PhD Oral Exam - Amani Hassani, Social and Cultural Analysis
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
This thesis explores the lives of young adults (18-25-year-old) who identify as Muslim in Copenhagen and Montreal. As a comparative ethnography, it sets out to examine the transatlantic similarities and differences among young people who grew up in an era where Muslims were often represented as a foreign object in need of integration, and at times as threatening. The thesis investigates processes of representation depicting young Muslims’ life histories, social positions and social identifications. Furthermore, it follows these young individuals’ movements through their cities and the spatial narratives they construct through these movements. I have sought to unravel the complexity of my interlocutors’ self-ascribed identifications of Muslim and Copenhagener/Montrealer – as well as the many other identifications they adopted - by furnishing their narratives with spatial representations; in many ways, these young people were shaped by and shaped the social spaces they inhabit. In so doing, the thesis seeks to counter the populist positioning of ‘the Muslim other’ by informing the broader themes entailed in the intersection between young adulthood, social mobility, spatial mobility, urban life and self-identification as a Muslim in a Western society.
The ethnographic methods I employed in this study were threefold; I used participant observation to study my interlocutors’ social contexts, the cities they live in, and the public debates that permeate their city spaces. Semi-structured interviews were another important avenue for understanding how my interlocutors represented their lives, experiences and social positions. Finally, I used interlocutor-directed city tours to explore their movements in their localities. This last method was an essential instrument with which to situate and contextualize my interlocutors’ lives, experiences and navigations within their cities.