Contemporary Sufi-Sunni Revivalism and Sufi-Sunni Mosques in Manchester: Rethinking British Muslim Identities as Discursive and Affective Processes

  • George Rawlinson

Student thesis: Phd


British Muslim identity has often been conceptualised as a complex of multiple distinct sectarian, ethnic and familial associations discursively informed by authoritative individuals and institutions operating within Muslim communities and in wider society. As such, taxonomies reflecting this have predominantly divided British Muslim identity according to sect and institution, with Sufi-Sunni revival movements figuring most prominently. Yet, emergent literature on everyday and lived religion demonstrates how such associations prove to be particularly fluid in how they are lived and done situationally. The unstable category of the "Barelvi" movement, often taken to be an umbrella term for South Asian Sufi-Sunni Islam in Britain, is one such case in point. This applies to predominantly discursive conceptualisations of community identity but becomes even further apparent with a consideration of affective associations, which variously imbue, contest, and confound seemingly stable discursive formations. These permutations attest to the processual nature of British Muslim identity, and to the brittleness of categories that have been constructed to describe it. Building further upon contemporary, processual approaches to Muslim community identity in Britain, I explore how the trend of contemporary Sufi-Sunni revivalism is manifest within, between and beyond Muslim communities. This way of doing Islam is characterised by an informed and affectively felt grounding in the Qur'an and Sunnah devotionally actualised in service to wider society. Drawing on field work in and around five mosques in Manchester, I advance a conceptualisation of British Muslim identity comprised not of boxes, but of lines of movement and process. These lines which I trace here reflect the coalescence of discursive and affective processes in the shape and ongoing constitution of Muslim community identity. They are thoroughly enmeshed in the wider societal context of Manchester itself to the extent that Islam is lived in Manchester and Manchester is lived in Islam.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJohn Zavos (Supervisor), Katherine Smith (Supervisor) & Kamran Karimullah (Supervisor)


  • Ingold
  • Ethnography
  • Affect theory
  • Muslims in Britain
  • Islam
  • Living religion

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