SOAS University of London

Centre for Gender Studies

Dr Alaya Forte

BA (Exeter), Licence (Nice), MA (SOAS)
  • Teaching


Alaya Forte
Department of Politics and International Studies

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Dr Alaya Forte
Email address:
Academic Support 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: Intersectionality and the Body in Political Representation

ABSTRACT: The thesis engages with political philosophy and feminist theories to reconceptualise political representation. By focusing on women who identify as British Muslim and are active in traditional forms of political engagement at both local and national level, I expose the limits of political representation as enacted in Western liberal democracies. The current representative political system is increasingly engaged in framing ‘othered’ groups within easily discernible categories, which are then required to carry out an embodied performance of difference within spaces of power to gain legitimacy. The claims to political representation, therefore, while seemingly democratic and plural, reveal themselves to be disciplined and restricted by normative identity discourses. In order to offer an effective critique of these processes of non-democratic representation, I rely on intersectionality as a theoretical and methodological tool to overcome obstructive fixed identity categorisations. In doing so I also bring to light the limits of intersectionality itself. I propose that by focusing on the body as both political and corporeal, affectively constituted and in constantly changing relations with others, that the plurality of political representation can be best illuminated and recovered.

In the thesis the need for a corporeal praxis such as that employed in political listening are advocated; the impact of estrangement processes on political representation is considered; a re-thinking of performativity in spaces of power is undertaken; and, lastly, an assessment of how embodied difference and the ‘body of the nation’ affects the temporality of representation is made to demonstrate the failure of the political as it is now practiced. I conclude that attending to the body enables us to tune into representational dissonance and that this dissonance encompasses the recognition that it is through the mutual undoing and redoing of ourselves that the creation of political subjects and communities can be realised. The body is the site that has the power to move us beyond categorical boundaries of belonging and identity.


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