'There is a lot of generalisation about different religions'

November 19, 2004

Kim Knott researches the religious beliefs and practices of various ethnic minority groups in Britain

Kim Knott, professor of religious studies at Leeds University, is about to become director of a multimillion-pound project studying the experiences of migrant groups and their impact on host communities.

The £4 million Arts and Humanities Research Board programme on diasporas, migration and identities will run for five years and will look not only at immigrants to the UK but also at Britons abroad.

Until now, policy-makers had largely focused on work by social scientists, said Professor Knott, but she believes scholars in the arts and humanities have a great deal to contribute.

This will include work on language, such as how migrants have helped to create "the new English", how communities maintain or adapt their mother tongue and why, and how the media refer to migration and diasporas.

The programme will also look at how migrant communities have abandoned, maintained or modified their cultures, and how they have influenced their host communities.

Other key areas will be the changing nature of migration, the role of the family, and religious identities and systems of belief.

Professor Knott said there was "a lot of naivety and a lot of generalisation" surrounding issues of different religions. This has been exacerbated after September 11 2001 by the demonisation of both Muslims and Christians through ignorance.

Professor Knott has been director of Leeds' unique community religions project since 1989.

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