Dr Rehana Ahmed, BA (Oxford), MA (Sussex), PhD (Nottingham Trent)
Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial and Contemporary Literature
I attended a comprehensive school in Cambridge before completing a BA in Modern Languages (French and Italian) at the University of Oxford and a Masters in Modern European Literature at the University of Sussex. After working in the publishing industry for several years, I returned to academia to undertake a fully funded doctorate on British Asian and South Asian fiction at Nottingham Trent University. I then worked as Research Associate on the three-year AHRC-funded project ‘Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870-1950’, based at The Open University. This was followed by a lectureship at Teesside University from 2011, and then, from 2014, a lectureship here at Queen Mary.
My current research explores literary and cultural representations of Muslims and multiculturalism in Britain. I have been a member of the AHRC's Peer Review College since 2012, and I serve on the editorial boards of the magazine of international contemporary writing Wasafiri and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing.
In the 2017-18 academic year, I am teaching on the undergraduate modules:
- ESH285: Postcolonial and Global Literatures
- ESH289: Black and Asian Writing in Britain
- Postcolonial and world literature and culture
- British Muslim, British Asian, and South Asian literature and culture
- The history of the South Asian and Muslim diasporas in Britain
- Representations and theories of multiculturalism, especially in Britain
- Literary controversies, especially involving religious minorities in Britain
- 21st century literary culture (reception, prizes, marketing, festivals)
Recent and On-Going Research:
I am a specialist in twentieth and twenty-first century postcolonial literature and culture, with particular interests in British Asian, South Asian, and Muslim literature and culture; literary and cultural representations of multiculturalism; and the history of the South Asian diaspora in Britain.
My recently published monograph, Writing British Muslims: Religion, Class and Multiculturalism (Manchester University Press, 2015, pbk 2017), was supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Early Career Fellowship. Taking a materialist approach that centres on class, it examines contemporary literary representations of Muslims by British writers of South Asian Muslim descent to explore the contribution they make to urgent questions about multicultural politics. In particular, the book seeks to complicate and challenge the dichotomy of secular freedom versus religious oppression that frequently constrains thinking about British Muslims, as well as to reframe freedom of speech controversies involving Muslims. This interdisciplinary work builds on a range of journal articles and book chapters. A related collection of essays, Culture, Diaspora, and Modernity in Muslim Writing (co-edited with Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin), was published by Routledge in 2012; and a special issue of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature on 'British culture after 9/11', co-edited with Rachael Carroll, will be published in 2018. With five other scholars, I co-founded the research group ‘Multicultural Textualities’, which explores the contribution cultural texts can make to public understanding of multicultural societies and the place of non-white, non-secular citizens within them.
Writing British Muslims: Religion, Class and Multiculturalism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015, paperback 2017)
Edited Books and Journal Issues:
with Rachel Carroll, eds, special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature on ‘British Culture after 9/11’ (forthcoming)
with Ruvani Ranasinha (lead editor), Sumita Mukherjee and Florian Stadtler, eds, South Asians and the Shaping of Britain, 1870–1950. A Sourcebook (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013)
with Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin, eds, Culture, Diaspora, and Modernity in Muslim Writing (New York and London: Routledge, 2012)
with Sumita Mukherjee, eds, South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858–1947 (London: Continuum, 2011)
ed., Walking a Tightrope: New Writing from Asian Britain (London: Young Picador, 2004)
Articles and Book Chapters:
‘Post-Secular Perspectives: Writing and Fundamentalisms’, in The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing, ed. Susheila Nasta and Mark Stein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)
‘I’ll Explain What I Can: A Conversation with Avaes Mohammad’, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (forthcoming)
‘Equality of Citizenship’, in South Asians and the Shaping of Britain, 1870–1950. A Sourcebook, ed. Ruvani Ranasinha with Rehana Ahmed, Sumita Mukherjee and Florian Stadtler (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 21–79
‘Reason to Believe? Two “British Muslim” Memoirs’, in Culture, Diaspora, and Modernity in Muslim Writing, ed. Rehana Ahmed, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 52–67
‘South Asians Writing Resistance in Wartime London: Indian Writing (1940–42)’, Wasafiri, 70 (2012), 17–24
‘Networks of Resistance: Krishna Menon and Working-Class South Asians in Britain’, in South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858–1947, ed. Rehana Ahmed and Sumita Mukherjee (London: Continuum, 2011), pp. 70–87
‘Brick Lane: A Materialist Reading of the Novel and its Reception’, Race & Class, 52:2 (2010), 25–42
‘British Muslim Masculinities and Cultural Resistance: Kenny Glenaan and Simon Beaufoy’s Yasmin’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 45:3 (2009), 285–96
‘Occluding Race in Selected Short Fiction by Hanif Kureishi’, Wasafiri, 58 (2009), 27–34
‘Moniza Alvi’, in Dictionary of Literary Biography: Contemporary Black British Writers, ed. R. Victoria Arana (Detroit: Bruccoli, Clark, Layman Publishers, 2009), pp. 37–45
‘Unsettling Cosmopolitanisms: Representations of London in Kamila Shamsie’s Salt and Saffron’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 40:1 (2004), 12–28
‘Mapping London in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines’, in Indias Abroad: The Diaspora Writes Back, eds Rajendra Chetty and Pier Paolo Piciucco (Johannesburg: STE Publishers, 2004), pp. 70–88
with project team, eds, Making Britain: Discover How Asians Shaped the Nation, 1870–1950, online database
I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research. I have co-supervised a PhD student to completion at The Open University (Ole Birk Laursen, ‘Contemporary Black and Asian British Women’s Life Writing’).
I have curated events featuring poets and novelists of Muslim heritage – including Moniza Alvi, Selma Dabbagh, Aamer Hussein, and Mirza Waheed – at the Middlesbrough Literary Festival and the Durham Book Festival. In collaboration with New Writing North, I also toured the children’s writer Wendy Meddour into two County Durham primary schools. As part of the conference ‘British Culture after 9/11’, which I co-convened, I took the acclaimed poet, playwright, and performer Avaes Mohammad to Middlesbrough and also facilitated an exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art curated by Madeline Clements. I have co-authored two articles on literary controversies for the Huffington Post: ‘Muslims Protest against H. G. Wells Book in 1930s Britain’, with Florian Stadtler; and 'Literary Controversies since the Rushdie Affair’, with Claire Chambers.
I co-designed and co-edited a public database on South Asians in Britain which attracts high levels of traffic from across the globe, and co-curated the panel exhibition ‘South Asians Making Britain, 1858-1950’, which toured to public libraries across Britain in 2010-11. With colleagues, I recently designed and led a public walk highlighting the history of the shared South Asian and Jewish presence in London’s East End.