Imagining the “Arab Other”: The Role of the Media in Constructing Islamic Identity

By Louise Ryan.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper is part of an on-going investigation of contemporary museum practice and the representation of culture, identity, and belonging in a display of Islamic artefacts (“The Arts of Islam” Exhibition, Nasser Khalili Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, 2007). The exhibition attracted over 75,000 visitors and was trans-national with its inclusion of works from Spain, Turkey, North Africa, India, Syria, Iran and China spanning the 7th- 20th centuries. This paper includes a comprehensive description of the case study in question and surrounding socio-cultural issues, concentrating on the role of discourse generally, and media coverage in particular. Complex networks of relationships are pivotal to understanding the dynamics of social formations as rhetoric and “images circulate increasingly fast and with added reach so as to form and reform various imagined communities” (Urry, 1995: 19). The reporting of racial conflicts and the promotion of local and global constructions of Islamic identity and Muslim communities have enormous impact and influence on the public understanding of Islamic heterogeneity. The paper also suggests issues and implications for further exploration, both empirically and theoretically, that would continue to identify the degree to which the selection and discourse regarding artworks on display are influenced by global and local political situations and are indicative of geopolitical contexts and shifting community values.

Keywords: Rhetoric and Media, Islamic Identity and Heterogeneity, Local and Global, Socio-Cultural Issues, Community Values

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.93-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.808MB).

Louise Ryan

Doctoral Candidate, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Louise Ryan is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney. She has been an art educator for nearly thirty years and completed her Masters of Art Education (Honours) in 2007 in the area of museum studies, specifically educational philanthropy, Australian art and cultural development. Louise is currently investigating the museum as a contested space with particular reference to the complexities of promoting cross-cultural understanding in a display of Islamic artefacts and notions of nation, Islamic identity and citizenship and the wider social imperative of promoting alternative local and global constructions of Islamic identity and Muslim communities. She has regularly presented at conferences and published papers on these topics both nationally and internationally.

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