How is Islamophobia Institutionalised? Racialised Governmentality and the Case of Muslim Students in British Universities

  • Shaida Nabi

Student thesis: Phd


AbstractThis thesis explores how Islamophobia is institutionalised in British universities. Focussing on Muslim students, this question is largely explored through empirical research using two case study universities. Each university was examined through key university functions; namely, 'ethnic' monitoring data under the Race Amendment (2000), union politics and welfare/observance provisions. The research involved semi-structured interviews with Muslim students who were in some way 'active' on campus, as well as university/union staff between 2004 and 2006. It also included some document analysis. It is argued that Islamophobia is institutionalised through its govermentalising function and is reflected in three key modes of 'managing' Muslim students; 'absence' (invisibility), 'presence' (hyper-visibility) and 'inclusion' (liberal multiculturalism). 'Absence' refers to the absence of Muslim students as a recognised collectivity within the formal structures of the university. Thus, it is argued, Muslim student concerns about racism fail to be formally registered and remain trivialised at anecdotal levels. 'Presence' refers to the hyper-visibility of Muslim students as a troublesome 'fundamentalist'/'extremist' cohort. This is exemplified through numerous historical and contemporary sector and state interventions, but also in student union politics. 'Inclusion' refers to liberal multicultural practices that regulate Muslim students. This is observed in equality practices (e.g. university provisions) in the university and the way they function to minoritise rather than equalise the status of Muslim students.What these modes of governance emphasise is the way Muslim students are the subject of and subjected to processes of racialised management, that is, regulation, discipline and normalisation. Each of these modes are explored through interviewee accounts/documents, and (in)formed by a recursive engagement with theories of racialised governmentality. It is argued that together, these modes of racialised governmentality signify the transgressive status of Muslims. They are also seen to reflect the broader political (in)visibility of Muslims in Britain and their awkward place within British multiculturalism. Influenced by 'de-colonial' thinking and activist-based research, the thesis has sought to develop a critique of dominant and racialised discourses about Muslim students in universities. This has involved the selective use of discursive techniques and a reflexive awareness of my own positioning with research. It has also involved cognizance of the way Muslim students and Muslim communities generally, have been perceived as 'suspect' and subject to increased securitisation. In the main however, the thesis has troubled the equality practices of universities and highlighted the way they are part of, not separate from, the problem of Islamophobia.
Date of Award1 Jul 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNavtej Purewal (Supervisor) & Bridget Byrne (Supervisor)


  • Muslim Fundamentalism
  • Student Extremism
  • University Unions, British Universities, Equality, Race Amendment (2000)
  • Institutionalised Islamophobia, Muslim Students, Racialised Governmentality, Ethnic monitoring
  • Institutional Racism

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