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Dr Sara Silvestri

Dr Sara Silvestri

Affiliated Lecturer

St Edmund's College


After studying EU Politics and migration policies at Cambridge and at the ULB, Sara Silvestri became interested in the contested meaning and multifaceted roles of religion in international relations, with particular attention to Islam and the Euro-Mediterranean region. Located at the intersection between IR, Politics, and Sociology, her research publications and teaching are concerned with how religious identities, symbols and political theologies impact global governance; the way faith-based networks, social movements, and secular international institutions relate to each other; and the evolution of public policies responding to the challenges of migration, multiculturalism, Islamism, and terrorism.



Dr Silvestri is based between London, where she holds a Senior lectureship in International Politics at City University, and Cambridge, where she undertook her PhD (at St John’s College) and ESRC Post-Doc. In Cambridge she is currently Director of Studies in HSPS at St Edmund’s College and a Research Associate with the Von Hügel Institute. In the past she held visiting positions at the Cambridge Muslim College and the University of Bristol, and a Marie Curie Fellowship in Paris.


Policy-related work

Sara serves as an advisor to the EuroMed Anna Lindh Foundation in Alexandria and in the experts group of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. In 2006-07 she coordinated the Islam in Europe programme for the European Policy Centre (Brussels) and was an Associate Fellow with Chatham House. She has also worked for the European Commission (President’s Cabinet) and has been a research consultant to various bodies including the British Council and the British Government.


International research

Dr Silvestri has been involved in several successful collaborative grants and international research networks. In July 2013 she received, together with Prof.P.Mandaville, a British Council/Luce Foundation award to address the role of Religion in British, European, and US Foreign Policy.  Other individual and collaborative projects (funded by ESRC, ESF, KBF, European Commission, and NORFACE) have addressed counterterrorism and Irish and Muslim minorities in Britain; Muslim women in Europe; patterns of radicalisation; and various aspects of the nexus migration /integration /marginalisation.


Sara jointly convenes the BISA working group on Religion, Security and International Relations and serves as Treasurer of the ISA section on Religion in International Relations. She has been an invited speaker, inter alia, at: European Parliament, European Commission, Council of Europe, Canadian Federal Government, The Vatican, Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars, Oxford University, Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, New York University, Casa Asia and Casa Arabe (Spain), German Ministry for Migration, London School of Economics, Istituto Affari Internazionali, University of Tampere, Bogazici University, Chicago Council on Global Affairs.


Research Interests

The articulation of Muslim politics and the increasing emergence of religious transnational networks in Europe and throughout the world.

Key Publications

Europe’s Muslim Women: Beyond the Burqa Controversy, London: Hurst, forthcoming 2013.


International Journal Articles

2012. "Social Cohesion and the Notion of 'Suspect Communities': a study of the experiences and impacts of being 'suspect' for Irish communities and Muslim communities in Britain" [co-authored with M.Hickman, L.Thomas, H.Nickels], Critical Terrorism Studies, 5: 1, Summer, pp.89-106.

2012. "De/Constructing 'Suspect' Communities: A Critical Discourse Analysis of British Newspaper Coverage of Irish and Muslim Communities, 1974-2007" [co-authored with H.Nickels, L.Thomas, M.Hickman], Journalism Studies, 13: 3, June, pp. 340-35

2012. "Constructing 'Suspect' Communities and Britishness: Mapping British Press Coverage of Irish and Muslim Communities, 1974-2007" [co-authored with H.Nickels, L.Thomas, M.Hickman], European Journal of Communication, 27:2, June, pp. 135-151

2011. ‘Faith intersections and Muslim women in the European Microcosm: notes towards the study of non-organized Islam’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(4) 

2009. “Islam and Religion in the EU Political System”, West European Politics, 32(6).

2008. “Inter-Cultural Dialogue to the Benefit of the Members of the Family and for and Integral Life”, People on the Move (publication of the Pontifical Council for Migrant and Itinerant People, The Vatican), 107.

2007. “Radical Islam: Threats and Opportunities”, Global Dialogue, 9(3-4).

