February 19, 2015

Hala Mohammad

Major and Classification

Sociology

Faculty Mentor

  • Ellen Seiter, Ph.D.

Department

  • Cinema Television

McNair Project

Current Media Representation of Middle Eastern Women: Reconstructing Orientalism & Resurrecting Empire?

In today’s technically advanced age, media holds an unprecedented status in conveying information regarding people from distant lands. This article examines representations of Middle Eastern Women in News photographs printed in the Los Angeles Times and compare them to 19th century colonial photographs of Middle Eastern women. I argue that that contemporary western media are heavily influenced by the political and social divide between East and West, and continue to misrepresent Middle Eastern women by echoing themes of colonial power dynamics. This article will look closely at the literature of significant authors in the field of Middle Eastern Studies such as Edward Said, and Lila Abu-Lughod, to give a backdrop about how the visual representation of Middle Eastern women have been shaped and continue to be shaped by political and social intentions. The methods for this research are primarily qualitative, interpreting the photographs, and using in depth interviews with American and Middle Eastern USC Students about their impressions of the Middle East. For the American students, there is a lack of knowledge and an unfamiliarity with the history of the Middle East that leads to an over reliance on contemporary News media for their understanding. However, the news media both “Symbolically Annihilate” Middle Eastern Women, by rarely representing them at all, and in the few instances we do see Middle Eastern women, they are typically portrayed in ways that re-create the colonial stereotype of women as passive, primitive, or exotic and sensual. This study will augment inquiry into a critical subject, that being “During this time of history when the Americans are more prone to accepting any (mis) information, the News media should give a wider and fuller perspective of history and politics with regards to Women of Middle East”. Moreover, this article hypothesizes that there is a significant need for the illuminating the general ideas and perceptions in America consciousness regarding the often-misrepresented region of Middle East and its Women.