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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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10 Graphic Narratives of Self and Other: American Born Chinese, Pyongyang, and Fun Home

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CHAPTER TEN

Graphic Narratives of Self and Other: American Born Chinese, Pyongyang, and Fun Home

This chapter expands the critical visual analysis to several texts that explore the representation of self and other outside of the geographical and cultural context of the rest of the book. Though the primary focus of this book is on the way difference is constructed and represented between the so-called Orient and Occident, the Muslim world and the West, there are many interesting examples of graphic narratives that challenge the representation of multiple forms of difference that can add to our understanding of critical visual literacy.

Fun Home

There are many graphic narratives that explore issues of identity and difference, whether racial, ethnic, cultural, gendered, and/or sexual. One of the more acclaimed graphic narratives in the recent past is Fun Home, by Allison Bechdel (2007). This narrative follows the troubled relationship of the author with her father. The sexuality of her father and her own sexual identity form part of the narrative and represent the larger struggle to relate to each other in ways that approach a form of honest communication. The “fun home” of the title refers to the funeral home that Bechdel’s father operated, a place where she and her brothers spent quite a bit of their childhood time. Death becomes an everyday reality for the kids because of ← 183 | 184 → their father’s occupation. Bechdel’s father is not a loving figure in her memory; he...

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