Portrait of Dr Suhraiya Jivraj

Dr Suhraiya Jivraj

Reader in Law and Social Justice

About

PhD (University of Kent), PGCHE (Oxford Brookes University), LLM (University of London), Postgraduate Diploma in Law (CPE) and Legal Practice (LPC) (BPP Law School), MA Arabic & Persian (University of Edinburgh).

Suhraiya is a Reader in Law and Social Justice and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). Her previous experience includes working for international NGOs and grassroots organisations in the human rights and anti-discrimination fields.  She teaches and researches in the areas of Public Law including Human Rights, Race, Religion & Law, Intersectional and Decolonial Approaches to Equalities Law & Policy and social justice. Her work draws on critical race/religion theories and de-colonial studies, exploring contemporary socio-legal problematics including intersecting inequalities, foregrounding feminist/queer of colour perspectives.

Her work brings together an ethical commitment to critical and inclusive pedagogy and decolonising work. She was awarded a UoK Teaching Enhancement Small Support Award (TESSA) in 2018/19 to collaborate with her students for a Decolonising the Curriculum Project. The project soon extended across the university and resulted in the DecoloniseUKC Manifesto which has featured in the NUS/UUK #ClosingtheGap report (2018). The research has also fed into the DecoloniseUoK Collective book (2020) co-produced with the project students and a Social and Legal Studies Association (SLSA) funded empirical study resulting in: Towards Anti-racist Legal Pedagogy: A Resource for law school teachers, particularly in foundation subjects. 

Research interests

Race, Religion & Law; Intersectionality & Decolonial Studies; Public Law; Human Rights & Equalities Law & Policy; Muslim feminisms.

Suhraiya is former Co-Director of the Centre for Sexuality, Race & Gender Justice. She is also the Co-ordinator and Principle Investigator of the previously (2012-2014) AHRC funded Decolonising Sexualities Network (DSN) which brings together a transnational network of scholars and civil society activists working across issues of race, religion, sexuality and gender. Suhraiya co-edited a collection of academic and creative pieces including fiction and visual art entitled: ‘Decolonising Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions’ (2016). The book is available via open access on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. DSN’s current work is building an archive of (intangible) cultural heritage through decolonial cafés and a new series of life-sense-ing work. Her contribution to decolonial studies also includes work on knowledge co-production with students of colour on decolonising and anti-racist pedagogy (see above and publications).

Her earlier work includes a monograph ‘The Religion of Law: Race, Citizenship and Children’s belonging' (Social and Legal Studies Series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) which examines juridical conceptualisations of religion and its relationship with 'race', firstly, in child welfare law involving parents of minority faith; and secondly, education law and policy. Her subsequent journal publications explore these issues in relation to British/universal values and their regulatory impact on racially minoritised people.

Suhraiya has also been Principal Investigator of a British Academy and Leverhulme funded project exploring gross national happiness and sustainable development in Bhutan and wellbeing policy making in the UK. Her work interrogates the co-imbrications of terms such as ‘religion’ and ‘secularity’ and their regulatory impact through government law and policy (see publications below). Her current work in this area is primarily focused on collaborating with Muslim women-led initiatives on gender and race/religion inequalities from an intersectional and decolonial approach that goes ‘beyond the promise of secularism’.  

Teaching

Suhraiya is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and was awarded the prize for faculty teacher of the year (2019). Her teaching responsibilities span across Public Law, Race, Religion & Law and Gender, Sexuality & Law. She is former Deputy Director of Education for ‘decolonising the curriculum’ and academic lead for the Decolonise the Curriculum Project (2018-2020). She is author of ‘Towards Anti-Racist Legal Pedagogy: A Resource’ for law school teachers. 

Supervision

Suhraiya has supervised students to completion working in the areas of critical and intersectional approaches to issues of race/religion, gender and sexuality. She particularly welcomes students of colour wanting to draw on decolonial perspectives and methodologies.

