RE_ENVISIONING_SELF_AND_OTHER_SUBVERTING.pdf - JONES RACHEL BAILEY Ph.D(Re)Envisioning Self and Other Subverting Visual Orientalism Through the Creation

RE_ENVISIONING_SELF_AND_OTHER_SUBVERTING.pdf - JONES RACHEL...

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Unformatted text preview: JONES, RACHEL BAILEY, Ph.D. (Re)Envisioning Self and Other: Subverting Visual Orientalism Through the Creation of Postcolonial Pedagogy. (2007) Directed by Dr. Leila Villaverde. 252 pp. The purpose of this research was to explore the historical, cultural, and political background behind the visual representation of Muslim women in the West in the post-September 11th era and to create pedagogy based on contemporary art that can engage and unsettle stereotypes and assumptions. The history of European colonialism in traditionally Muslim countries has led to a complex and problematic centering of the covering or uncovering of Muslim women’s bodies. The current influences of globalization provide a means to theorize two types of identity creation: inclusive identity that is based on a global sense of community, and exclusive identity that is predicated on the creation of concrete borders that separate “us” from “them”. The exclusive identity has been central to the discourse of an impending clash between Islam/West, evil/good, and the visual representation of difference is vital to maintaining these false binaries. Historically, the West has created a visual fantasy of the Muslim woman that involved the uncovering and exposing of the forbidden, veiled woman. Contemporary artists who cross cultural geographic borders between traditionally Muslim countries and the West offer ways of constructing inclusive identities that do not break down into easy binaries. Shirin Neshat, Marjane Satrapi, Mona Hatoum, and Emily Jacir create artwork that is diverse in its medium and meaning, but all address personal experiences of movement between cultures and the shifting cultural codes that have been negotiated. Their work uses many of the visual codes of Orientalism in order to question and subvert assumed meanings. I propose a postcolonial pragmatic pedagogy based in the work of these artists. The Visual Orientalist discourse that has created the image of the oppressed, veiled Muslim woman in American public imagination must be analyzed through a critical visual pedagogy. Once assumptions are acknowledged, the work of contemporary artists can be examined and evaluated in order to pragmatically dislodge Eurocentric notions of Muslim women. The unequal relationships of power that produce Orientalism must be at the foundation of a postcolonial pedagogy that re-imagines how difference is engaged and multicultural education is created. (RE)ENVISIONING SELF AND OTHER: SUBVERTING VISUAL ORIENTALISM THROUGH THE CREATION OF POSTCOLONIAL PEDAGOGY by Rachel Bailey Jones A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of The Graduate School at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy Greensboro 2007 Approved by _____________________________________ Committee Chair © 2007 Rachel Bailey Jones APPROVAL PAGE This dissertation has been approved by the following committee of the Faculty of The Graduate School at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Committee Chair__________________________ Committee Members__________________________ __________________________ __________________________ _______________________ Date of Acceptance by Committee _______________________ Date of Final Oral Examination ii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my adviser and doctoral committee chair, Dr. Leila Villaverde, for her unfailing support and assistance in preparing this dissertation. She has pushed me to question my own assumptions and biases in my research and writing. Her passion for contemporary art and the critique of Eurocentric, normative positions has inspired my own work. I would also like to thank my doctoral committee members who have all played important roles in the development of my research. Dr. Svi Shapiro, Dr. Glenn Hudak, and Dr. Hephzibah Roskelly added their unique critical perspectives to my understanding of philosophy, theory, and pedagogy. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Page CHAPTER I. (RE)LOCATE .............................................................................................. 1 Prologue: A Personal Note..................................................................1 Choice of Artwork ............................................................................ 10 Methodologies.................................................................................. 14 Chapter Summaries ......................................................................... 22 A Note on Terminology.................................................................... 26 II. (RE)MOVE ................................................................................................28 Globalization: Tentative Definitions ............................................... 33 Structures of Globalization .............................................................. 36 Megarhetoric v. Micronarrative.......................................................38 Official Nationalism, Extremism, and Megarhetoric ......................40 Alliance of Civilizations ................................................................... 44 Maalouf on Identity .........................................................................50 Group Identity and Belonging ......................................................... 53 Anderson’s Imagined Communities ................................................ 55 Identity Formation in the Context of Globalization........................60 III. (RE)INSCRIBE ......................................................................................... 67 Variations on the Veil .......................................................................71 History, Islam, and the Veil ............................................................. 73 Divergent Paths and the Physical Seclusion of Women.................. 79 European Travel and the Views of Women .....................................80 Lord Cromer and the Battle for Egyptian Hearts and Minds ......... 85 Colonial and Native Patriarchy........................................................88 The Battle for Algiers, the Veil as Weapon...................................... 92 Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism and the Veil................................. 95 Banning the Veil...............................................................................98 Contemporary Muslim Women and the Veil ................................ 