Far from Mecca: Globalizing the Muslim Caribbean

Far from Mecca: Globalizing the Muslim Caribbean is the first academic work on Muslims in the English-speaking Caribbean. The author Dr Aliyah Khan focuses on the fiction, poetry, and music of Islam in Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica.

Combining archival research, ethnography, and literary analysis, Khan argues for a historical continuity of Afro- and Indo-Muslim presence and cultural production in the Caribbean.

Case studies explored range from Arabic-language autobiographical and religious texts written by enslaved Sufi West Africans in nineteenth-century Jamaica, to early twentieth-century fictions of post-indenture South Asian Muslim indigeneity and El Dorado, to the attempted government coup in 1990 by the Jamaat al-Muslimeen in Trinidad, as well as the island’s calypso music, to contemporary judicial cases concerning Caribbean Muslims and global terrorism.

Khan argues that the Caribbean Muslim subject, the “fullaman,” a performative identity that relies on gendering and racializing Islam, troubles discourses of creolization that are fundamental to postcolonial nationalisms in the Caribbean.

Dr Aliyah Khan is an associate professor in the U-M Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and the Department of English Language and Literature. She is also the Director of the Global Islamic Studies Center (GISC) at the International Institute. Dr Khan specializes in postcolonial Caribbean literature and the contemporary literature of the Muslim and Islamic worlds, with a particular focus on the intersections of race, gender, and Islam in the hemispheric Americas, including in immigrant communities in North America. She has also presented and taught widely in the field of Muslim representation in comics and graphic novels and is on the editorial board of Bloombsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies.

Far from Mecca: Globalizing the Muslim Caribbean (Rutgers University Press 2020, University of the West Indies Press 2021), Dr. Khan’s recent book, is the first academic monograph on the literature, history, and music of Caribbean Islam, focusing on Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica, and on enslaved Muslim West Africans, indentured Indian colonial sugar plantation laborers, and their Muslim Caribbean descendants. Far from Mecca garnered three national awards: honorable mention in the 2021 Modern Language Association Prize for a first book; 2018-2019 American Comparative Literature Association Helen Tartar First Book Subvention Award, and the 2017-2018 American Association of University Women (AAUW) Postdoctoral Research National Fellowship award. Dr. Khan’s work has also appeared in academic venues including GLQ, the Caribbean Review of Gender StudiesCaribbean Quarterly, the Journal of West Indian Literature, and Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in media including the Caribbean fiction and nonfiction collection Bookmarked (2021), Pree: Caribbean Literature, and Agents of Ishq.

Dr. Khan is an advisory board member of the Journal for the Study of Indentureship and its Legacies, a national university program consultant on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues with a specialty in Africana and Islamic Studies programs, a longstanding member of the advisory board of the U-M Arab and Muslim American Studies Program in the Department of American Culture, and a fellow of the U-M Center for World Performance Studies, for her research on Urdu Indo-Caribbean Muslim qasida devotional songs. She is currently conducting research for a book project on Caribbean hurricanes, regional environmental disasters and oil drilling, and their implications for contemporary migration and economies in the hemispheric Americas.