Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Vincent Crapanzano

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology

Keywords

empire, Islamophilia, Islamophobia, race

Abstract

The events of 9/11/2001 intensified the hypervisibility of U.S. Muslims, making them the subject of academic, artistic, and cultural curiosity. Alongside this public hypervisibility came a campaign of institutionalized Islamophobia, manifest in such measures as the anti-Muslim legislation of the USA PATRIOT Act. The result for Islamic Representative Organizations (or IRO's) was that combatting Islamophobia became a central concern. In this dissertation, I consider the multifaceted and complicated politics of representation used by IRO's in the aftermath of 9/11. I consider both the negative, or Islamophobic, and the so-called positive, or Islamophilic, representations of U.S. Muslims in the discourse of these groups. Based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork at IRO events dealing with the subject of "Islam in America," this dissertation addresses the racial, class-based, and cultural politics of representing U.S. Muslims. I consider the aspirations and ambitions of IRO members: Do they understand their anti-Islamophobia activism as a way to include Muslims in the existing social order, or do they imagine themselves engaged in a revolutionary process of transformation? I present ethnographic data that reveals IRO members imagining the United States as at once a pluralistic, diverse, and egalitarian nation and a foundationally racist, imperial formation. Hardly uniform, IRO representations reveal both transformative, counterhegemonic processes and a deeply entrenched neoliberal multiculturalism that is constitutive of the paradox of representation in the age of empire.

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