This section of the site contains the PhD theses.
Sounds Islamic? Muslim Music in Britain
Young Muslims in Britain are increasingly required to navigate an unsettled social, religious and cultural landscape. These complex dynamics encompass a range of factors: from sectarianism and the global marketplace of Islamic knowledge, through to the influence of diverse ethnic communities, the ubiquity of popular culture, and late-modern discourses relating to spirituality and religion. Religious practice, identity formation and social/cultural relationships are therefore a continual process of (re)negotiation, with young Muslims often adopting highly reflexive and pragmatic approaches to this uncertainty. Emerging from this turbulent context is a vibrant Muslim music culture.
This thesis provides an ethnographic account of this music culture – through engagement with both musicians and fans – whilst furthermore analysing the deeper significance of Muslim cultural production in contemporary Britain. The observations and arguments throughout are based on extensive fieldwork that took place over a period of approximately two years. A number of methodological strategies were employed: these included interviewing, participant observation and various online research methodologies (including an online survey).
While the ethnographic account provided in this thesis is an original and timely contribution to the study of Muslims in Britain, there are broader theoretical implications to emerge. In particular, the original concepts of ‘Islamic Music’ and ‘Islamically- conscious music’ are developed to better understand how Muslim musicians varyingly emphasise both their individual subjectivity and a more collectivist sense of religious belonging. By examining the development of a distinct British Muslim public sphere, it will therefore be claimed that Muslim musicians are using cultural production as a vehicle to simultaneously contest, negotiate and develop ideas of Muslim practice and collectivity in contemporary Britain.
Sociological Study of Islamic Social Work in Contemporary Britain
Recent years have witnessed increasing interest in the topics of religion and spirituality in social work, including a small body of texts focusing on social work with Muslims. Alongside this, statistical evidence such as the 2001 Census has documented the socio- economic disadvantage experienced by many Muslims communities in Britain. However, there is a paucity of empirical research exploring grassroots initiatives developed by these communities to address welfare needs. There is also a dearth of research analysing the perspectives of Muslim service users. It is this lack of inquiry which this thesis addresses.
This research centres on a case study of an Islamic organisation providing services including Islamic counselling, advocacy, khul divorces, mediation and chaplaincy. The study explores the construction of the organisation’s Islamic approach to social work, their everyday practices and areas of particular on-going negotiation. It draws on interviews with individuals working at the organisation, Muslim service users who have accessed the services and also external professionals who have referred individuals to the organisation. An exploration of the potential benefits for Muslim service users focuses on the counselling services provided to young women and asylum seekers in particular. The findings of the study highlight the opportunities and challenges experienced in the process of professionalising internal forms of support amongst British Muslim communities.