Spatial Context, Group Position, and Social Prejudice: Understanding the Origins of Opposition to Mosques in Catalonia
Since the early 2000s, anti-mosque campaigns have been launched in 31 different municipalities in Catalonia, by far the most of any Spanish region. This paper examines the factors that have given rise to these campaigns. I focus my analysis on the metropolitan area of Barcelona, where anti-mosque campaigns have been the most frequent and intense. Building on Blumer’s theory of prejudice as a sense of group position, as well as the work of geographers and urban sociologists on spatial context and social position, I contend that public reactions to mosques in Catalonia have been shaped by context-specific configurations of identity and urban space, or what I call “socio-spatial complexes.” I show how longstanding socio-economic and cultural divisions within Barcelona’s native population, as well as the inscription of these divisions within the spatial ordering of the region, have added a strong territorial dimension to concerns about the large-scale arrival of Muslim immigrants in recent years. This, in turn, has contributed to the integration of disputes over mosques into broader struggles over social position and public recognition. My findings advance current understandings of how geographic, cultural, and emotional dimensions of urban context influence intergroup relations in multi-ethnic settings. They also highlight the need for scholars to move beyond the traditional binaries that have structured past studies of social prejudice.