2007. “Introduction” (with J. Bailey), Cambridge Review of International Affairs (Religion and International Relations thematic issue), 20(3)

2005. “EU relations with Islam in the context of the EMP’s cultural dialogue”, Mediterranean Politics, 10(3).


Chapters in Edited Books

2012. "Comparing burqa debates in Europe: sartorial styles, religious prescriptions and political ideologies", in S.Ferrari and S.Pastorelli (eds) Religion and the Public - Private Divide, Ashgate.

2012. ‘Institutionalising British and Italian Islam’, in H. Yilmaz and C. Aykac (eds), Perceptions of Islam in Europe: Culture, Identity and the Muslim 'Other'. London: I.B. Tauris.

2010. “Public Policies towards Muslims and the Institutionalisation of ‘moderate’ Islam in Europe: some critical reflections”, in A. Triandafyllidou (ed) Muslims in 21st century Europe, London: Routledge.

2010. “Moderate Islamist groups in Europe: The Muslim Brothers”, in K. Hroub (ed) Political Islam: Context versus Ideology, London: Saqi.

2010. “Muslim Self-Organisation in Europe: Risks and Odds of State Intervention”, in A. Kreienbrink and M. Bodenstein (eds), Muslim Organisations and the State – European Perspectives. Nürnberg: Bundesamt für Migrations und Flüchtlinge (German Ministry for Migration).

2007. “Muslim institutions and political mobilisation”, in A. Boubekeur, S. Amghar and M. Emerson (eds), European Islam: the challenges for society and public policy, Brussels/Budapest: CEPS/OSI.

2007. “Asserting Islam in the EU: actors, strategies, and priorities”, in F. Foret (ed), L’Europe à l’épreuve du religieux, Brussels: Université Libre de Bruxelles.

2007. “Does Islam challenge European Identity?”, in L. Faltin & M. Wright (eds), The Religious Roots of Contemporary European Identity, New York & London: T&T Clark/ Continuum.

2007. “Europe and Political Islam: encounters of the 20th and 21st century”, in T. Abbas (ed), Islamic Political Radicalism: A European Comparative Perspective, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

2005. “The Situation of Muslim Immigrants in Europe in the Twenty-first century: the creation of National Muslim Councils”, in H. Henke (ed), Crossing Over: Comparing Recent Migration in Europe and the United States, Lanham, MD: Lexington. 


Reports, Policy Papers, Working Papers

2011. 'Suspect Communities'? Counter-terrorism policy, the press, and the impact on Irish and Muslim communities in Britain, with M.Hickman, L.Thomas, H.Nickels, London, 2011

2010. ‘Europe’s Muslims: Burqa laws, women’s lives’, Open Democracy, 15 July,

2010. “The role of education in the integration of immigrants in Spain”, research policy paper for BEPA, European Commission, Brussels, March (internal document).

2009. “A comparative study of the representations of ‘suspect’ communities in Multi-ethnic Britain and of their impact on Irish communities and Muslim communities - mapping newspaper content”, ISET working paper 13, August (with H.Nickels, L.Thomas, M.Hickman).

2008. Europe’s Muslim Women: Potential, Aspirations and Challenges, research report for and published by King Baudouin Foundation, Brussels.

2007. “Islam & the EU: The Risks & Merits of Inter-Cultural Dialogue”, Policy Brief, European Policy Centre, Brussels, June.

2007. Report on London and Birmingham focus groups (with M. Cherti) for Ethnobarometer comparative research project, Rome, June (unpublished).

2006. Intercultural Dialogue: Proof of Concept Testing, London: British Council (with C.Alcock & S.Khan), internal document.

2005. “The Institutionalization of Islam in Europe: a Case Study of Italy”, Council for European Studies Newsletter, September.


Media experience
Extensive (interviews and columns in print, radio and tv), including: BBC Radio4, BBC News, Guardian Economist, Al Jazeera, RAI, La7, Vecernji List, Islam Channel, Voice of America, Channel News Asia, Reuters, Voice of Russia, Pravda, Reforma