103 IV. (RE)VIEW ............................................................................................... 107 iv The Male Gaze................................................................................ 109 Situating the Visual Discourse........................................................ 111 Early Romanticism and the Muslim Woman .................................116 The Colonial Exhibition and Visualizing Difference ......................118 An American Orientalist Artist .......................................................121 Renoir and the Allure of the East .................................................. 124 Photography and the Staging of Desire ......................................... 126 Imagining Patriarchy ..................................................................... 130 The Afghan Girl............................................................................... 131 Images Used in Service of War .......................................................135 V. (RE)PRESENT ........................................................................................ 142 Theoretical Connections ................................................................ 145 Marco Polo Syndrome.................................................................... 149 Shirin Neshat: Confronting the Stereotypes .................................. 151 Marjane Satrapi: Mass Produced Images of Resistance ............... 162 Mona Hatoum: Bodies Implied ...................................................... 171 Emily Jacir: Longing and Return ...................................................179 Deterritorialization and the Art..................................................... 188 VI. (RE)NEW ................................................................................................ 192 Problems with Multicultural Education ........................................ 196 Eurocentric Art Education............................................................. 198 Pragmatism and the Creation of Doubt......................................... 207 Postcolonial Pedagogy ................................................................... 213 Curricular Theoretical Framework................................................ 218 A Sample Lesson ............................................................................ 221 Breaking Down the Old, Building the New ...................................230 REFERENCES......................................................................................................234 v 1 CHAPTER I (RE)LOCATE The age of terror that seems to have settled upon us like a chemical cloud disfigures our pictorial vision and encloses us in a harrowing chamber. (Bhabha, 2006, p. 30) The Muslim woman’s body is central to Orientalist imagery as a voyeuristic site of Otherness and difference. (Sedira, 2003, p. 70) Prologue: A Personal Note I am visiting my sister in Boston and I get on a bus to go meet her at work for lunch. When the bus reaches its next stop a woman in full burqa, covered from head to toe with a fabric mesh panel covering her eyes, gets on the bus and stands near me. Before I have time to reason with myself, a sickly feeling of fear comes up in my stomach. The fear is irrational; it causes thoughts of bombs, fanaticism, and Islamist extremism to fly through my body. My heart beats faster as my arms and legs prepare for flight, or impact, or something. When I can again think clearly, I have time to analyze my fear reaction to this women going about her daily life in Boston. Her presence was no threat to me; my fear was based on the culturally-specific clothing she was wearing and the layers of meaning that have been embedded. Where did this sense of fear, this loss of control come from? After the encounter on the bus, I reconcile my reaction. I remind myself 2 that I am extremely tolerant and worldly. But, if this is so, how could I not escape this visceral reaction to what has been constructed through media images as something so foreign, so different from me? The news footage of suicide bombers, of women hiding bombs beneath their veils, has been powerfully ingrained in my body through repetition. If this is happening for me, I feel confident that most Americans post-9/11 would feel this visceral fear and many would not feel so disturbed by its presence. In thinking of myself as tolerant, what did I truly mean? To tolerate means, literally, to “accept or endure” something that is distasteful. If one endures, the implication is an act of denial, a suppression of true feeling in order to go on with daily living. My reaction of visceral fear was then repressed through my appeal to tolerance. Was there a critical appraisal of the situation, did I try to analyze my own reaction to the woman whom I judged and feared? By playing the tolerance card, I did not need to use tools of critical analysis to investigate the historical and contemporary constructions that played out in my mind on the bus. In conceiving of my project, I have to address this difference between intolerance, tolerance, and critical analysis of reaction to difference. These are not three distinct phases that one enters and leaves in any concrete manner, and consist of a complex mixture of emotion, background knowledge, mental images, and personal connection to the subject of difference. The theoretical model is a continuum, with intolerance on one end, moving to tolerance, and then finally the critical analysis. Intolerance is based in ignorance and fear; a reaction to 3 difference that openly expressed hostility and disgust. For my understanding, tolerance is not the absence of ignorance-based fear, but rather the suppression and denial of any overt reaction. My hope is to create a pedagogical space that can address the reaction to difference and produce movement along the continuum past mere tolerance and endurance, numbing to the Other, towards a critical understanding of how difference is constructed and can be confronted and understood. What is the connection between fear and ignorance; why are we always more frightened in the dark? There is something about the lack of knowledge and understanding of difference that leads to a feeling of helpless fear. My reaction to the woman on the bus was based on the fact that I did not know her; I have only had media miseducation about women who choose to be veiled in public. In my state of willed ignorance, I retain the sense of identity built upon a history of American egoism and power. I am far removed from the world of oppression, hunger, pain, and fear in which most people live. My lack of empathy, my feelings of entitlement to security and centrality keep me shielded from the rest of the world, including those on the margins of my own daily life. The