SOAS University of London

Centre for Gender Studies

Alaya Forte

BA (Exeter), Licence (Nice), MA (SOAS)
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Alaya Forte
Centre for Gender Studies

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Ms Alaya Forte
Email address:
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Office Hours:
Wednesdays 3pm - 4pm
Thesis title:
New forms of political inclusion or mere tokenism? Reading political representation from a gender and minority perspective in British and French government (working title)
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


Alaya holds a BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter and a degree in Political Science from the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis in France. She obtained an MA in Gender Studies from SOAS in 2011 and has stayed on to pursue a PhD in the combined field of political science and gender studies, with particular reference to the representation of women and minority groups in the context of European politics.

Alaya is also a freelance interpreter and translator, and is a Workshop Facilitator for EqualiTeach, a not-for-profit equality training and consultancy organisation.

PhD Research

Title of thesis: Representational Dissonance: the inclusion of Muslim women in British local and national politics

The underrepresentation of minorities, and women in general, in government and national politics continues to be one of the most significant factors when seeking to establish the democratic legitimacy of modern nation-states. Political theorists and feminists alike have long debated whether there is a correlation between greater descriptive representation in assemblies and parliaments and more effective substantive representation. The presence of previously marginalised groups, in this analysis, would ensure a better representation of formerly excluded interests and ipso facto be more democratic.
As women and representatives from minority groups begin to claim more than their ‘token’ seats in cabinets and government, it is time to rethink questions of representation.This research, focused on the political representation of Muslim women in British local and national politics, is an essential and timely contribution to the fields of Gender, Cultural Studies and Political Science. Over the last couple of years, there has been a call for a new type of political scholarship in Europe, finally able to combine the conceptual frameworks of gender (intersectionality) and ethnicity studies (a critique of methodological nationalism) in order to reformulate the important debates surrounding the nature of political representation.
Based on extensive ethnographic work - semi-structured interviews with councillors and members of the Houses of Parliament, as well as participant observation - this analysis explores how the British political system and its history of multiculturalism has been played out, particularly in its relationship with Islam and its Muslim communities through the political involvement of Muslim women. Using intersectionality as a methodological tool to reveal how gender, ethnicity and culture are simultaneously constructed in the political arena, this thesis also aim to be an original contribution to the feminist debates on democracy and representation.


Edited Books or Journal Volumes/Book Chapters/Articles/Book Reviews

Forte, A. (2018) 'Constructing a New Imagery for the Muslim Woman: Symbolic Encounters and the Language of Radical Empowerment' in Yaqin, A., Morey, P., and Soliman, A. (eds.) Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism: New Directions (Palgrave Politics of Identity and Citizenship Series). Palgrave Macmillan.

Morey P., Yaqin A. & Forte A. (eds.) Contesting Islamophobia: Anti-Muslim Prejudice in Media, Culture and Politics. London: I.B. Tauris. Forthcoming (May 2017)
Forte, A. (2016) Book Review ‘Jeanette S. Jouili, Pious Practice and Secular Constraints. Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe (Stanford University Press, 2015)’, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 33(2), pp. 118-121



‘Muslim Women in British Politics: Against the Odds. Reflections on politics and space’, Muslims in the UK and Europe Postgraduate Symposium, Centre for Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge, 13-15 May 2016

‘"My greatest achievement is my survival". The political representation of Muslim women in British local politics: challenges and opportunities’, Section on Gender and Diversity in Contemporary Politics, Section on Political Representation at the Intersection, ECPR Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada, 26-29 August 2015

‘The political representation of Muslim women in British local politics: Why intersectionality matters’, Islam, Law and Modernity Group First Conference, Muslims and Islam in European Modernity, University of Durham, UK, 19-20 August 2015

‘Constructing a new British Imagery for the Hijabi Muslim Woman: Inspire, symbol-making and the language of empowerment’, Women negotiating secularism and multiculturalism through civil society organisations, Centre for Trust, Peace & Social Relations, Coventry University, UK, 30 June – 1 July 2015

‘Flags and hijabs: the problematic and contested nature of symbols in contemporary Britain’, 2nd annual BRAIS Conference, Senate House, London 13-15 April 2015

‘Halalising the Arts: How European Muslims Negotiate Religion and the Arts’ (with Dr Asmaa Soliman), Global Halal: International Conference on Muslims and the Cultural Politics of the Permissible, Michigan State University, 19-21 February 2015