Authors, poets and filmmakers of Muslim heritage are producing some of the most exciting and politically engaged fiction and film in the UK today. This century’s climate of Islamophobia in the wake of the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings, 2013’s Woolwich attack and the more recent case of extremist Muslims from the UK joining the so-called Islamic State, has contributed to a number of British authors with a Muslim background examining issues related to cultural difference, social exclusion, multiculturalism, religion, current geopolitics, migration and national identity with greater momentum. However many British writers and filmmakers of Muslim descent, such as Monica Ali, have also described how events on the global and local scene have placed a burden on them to speak on behalf of their supposed ‘communities’, and to incorporate commentaries on the socio-political ramifications of identifying as Muslim in the UK into their work.
Critical attention towards novels, poetry and cinema from British writers and filmmakers of Muslim heritage has tended to focus on those based in London and cities such as Bradford or Manchester. Whilst this focus reflects both the comparatively larger size of the Muslim population in these metropolitan areas as well as the number of authors and filmmakers working in these regions, it can also render cultural production from Muslim writers, poets and filmmakers living in areas such as Scotland and North-East England into a marginal position. In this seminar series, funded by the University of Edinburgh’s Alwaleed Centre, this balance will be redressed with a public series of readings and interviews, including a film screening, with three acclaimed authors and filmmakers of Muslim heritage, Leila Aboulela, Iyad Hayatleh, and Tina Gharavi, based in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Newcastle respectively. The series will begin with an introductory critical perspective on the history of Muslim representation of Britain from Dr Claire Chambers, University of York.
This seminar series is poised at a historic juncture for Scotland and the UK. Following last year’s independence referendum and the prospect of further devolved powers to Scotland, there has been a widespread interrogation of what it means to be Scottish as well as what it means to be British. In their work Aboulela, Hayatleh, and Gharavi examine issues of Britishness, and the internal hierarchies and relationships of class, gender and ethnicity within this collective identity, as well as the complex negotiation of Muslim cultural and religious identities in the current political climate. By bringing together these three authors and filmmakers at this time, this seminar series seeks to gain a fresh perspective on the frequently fraught negotiation of ‘British Muslim’ identities.
Each event will begin with a short introduction, a reading or viewing of their work, and an interview by current PhD students Sibyl Adam or Peter Cherry. The talks are public – everyone is welcome. There will be a chance for the audience to ask questions at the end of each event.