Harem Peeping and the Funny Pages: Islam in US Comics and Cartoons, 18801922

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 12:20 PM
Water Tower Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Maryanne Rhett, Monmouth University
The United States’ acquisition of the Philippines at the turn of the twentieth century meant the subsequent introduction of over 300,000 Muslims into U.S. jurisdiction and a resulting awareness of the country’s new “Muslim Wards.” Beyond this, most Americans had only a passing notion of what Islam meant and what Muslims believed. Despite this general lack of understanding, the images, cartoons, and comics that pepper U.S. newspapers and magazines dove deeply into international events (e.g. the revolt in the Sudan, the Sanusia movement, the Boxer Rebellion, the aforementioned Philippines, the First World War) and coupled with a general popular culture fascination of the Orient. This intersection of mixed media knowledge informed the U.S. citizenry about what a Muslim was in some surprisingly complex ways. This paper explores how cartoons and comics from the era were crucial in subtlety formulating these notions.
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