SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Flora Hastings

BA, MA (UCL), MRes (SOAS)

Overview

Flora Hastings
Name:
Flora Hastings
Email address:
Thesis title:
Jews Becoming Public: Emergent Practices Within Casa Adret, a Jewish Cultural Centre in Barcelona
Website:
https://florahastings.com/
Internal Supervisors

Biography

Over the past five years, I have been interested in the Jewish and Muslim past and present of Spain. In 2017, I moved to Barcelona as a freelance journalist writing on the 2015 repatriation law issued by the Spanish government for Sephardic Jews, while also attempting to pursue the law’s recognition myself. The following year, my MSc dissertation in anthropology (UCL) was based on fieldwork conducted in Cordoba, exploring the relation between historical consciousness and Spanish Moroccan Muslims’ relation to geo-politics and territorial belonging. Following my MSc, I returned to Barcelona to volunteer within a newly opened Jewish cultural and political centre in the city’s old Jewish quarter. This 8-month period was formative in shaping the research questions that guide my  doctoral research.

Beyond writing journalistic articles focusing on minority politics, I have recently completed a literary novel, drawing from my ethnographic research on Jewish and Muslim life in Spain, for which I am seeking representation. I have also organised several volunteer-based, grant-funded projects in collaboration with NGOs, such as Salam-Shalom Barcelona. 

Since beginning my PhD at SOAS in 2019, I have become a co-ordinator of the Jewish-Muslim Research Network, along with Dr Adi Bharat and Katharine Halls. This network organises author Q and A’s, seminars and reading groups comparatively exploring Jewish and Muslim identity, Judaism and Islam and 'Jewish-Muslim' relations. In July 2021, my supervisor Dr Naomi Leite and I co-organised a three day, online symposium titled Public Jewishness: Contexts, Motives, Politics, Meanings. This participant-only workshop drew established scholars and PhD candidates from across the globe to discuss our ongoing research on Jewishness, with a focus on public/private distinctions, political and civic engagement, local and state heritagization processes and enactments of peoplehood.

PhD Research

My ESRC-funded PhD research currently explores the apparent growth of public forms of Jewish identity and social practice within Barcelona. Through ethnographic fieldwork, I explore how practices of public Jewishness unfurl through a range of social interactions and organised events, as well as inquire into how the concept of 'public' (and related terms such as 'open') is given meaning through ethical discourse. Open forms of Jewishness contrast to wider patterns of Jewish sociality dominant across 20th and 21st century Spain, which are often organised around guarded synagogues, while it is not uncommon for Spanish Jews to consciously 'pass' as non-Jewish in daily social interactions.

Anthropologists have noted how Jewish socialities have shifted across European and American contexts since the 1960s to become more public-facing and embedded within socially diverse spaces. The combination of growing socioeconomic infrastructures, such as the global boom of the heritage industry in the 1990s, liberal democratic state-led processes that encourage minority representation and participation within the wider democratic body and shifting Judaic ethical discourses around peoplehood and universalism, have been seen to contribute to the growth of spaces and practices which foster forms of Jewish communal life that play out through more public-facing modalities. From the window of my primary fieldsite, a left-leaning Jewish cultural and political centre within Barcelona’s medieval Jewish quarter, I aim to elucidate motivations and meanings behind shifting forms of Jewish sociality.

Within the anthropology of Europe, my ethnographic research may shine light on how social ideologies which (de)motivate social interactions between groups or schematise 'public' and 'private' life, whether through Liberal/Reform-movement Jewish ethics or state-led secularism, inform everyday socialities and ethics of minority groups, from the formation of institutions to how public space is used. I am interested in how dominant concepts such as 'democratic' or 'citizen' correlate to embodied, spatial and social practises in public space, and the ways in which Jews, Muslims and other minorities may integrate such practises into everyday social and religious practice.