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(Re)thinking Orientalism

Using Graphic Narratives to Teach Critical Visual Literacy

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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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5 Muslims in the American Media: The Muslims I Know, All-American Muslim, and Graphic Representations

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CHAPTER FIVE

Muslims in the American Media: The Muslims I Know, All-American Muslim, and Graphic Representations

All-American Muslim (Braxton, 2011) and The Muslims I Know (Ahmed, 2008) are two media representations of Muslim Americans that add to and disrupt the current of toxic xenophobia in the United States. Toxic xenophobia works to mark the other as fundamentally different from and outside the imagined community and trying to destroy that which the community holds most dear (Bailey Jones, 2011). I argue that the popular education Americans are receiving about difference (constructed as both inherent and toxic) is in many ways challenged by recent media interventions. The educational effectiveness and potential of these media are impacted by size of audience, scope, and backlash framed by the toxic xenophobia. The paradox of educating about difference is that efforts to change and challenge bias are often thwarted by the blinding effects of the bias. Other entries into American and global media have a stated goal of counteracting Islamophobia and the flattened images available to young people about Muslims in the media.

These works variously confront and reinscribe the tropes of the Muslim American as same, other, and toxic. The placement of Muslim Americans outside the imagined community of Americans was a collective reaction that built on a long history of Western Orientalism. The way that the ← 95 | 96 → ethnogenesis in the wake of 9/11 transformed into toxic xenophobia requires greater investigation. Abu El-Haj (2010) offered a framework for...

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