Muslims in Media: Exercises for Teaching

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One of the major projects I am working on this summer is supported by a Wabash Fellowship to advance one’s professional development as teaching scholars. A goal of the project is to develop scholarship that integrates research and teaching. My work on Muslims in media spaces closely aligns with my teaching aims of disrupting dominant media representations of Muslims and delineating the potential social consequences of these images and narratives. The goal for the summer is to develop publishable teaching materials and strategies related to these issues. Updates to come. For now, here is the narrative objective from my proposal:

Muslims in Media: Exercises for Teaching

In an exciting new research trajectory I have been increasingly devoted to the study of Muslim media spaces, including music, the internet, television, and cinema. In my own work, I have been exploring the diversity of approaches, uses, and receptions of these various forms of cultural production. While these multiple and assorted perspectives have attracted my interest I have also become more acutely aware of the homogeneous portrait of Islam and Muslims that dominates mainstream corporate and news media.
In my classroom I have noticed that more and more students come to our study with heavily invested preconceived conceptions about different religious communities, most consequentially Islam. Most often student’s deep seated assumptions about Muslims are greatly shaped by dominant media representations of Islam, which are usually sensational, one-sided, or incomplete at best. What’s key for my students is to understand how their media informed prior knowledge has shaped their views about Islam. The great challenge then for the teacher of Islam is how do we overcome these implicit biases and reframe understandings of Muslims? How do we effectively disrupt stereotypes? How can we deploy media literacy in our classes?
One solution to this problem in student learning is developing a greater depth of knowledge in media literacy and awareness of their assumptions about the world. Of course, questions around how individual and group perspectives are constructed and how information is interpreted will have broader relevance and application in students lives and should be a topic valued by students. To address these challenges I intend on identifying key sources for teaching media literacy, issues of representation, and dismantling deeply invested preconceived notions. These sources will help develop the central pedagogical questions leading to a deeper kind of learning. Therefore, the overlap between my research in Muslim medias are clearly aligned with the challenges of media literacy and should serve as a basis for moving forward in student learning.
In order to facilitate their learning, I intend on developing course exercises for both my World Religions and Islam courses employing the most productive sources that disrupt naturalized stereotypes and media awareness. I’ve found my students master analytical methods most easily through repeated individual and group application within classroom settings. Therefore, these assignments will be produced with this particular type of educational setting in mind in order to provide useful tools for analyzing media sources with complexity. Altogether, several modules will be developed based on the pedagogical tactics using theories of media and implicit bias for use in my Fall 2016 Islam and Word Religions courses. The intended outcome is developing media literate students that can utilize these new skills and analytical perspectives to decipher multiple forms of media outside of the class setting.

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