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School of English and Drama

Dr Rehana Ahmed, BA (Oxford), MA (Sussex), PhD (Nottingham Trent)


Reader in Postcolonial and Contemporary Literature



Of Pakistani, Scottish and English heritage, I grew up in Cambridge where I attended a comprehensive school before completing a BA in Modern Languages (French and Italian) at the University of Oxford and a Masters in Modern European Literature at the University of Sussex. After working in the publishing industry for several years, I returned to academia to undertake a fully funded doctorate on British Asian and South Asian fiction at Nottingham Trent University. I then worked as Research Associate on the three-year AHRC-funded project ‘Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870-1950’, based at The Open University (2007–10). From 2011, I lectured at Teesside University, before joining Queen Mary in 2014.

I am Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded research project 'Remaking Britain: South Asian Connections and Networks, 1830s to the Present', a collaboration between QMUL and Bristol University in partnership with the British Library. 

I am an associate editor of the magazine of international contemporary writing Wasafiri, co-editor of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, and co-editor or the Manchester University Press book series Multicultural Textualities.


Undergraduate Teaching

I have taught on:

  • ESH285: Postcolonial and Global Literatures
  • ESH6086: Writing Black and Asian Britain


Research Interests:

  • British Muslim, British Asian, Black British and South Asian literature and culture
  • Representations and theories of multiculturalism, especially in Britain
  • Literary controversies, especially involving religious minorities in Britain
  • British Asian writing in the literary marketplace (publishing, reception, prizes, festivals)
  • The history of the South Asian and Muslim diasporas in Britain

Recent and On-Going Research:

I am a specialist in twentieth and twenty-first century postcolonial literature and culture, with particular interests in British Asian, South Asian, and Muslim literature and culture; literary and cultural representations of multiculturalism; and the history of the South Asian diaspora in Britain.

My monograph Writing British Muslims: Religion, Class and Multiculturalism (Manchester University Press, 2015, pbk 2017), supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship, examines contemporary literary representations of Muslims by British writers of South Asian Muslim descent to explore the contribution they make to urgent questions about multicultural politics. Taking a materialist approach that centres on class, the book seeks to complicate and challenge the dichotomy of secular freedom versus religious oppression that frequently constrains thinking about British Muslims, as well as to reframe freedom of speech controversies involving Muslims.

This interdisciplinary work built on a range of journal articles and book chapters. More recently, I co-edited (with Rachel Carroll) a special issue of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature on 'British culture after 9/11', and (with Nadia Atia) a special issue of Wasafiri on ‘The House of Wisdom’ which reflects on Islamic civilisations creatively and critically. Taking its name from Baghdad’s famous Abbasid library, the issue explores libraries, books, script and scriptures from the Abbasid period right through to the present day.

Currently, I am working on a book, tentatively titled 'Literary Solidarities: Writing, Publishing, and Reading British South Asian', which explores articulations of solidarity and community in recently published British Asian writing. Responding to a turn to collective forms of protest among Britain's racialized citizens today as well as pressing debates about the publishing industry's treatment of race, the project maps literary visions of resistance against the racializing and individuating practices of neoliberal society and the marketplace, while also tracing connections between formations of social and literary activism today and those of the period following the 1948 Nationality Act and subsequent rise in immigration. The historical dimension of this project relates to the archival work I am doing as Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project 'Remaking Britain: South Asian Connections and Networks, 1830s to the Present'. 



Writing British Muslims: Religion, Class and Multiculturalism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015, paperback 2017)

Edited Books and Journal Issues:

With Peter Morey, eds, special issue of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 58:6, ‘Secularism in the Literary Marketplace’ (2023)

With Nadia Atia, eds, special issue of Wasafiri, 108, ‘The House of Wisdom’ (2021)

With Rachel Carroll, eds, special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 53:2, ‘British Culture after 9/11’ (2018)

With Ruvani Ranasinha (lead editor), Sumita Mukherjee and Florian Stadtler, eds, South Asians and the Shaping of Britain, 1870–1950. A Sourcebook (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013)

With Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin, eds, Culture, Diaspora, and Modernity in Muslim Writing (New York and London: Routledge, 2012)

With Sumita Mukherjee, eds, South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858–1947 (London: Continuum, 2011)

ed., Walking a Tightrope: New Writing from Asian Britain (London: Young Picador, 2004)

Articles and Book Chapters:

'”We Tick: Other”: Race, Religion, and Literary Solidarities in Three Anthologies and the Neoliberal Marketplace’, The Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 58:6 (2023), 315-30.

