News and events

Seminar on The Urban Dimensions of Religious Conflict

Convened by Mick Dumper, the seminar sought to explore the contention that while all cities are arenas of contestation, some cities exhibit specific forms of conflict arising from the salience of religious activity within them. 

Its overall purpose was to draw together a series of case studies focusing on cities with religious conflicts and examples where international structures and mechanisms have been employed to address such conflict.   A range of participants was invited to include academics with fieldwork knowledge of specific sites in different regions of the world and also drawn from a wide range of disciplines and bringing different theoretical and methodological approaches to the table.  It also include experts on international organizations and international law such as UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, the International Committee of the Blue Shield Organization, and from police and military personnel in the growing field of Cultural Property Protection.  For further details of presentations and participants see :

In addition to the Leverhulme Trust, the seminar was supported by the Fondation Des Treilles, who are also provided the venue on their magnificent premises in Provence, the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax) and the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter .

For a report of the Seminar see here. The Urban Dimensions of Religious Conflict

New York Times article on US Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem cites Mick

Read article on the New York times website.


In May and June, 2017, I travelled to India and Malaysia, carrying out interviews and observations in Varanasi (Benares), Ayodhya and George Town (Penang). A summary of my reflections are in the City Notes.

Workshop update

The project workshop entitled: Urban Dimensions of Religious Conflict will be on 5th-10th March, 2018. Supported by the Leverhulme Trust, Fondation des Treilles, and recently confirmed, the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITPax), whos  contribution will assist in the funding of travel expenses of participants outside of Europe and towards the publication of the workshop papers. The venue will be at FDT’s estate outside Toutour, near Nice, Provence, France.

Cordoba Visit

Following my visit to Jerusalem, also in September - to give a presentation on The “Hebronisation” of East Jerusalem to the Norwegian Refugee Council in Palestine (see Events),  -  in November 2016 I travelled to Cordoba in Spain to carry out some field work. 

The focus of my field work was to examine the controversy concerning the issue of access to worship in the Mezquita.  Formerly a mosque between the 8th and 13th Centuries, since then it has been a Cathedral resulting in a highly original and arresting composite religious structure. Over the past few decades there has been a resurgence of interest by Muslim groups seeking to pray in the Mezquita-Cathedral with some controversy as to how the Roman Catholic Bishopric in Cordoba is handling these pressures.  I spent two weeks interviewing people, making observational visits to the site and trying to understand the role of the site in the politics, culture and society of the city. I also took the opportunity to visit Seville, a city with similar historical trajectory but with contrasting outcomes in terms of architectural alterations.

My over-riding departing impression is that the controversy over Muslim access to worship in the Mezquita-Cathedral, while potentially highly charged, is a secondary issue to the broader tension in Spain between the regions and the political centre, that is, the question of Andalucian versus Castilian interpretations of history and understanding of regional culture. This will be a useful insight in analyzing other non-capital “holy cities”. (See City Notes for more detailed thoughts)

Conference Paper

In September 2016 I participated in an International Conference entitled: Shared Sacred Spaces and Multi-Religious Space: Forms of Interaction between Jews, Christians and Muslims, held at the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) in Mainz, Germany.  Over 20 participants presented papers from a variety of disciplines, the majority being anthropologists, so it was an excellent opportunity to be acquainted with a different network of scholars with different views, and to hear different debates outside my field of political science.  My paper, Current Controversies Concerning Access to Shared Holy Sites: A comparison of Jerusalem and Cordoba, was a first attempt to try out some ideas and theoretical approaches I amusing in this project and the responses I received were illuminating and helpful.

Return to Jerusalem

December 2016 saw a return to Jerusalem to assist the Office of the UN Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) with the planning of a more coordinated strategy for UN activities in East Jerusalem. A programme of workshops and data collection on UN agencies in East Jerusalem for 2017 was agreed upon. This will feed directly into my research into international interventions in cities affected by conflicts over holy sites.

Book contract offered

Columbia University Press has signed a contract with me for a 95,000 word book on this project. Provisionally entitled: Power, Piety and People: The Politics of Holy Cities in the 21st Century, the proposed book will have five chapters examining patterns of religious conflicts in cities of both single and many religions, and how they are contained or resolved. 

The main argument of the book, at this stage, is that while all cities are arenas of contestation, some cities exhibit specific forms of conflict arising from the salience of religious activity within them. As additional and possibly discrete elements that contribute to the dynamic of conflict, they, therefore, merit specific consideration. A possible conclusion for the book will be the need for a complex and multi-layered approach that distinguishes between the problems arising out of immediate triggers of conflict from the longer-term foundations of religious difference and competition, and that also distinguishes between the role of actors and the part played by material and historical structures.

The manuscript is to be delivered on March 31st 2018.  A first chapter of 12,000 words has been drafted.

Workshop to be supported by French Foundation.

Fondation des Treilles has agreed to support the project workshop. The workshop will bring together experts on specific urban sites and religious conflicts with practitioners in international organisations, such as UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the International Committee of the Blue Shield, as well as military personnel in the growing field of Cultural Property Protection. In this way academic concepts such as the “indivisibility”  of holy sites or the intractability of certain religious conflicts in cities (in, for example, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kosovo, Lhasa, Ayodha, etc.) will be tested and probed in the light of the experience of international legal mechanisms and the work of military units concerned with Cultural Property Protection.

The workshop will be from 5th-10th March 2018.  Fondation des Treilles will provide the venue, the accommodation, the catering and a contribution to the travel expenses for 20 people for five nights.  The Fondation’s conference centre is set in the beautiful foothills of the Basses Alpes in Provence, France. It is isolated but very comfortable and well-appointed.  (See: www.fondationdestreilles) Having participated in a previous seminar there, I can confirm that it is very conducive for concentrated discussion and debate.

Other travel funds will be drawn from the Leverhulme Power, Piety and People project.  An application has also been made to a European research centre in order to meet specific travel and publication costs. Invitations to prospective participants will be sent out in March 2017.



2016 update is available here.

Past events

2 September 2016

The Hebronisa-on of East Jerusalem by Prof. Michael Dumper & Adv. Usama Halabi. Convened by NRC’s Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance Programme (ICLA) in Palestine.

Download poster. The Hebronisation of East Jerusalem

4th February, 2016

Jerusalem. Presentation entitled Rights, Rituals and Resistance: The Struggle for the Holy Places of Jerusalem”. Convened by Kenyon Institute, Al-Khalidi Library, The Educational Bookshop and Dar al-Tifl al-Arabi and held at Dar Isaaf Nashashibi, East Jerusalem, 6.30pm.
Chair, Dr Mandy Turner, Director of the Kenyon Institute with Dr Raja Khalidi, Director of the al-Khalidi Library as discussant. Download poster.

Podcast available here.

8th February, 2016 CITpax Options for the Holy Sites of Jerusalem, Core Group meeting.


Rights, Rituals and Contestation: The Holy City of Jerusalem -- Prof. Michael Dumper

This lecture was held in Dar Isaaf Nashashibi, in Jerusalem, 4th February 2016. It was a joint event between the Kenyon Institute, the Educational Bookshop, Dar al-Tifel al-Arabi, and the Khalidi Library.