Active citizenship, dissent and power: the cultural politics of young adult British Muslims

Mustafa, Anisa (2015) Active citizenship, dissent and power: the cultural politics of young adult British Muslims. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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We need to stop being afraid and realise that as individuals we have power and that power is the ability to use your own reason and just try and look beyond this. (Saif, 27, male, academic activist)

This thesis presents findings from an ESRC-funded doctoral study on the cultural politics of young adult Muslims who participate in political and civic activism within British civil society. Based on ethnographic research in the Midlands area, it offers an empirically informed understanding of how these forms of activism relate to themes of political participation, citizenship, security and governance in Britain today. The thesis argues that the diverse mobilisations examined by the research collectively constitute a social movement to resist the marginalisation and stigmatisation of Muslim identities in a post 9/11 context. The war on terror, in response to the international crisis of militant Islam, has placed Muslim citizenship in many Western liberal democracies under fierce scrutiny, prompting uneasy and hard to resolve questions around issues of security, diversity, cohesion and national identity. In Britain, as in Europe, political and public responses to these questions have precipitated a climate of fear and suspicion around Muslims, rendering their citizenship contingent and precarious and undermining their ability to identify with the nation and participate in its political processes. This thesis reveals how young Muslim activists negotiate these challenges by engaging in a range of activities typical of social movements, not only in terms of distinctive modes of action but also with respect to their transformative social and political visions and imaginaries. Muslim activists engage in cultural politics to demand a more inclusive and post-national notion of citizenship, by seeking to turn negative Muslim differences into positive ones. Participants’ engagement in democratic processes through political repertoires commonly adopted by other progressive social movements challenges the moral panic engendered by the exceptionalism ascribed to Muslim identity politics.

This thesis argues that these cultural politics constitute a British Muslim social movement to contest Islamophobia through resistance to two dominant forms of power in contemporary Western societies. Firstly, this movement is a response to the multiple technologies of power articulated by Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality’, which are difficult to distinguish and confront due to their imperceptible and socially dispersed nature. Secondly, cultural politics is necessitated by direct threats of force that Foucault described as a ‘relationship of violence’ and which are discernible in the rise of the securitisation of citizenship in the wake of 9/11. The nature of resistance from Muslim activists suggests that their cultural politics are not only a strategic but also a less risky political response to both these prevailing forms of power. Foucault’s argument that the nature of power can be deciphered from the forms of resistance it provokes suggests responsive rather than reactive political strategies by young Muslims. The thesis concludes that these cultural politics represent forms of active citizenship premised on a more equal, participatory and radically democratic social contract than nationalist and neoliberal forms of governance presently concede.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Yip, A. K-T.
Treacher-Kabesh, Amal
Keywords: Muslim, citizenship, cultural politics, social movement, Foucault
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social sciences > H Social sciences (General)
J Political science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 30533
Depositing User: Mustafa, Anisa
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2016 11:09
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 05:11

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