Welcome to my website. I am a writer and sociologist. I’ve published both academic and non-academic publications, and I am the author or co-author of 8 books.

This is a new website and I am still working on populating it. In due course you will find a near-complete archive of my writing going back to the 1990s, as well as many of my talks. I’ve sorted my work into various themes. You can find out more about me on the About page or in the highlights box below. Find me on social media via the icons on the top of the page. I am also on Mastodon

While I have a lot of interests, I try to ensure that a sociological sensibility runs through everything I do. I also try to engage with diverse communities and individuals. It sometimes works.

I am available for freelance writing assignments, for speaking engagements and for research consultancy.

Now scroll down, there’s loads of stuff for me to show you…

A life in bullet points

  • Then...
  • Temporary, Associate and Visiting Lectureships at multiple universities in the UK, as well as in Germany, Finland and Sweden.
  • Freelance Research Consultant, producing reports for a number of organisations within the Jewish community as well as interfaith dialogue organisations
  • 2014-2015 Editor of the Jewish Quarterly
  • 2013-2015 Editor of the Jewish Journal of Sociology
  • 2009-2011 Organiser and host of series of confidential dinners for Jewish communal leaders to discuss divisions of Israel
  • 2001 PhD in Sociology from Goldsmiths College, London
  • Click on 'About' for the full story...

First Published: November 4, 2021

The Babel Message: A Love Letter to Language

A thrilling journey deep into the heart of language, from a rather unexpected starting point.

Keith Kahn-Harris is a man obsessed with something seemingly trivial – the warning message found inside Kinder Surprise eggs:

WARNING, read and keep: Toy not suitable for children under 3 years. Small parts might be swallowed or inhaled.

On a tiny sheet of paper, this message is translated into dozens of languages – the world boiled down to a multilingual essence. Inspired by this, the author asks: what makes ‘a language’? With the help of the international community of language geeks, he shows us what the message looks like in Ancient Sumerian, Zulu, Cornish, Klingon – and many more. Along the way he considers why Hungarian writing looks angry, why no one actually speaks Arabic, and the meaning of the heavy metal umlaut.

Overturning the Babel myth, he argues that the messy diversity of language shouldn’t be a source of conflict, but of collective wonder. This is a book about hope, a love letter to language.

Want to buy this book outside the UK? Check out the links on the publisher’s website.

Join in the adventure!

On the Additional Content pages you can find  a continually-updated list of translations and other material that I couldn’t fit into the book. Click here to see more and find out how you can help!

Quite simply, and quite ridiculously, one of the funniest and most illuminating books I have ever read. I thought I was obsessive, but Keith Kahn-Harris is playing a very different sport. He really has discovered the whole world in an egg.

Simon Garfield

First Published: April 12, 2022

What Does a Jew Look Like?

What does a Jew look like?

Well, it’s complicated…

Too often, the answer seems to be: ‘Jews wear black hats, black coats and have beards.’ Like this:

Of course, some Jews do like that, but the answer to the question ‘what does a Jew look like’ is much more complicated – and much more interesting.

What does a Jew look like? was born out of a collaboration between Keith Kahn-Harris and Rob Stothard.  They met when Keith tracked down Rob, who took the photo above for Getty Images; a photo that has been used and reused hundreds of times in the British media. Together, they set out to put together a broader set of images of British Jews.

This book of portraits  showcases some of the many different ways men and women can be Jewish in Britain today. Alongside the portraits, each subject explains what it means to them to be a Jew  – a kind of ‘self-portrait’.

For those who don’t know what a Jew looks like – or for those who think they know – the book is designed to surprise, inform and beguile. For those who are Jewish, the book will perhaps introduce parts of the Jewish community that they may not be familiar with.

Click here to read the foreword by Stephen Bush.

This isn't a typical book about British Jewry.... A rare example of a book that's born out of frustration with the media and is also worthwhile.

Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

First Published: June 11, 2019

Strange Hate: Antisemitism, Racism and the Limits of Diversity

How did antisemitism get so strange? How did hate become so clouded in controversy? And what does the strange hate of antisemitism tell us about racism and the politics of diversity today?

Life-long anti-racists accused of antisemitism, life-long Jew haters declaring their love of Israel… Today, antisemitism has become selective. Non-Jews celebrate the ”good Jews” and reject the ”bad Jews”. And its not just antisemitism that s becoming selective, racists and anti-racists alike are starting to choose the minorities they love and hate.

In this passionate yet closely-argued polemic from a writer with an intimate knowledge of the antisemitism controversy, Keith Kahn-Harris argues that the emergence of strange hatreds shows how far we are from understanding what living in diverse societies really means.

Strange Hate calls for us to abandon selective anti-racism and rethink how we view not just Jews and antisemitism, but the challenge of living with diversity.

"I try and read everything Keith Kahn-Harris writes on British Jews and this intelligent book, on how anti-racists have lost their way, and how they can find their way back, is no exception."

Ben Judah, author This Is London

First Published: August 2, 2018

Denial: The Unspeakable Truth

The Holocaust never happened. The planet isn’t warming. Vaccines cause autism. There is no such thing as AIDS. The Earth is flat.

Denialism comes in many forms, dressed in the garb of research proudly claiming to represent the best traditions of scholarship. Its influence is insidious, its techniques are pernicious. Climate change denialists have built well-funded institutions and lobbying groups to counter action against global warming. Holocaust deniers have harried historians and abused survivors. AIDS denialists have prevented treatment programmes in Africa.

All this is bad enough, but what if, as Keith Kahn-Harris asks, it actually cloaks much darker, unspeakable, desires? If denialists could speak from the heart, what would we hear?

Kahn-Harris sets out not just to unpick denialists’ arguments, but to investigate what lies behind them. The conclusions he reaches are disturbing and uncomfortable:

Denialism has paved the way for the recent emergence of what the author tems ‘post-denialism’; a key component of the ‘post-truth’ world. Donald Trump’s lack of concern with truth represents both denialism’s final victory and the final collapse of its claims to scholarly legitimacy.

How should we adapt to the post-denialist era? Keith Kahn-Harris argues that there is now no alternative to enabling denialists and post-denialists to openly express the dark desires that they have sought to hide. This is a horrifying prospect, but perhaps if we accept the fact of ‘moral diversity’ and air these differences in the open, we might be able to make new and better arguments against the denialists’ hidden agendas.

View a preview of the book here.

An elegant exploration of how frail certainties really are, and how fragile truth is. While Kahn-Harris offers no easy answers in how to deal with ‘post-truth’, he does inspire you to act

Peter Pomerantsev, Author - 'This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality'

First Published: March 3, 2014

Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community

Diaspora Jews are no longer unified in their support for Israel.

The author explores the causes of the conflicts and describes his own innovative efforts at conflict resolution. Analysing the various groupings –  left, right, secular and religious, pro and anti-Zionist – in Britain and the USA, Keith Kahn-Harris looks at the history of civility in society and examines the different methods used by international organisations and groups involved in developing dialogue within Jewish communities

He describes how using these techniques and with expert help, he brought together more than seventy prominent diverse British Jews for a series of encounters. He concludes that dialogue and civility is possible. But with no change in behaviour there will be serious consequences for the Jewish communities of the world.

"The relationship between Anglo-Jewry and Israel is perilous, complex terrain – and there are few better placed to navigate it than Keith Kahn-Harris."

Jonathan Freedland

First Published: August 31, 2012

Judaism: All That Matters

For a group of people so limited in number, the Jewish community has had a huge impact on both global events and local politics. In this vibrant new look at Judaism, sociologist and cultural critic Keith Kahn-Harris provides a remarkably sharp insight into this history, and particularly the diverse Jewish communities (and diverse ideas of Jewishness) that exist today.

