Spring 2019 HC 424H/421H: Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood Films: Deconstructing and Resisting Orientalist Images

Spring Term, 2018-2019

Professor: Irum Shiekh

4.00 credits

  • CRN 32536: Tuesday, 14:00 - 16:50 @ GSH 117

Graduation Requirement: This class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Arts & Letters Colloquium and an Identity, Pluralism & Tolerance (IP) Multicultural class. If the student has already taken an Arts & Letters Colloquium, this class will fulfill an Elective Colloquium and an IP Multicultural class.

This class uses a multidisciplinary approach to examine the depictions of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood cinema and the role of independent filmmakers/critics in deconstructing and resisting these orientalist images.

For most moviegoers, screen images may seem insignificant because they mainly offer entertainment value.  In this class, we will study how cinema is not only a form of entertainment but also a medium for informing us about our everyday world. By carefully analyzing some of the Hollywood films, we will explore the relationship of cinematic images to the literature and the arts as well as to the political and everyday realities of our world.  Combining film theory with historical analysis, we will begin the class by exploring the role of the Hollywood industry in consciously and unconsciously shaping and influencing our understanding of the Arabs and Muslims living locally and globally.

Assigned readings combined with documentaries will help us to deconstruct Hollywood images, articulated through tropes of adventure, exploration, and rescue.  How do these images provide legitimacy and justification to western colonial and neocolonial expansion and domination?  How have these images changed and evolved?  What is the relationship of stereotypical images of Hollywood films to the concepts of discourse, hegemony, othering, gaze, desire, race, gender, and knowledge and power?

Additionally, we study the contributions of Arab/Muslim independent filmmakers in using artistic expressions to deconstruct and resist orientalist images of Hollywood cinema.  How have they been successful in articulating multiple histories and the day-to-day perspectives of Arabs and Muslims using comedy and social media? How has the evolution in digital technology and social media led to the diversification and democratization of the media over time?  Are the independent filmmakers successful in shifting the contours of the Hollywood formula?  In which ways do independent filmmakers follow the mainstream formula and in which ways do they resist and why?