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Claire Chambers

Profile

Biography

Claire Chambers is Professor of Global Literature at the University of York. Her next co-authored volume is ​Storying Relationships: Young British Muslims Speak and Write about Sex and Love (Zed, 2021; forthcoming). Her other books are ​Making Sense of Contemporary British Muslim Novels (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Rivers of Ink: Selected Essays (OUP, 2017), Britain Through Muslim Eyes: Literary Representations, 1780−1989 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). She edited Desi Delicacies: Food Writing From Muslim South Asia (Picador, 2021; forthcoming), A Match Made in Heaven: British Muslim Women Write About Love and Desire (with Nafhesa Ali and Richard Phillips. HopeRoad, 2020; forthcoming), and (with Caroline Herbert) Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora: Secularism, Religion, Representations (Routledge, 2015). 

Not only is she known for her writing on literary representations of Muslims in Britain and South Asia, but also for her work on the Bengali writer Amitav Ghosh. She has published widely in such journals as Postcolonial Text, Contemporary Women’s Writing, and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing

Claire is Editor-in-Chief (with Rachael Gilmour) of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, which she has edited for a decade. Her research has been supported by grants from HEFCE, the AHRC, ESRC (Impact Acceleration Award), British Academy, and Leverhulme Trust. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. 

Her interest in the literature of the Indian subcontinent and the ‘Muslim world’ was sparked by the year she spent prior to university teaching in Peshawar, Pakistan.  It continues to be informed by return visits to the region, and by knowledge exchange and schools work with diasporic communities.  

 

Research

Overview

Claire is an expert in contemporary South Asian literature written in English and literary representations of British Muslims. Her monograph, Britain Through Muslim Eyes, traces the development of artistic depictions of Muslims in Britain from the eighteenth century to the present day. It has been reviewed in Newsline and Dawn. She then published its sequel, Making Sense of Contemporary British Muslim Novels, after a sabbatical generously supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

The first volume in this series of books, British Muslim Fictions is now in its second edition, and has received positive reviews in the Times Literary Supplement and the Pakistani national newspapers The Friday Times and Dawn

Another book, co-edited with Caroline Herbert and entitled Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora: Secularism, Religion, Representations, was published by Routledge in 2014.

Claire compiled a collection of her essays for the Dawn newspaper and other outlets, entitled Rivers of Ink, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

Out of the AHRC-funded Storying Relationships project, she has co-authored four peer-reviewed articles, as well as Storying Relationships: Young British Muslims Speak and Write about Sex and Love (Zed, 2021; forthcoming) and A Match Made in Heaven: British Muslim Women Write About Love and Desire (HopeRoad, 2020; forthcoming).

Out of the AHRC-funded Forgotten Food project, she edited Desi Delicacies: Food Writing From Muslim South Asia, which will be published by Picador India next year and includes creative writing and narrative nonfiction from such authors as Aamer Hussein, Annie Zaidi, Rana Safvi, Sanam Maher, and Uzma Aslam Khan



Supervision

Claire has wide experience of supervising undergraduates and postgraduates writing dissertations on South Asian, postcolonial, and British migrant literatures. She welcomes research students interested in many areas of contemporary literature, especially topics related to fiction from South Asia and its diaspora, ‘the Muslim world’, and multicultural Britain.

External activities

Memberships

2008, continuing: Associate Member, Centre for Research into Diversity in the Professions, Leeds Beckett;  Member, then Vice-Chair (2011−14), Postcolonial Studies Association (PSA)
2011-14: Vice-Chair, Postcolonial Studies Association (PSA)
2013-14: Member, Modern Languages Association (MLA)
2020, continuing: Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA)

External Activity

Claire is Editor (with Rachael Gilmour) of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, the leading critical and bibliographic forum in the field of Commonwealth and postcolonial literatures. She is on many advisory boards including those of Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture, NUML: Journal of Critical Inquiry, Islamabad, and the Rodopi book series Postcolonial Lives. 

She is a Co-Investigator for Forgotten Food: Culinary Memory, Local Heritage and Lost Agricultural Varieties in India, a Cultures, Behaviours and Histories of Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition (AHRC-GCRF)-funded project. The Principal Investigator is Siobhan Lambert-Hurley of the University of Sheffield. Claire’s role in this project has been to commission and edit a new anthology of creative writing. Entitled Desi Delicacies (Picador, 2021), the stories and life writing essays collected in this book deal with South Asian food and foodways to capture memories and ideas relating to such themes as family, domesticity, feasting, and lack of food.