From back cover:

Can Judaism keep bouncing back?

Judaism: All That Matters is a fascinating new look at Judaism, in which sociologist and cultural critic Keith Kahn-Harris provides a remarkably sharp insight into this history of the Jewish people, and what it means to be Jewish today.

Kahn-Harris shows how and why the relatively small Jewish population has had such a huge impact on international events, local politics, economic development and global culture. He also looks at the fragmentary nature of Judaism today, and asks whether Judaism can continue to punch above its weight in the twenty-first century – and even if it should want to.

This accessible and concise book will appeal to both students and general readers, providing a fascinating introduction to Judaism – and what matters most about it.

This is a hugely enjoyable and often wise tour of the Jewish people and Judaism, in a very few pages, with some excellent observations. You can learn a lot, laugh a lot, and think a lot as a result of reading this book.

Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE

First Published: July 22, 2010

Co-authored with Ben Gidley

Turbulent Times: The British Jewish Community Today

The first book-length study of contemporary British Jewry , Turbulent Times: The British Jewish Community Today examines the changing nature of the British Jewish community and its leadership since 1990.

Keith Kahn-Harris and Ben Gidley contend that there has been a shift within Jewish communal discourse from a strategy of security, which emphasized Anglo-Jewry’s secure British belonging and citizenship, to a strategy of insecurity, which emphasizes the dangers and threats Jews face individually and communally. This shift is part of a process of renewal in the community that has led to something of a ‘Jewish renaissance’ in Britain.

Addressing key questions on the transitions in the history of Anglo-Jewish community and leadership, and tackling the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’, this important and timely study addresses the question: how has UK Jewry adapted from a shift from monoculturalism to multiculturalism?

Turbulent Times is probing and revelatory, offering exactly the kind of self-reflection any minority community needs in order to understand itself and consider its future…an important contribution to a much-needed debate

Jewish Quarterly

First Published: December 1, 2006

Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge

Extreme metal–one step beyond heavy metal–can appear bizarre or terrifying to the uninitiated. Extreme metal musicians have developed an often impenetrable sound that teeters on the edge of screaming, incomprehensible noise. Extreme metal circulates on the edge of mainstream culture within the confines of an obscure ’scene’, in which members explore dangerous themes such as death, war and the occult, sometimes embracing violence, neo-fascism and Satanism.

In the first book-length study of extreme metal, Keith Kahn-Harris draws on first-hand research to explore the global extreme metal scene. He shows how the scene is a space in which members creatively explore destructive themes, but also a space in which members experience the everyday pleasures of community and friendship.

Including interviews with band members and fans, from countries ranging from the UK and US to Israel and Sweden, Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge demonstrates the power and subtlety of an often surprising and misunderstood musical form.

Sharp, engaging, and comprehensive. Extreme Metal is a must-read for metal fans and anyone interested in the study of popular music and subcultural politics in a globalizing age

Sam Dunn, Banger Films

Latest updates and forthcoming events

Two recent interviews on denial, denialism and post-denialism

Posted on July 28, 2021 in General

Although my book on denial was published in 2018, it is if anything more relevant than ever. I recently conducted a couple of interviews, on a podcast and a radio show, where we discussed what denial means in the time of the pandemic. Scroll down for t …

My new website

Posted on July 2, 2021 in General

Those of you who have visited my website before will notice some fairly dramatic changes. With the help of Simon Appleby at Bookswarm I now have a shiny new website! What I am really pleased with is that I finally have an online home in which to consol …

Religion and Popular Music in Europe (Co-edited with Thomas Bossius and Andreas Häger)

Posted on December 20, 2011 in General

Published by I.B. Tauris, 2011 Music and religion have, throughout history, walked hand in hand. In the rites and rituals of small tribal religions, great world religions, and more recent New-Age and neo-heathen movements, different kinds of music have …