Looking at how Syrian musicians in Turkey place themselves and how they use music to belong to an ideational community can give fresh insights into the relationships between structural forces—politics, religion, migration, economics—and inner subjectivities. Exploring how the various communities in Syria negotiate a new identity in the diaspora can not only describe Syria’s demographically rich history—for cities like Aleppo and Damascus boast centuries of cohabitation between Muslims, Jews, Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, and others—but also test the strength of the ‘interfaith and cosmopolitan’ narrative of Syria’s secularist national identity. This research will build on insights that Dunya developed during her fieldwork for the Living in Harmony project at the Woolf Institute and on her MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford.

Ani Avetisyan: Early Modern Judeo-Arabic Medical Manuscripts

Watch Ani Avetisyan's presentation here.

From September 2019, Ani Avetisyan is a PhD Scholar at St John's College, Cambridge and an Honorary PhD Scholar at the Woolf Institute. Her research focuses on two early modern Judaeo-Arabic medical manuscripts from Matenadaran Museum (The Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts). She is being supervised by Prof. Geoffrey Khan and Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Ani was born in Armenia where she earned her Bachelor's degree and first MA in Arabic and Semitic Studies at Yerevan State University. In 2014, she moved to Stockholm to study at Paideia – The European Institute for Jewish Studies. She was a 2014-2015 Moses Maimonides Fellow of the Paideia One Year Programme. After graduating from Paideia, Ani pursued her second MA at HFJS, Heidelberg, in the fall of 2015, which she completed successfully in 2018.Over the course of 2018-19, she has been working at Yerevan Bryusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences, where she was responsible for developing an academic plan for the new Centre for Hebrew Language and Culture.

Tara Zammit: Ontological Security and its Diverse Applications: Gender and the Israel Defense Forces

Watch Tara Zammit's presentation here.

Tara Zammit has started a new role as the Woolf Institute's Communications and Digital Media Officer having recently completed her MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Muslim-Jewish Relations) at the University of Cambridge. Her dissertation, 'Representations and Reinforcements: Examining the Roles and Representations of Women in the Israel Defense Forces through an Ontological Security Lens', received the award of Distinction and her research focused on the intersection of security, gender, and military studies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tara graduated with High Distinction (H.B.A.) from the University of Toronto, having studied Peace, Conflict and Justice, Near and Middle Eastern Civilisations, and Jewish Studies, and was a 2018-2019 Woolf Institute Cambridge Scholar (in association with the Cambridge Trust).

Dr Tali Artman: What did Jews Learn from the Quran about Mary?

Watch Dr Tali Artman's presentation here.

Professor Philip Wood: Early Islamic History and Dionysius of Tel Mahre

Watch Professor Philip Wood's presentation here.

Philip Wood is a Professor at Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. He specialises in the history of Christians in the late antique Middle East, 400-900. He has published two OUP monographs: We Have No King but Christ (2010) and The Chronicle of Seert (2013). He is completing work on a third monograph: The Imam of the Christians: The world of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, 750-850 for Princeton University Press, which is the product of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship. He is also interested in social integration and religious education and he publishes op-eds and comments on these subjects as well as writing curricula for schools.

Dr Ed Kessler MBE: Examining the Holy Places in Jerusalem: asking the right questions rather than looking for answers

Watch Dr Ed Kessler's presentation here.

Dr Edward Kessler, MBE is Founder Director of the Woolf Institute and a leading thinker in interfaith relations, primarily, Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. In 2002 he was elected Fellow of St Edmund's College; in 2007 Dr Kessler was described by The Times Higher Education Supplement (London) as 'probably the most prolific interfaith figure in British academia' and in 2011 was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II for services to interfaith relations. He has written or edited 12 books, including the standard undergraduate textbook, An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations (Cambridge, 2010). His most recent books are Jews, Christians and Muslims (SCM, 2013) and Jesus (The History Press, 2016). He was Vice-Chair of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (2013-15), which published a major policy report entitled, Living with Difference. He is Principal Investigator on a research project examining the relations between strictly observant religion, gender and the nation state and is now undertaking a research project examining access to holy spaces in Jerusalem. Kessler regularly appears in the media commenting on religion and belief issues of the day, most recently presenting a BBCR4 documentary entitled 'We do do God' (2019), is a regular contributor to the Woolf Institute blog and hosts the podcast 'Encounter'. He is regularly invited to deliver lectures overseas.