MRes BBK/PhD SOAS: A queer historical analysis of Anglo/Egyptian counter-terrorism and emergency law

Lead Research Organisation: School of Oriental and African Studies
Department Name: Sch of Interdisciplinary Studies


This project carries out a queer feminist examination of the colonial relationship between Britain and Egypt as a context for understanding how, and for which subjects, emergency and counter-terrorism laws perpetrate everyday violence in the contemporary; and further, the central role that legal normalisation plays in hiding such violence. I centre the Anglo-Egyptian relationship in order the understand the particular ways in which narratives of civilisation and morality continue to regulate bodies and space; and how this regulation manifests differently in terms of perceptions of race, gender, religion and class. I focus on how legal temporality and sexuality function as biopolitical and necropolitical methods of governance and how they are central in the colonial underpinnings of contemporary counter-terrorism law.

At the heart of this project lies the contention that Western philosophical and contemporary political understandings of extremism cannot be thought apart from morality. Present-day moral panics over the figure of the terrorist share medicalised framings with those around queer and gay men throughout 1980s. Central here is the co-constitutive nature of racialisation and sexualisation, as they combine to shape the markers associated with a civilised progression of law. Morality can be read into contemporary 'blood discourses' that pathologise Muslim communities as always already 'carrying the seed of disloyalty'. Narratives of terrorism and extremism are often pinned to biological essentialisms.

Counter-terrorism legislation effects all subjects through the regulations that it puts in place at international borders, in public space, places of work, and in cyberspace. This legislation is violent, however, towards those it marks as 'suspect:' subjects who I understand to be cast as gendered and racialised. Holding queer as a disruption of the norm, subjects who are affected by counter-terrorism law can be understood as troubling the straight white borders of the nation through what are represented as abnormalities in their expressions of gender, sexuality and/or race. Violence marks the lives of visibly Muslim, racialised and queerly gendered subjects who are less able to 'pass' hetero/homonormative understandings of acceptable aesthetics. I contend that the slow death or everyday violence of communities regulated by politico-legal frameworks operating within the global war on terror is invisibilised by such processes of normalisation and liberal states' claims to 'soft' practices of countering terrorism. In bringing emergency legislation into the remit of common law, legal and state violence is rendered 'normal' and consequently, 'legitimate,' 'lawful,' and 'necessary.'

My project uses a mixed methods approach in order to trace legal violence and framings of morality from early twentieth century Egypt to present-day Britain and Egypt. I look at British colonial archival collections from 1914-1928; two British military maps of London and Cairo, one of which falls outside of this timeframe; present-day counter-terrorism legislation and case law; and present-day 'mapping' interviews with Egyptians in Britain. For the purposes of this project, I focus on the processes of 'normalisation' of exceptional treatment for the aforementioned subjects, contending that emergency measures become 'not the exception, but the rule' for the oppressed. I understand normalisation to mean both the formalisation of temporary emergency measures into permanent counter-terrorism legislation and the small and mundane utterances that make up the colonial and legal archive.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000592/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1938678 Studentship ES/P000592/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2021 Alice Finden
Description Travel Grant from International Studies Association
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation International Studies Association (ISA) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 03/2020 
End 03/2020
Description Methods in Critical Terrorism Studies 
Organisation British International Studies Association
Department British International Studies Association Postgraduate Network
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I proposed the idea of a group to run a seminar series on methodologies in critical terrorism studies. I found 4 early career researchers to work with through a BISA network. I have led on organising and overseeing a seminar series with these colleagues. We are now turning this series into an edited book.
Collaborator Contribution Each partner led on organising their own session, they found speakers to contribute to both the series and the edited book.
Impact This collaboration has resulted in a five-part seminar series and a co-edited book that is currently being prepared. The book will be published with Routledge's Critical Terrorism Studies series.
Start Year 2020
Description Queer Methodologies Network 
Organisation University College Dublin
Country Ireland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I helped set up this cross institutional network, between SOAS, University of London and University College Dublin. It focuses on sharing research methods and methodologies and functions as a peer-led feedback space. We have so far hosted one workshop for postgraduate researchers. We will be holding another in early 2020. We also have plans to host a symposium in later 2020/early 2021.
Collaborator Contribution They have supported me in the development of my presentation material.
Impact The main focus has been the hosting of workshops. This is an interdisciplinary collaboration between sociology, medicine and law, relating to sexualities and gender. We plan a symposium for the coming year 2020/2021.
Start Year 2019