images and stories that I have heard about Muslim women are either sound bites, sensationalized for easy digestion, or stories that have been filtered through a Western lens. I have heard Laura Bush and Cherie Blair speak for the horribly abused and covered women of Afghanistan before the United States’ offensive in the country. I have read books by Western women authors detailing the gender 4 oppression of Islam. In all of the writing and talking about Muslim women, their stories and voices are still mostly silent. And so my reaction on the bus was based in an ignorance-based fear, for all the “information” that I had seen and heard understanding of this difference I was still in the dark. The repetition of sinister, darkened faces, of suicide bombers, and of the Muslim terrorist were at the base of my visceral reaction. The books I have read and the knowledge gained through study did not counteract this bodily urge to flee. How have we come to this place of intolerant fear, where this Muslim woman creates in me such an automatic revulsion? And what forces can counteract this fear, with an influence that dislodges my irrational fear of this woman? I have been involved in the creation of art for most of my life, from scribbling on walls with crayons to my most recent work that involves working through issues of loss, memory, and family. I believe in the possibility of art to allow us to see things in new ways, from different perspectives. Though art comes in as many forms as there are individual artists, there is a thread of connection with all works. The artist creates the work from her/his own vantage point, creating personal expressions of her/his perspectives and theorizing of experience even in the most abstract of work. Will the artwork of individual women have the power and force needed to stop my visceral fear-based reaction that I felt so clearly on that Boston bus? Can artwork be used as the central piece of a pedagogy of difference that can address the continuum and move us into a space of critical, open dialogue 5 with self and others? I imagine using artwork as the core curriculum of a responsible education that addresses difference. A responsible education of difference needs to begin to address the reality of unequal relationships of power and oppression. Self-identity needs to be affirmed while creating questions of the certainty of definitions that construct the self in opposition to a nebulous, exoticized Other. What makes the current approach to difference irresponsible and how will the art-based pedagogy be responsible? I see three current themes in formal and informal approaches to difference in education in the United States: difference is celebrated as an exotic diversion to the everyday, it is used to maintain the power of the dominant culture over those who are different, or it is treated as a possible threat to the safety and security of our “American way of life”. We celebrate our eclectic tastes when we eat at “ethnic” restaurants or display global knick-knacks in our homes. But, real difference that confronts us with issues of oppression, anger, and distrust forces us into complex reexamination of our concept of self. Can this basic frame of pedagogy address the fear that I felt in the Boston bus? I do not know, but it is the starting place that makes the most sense to me. I would like my research to begin the process of imagining a form of globally responsible education that could address the dehumanizing, stereotypical representations of those who we see as the “Other”. The current formal schooling process in the United States either ignores difference of religion and ethnicity, or preaches a numbing tolerance that does not attempt to 6 understand or hear the expression of others. Like individual attempts to tolerate, when tolerance is the goal of learning about others, differences that are based on unequal relationships of power and oppression are suppressed for a false sense of surface diversity. Informal education from the media and our government presents difference in a sensational way that emphasizes the threat and exoticism of difference, particularly in regard to the representation of Islam. Bold headlines connect the images of terrorists and suicide bombers to the greater concepts of Islam and to veiled women. The result of formal and informal education in the United States is a willed ignorance of other cultures and the historical foundation of foreign policy that has led to the current global dynamics. I believe the use of contemporary art that exists in multiple cultural spaces at once, that crosses boundaries and borders offers the possibility to confront our biased views of those who are foreign to us. Increased globalization, travel, and communication lead to a feeling of shrinking distance. As real difference and distance contract, we feel increased vulnerability and construct imaginary differences between “us” and “them,” built upon unequal power legacies of colonialism, patriarchy, and modernity. The visual images of this difference are embedded in the way we think, recalling the mental pictures that are associated with loaded words. “Muslim,” “veil,” “Arab,” “Orient,” are all words weighed down with layers of visual and verbal history that we carry with us in Europe and the United States. They are signifiers that at one time related to a real place and time, but have been overloaded with biased media and cultural meanings. My 7 interest is in using my positionality as a Western scholar to attempt to understand the layers of misrepresentation of the Other, specifically the discursive production of Muslim woman as object and subject, and to propose a way to re-invent our Western way of seeing others through a pedagogy of dissent that involves the viewing and analysis of contemporary art. Legacies of nationalism and imperialism have created unequal power relationships involved in representations of self/other. Those who wield power in global, gendered relationships represent the rest of the world in the form of their choosing. Colonial power and exploitation by the West, traditionally Europe and more recently the United States, has taken control of creating the Other academically and artistically. These misrepresentations have been based on assumptions of Western superiority and cultural biases that lead to a privileged position of “objective knowledge” about other cultures. Scholars who created the field of Orientalism believed in a superiority of European technology and knowledge. I am specifically interested in how Western views of the Muslim world, the Orient, have informed Western public perception about the nature and agency of those in the East. Almost da...
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