Professional

  • Socio-Legal Studies Association
  • Society of Legal Scholars
  • Constitutional Law Association 

Publications

Article

  • Jivraj, S., Bakshi, S. and Posocco, S. (2020). Decolonial Trajectories: Praxes and Challenges. Interventions [Online] 22:451-463. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2020.1753558.
    In this special issue of Interventions, we consider the transnational articulations of the expansive site of decolonial studies. The disparate as well as interconnecting lines of reflection, traversing geopolitical and disciplinary borders, instructively allude to the trajectories of decolonial theorization. It is within these interstitial transnational sites that the Decolonizing Sexualities Network (DSN) emerged in the last decade by suturing queer of color critique to decolonial studies. Academic activism, political mobilization, transformational politics and praxes, critiques of global loci of power including heteropatriarchy, Islamophobia and racism among others defined the work of the collective, underpinning the urgency to think beyond single-issue politics of queerness. “Decolonial Trajectories” instantiates and extends such characteristic propelling of the interventions that reach beyond queerness without erasing its critical significance of radical critique of uneven relations of power.
  • Jivraj, S. (2020). Decolonizing the Academy - Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Interventions [Online] 22:552-573. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2020.1753559.
    I draw on my own experience facilitating a student-led ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ project within an English university critical law school. I reflect upon how such initiatives - predicated on collaboration between staff and students in particular - can constitute ‘liberatory’ spaces from which to resist different structural forms of coloniality and racism or racialization within the western academy. I draw on the work of scholars of colour who expose the coloniality and racialization underpinning the current trend within higher education institutions (HEIs) equalities initiatives that ‘gaze’ upon bodies of colour through the phenomenon of the ‘BME attainment gap’. This same scholarship also facilitates scholars and students of colour to theorize the possibilities for (re-)existing within the academy by calling for a re-focusing of attention and ‘gaze’ back onto institutional racism within HEIs. The process is rife with pitfalls, navigating continued racialization or erasure on the one hand, to co-optation - in the current increasingly marketized UK HE environment - on the other. Finding oneself in this situation - between a rock and a hard place - is also particularly fraught for academics of colour who are effectively rendered complicit through their wage relation with universities reproducing knowledge systems, that emerged from and continue to be marked by coloniality and racialization. What then is the allure for us to engage in university decolonizing movements? I argue that doing the work of confronting these tensions is an urgent task that must be done alongside finding spaces - albeit cracks and fissures - from which to do crucial anti-racist work of ‘decolonizing the western academy’. This is not an end-goal in and of itself - not least perhaps because of its impossibility - but rather as part of a self-liberatory process facilitating the re-existence of people of colour within the academy.
  • Jivraj, S., Bacchetta, P. and Bakshi, S. (2020). Decolonial Sexualities: Paola Bacchetta in Conversation with Suhraiya Jivraj and Sandeep Bakshi. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies [article] 22:574-585. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369801X.2020.1749710.
    In this roundtable forum, decolonial dyke-queer theorist Paola Bacchetta begins with a discussion of the span of decolonial queer theorization as it gained momentum in several fields of critical inquiry. Connecting it to contemporary mobilizations – anti-imperial, decolonial, anti-racism, feminist, queer – appears in this scenario as one of its key constituent features. Understanding, critiquing and transforming relations of power emerges as a necessary dimension of decolonizing queer/sexualities. For Bacchetta, decolonial queer/sexualities emanates from and brings into focus disparate geopolitical sites, analytics, expressions and activisms. Bacchetta proposes the concept-term “situated planetarities” to think about how power operates, and about subjects, in any specific context in relation to the planet. She elaborates the notions “co-formations” and “co-productions” to consider different kinds of relations of power (coloniality, racism, capitalism, class, misogynarchies, including sexism, queerphobia, transphobia) that are co-constitutive of each other and that structure all of life. She provides transnational examples. It is, in this regard, a compelling observation for both academic scholarship of activism and grassroots political mobilization.
  • Alessandrini, D. and Jivraj, S. (2017). Conceptualising the Economy-Society Nexus in Well-Being and Happiness Initiatives: Gross National Happiness in Business in Bhutan and Social Impact Bonds in the United Kingdom. International Critical Thought [Online] 7:526-546. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21598282.2017.1357482.
    This article explores how well-being and happiness (WBH) is conceptualised in different geographical contexts, and how this understanding is able to affect policymaking and engender socio-economic and legal change. Whilst WBH initiatives seemingly stem from a critique of gross domestic product as a measure of societal “progress,” we show how, in itself, such critique cannot be the basis for understanding WBH as a unitary transnational phenomenon that offers a radical re-thinking of the relationship between economy and society. By focusing on two concrete instances and specific sites, that of the Social Impact Bond in the United Kingdom and the “Gross National Happiness in Business” project in Bhutan, we argue that individual contexts and initiatives must be closely studied, and suggest that conflations between different well-being agendas need to be avoided to pay closer attention to the ways in which well-being can be co-opted or fashioned through policymaking and government initiatives.
  • Alessandrini, D., Jivraj, S. and Zokaityte, A. (2015). Exploring Well-Being and Gross National Happiness in Sustainable Development Policy Making. Indian Journal of International Economic Law [Online] 7:52-88. Available at: https://www.nls.ac.in/resources/ijiel2015.pdf.
  • Jivraj, S. (2013). Interrogating Religion: Christian/secular values, citizenship and racial upliftment in governmental education policy. International Journal of Law in Context [Online] 9:318-342. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1744552313000165.
  • Douglas, S., Jivraj, S. and Lamble, S. (2011). Liabilities of Queer Anti-Racist Critique. Feminist Legal Studies [Online] 19:107-118. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10691-011-9181-6.
  • Jivraj, S. and de Jong, A. (2011). The Dutch Homo-Emancipation Policy and its Silencing Effects on Queer Muslims. Feminist Legal Studies [Online] 19:143-158. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10691-011-9182-5.
    The recent Dutch homo-emancipation policy has identified religious communities, particularly within migrant populations, as a core target group in which to make homosexuality more ‘speakable’. In this article we examine the paradoxical silencing tendencies of this ‘speaking out’ policy on queer Muslim organisations in the Netherlands. We undertake this analysis as the Dutch government is perhaps unique in developing an explicit ‘homo-emancipation’ policy and is often looked to as the model for sexuality politics and legal redress in relation to inequalities on the basis of sexual orientation. We highlight how the ‘speakability’ imperative in the Dutch homo-emancipation policy reproduces a paradigmatic, ‘homonormative’ model of an ‘out’ and ‘visible’ queer sexuality that has also come to be embedded in an anti-immigrant and specifically anti-Muslim discourse in the Netherlands. Drawing on the concept of habitus, particularly in the work of Gloria Wekker, we suggest that rather than relying on a ‘speakability’ policy model, queer Muslim sexualities need to be understood in a more nuanced and intersecting way that attends to their lived realities.
  • Jivraj, S. and Herman, D. (2009). ’It’s difficult for a white judge to understand’: Orientalism, Racialisation, and Christianity in English child welfare cases. Child & Family Law Quarterly 21:283-308.

