Category Archives: Race and Ethnicity

Media Representation & Islamophobia

In my RBA I plan to analyze the comic series Ms. Marvel and its lead, Kamala Khan, as a response to Islamophobia in media representation post-9/11. By examining the creation of the image of the Muslim male as a terrorist and therefore a dangerous “other”, I hope to determine the importance of media representation and how or why it is effective in supporting a specific national image. Furthermore, I plan to establish how Kamala Khan is a response to this rhetoric and in what ways her story and character reinforces or subverts it, particularly as a possible response to assimilation pressures and the erasure of hyphenated identities.

 

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https://bubbl.us/#06389000135877041

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Japanese Internment & Policing of Middle Eastern Bodies

For my RBA, I plan to research parallels between Japanese internment in response to Pearl Harbor and the policing of Middle Eastern bodies after 9/11 to show that containment culture and the marginalization of races is been embedded in American history. Due to extreme paranoia, the races held responsible for Pearl Harbor and 9/11 soon became seen as the “enemy,” and the military swept up innocent people and forced them into detention facilities in order to increase national security. However, as I will prove in my RBA, containment has only exposed America to racism, xenophobia, and animosity, leading America to be less safe. Below depicts the possible structure for my RBA:

barnett-rba-outline

The American Superhero

My research topic focuses on Ms. Marvel as a response to Islamophobia in the post-9/11 era. Specifically, I hope to relate how this attitude echoes the “us vs. them” dichotomy rhetoric that was prevalent during the Cold War era.

There has been frequent discussion in both academic and popular press about Ms. Marvel as a face of the changing dynamics of representation in comics. In her book Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation, Carolyn Cocca outlines the surprising success of the series and the relatability of its protagonist, as well. She also briefly discuss the image of Kamala and her family as subversions of the image of Muslims as terrorists that is frequently presented in modern media. Miriam Kent has also examined the popularity of the comic in her article “Unveiling Marvels: Ms. Marvel And The Reception Of The New Muslim Superheroine.”, where she addresses the overwhelmingly positive reception that Ms.Marvel has received from the press. However, she notes “a fondness for assimilation” in pitches from critics, who frequently stress the character’s relatability as a quirky teenager who is “just like us”, thereby reducing and sometimes ignoring the importance of her status as a depiction of a female Muslim character in comics. Kent also discusses the depiction of “otherness” in Ms. Marvel and Kamala’s attempt to balance her identity as a Pakistani American and her desire to fit in. I hope to further the discussion by addressing how Ms. Marvel’s depiction of Kamala Khan as an American superhero reconstructs what it means to be American, specifically as it relates to the “us vs. them” rhetoric that returned in the post-9/11 era, and better explain how this representation is a response to the post-9/11 era.

Guantanamo Bay & Combating Terrorism

I am researching how the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay has impacted America’s ability to combat terrorism. My topic reveals how containment of individuals in an effort to lessen violence can actually exacerbate it, displayed by the idea that detention at Guantanamo fueled terrorist organizations.

Many scholars have debated the tactics used at Guantanamo Bay and the resulting impacts on the war on terror. Some historians, such as Gerard P. Fogarty, have explored the benefits of Guantanamo Bay, including how it has improved the security of the United States by allowing the government to better understand al Qaeda and its affiliates, which is critical to disrupting their attack plans. However, the majority of scholars have argued that unlawful detention has hurt America’s ability to combat terrorism. The use of torture has encouraged foreign extremists to join terrorist organizations because leaders of terrorist groups use Guantanamo Bay as a recruiting tool to justify hatred toward Americans. Additionally, many historians have suggested that Guantanamo Bay and other forms of detention has lead to increased domestic and international criticism of the United States. This makes it challenging for America to recruit Iraqi allies, weakening America’s ability to combat terrorism. Historians also discuss how unlawful responses to terrorism can worsen our military’s professionalism, integrity, and recruitment and can even reduce the government’s influence, authority, and power. In my RBA, I want to argue that Guantanamo Bay has fueled terrorist organizations. I would like to use Guantanamo Bay to show that when countries contain individuals in an effort to control violence, the effects of the containment can exacerbate the issue. In particular, when they are contained based on race, those individuals are more likely to resent those who capture them because of the discrimination.

Islamophobia as a new type of McCarthyism

          After 9/11, the rising intolerance towards Muslim communities and the clash between different types of faith are examples of scapegoating that illustrate the reminiscence of Cold War ideologies and McCarthyism. This topic is relevant since Islamophobia has become a bigger issue today, after the terrorist attacks around the world.

          Authors I have read so far explain the scapegoating of Muslims, and the discrimination that the government makes in anti-terrorists programs. Most of the sources explore the exclusion of Muslim communities and the denial of their civil and religious rights. Scholars show this denial of rights through discriminatory arrest programs FBI-led. For instance, the PENTTBOM (Pentagon Twin Towers Bombings) or the PATRIOT Act allowed the FBI to conduct arrests based on the origin and appearance of a given “suspect.” Moreover, these sources show the “us” versus “them” mentality of the post 9/11 American public, and more importantly the rise in paranoia and fear of Muslims as potential terrorists. Indeed, after 9/11, public issues regarding religious freedom arose, such as the controversy about the Burqa or the Burkini this summer in France. The population, seeing in these sign of Islam a terrorist threat, fears an aggression by “infiltrated enemy combatants.”

