Muslims and the Politics of Love in Contemporary British Fiction

PhD Thesis

Banting, A. 2017. Muslims and the Politics of Love in Contemporary British Fiction. PhD Thesis University of East London Arts and Digital Industries
AuthorsBanting, A.
TypePhD Thesis

This thesis explores the connections between love, multiculturalism and the novel through a study of the figure of the Muslim as understood within secular Britain. I examine representations of love in British fiction published since the Rushdie affair, arguing that love is a crucial means by which novels reproduce, subvert and challenge dominant cultural and political discourses around Muslims and Islam. Selected literary texts by Hanif Kureishi, Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Zia Haider Rahman, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed and Leila Aboulela include a wide range of subject matter, spanning varied authors and genres, but all are united by their inclusion of Muslim subjectivities and romantic relationships in Britain. In addition to studying literary texts, I also consider the critical reception of texts, exploring critics’ negotiations of the discourses around Muslims and Islam pervasive in British media and politics after the Rushdie affair.

Drawing upon Talal Asad’s notion of an ‘anthropology of secularism’, I explore love in the novel as a site of secular knowledge. I argue that contemporary novels which depict Muslims and Islam frequently use love as the basis for their inclusion within or exclusion from the nation. Love operates alongside and within formal literary strategies as well as concepts of gender, race, culture and class, to respond to popular debates which contest the presence of Muslims and Islam within Britain. Despite its ubiquity within popular culture, love is an under researched area which can shed light on the complex dynamics which construct and situate individuals and communities in relation to the British nation and the West more widely. Through a study of representation, this study originally contributes to an understanding of love’s invisible power in political discourse.

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Deposited05 Jan 2018
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