Book

  • Jivraj, S. (2013). The Religion of Law: Race, Citizenship and Children’s Belonging. Palgrave Macmillan.
    How is religion, particularly non-Christianness, conceptualised and represented in English law? What is the relationship between religion, race, ethnicity and culture in these conceptualisations? What might be the socio-political effects of conceptualising religion in particular ways? This book addresses these key questions in two areas of law relating to children.

    The first case study focuses on child welfare cases and reveals how the boundaries between race and theological notions of religion as belief and practice are blurred. Non-Christians are also often perceived as uncivilized but also, at times, racial otherness can be erased and assimilated. The second examines religion in education and the increasing focus on 'common values'. It demonstrates how non-Christian faith schools are deemed as in need of regulation, while Christian schools are the benchmark of good citizenship. In addition, values discourse and citizenship education provide a means to 'de-racialise' non-Christian children in the ongoing construction of the nation.

    Central to this analysis is a focus on religion as a socio-political, contingent, fluid and invented concept.

Book section

  • Jivraj, S. (2016). Stopping a Racist March—Activism Beyond the Incommensurability of (Homo)Sexuality and Religion. In: Jivraj, S., Bakshi, S. and Posocco, S. eds. Decolonizing Sexualities: Trans-National Perspectives, and Critical Interventions. Counter Press. Available at: http://counterpress.org.uk/publications/decolonizing-sexualities/.
  • Jivraj, S. (2016). Decolonizing Understandings of Race, Religion and Sexuality. In: Bakshi, S., Jivraj, S. and Posocco, S. eds. Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions. Counterpress. Available at: http://counterpress.org.uk/publications/decolonizing-sexualities/.
  • Jivraj, S. (2008). Secularism. In: Cane, P. and Conaghan, J. eds. The New Oxford Companion to Law. Oxford University Press, p. 1063.
  • Jivraj, S. and de Jong, A. (2004). Muslim Moral Instruction on Homosexuality. In: Sears, J. ed. Youth, Education, and Sexualities. Greenwood, pp. 574-579.

