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(Re)thinking Orientalism

Using Graphic Narratives to Teach Critical Visual Literacy


Rachel Bailey Jones

(Re)thinking Orientalism is a text that examines the visual discourse of Orientalism through the pedagogy of contemporary graphic narratives. Using feminist, critical race, and postcolonial theoretical and pedagogical lenses, the book uses visual discourse analysis and visual semiology to situate the narratives within Islamophobia and neo-Orientalism in the post-9/11 media context. In the absence of mainstream media that tells the complex stories of Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world, there has been a wave of publications of graphic narratives written and drawn from various perspectives that can be used to create curriculum that presents culture, religion, and experience from a multitude of perspectives. The book is an accessible, upper level undergraduate/graduate level text written to give readers insights into toxic xenophobia created through media representation. It provides a theoretical foundation for students to engage in critical analysis and production of visual media.
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2 Situating the Discourse: Orientalism and Islamophobia



Situating the Discourse: Orientalism and Islamophobia

To situate the analysis of the representation of difference in graphic narratives, we need to understand the historical context. My particular interest in the Western representation of Muslims and/or Arabs in the media and popular culture post-9/11 necessitates going into some depth about the colonial creation and distribution of Orientalism as a form of cultural control. The systematic control and the historical evolution of Orientalism facilitated and provided fertile ground for the rise of Islamophobia in the post-September 11th era.

The creation of the Orient and Occident as divergent, unequal geographical and cultural spheres dates historically to before the Crusades, when European Christians went east to fight Muslims and drive them out of the Holy Land of Jerusalem. Called to fight by Pope Urban in 1095, western European leaders fought under the banner of the Pope and Christianity, wearing the cross as a sign of their religious identity. The Crusades finally ended after the fall of Crusader capital Acre in 1290. The Crusades, as with most historical periods, are hotly contested territory for historians. There are those historians, most famously Steve Runciman (1951–1954), author of A History of the Crusades, Vol. I–III, who present the Crusades as the unprovoked attack and aggression of the Catholic Church and western Europe on generally peaceful Muslim civilization to the east. Other ← 27 | 28 → historians, like Thomas F. Madden (2014) in his reissued volume, The Concise History of...

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