          Throughout my research, I intend to talk about what these trends have become today, after the different terrorists attacks around the world and the War in Syria. More importantly, I intend to compare Islamophobia and McCarthyism, as both movement have similar traits, and it seems like some officials and personalities are trying to gain influence and audience inducing a fear of Muslims.

 

Sources:

Thomas, Jeffrey L. Scapegoating Islam: Intolerance, Security, and the American Muslim. , 2015. Print. Chapter 2: “9/11 and the New Homeland Security paradigm”

Cesari, Jocelyne. Muslims in the West After 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law. London: Routledge, 2010. Print. (Chapter 8 and 9)

Tamney, Joseph B. American Views of Islam, Post 9/11. Islamabad, Pakistan: Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, 2004. Print. (pages 1-19)

“Threatened from above and within”

“Central cities, for many commentators, were spaces of blight, repositories of extreme cultures, classes and races, threatened from above and within” (Farish 141).

In Matthew Farish’s essay “Disaster and decentralization: American cities and the Cold War,” he points at many reasons for turmoil, instability, and degradation of American cities during the Cold War era. In the quote above, he highlights this overall concept of these cities being “threatened from above and within”; in his essay, he touches on threats from “above” being things like atomic bombs from foreign powers and threats from “within” being social instability and racial unrest. He uses this quote as a means to juxtapose and streamline many components of American cities that led to them being threatened; for example, he highlights their “central” nature as a means for foreign targeting, while also highlighting the “cultures, classes and races” of American cities that lead to turmoil within them. The fact that he places this sentence in the conclusion effectively allows him to resummarize and emphasize his argument after proving its many components.

Images of Hiroshima created the notion that a similar atrocity or destruction could happen to any American, centralized city; these images later carried over into works of Cold War pop culture that depicted cities like New York as constant targets and oftentimes as ruins caused by nuclear fallout. The image of the Twin Towers falling on 9/11 garners a similar reaction as that of the atomic bomb’s destruction on Hiroshima. This imagery lends the idea that any terrorist attack could hit a major American city, and average Americans became increasingly paranoid as a result. This possibility of terror and destruction also has carried over into pop culture as it did during the Cold War era, as many recent American films have detailed terrorists destroying or targeting American cities and plotting to kidnap or harm important American figures.

Containment Culture in “The Night Of”

HBO’s “The Night Of” unfolds the life of the protagonist Nasir (Naz) Khan, a Pakistani-American college student living in New York City post-9/11. The mini series explores one crime through various angles. In the opening episode, Naz borrows his father’s taxi to go to a party in the city. A beautiful woman, Andrea, enters his vehicle, and the night is soon filled with sex and drugs. The next morning, Naz wakes up to find Andrea stabbed to death, and he cannot remember what happened. He leaves the scene and is later arrested—the police discover a bloody knife matching the murder weapon inside Naz’s jacket and witnesses identify him. Naz is sent to manhattan Central Booking and then to Rikers Island jail.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=556N5vojtp0

Naz, a “good boy” from a middle-class family, is soon immersed in a place filled with rape, beatings, knifings, and drug smuggling. The character is changed by his experiences: he eventually begins to lift weights, shaves his head, gets “SIN” and “BAD” tattooed on his fingers, and partakes in drug smuggling and prison beatings. Even though Naz is eventually released, he is forever changed. The transformation of Naz’s character due to imprisonment elucidates the fault in the criminal justice system, America’s way of “containing” the “dangerous” population. It depicts the ways prison can, in fact, make inhabitants more violent and dangerous than they were before entering the system.

Naz’s experience also demonstrates post-9/11 prejudices. In and out of prison, he receives Islamophobic slurs, and his family also experiences similar struggles. His father loses his cab because of Naz’s case and is treated by previous friends and other community members with hostility. Even after Naz is released, strangers and previous friends stare at Naz intimidatingly, and he is unable to escape Islamophobia.

The show’s exploration of the criminal justice system and Islamophobia relates to the nuclear gaze found in both post Cold War and post 9/11 culture. The gaze resulted from constant fear of a nuclear holocaust after the Cold War or, in this case, another terrorist attack after 9/11. Many Americans feared anyone who deviated from the norm, thus creating a distinction between the “Other” and “Same” and “dangerous” and “non-dangerous” activity. Naz is classified as the “Other” because he is Pakistani and is thus frequently considered “dangerous.” In order to control increased danger, containment is used to place the “Other” in separate groups. In this case, the “Other” is placed in a prison, in an effort to isolate “dangerous” people from a “safe” society. However, containment of an already stereotyped individual perpetuates the stereotype of the race, exemplified by the fact that Naz leaves prison more violent and aggressive than before. When races are contained in high profile ways, the result is increased racism and paranoia.