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Title: “It’s scary how many people believe what Trump believes”: How a Muslim women’s Sisters’ Circle interactionally navigate socio-political realities
Authors: Brohi, Hanain Gul
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The Othering Muslims face in Britain, and the Western world more broadly, has long been under critical review—from Said’s (1978) seminal work on Orientalism, to more recent developments in the conceptualization of Islamophobia, and how and where it manifests systemically, institutionally, and in the everyday (Massoumi et al, 2017; Runnymede Trust, 2017). Given the current number of Islamophobic hostilities, research into the experiences of Muslims at British universities showcase high levels of anxiety and insecurity, where Muslim women—specifically visibly Muslim women—are most affected (NUS, 2018; Thompson and Pihlaja, 2018). Studies indicate that many Muslim students, therefore, seek safety through joining university Islamic Societies, or ISocs (Brown, 2009; Song, 2012). However, uncertainty regarding the future is prevalent amongst female Muslim students, particularly with the tensions that fed into, and were also subsequently brought on by Brexit and Donald Trump’s election (Thompson and Pihlaja, 2018). This study, thus, endeavours to examine how Muslim women as part of a Sisters’ Circle at a British university’s ISoc interactionally navigate socio-political realities. Using an integrated qualitative method of analysis, this research adopts Teun van Dijk’s (1984) socio-cognitive approach to explore how narrative and argumentation functions work to achieve discursive actions through processes of sense-making and navigating the socio-political. The analysis finds that lying at the heart of these interactions is a cognisance of Otherness, which produces minority angst and efforts of micro-resistance. More specifically, the micro-resistances within this study constitute subverting problematic discourse, and a discursive ‘undoing’ of Otherness through the use of humour, asserting refusal, and disrupting the gendered somatic norm within the (physical) space the Sisters’ Circle occupies. This research thus evidences the psychological impact of Islamophobia, as well as showcasing the efforts Muslim women students have made in creating a space where tensions and uncertainties regarding the future can be discussed, and critical consciousness can be cultivated. As such, the findings show not only that, but how the creation of safe spaces, or spaces of care and/or comfort can be a valuable tool in offering support to Muslim women at university, and beyond. This study thus contributes an under-explored interactional perspective on how Muslim women work through socio-political realities, as well as adding to literature on the following: 1) the need for spaces of care and support in the face of Islamophobia; and 2) the ways in which Muslim women work through the tensions, difficulties and angst Islamophobia produces. This study also contributes methodologically to showcase how interactional data can be considered using a multi-pronged analytical approach to allow for an in-depth examination of discursive action.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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