Muslim Women’s Experiences of Higher Education in Britain

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Fauzia Ahmad

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Abstract

I explore British South Asian Muslim women’s experiences of higher education and how it impacts identity construction and negotiation. Through semi-structured interviews with thirty-five undergraduate and post-graduate Muslim female university students, I reflect on their perceived and actual experiences. By stressing how representations of them influence their participation and experiences, I analyze how individual subjectivities are mediated and negotiated while reflecting common experiences. I also consider their accounts of the social and personal benefits they felt that they gained during their studies, as well as to the more disturbing and racialized aspects of their experiences. They differentiated between three overlapping forms of beneficial experience: academic, social, and personal. While instances of anti-Muslim racism were rare or subtle, certain university structures and expectations of what being a mainstream student means often contributed to a noted sense of “othering.” I conclude by highlighting how their accounts of their university experiences directly challenge those stereotypes that misrepresent educated Muslim women as “religious and cultural rebels.”

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