School of Politics and International Relations

Image of Ibtisam Ahmed

Ibtisam Ahmed

Doctoral Researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences



Ibtisam is currently pursuing his PhD in the School of Politics and International Relations. He is associated with the Nottingham Centre for Normative Political Theory (CONCEPT), the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ), and the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies (IAPS) at the School. He is also affiliated with the Centre for Research in Race and Rights (C3R), a multidisciplinary research centre based at the university. His PhD thesis looks at whether and how the British Empire can be studied as an attempt at political Utopia, with both eutopian and dystopian implications, and a focus on the former British Raj.

Prior to starting his PhD at the School of Politics and International Relations, Ibtisam completed his MA in Public Policy (with Distinction) at the University of Warwick, securing the Politics and International Studies Prize for Highest Overall Average in MA Public Policy. He also holds a BA (Joint Honours) in History and Politics from the University of Nottingham.

He is a regular political columnist and former obituarist for the leading Bangladeshi daily newspaper, the Dhaka Tribune. He is also a member of University Radio Nottingham, the university's student radio station, where is producer and presenter of the international podcast Window to the World, host of the LGBTQ+ discussion show The Identity Talk, host of the popular culture discussion show The Popular Table, and contributor to the feminism podcast The Nineteen Percent.

Expertise Summary

  • Critical utopian theory
  • Critical dystopian theory
  • Queer theory
  • BME queer history
  • Imperialism and historiography
  • South Asian historiography
  • Politics of arts and culture
  • Politics of fiction

Research Summary

Research Question: Can the British Empire be Studied as an Attempt at Political Utopia?

The historical legacy of imperialism has had a lasting impact on political thought in the decades since its collapse. Yet, few studies focus on the motivations and theoretical basis of imperialism, choosing to look at its consequences in isolation. Ibtisam's thesis follows the framework used by Maria Varsam (in her study of US slavery), Stelio Cro (in his study of Spanish imperialism) and Lyman Tower Sargent (in his study of imperial legacy) to examine the British Empire as a deliberate attempt at political utopia. Using the British Raj as its central case study. Its focus is based on how the imperial project was a civilising mission that wanted to create a utopian good life for the locals, including through policing of morality, gender, sexuality, language, arts, and culture. The goal is to consider how these various areas created eutopian conditions as well as dystopian, or possibly anti-utopian, off-shoots for both Britain and the Indian subcontinent. It is hoped that the examination of these eutopian and dystopian interplays can viably suggest a utopian study for imperialism and, ideally, open the door for similar considerations for other systems in the future.


Recent Publications

Past Research

Ibtisam's research has always focused on the field of political utopianism and imperialism. His BA dissertation examined religious extremism in the former British Raj through a dystopian framework focusing on fear, forced identities, oppression and rebellion. An edited version of this dissertation manuscript is currently undergoing peer review for publication. His MA dissertation examined the imperial legacy of the British penal code on LGBTQ+ rights and identities in India.

He has written about the utopian implications of popular culture, including an essay on how the dilemmas represented in Spider-Man comics can be used to study morality in utopian attempts. His work has also touched on approaches to feminist and queer theory, political history, cultural studies, and South Asian democratisation.

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