WED FORUM: Muslim Monsters: Pre-Modern and Modern Imaginings of Islam

This presentation examines the history of the Western imagination about Islam. Throughout history, Muslim men have been depicted as monsters. The portrayal of humans as monsters helps a society delineate who belongs and who, or what, is excluded. Even when symbolic, as in post-9/11 zombie films, Muslim monsters still function to define Muslims as non-human entities. These are not depictions of Muslim men as malevolent human characters, but rather as creatures that occupy the imagination — non-humans that exhibit their wickedness outwardly on the skin. They populate medieval tales, Renaissance paintings, Shakespearean dramas, Gothic horror novels, and Hollywood films. In her book, Muslims in the Western Imagination, Dr. Srjana examines the dehumanizing ways in which Muslim men have been constructed and represented as monsters, and the impact such representations have on perceptions of Muslims today.

Dr. Sophia Arjana is Visiting Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. She has just published her first book, Muslims in the Western Imagination (Oxford, 2015), a study of imaginary Muslim monsters in the West. Dr. Arjana has also written on race and Orientalism, Jewish and Islamic liberation theology, Islamic pilgrimage, and postcolonial liturgy.She is currently co-authoring a book on female Muslim superheroes in comic books, graphic novels, and television cartoons. Her next major project focuses on pilgrimage traditions outside of hajj and the ritual objects associated with these journeys.


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