Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi

Second Advisor

Stewart M. Hoover

Third Advisor

Janice Peck

Fourth Advisor

Kathleen Ryan

Fifth Advisor

Carla Jones

Abstract

With the proposed travel bans in the U.S., niqab bans in Canadian cities, fears over terrorism, attacks on veiled women, and concerns about refugees, Muslim Americans have become prominent icons of larger political issues in North American society. While the images of Muslims have dominated public spaces, the complex lives and significant concerns of Muslim Americans have often gone untold. This study focuses on the creative work that Muslim American youth are producing and circulating through digital media spaces and mobile technologies.

The projects discussed in this study include: the Places You’ll Pray photo series, which documents public prayer locations; the visual representation of the Salafi Feminist blogger; a collection of self-portraits from women who wear the niqab face veil; the artistic projects created in response to the murder of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, NC; and the Mipsterz Islamic fashion video.

Through an analysis of these cases, this dissertation examines how Muslim American youth create innovative projects that engage with aesthetic styles and affects to shift assumptions about their lives and dis-articulate the feelings of foreignness and fear that often adhere to their bodies. These projects are an effort for Muslims, who have been marginalized from traditional political spaces, to assert the equality and value of their lives. Without over-idealizing the progressive potential of emerging media spaces, this study examines how digital media provide the flexible space and creative tools to produce and circulate these representations.

Using digital media to create and distribute artistic projects is not political activism in and of itself, but rather it serves as a way for Muslim youth to formulate and articulate their own subjectivity as political actors and to connect with others in preparation for wider social action. Through this creative work, Muslim youth acquire a sense of their agency and ability to intercede in political spaces. Furthermore, these Muslim creators are not trying to assimilate into an American way of life, but rather assert that they can determine for themselves how they will be Muslim and American, along with numerous other markers.

Comments

Advisor: Deborah Whitehead

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