Topics: Haredi / Strictly Orthodox Jews, Jewish Neighbourhoods, Jewish Space, Geography, Demography, Jewish Identity, Main Topic: Identity and Community
Abstract: Using theoretical concepts concerning space, identity and boundaries, this thesis examines a contemporary ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Broughton Park, Manchester (located in the north of England). The thesis discusses how these Jews practise and understand their lives within the context of a (post)modem world. Demographically, the overall population of Anglo-Jewry is declining (by as much as a third in the past forty years), with fears expressed about its future survival. Socially, there are major schisms between the different branches of Judaism, with increasing concerns about a polarisation between religious and secular. These factors provide the background to this thesis, which examines arguably the most extreme and still rapidly growing form of Judaism. The thesis uses a theoretical framework which takes seriously post-positivist understandings of space and identity, in which movement, inter-connections and, in particular, processes of hybridity are recognised. Same and other are never pure. Nonetheless, such theoretical conceptions tend to deny particular people's situated attempts to defend, institutionalise and 'slow down' identities and spaces, which are, I argue, key factors in understanding people's everyday lives. While such stabilisations can be described as reactionary, I suggest that they may also be celebrated (although in complex and ambivalent ways) as resistances to forces of homogeneity. Through the empirical materials collected in Broughton Park, a discussion of the institutionalisation of space detailed in the sacred text of the Talmud, and a reconsideration of post-positivist theories to do with identity and space, the thesis draws upon and extends critiques of hybridity as always a (positive) force of resistance, and boundaries as necessarily reactionary and aligned with powers of domination. Overall, it offers a theoretical and methodological framework with which to interrogate 'geographies of Jewry', taking seriously those calls for 'geographies of religion' to make use of post positivist understandings of space and identity.