Confidential report

  • Jivraj, S., de Jong, A. and Tauqir, T. (2003). The Safra Project: Initial Findings. Safra Project.

Edited book

  • Jivraj, S. (2016). Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, and Critical Interventions. [Online]. Jivraj, S., Bakshi, S. and Posocco, S. eds. Counter Press. Available at: http://counterpress.org.uk/publications/decolonizing-sexualities/.

Monograph

  • Jivraj, S. (2020). Towards Anti-Racist Legal Pedagogy: A Resource. University of Kent. Available at: https://research.kent.ac.uk/decolonising-law-schools/.
    This Social and Legal Studies Association (SLSA) funded project is aimed at assisting teachers to develop anti-racist pedagogy in their teaching in five of the six foundation subjects currently required for a qualifying law degree (QLD).

Research report (external)

  • Jivraj, S. and de Jong, A. (2003). A Resource on Sexuality, Gender and Islam. Safra Project.
  • Jivraj, S. (2003). Knowing Our Rights: Women, Family, Laws and Customs in the Muslim World. Women Living Under Muslim Laws.
  • Jivraj, S., de Jong, A. and Tauquir, T. (2002). Report of Initial Findings: Identifying the Difficulties Experienced by Muslim Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Women in Accessing Social and Legal Services. [Online]. Safra Project. Available at: http://www.safraproject.org.

Review

  • Jivraj, S. (2007). Book Review of ’Politics of Piety; The Islamic revival and the Feminist Subject. Feminist Legal Studies 15:247-249.

Forthcoming

  • Memon, A. and Jivraj, S. (2020). Carving out Decolonial Space within the University Through Student-Staff Collaboration: The Role of Trust, Courage & Silence. The Law Teacher.
    On 20th March 2019, the Decolonise UoK, formerly Decolonise UKC conference took place at the University of Kent. The highlight of the conference and the labour of the collective was its manifesto to the university with recommendations in three key areas. Whilst Decolonise UoK is one of a number of contemporary UK student movements seeking to decolonise and/or liberate the university curriculum what is unique about this collective is that the student-staff collaboration is at the heart of the project and always was from its inception. The underlying objective was to co-produce knowledge and research as pedagogy, in meaningful and not just tokenistic ways. This end goal was not intended to be a strategic intervention to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work within universities although the body of knowledge (the manifesto and the Decolonise UoK Collective book is open access for everyone to read and implement. Rather the key goal was always focused on the empowerment of its constituents by working in community – the doing and being – inside and outside the classroom and campus. We explore this process of self-empowerment through the concepts of (re-)existence/resistance from decolonial studies in combination with the black feminist Critical Race Theory (CRT) methods of counter-narrating. We discuss the detail of racialised life both as part of surviving and through resisting institutional racism and its affective impact upon us. We argue that the necessary conditions that made it possible to do the work of self-empowerment from our intersectional and multiple positionalities across the student-staff continuum within the neo-liberal university have been trust, courage and silence.
  • Thomas, D. and Jivraj, S. (2020). The dissonant state of affairs in the academy and the audacity of a kaleidoscope for change. In: Thomas, D. and Jivraj, S. eds. Towards Decolonising the University: A Kaleidoscope for Empowered Action. Oxford, UK: Counterpress.
  • Thomas, D. (2020). Decolonising the University of Kent: Where it still must go and what it still must be. In: Thomas, D. and Jivraj, S. eds. Towards Decolonising the University: A Kaleidoscope for Empowered Action. Counterpress.
  • Thomas, D. and Jivraj, S. (2020). Towards Decolonising the University: A Kaleidoscope for Empowered Action. Thomas, D. and Jivraj, S. eds. Counterpress.
  • Jivraj, S. (2020). Decolonising the University: Success, Pitfalls and Next Steps. In: Thomas, D. and Jivraj, S. eds. Towards Decolonising the University: A Kaleidoscope for Empowered Action. Counterpress, pp. 165-180.
Last updated