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Christoph Novak



Christoph Novak, M.A.
Assoziierter Teilnehmer
Doktorand an der Universität Wien




Christoph Novak studied Political Science at the University of Vienna (2012, Mag.phil.) and continued his studies with an MA programme in Culture, Diaspora, Ethnicity at Birkbeck College, University of London, which he completed in 2013. From 2014 until 2016 he worked as a project scientist for Swiss Paraplegic Research, Nottwil on different social research projects.  He started his PhD studies (cotutelle de thèse) at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva (supervisor: Prof. Matteo Gianni) and the Department of Political Science, University of Vienna (supervisor: Prof. Sieglinde Rosenberger) in 2015. In 2016, he was awarded a DOC-Fellowship of the Austrian Academy of the Sciences.

In 2015 Christoph Novak became an associated member of the Doctoral Programme in Gender Studies at the University of Zurich.


Politics of Belonging in Diverse Space. Qualitative Analysis of Narratives About Daily Life and Local Space of Autochthon Muslims in Their Early Adulthood, Living in Diverse Areas in Zurich and Vienna.


In this PhD-project, I will analyse personal narratives and talk about the local environment of young (self-identified) Muslims, who live in the largest metropolitan areas of Switzerland and Austria, Zurich and Vienna, and who were socialised in the respective national school system. I am particularly interested in people living in highly diverse urban areas, because it is likely that these spaces provide the demographic composition in which people interact across socially constructed boundaries (e.g. ethnic and religious boundaries) on a daily basis. According to Paul Gilroy (2005), contemporary conviviality (which describes situations in which daily practices cross discursively constructed social boundaries and provoke a critical re-examination of notions of fixed identities) enables various, highly contextual identifications within one narrative. By linking conviviality to Nira Yuval-Davis’ (2011) position that people seek access to and recognition of their claims to belong to certain social collectivities partly through speech (which she conceptualises as a particular form of politics of belonging), narratives become an area in which the daily exposure to multicultural diversity and its effects on people’s identifications can be observed. Furthermore, it will be interesting to compare the use of different discursive resources like national myths, current events, different policies and political rhetoric, as well as other forms of “knowledge” – such as gender roles – which are drawn upon for different purposes by my research participants.

Through a multi-sited comparative framework, focusing on diverse areas in Vienna and Zurich, I will avoid limiting my results to either the local, national or trans-/supranational sphere, but will remain open for differentiated observations, which emerge due to or in spite of exposure to diversity in different local and national environments and due to or in spite of being confronted with different material processes and other contextual factors. This perspective takes into account, that politics of belonging may be influenced to varying degrees by discursive, institutional and material conditions, processes and power relations on different levels.

Beyond these comparative dimensions, I am specifically interested in the question, what happens in diverse spaces with people, who are confronted with strong global and local discourses which construct them as racialized and/or religiously homogenous, closed and fixed group and portrays them in opposition to Western modernity and democracy (e.g. islamophobic and anti-Muslim discourses). Consequently, I want to investigate how young Muslims, who dwell in diverse areas in Vienna and Zurich, construct themselves in their own narrative accounts. What significance do my research participants attribute to the area and the daily life in a diverse neighbourhood and (how) do they re-examine or embrace fixed notions of identity? Apart from their local environment, which other contextual – national, supra- and trans-national/ discursive and material – aspects play a role in their narratives?

I will gather my data through a combination of different qualitative methods, including qualitative interviews and focus group discussions. I will approach this data from a narrative analysis perspective focusing on politics of belonging, which allows me to identify how people claim belonging to different social collectivities, what role they attribute to local diversity, discourses and material processes on different levels and in different social settings. With this study, I aim contributing to the empirical research on diversity and multiculturalism in Vienna and Zurich in general and their Muslim populations in particular, to the question of what role the host nation state plays, to research on the influence of policies and political culture on individual politics of belonging as well as to the theoretical and empirical literature on conviviality.


Gilroy, Paul (2005): Postcolonial melancholia. New York: Columbia University Press.

Yuval-Davis, Nira (2011): The Politics of Belonging. Intersectional Contestations. Los Angeles, London: SAGE.

Research Interests

Postcolonial Theory, Intersectionality, Migration Policy, Racism, Conviviality, European Muslim Populations