My Research Vision
I am inspired by the everyday lives, experiences and conversations of people. In our society, popular metanarratives around immigration, radicalisation and austerity seem to suggest that our communities are ‘broken’. Yet in examining the everyday, it seems that ordinary people are contributing much more to the resilience of British communities than media narratives would have us believe – they are not just fostering tolerance of the different other, but are establishing relationships of respect, trust and equality. As a sociologist specialising in the study of lived religion, I believe it is imperative to examine the issues and problems that underpin the disconnections within our societies. But I believe it is probably even more important to uncover what communities and individuals are already doing to find shared space, common values and practical solutions. At CTPSR, I hope to be able to do this - to find solutions and to recognise the good practice within our communities, to replicate this in policy and practice, and to thus advance social justice and equality in Coventry, Britain and beyond.
Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor’s research focuses on the lived experiences of religion or belief in modern Britain, with particular emphasis on Islam, feminism, inter-faith relations and democratic methodologies that seek to work with and for research participants. She comes to Coventry University from the University of Derby where she worked a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Society, Religion and Belief.
She completed her fully-funded PhD at the University of Gloucestershire in 2010. Her doctoral research entailed a feminist giving of voice to young Muslim women in Britain. She began her post-doctoral career at the University of Derby as Project Researcher and Qualitative Lead on a three-year AHRC & ESRC Religion & Society programme project, Religion and Belief, Discrimination and Equality in England and Wales: Theory, Policy and Practice, 2000-2010. She subsequently led her own ESRC funded project on Collaborative Partnerships between Muslim institutions and HE. In 2015, she and three other colleagues (SOAS, Durham and Lancaster) have been awarded AHRC funding for a three-year project Islam on Campus which will examine narratives and the sources of narratives around Islam on British university campuses, with regard to radicalisation, gender and inter-faith relations. She is the Web Officer for the British Association for Islamic Studies.
- Scott-Baumann, A., and Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2015) Islamic Education in Britain: New Pluralist Paradigms. London: Continuum
- Weller, P., Purdam, K., Ghanea, N., and Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2013) Religion or Belief, Discrimination and Equality: Britain in Global Contexts. London: Continuum
- Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2012) Muslim Women in Britain: Demystifying the Muslimah. London: Routledge
- Cheruvallil-Contractor, S., and Shakkour, S. (2015) (eds.) Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion London: Continuum
Selected Chapters and Articles
- Weller, P., and Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2014) ‘Islam in Britain’. In After Integration: Islam, Conviviality and Contentious Politics in Europe. Ed. by Michalowski, I., and Burchardt, M. Weisbaden: Springer VS.
- Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2013) ‘Online Sufism – Young British Muslims, their internet ‘selves’ and virtual reality’. in Sufism in Britain. Ed. by Gabriel, T., and Geaves, R. London: Continuum
- Cheruvallil-Contractor, S., Hooley, T., Moore, N., Purdam, K., and Weller, P. (2013) ‘Researching the Non-religious: Methods and Methodological Issues, Challenges and Controversies’. In Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular. Ed. by Day, A., and Cotter, C. Aldershot: Ashgate
- Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2011) ‘Marginalisation or an Opportunity for Dialogue: exploring the Hijab as a Discursive Symbol of the Identity of Young Muslim Women'. In Islam and Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts. Ed. by Gabriel, T., and Hanan, R. London: Continuum
Selected Impact-focussed outputs
- Re/presenting Islam on Campus: gender terrorism and interreligious understanding in British higher education. This research will analyse Islam on campus and to facilitate open, informed discussion about Islam as an integral aspect of British life and campus life. As named research fellow, I am part of the core team for this project, leading on methodology.
- Collaborative partnerships between universities and Muslim institutions: dismantling the roadblocks. This project developed and disseminated previous research findings about the benefits of collaborative partnerships between British universities and British Muslim colleges (research from 2010, 2011, 2012), focussing particularly on ways to forge a more cohesive society for Muslims and other Britons.
- Religion and Belief, Discrimination and Equality in England and Wales: Theory, Policy and Practice (2000-2010). The project established a contemporary benchmark in scholarly studies on 'discrimination' and 'equality' with regard to 'religion' and 'belief'. It is vitally important for the future of religion and society to understand the nature and extent of such discrimination and the adequacy of equality policies, practices and laws designed to tackle it. I was Project researcher and qualitative lead on the project.
- Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion. Digital methodologies have altered how we articulate our values, display our allegiances and enact our multi-faceted identities. Increasingly Sociology must function in digital contexts and using digital methods. This project brought together academics working across diverse disciplines to discuss the methodologies they were using to study online and digital religion.
- Review of Muslim Faith Leader Training in Britain. This project examined the current training provisions for imams and scholars provided by seminaries and other imam-training institutions in the UK and suggested pathways for collaborative partnerships between Muslim institutions and UK Universities.
- Encouraging Muslim Women into Higher Education. This project recommends the bridging of two approaches to studying Islamic studies: devout and academic. There are challenges to such an endeavour that theologians and students of all faiths have expressed, that may be partly resolved through partnerships but which need further addressing. We have provided four modules that can either be offered independently as optional subjects or as a short course. Each module addresses a 'difficult' area in modern multicultural societies and is designed to encourage debate between both approaches and encourage cross fertilisations between the two. By easing transitions, gradually acquainting students with different approaches, and exploring employability and transferable skills, we hope these modules will encourage them to continue studies in their chosen area, ultimately leading to a degree and future career and helping them to play a full part in wider society.
- Arabic Language and Islam Studies. Learning a modern foreign language in UK has declined, yet the learning of Arabic is rising. We hypothesise that there is more Arabic language competence among Islamic Studies students than is currently apparent in the university sector: this represents missed opportunities for Arabic as a career enhancing skill. A small mapping exercise sampled relationships between students’ prior Arabic competence and Arabic language courses in Islamic Studies departments within UK universities. The study also investigated Arabic language studies that students undertake in Muslim institutions such as Darul Ulooms, Madrassahs, and Muslim schools and colleges. There are possible correlations between classical Arabic (including that of the Qu'ran) and modern Arabic; ways to enhance the uptake of degree level Arabic courses amongst students who have prior knowledge of Arabic; and enhancing undergraduates’ career possibilities involving Arabic.