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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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9 Habibi: The Outsider Looking In

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CHAPTER NINE

Habibi: The Outsider Looking In

Craig Thompson is widely regarded as one of the most skilled artists of the medium, known for his almost obsessive attention to detail and precision in his drawing and calligraphy. He produced four major works: Good-bye Chunky Rice (1999), Blankets (2004a), Carnet de Voyage (2004b), and Habibi (2011). I follow the trajectory of his work, starting with Blankets. Two of the three books that I analyze are autobiographical representations of self, while the third, Habibi, is a sweeping fictional tale of people and places very far from Thompson’s imagined community. Habibi is overtly referential to Orientalist painting from the late 19th century. The stunning, yet problematic, visuals are almost perfect copies of paintings of harems and hammams that titillated Europeans and created a fantastical and imaginary Orient. Though the author purposefully used Orientalism, he did so in a manner that does not cause the reader to question or critically analyze the creation, rather it is a beautiful homage to the genre that is steeped in colonialism and ethnocentrism.

Thompson’s Blankets, Carnet, and Habibi

In Blankets, Thompson (2004a) illustrates his childhood and adolescence in Wisconsin. He draws and writes out of his memories of his mother’s deep ← 161 | 162 → faith, the lessons about Christianity taught in Sunday school, the bullies in school who tormented him for his size, his hair, being poor, and not fitting the mold of masculinity. He also recounts with great tenderness and...

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