Room 2
17:45 - 18:15
Access to Mobility & Urban Space
Muslims in the Detroit area as a hyper differential counterpublic: Navigating Islamophobia in urban spaces online and offline

Short thesis

How do minorities deal with the restrains on mobility online and offline in times of heightened discrimination in an urban setting? We interviewed 61 Muslims in the Detroit metro area who shared their experiences of, and responses to, Islamophobia on social media and face-to-face during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign and aftermath. They discussed how their mobility around Detroit has been impacted. We argue Muslims in the US constitute a hyper differential counterpublic.


The 2016 U.S. election and first 100 days of Trump’s presidency undoubtedly brought Islamophobia in the U.S. to a new peak since the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Although only one percent (3.35 million) of the U.S. adult population identifies as Muslim (Lipka, 2017) hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. recently surged for a second consecutive year: from 180 incidents in 2015 to 260 in 2016 (Human Rights Watch, 2017). In spring 2017, three quarters of Muslim Americans said Trump was “unfriendly toward Muslims in America” (Pew Research, 2017).

We worked with “the country’s most visible Arab and Muslim population” (Howell, 2011: 152) in the Detroit Metropolitan Area where 200,000 Muslims live, including “several of the largest, oldest and most influential congregations” (Howell, 2014, 1). We focused on everyday internet users who identify as Muslim. We conducted 15 focus groups between October 2016, shortly before the U.S. presidential election, and April 2017, after Trump concluded his first hundred days as U.S. president. Of all 61 participants, 41 were women and 20 men. Participants’ age ranged from 18 to 56 years. They shared their experiences of Islamophobia and described their response strategies offline and online.

We argue that persistent Islamophobia has collapsed online and face-to-face contexts for everyday Muslim social media users in the Detroit metro area, rendering them into an adapted subaltern public: a hyper differential counterpublic.

We will start with an introduction to the study and present its main concepts and results. We are then very interested in feedback from the audience and their sense-making on the role of technology for minorities that face heightened discrimination in collapsed contexts in a diverse urban space.