‘Archiving Islam in Nadeem Aslam’s Libraries’, Wasafiri 108 (2021), 58-66.

‘Space, Symbols and Speech in Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti and its Reception’, Modern Drama, 63:3 (2020), 354-72

‘Towards an Ethics of Reading Muslims: Encountering Difference in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire’, Textual Practice online (2020), 1145-61.

‘Post-Secular Perspectives: Writing and Fundamentalisms’, in The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing, ed. Susheila Nasta and Mark Stein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 634–49

‘I’ll Explain What I Can: A Conversation with Avaes Mohammad’, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 53:2 (2018), 223–29

‘Equality of Citizenship’, in South Asians and the Shaping of Britain, 1870–1950. A Sourcebook, ed. Ruvani Ranasinha with Rehana Ahmed, Sumita Mukherjee and Florian Stadtler (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 21–79

With Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin, ‘Introduction’, in Culture, Diaspora, and Modernity in Muslim Writing, ed. Rehana Ahmed, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 1–16.

‘Reason to Believe? Two “British Muslim” Memoirs’, in Culture, Diaspora, and Modernity in Muslim Writing, ed. Rehana Ahmed, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 52–67

‘South Asians Writing Resistance in Wartime London: Indian Writing (1940–42)’, Wasafiri, 70 (2012), 17–24

With Sumita Mukherjee, ‘Introduction’, in South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858–1947, ed. Rehana Ahmed and Sumita Mukherjee (London: Continuum, 2011), pp. xi–xxx.

‘Networks of Resistance: Krishna Menon and Working-Class South Asians in Britain’, in South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858–1947, ed. Rehana Ahmed and Sumita Mukherjee (London: Continuum, 2011), pp. 70–87

Brick Lane: A Materialist Reading of the Novel and its Reception’, Race & Class, 52:2 (2010), 25–42

‘British Muslim Masculinities and Cultural Resistance: Kenny Glenaan and Simon Beaufoy’s Yasmin’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 45:3 (2009), 285–96

‘Occluding Race in Selected Short Fiction by Hanif Kureishi’, Wasafiri, 58 (2009), 27–34

‘Moniza Alvi’, in Dictionary of Literary Biography: Contemporary Black British Writers, ed. R. Victoria Arana (Detroit: Bruccoli, Clark, Layman Publishers, 2009), pp. 37–45

‘Unsettling Cosmopolitanisms: Representations of London in Kamila Shamsie’s Salt and Saffron’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 40:1 (2004), 12–28

‘Mapping London in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines’, in Indias Abroad: The Diaspora Writes Back, eds Rajendra Chetty and Pier Paolo Piciucco (Johannesburg: STE Publishers, 2004), pp. 70–88

With project team, eds, Making Britain: Discover How Asians Shaped the Nation, 1870–1950, online database


I am currently co-supervising PhD projects on: the Wasafiri archive (funded by a LAHP Collaborative Doctoral Award); race in post-millennial fiction (funded by a QMUL studentship); young British South Asians and trauma in contemporary fiction (funded by a QMUL studentship); and British Asian women's short fiction.

I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

I have co-supervised the following successful PhD project: Ole Birk Laursen (The Open University), ‘Black and Asian British Life-Writing: Race, Gender and Representation in Selected Novels from the 1990s’ (2011).

Public Engagement

I have curated events featuring writers (including Moniza Alvi, Avaes Mohammad, Selma Dabbagh, Aamer Hussein, Mirza Waheed and Wendy Meddour) at the Middlesbrough Literary Festival, Teesside University, the Durham Book Festival and, in collaboration with New Writing North, County Durham primary schools. I am co-author of two articles on literary controversies for the Huffington Post‘Muslims Protest against H. G. Wells Book in 1930s Britain’, with Florian Stadtler; and 'Literary Controversies since the Rushdie Affair’, with Claire Chambers. 

I am co-author of a public database on South Asians in Britain which attracts high levels of traffic from across the globe, and co-curated the panel exhibition ‘South Asians Making Britain, 1858-1950’, which toured to public libraries across Britain in 2010-11. I have also co-designed and led a public walk highlighting the history of the shared South Asian and Jewish presence in London’s East End.

Recently, I co-organised a symposium, ‘Reimagining Britain: Curating, Performing, Publishing, Reading‘, exploring the current climate for artistic and cultural production in Britain in the context of ongoing debates about inclusivity, diversity and decolonising; and a series of events on community-led publishing and activism in Tower Hamlets, ‘Publishing is Power!’, as part of the Being Human Festival 2022.

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