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Research Case studies

Writing by Britons of Muslim Heritage

Claire Chambers was awarded an AHRC Early Career Fellowship in 2011 and a British Academy Small Grant in 2010-11 to complete her projects on writing by Britons of Muslim heritage.

Her main research output is British Muslim Fictions (Palgrave, 2011), a book of interviews with writers, resident in the UK, who represent Muslims in literature. Interviewees included Hanif Kureishi, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Kamila Shamsie, and Tariq Ali.

For the AHRC, Claire created a podcast of an interview with Daniyal Mueenuddin for dissemination on the website. For the British Academy, she organized a public focus group with Muslim poets held in autumn 2010 at Leeds Beckett.

When asked what she has learnt from these interviews, Claire replied, “as well as discussing the writers’ literary techniques and the impact that their Muslim heritage has had on them, I became increasingly persuaded that this body of writing shares certain preoccupations (relating to gender, class, the ‘war on terror’, al-Andalus, the Rushdie Affair, and a cosmopolitan outlook). Like many people influenced by the stereotyping of Muslims in the media, I began my research by making airy generalizations about Islam, but my engagement with these heterogeneous authors means that I am now more likely to speak of Muslims or ‘people of Muslim heritage’. Yet I have also had my mind opened to the variety and richness of Islam, from Sufi practices and cultural accretions to what Nawal El Saadawi calls ‘establishment Islam’, and to the poetry and profundity of the Qur’an”.

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