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Muslims in the Western Imagination: Book by Sophia Rose Arjana

Muslims in the Western Imagination

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ISBN: 9780199324927    Publisher: Oxford University Press Year of publishing: 2015     Format:  Hardback No of Pages: 280        Language: English
Muslims in the Western Imagination explores the ways in which Muslim men are depicted as monsters throughout history. Monsters help a society delineate who belongs in a social group and who, or what, is excluded....Read more
Muslims in the Western Imagination explores the ways in which Muslim men are depicted as monsters throughout history. Monsters help a society delineate who belongs in a social group and who, or what, is excluded. Even when Muslim monsters are symbolic, as in post-9/11 zombie films, they still function to define Muslims as non-human entities. These are not portrayals of Muslim men as malevolent human characters, but rather as creatures that occupy the imagination-non-humans that exhibit their wickedness outwardly on the skin. They populate medieval tales, Renaissance paintings, Shakespearean dramas, Gothic horror novels, and Hollywood films. Through an exhaustive survey of medieval, early modern, and contemporary literature, art, and cinema, Sophia Rose Arjana examines the dehumanizing ways in which Muslim men have been constructed and represented as monsters, and the impact such representations have on perceptions of Muslims. The study is the first to present a Foucauldian genealogy of these creatures, from the demons and giants of the Middle Ages to the hunchbacks with filed teeth that appeared in the 2006 film 300.
The book argues that constructions of Muslim monsters constitute a recurring theme, first formulated in medieval Christian anti-Semitism. Arjana shows how Muslim monsters are often related to Jewish monsters, and more broadly to Christian anti-Semitism, which involves both religious bigotry and fears surrounding bodily differences. Like the Jewish monster, the Muslim monster is not simply a product of religious bigotry, but of anxiety surrounding bodily difference. Overall, Arjana argues persuasively, these dehumanizing constructions deeply embedded in Western consciousness are internalized beliefs and practices that contribute to the culture of violence-both rhetorical and bodily- against Muslims.
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About the author: Sophia Rose Arjana
Sophia Rose Arjana is Visiting Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Iliff School of Theology.

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Review:
Islamophobia is a broad pathology of our times. Pegged to September 11, 2001, it has continued to flourish in the shadow of subsequent wars waged by the US and its allies, throughout the Middle...Read more
Islamophobia is a broad pathology of our times. Pegged to September 11, 2001, it has continued to flourish in the shadow of subsequent wars waged by the US and its allies, throughout the Middle East. While Abu Ghraib became one of the showcases of American horror, Homeland set the mark for thinking about, or imagining, Muslim enemies. Both are highlighted in this, the first genealogy, which is also a semiotics, of Islamophobia. A well-researched, carefully staged book, it illumines how brutal images of monster Muslims have become commonplace, almost reflexive in the long afterlife of the War on Terror. Bruce Lawrence, Professor of Islamic Studies Emeritus, Duke University Rigorously historical, and partaking of the best of discursive analysis, this is a remarkable study of the distorted mirror in which the Western imagination has conceived of Muslims. As Arjana demonstrates, this tells me almost nothing about Muslims, and a great deal about the Western imagination. Arjana makes a persuasive case that in order to understand the dehumanizing practices in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and elsewhere, we need to cast a much longer critical look at the history of the Western imaginaire about Muslims [as] Monsters. Essential reading for Islamic studies, American studies, and European history. Omid Safi, Director of Duke Islamic Studies Center, Duke University In The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie wrote this about the power of representation: They describe us ... that's all. They have the power of description, and we succumb to the pictures they construct. In her exhaustive and often disturbing work, Sophia Arjana catalogues the many ways in which Muslims have been described as monsters. It is a compelling book. Amir Hussain, Editor, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
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