Visual Cultures of Internet Islamophobia: Transnational Memes and International Politics

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 12:00 PM
Washington Room 5 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Perin Gurel, University of Notre Dame
Noting the importance of “looking” Muslim to both hate speech and hate crimes, this presentation explores the visual side of post 9/11 American Islamophobia, as reflected in memes, cartoons, and other images that circulate via social networking sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and Tumblr. Methodologically, this study involves the archiving and coding of over 400 Islamophobic text-image combinations (or Internet memes) in English, using the qualitative data analysis software MaxQDA, as well as a qualitative inquiry into the reception, translation, and uses of these images in Turkish, Arabic, and Persian Internet sites. Noting historical similarities with other types of non-white caricature, the presentation delineates the visual markers of “Muslim-ness” in our current moment and identifies the spectrum of tropes that attends this stereotype (e.g. propensity towards violence, pedophilia, bestiality, etc.) It identifies convergences between mass and vernacular media and questions the potential for counter-hegemonic representations and humor, given the importance of visual stereotypes to even counter-Islamophobic meme cycles. Finally, it examines the range of engagements and disengagements with these texts in three Muslim-majority languages in order to argue that outrage and protest, overemphasized through a discourse of “Muslim rage” by the Western media, are not the only way in which Muslims respond to Islamophobic digital media.
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