Claire is also a Co-Investigator on Advancing Female Literacy and Empowerment in Pakistan and India through Life Writing, a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)-funded project. The Principal Investigator is again Siobhan Lambert-Hurley of the University of Sheffield, from where the project is run. The project team also comprises Nukhbah Langah and Rukhsana Zia (both Forman Christian College University, Lahore, Pakistan), and Radha Kapuria (University of Sheffield). The non-academic partners come from the following Non-Governmental Organizations in Pakistan and India: Bunyad Foundation, Abdul Aleem Khan Foundation, Pakistan’s Children, and Mahashakti Seva Kendra. Taking a cue from Malala Yousafzai’s work, the Advancing Female Literacy and Empowerment project uses historical research linked to women’s life writing to improve female literacy and empowerment in Pakistan and India.

Until 2019 Claire was Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project, Storying Relationships (Principal Investigator: Professor Richard Phillips). Previously, she was a member of the AHRC’s Peer Review College, Vice Chair of the Postcolonial Studies Association and worked as a subject editor for the ‘Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka’ section of The Year’s Work in English Studies

She has also been awarded an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award for her project Leeds Meets Shakespeare, in partnership with Sarah Olive (Education), Leeds City Council Children’s Services, Artforms, the Leeds Playhouse, Tribe Arts, and Globe Education.

In addition to being one of Times Higher Education’s scholar-reviewers and a blogger on culture for the Huffington Post, she writes book reviews for such journals as Wasafiri, Contemporary South Asia, Feminist Theory, and Moving Worlds. She is a literary columnist for Dawn and 3 Quarks Daily

She was a Project Partner in Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue, an international multidisciplinary network of scholars, practitioners and stakeholders, which sought to explore questions of trust in the relationship between Muslim diaspora populations in the West and the societies around them. 

She co-edits two book series: Multicultural Textualities (Manchester University Press) and Global Literature: Twenty-First Century Perspectives (Routledge).

In 2014, Claire contributed to the Radio 4 documentary First There Was the Word, about Muslims and publishing in Britain, presented by Yasmin Hai and produced by Simon Hollis. You can download the podcast here. This contributed to her being invited to become a Committee Member of the HopeRoad Project, an initiative around diversity and traineeships in publishing. On 18 December 2015, a half-hour interview with Claire about her research on early Muslim travellers to Britain was broadcast on British Muslim TV, repeated on 7 January 2016. She has also spoken on Radio Asian Fever, BBC Radio Manchester, the BBC’s The One Show, and advised on postcolonial Shakespeare for an episode of BBC One’s The Big Questions. She regularly participates in literature festivals such as those at Ilkley, Karachi, and Bradford. 



Claire Chambers

Contact details

Dr Claire Chambers
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Heslington
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 44 1904 324216

Teaching

Undergraduate

Claire teaches a diverse range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules, which have at their heart issues of race, religion, gender, and social (in)equality. For example, at the moment she convenes the second-year World Literature Module ‘Muslim Translations of Britain’, in which 75% of the texts are in translation from Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. Her advanced option (previously known as a special module) is entitled ‘Postcolonial Writing: Literature and Resistance’, which encompasses theory from Gandhi and Fanon to Barbara Harlow and Priyamvada Gopal, and creative texts from Ghassan Kanafani and Kamala Markandaya to books engaging with the Egyptian Revolution and online radicalism.

Postgraduate

At postgraduate level, Claire is Convenor of the MA in Global Literature and Culture, on which she leads the team-taught core module Debating Global Literary Culture and offers the option Digitally Decolonial. (Professor Jim Watt is convening the MA while Claire is on research leave in 2020-2021.)

Having acted as Graduate Chair for English from 2017-2020, she has also externally examined 21 doctoral theses and currently supervises nine PhD students. Claire has wide experience of supervising postgraduates writing dissertations on South Asian, postcolonial, and British migrant literatures. She welcomes MA and research students interested in many areas of twentieth- and twenty-first century literature, especially topics related to fiction from South Asia and its diaspora, the ‘Muslim world’, and multicultural Britain.