Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

S. Sayyid

Professor of Social Theory and Decolonial Thought; Head of School

I have a first degree in International Relations, a Masters in Ideology and Discourse Analysis and my doctorate was in Government. One of the ironies of my academic career is that I have found myself mainly working in Sociology departments. Perhaps, then, it is not that surprising that my work is interdisciplinary.

 Before joining Leeds on a five-year University Research Fellowship, I had worked in universities in London and Manchester.  In 2010 I had an opportunity to take time off from Leeds and was appointed Professor and the inaugural director of a newly formed research centre in Adelaide, Australia.   During my time in Australia:

  • I made a film Everything You wanted To Know about Muslims But Were Afraid to Ask. The financing for this film was the result of a successful bid to the Commonwealth’s Attorney General’s Community Resilience Fund.  The twenty-five minute long film, in broadcast quality, was targeted at 16+ schools pupils.  It eschewed the format of talking heads of ‘normal’ Muslims trading in platitudes about extremism, for a dramatic approach which sought to shift the conversations from trying to interdict extremism to sustaining citizenship.
  • My interest in the practice of citizenship also found expression in establishing, with the Australia Day Council (SA), a scheme for an annual national Award for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding. The aim of the award was to recognize the efforts of individuals and organizations, (with or without religious affiliation), that have done the most to improve understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia.
  • Intellectually, my time in Australia was spent developing the field of Critical Muslim Studies.  This development began with a programme of international conferences, symposia and workshops which I organized under the theme of ‘Reorienting the World; Decolonial Horizons’.

Since returning to the UK, I have continued my work in Critical Muslim Studies with the launch of a new interdisciplinary peer reviewed academic journal: ReOrient, and the publication of the book Recalling the Caliphate.

My previous monograph A Fundamental Fear has had a rather curious reception.  It has helped to transform the way in which Islamism is analyzed, it has been translated into a number of languages, it is in its third edition; but since 2006 it has been banned by the Malaysian government.  The ban is based on British colonial legislation which allows for the proscription of publications deemed to be, among other things, prejudicial to public morality… which I suppose can be seen as example of impact.

More prosaic instances of impact however are provided by my frequent briefing (including writing commissioned reports) to senior government officials, including minsters, as well as contributions to national and international media. I have been interviewed and contributed to programmes of national and international broadcasters including ABC (Australia), BBC, CBC (Canada), Press TV (Iran), Channel Four (UK) and  ORF (Austria).  I have also contributed frequent opinion pieces to newspapers in this country and abroad.

Research Interests

The series of questions that animate my research across various mediums revolve around the processes by which systems of societies are formed and develop through history.  All my publications, research bids, invitations to speak are attempts at exploring this process of world-making and its implications.  These explorations have two main dimensions. One dimension arises from theoretical issues and is organized around the relationship between a postructuralist discourse theory and decolonial thought. In particular, my emphasis has been to explore the constitutive interplay between rhetoric and social order.  At a substantive level, I study specific instances  of the process of world-making, such as the part played by racism in the formation of modern societies, investigations of alternative worlds signalled by the various Islamist projects or, or the constitutive role of rhetoric in the formations of collective identities.  Some of these research interests are bundled together under the umbrella of Critical Muslim Studies. Recently, I have looked at the causes of radicalism among Muslim populations, tolerance and multiculturalism, racism and Islamophobia.


I convene postcolonialism and critical Muslim Studies, at level 3; I am also part of the team that teaches Central Problems in Sociology at level 2.

PhD Supervision

I am keen to supervise research students interested in ontological analysis rather than ontic studies.  To facilitate this and, as part of my supervision, I run a regular tutorial series:  ‘Rhetoric and Decolonial Discourse Theory’, the aim of which is to explore epistemological and methodological issues and develop an analytical vocabulary for PhD research.  In the past I have successfully supervised students in and around topics dealing with inter-ethnic conflict, art education and Eurocentrism, the politics of Islamophobia, multiculturalism, and gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia. Currently I am keen to supervise students wishing to research the following topics:

  • Decolonial Thought
  • Critical Muslim Studies
  • Analysis of Islamophobia and racism
  • Historical and relational macro-sociology

Key Publications


  • Sayyid S, Islamism as Philosophy Decolonial Horizons (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015)

  • Sayyid S, Recalling the Caliphate (London: Hurst Publishers, 2015)

  • Law IG, Sian K, Sayyid S, Racism, Governance and Social Policy, beyond human rights, Routledge Advances in Sociology Series (London: Routledge, 2013)

  • Sayyid S, Vakil A, Thinking Through Islamophobia Global Perspectives (Cinco Puntos Press, 2010)

  • Sayyid S, Al-Khawf al-Uṣūlī: Al-Markaziyyat al-Ūrūbiyya wa Burūz al-Islām (Beiruit, Lebanon: Al-Farabi, 2007)

  • Sayyid S, A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism (Zed Book Ltd, 2003), 2nd

Journal articles


  • Sayyid S, ‘Towards a Critique of Eurocentrism: Remarks on Wittgenstein, Philosophy and Racism’, in Eurocentrism, Racism and Knowledge: Debates on History and Power in Europe and the Americas and the Americas, ed. by Araújo M (London: Palgrave, 2015), 82-92

  • Sayyid S, ‘Khomeini and the decolonization of the political’, in A Critical Introduction to Khomeini ([n.pub.], 2012), 275-290
    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511998485.015

Media Contact Areas

  • Political Islam/Islamism
  • Racism and Islamophobia
  • Multiculturalism and Citizenship
  • Democracy  and Extremism

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