As a pathway into the English major, the course highlights how literary knowledge can be a foundation of critical interrogation and creative research. It focuses on “Islamophobia” as the fear of the “Muslim other” in global cultural spheres and political domains. We shall track the ricochet of drives and anxieties, ideas and images between the world of governance (public policy, legal statues, political speeches) and broader mediscapes that include specialized and popular conceptions of Islam and of Muslims. We will explore some of the historical origins and locations of the fear projected onto racialized dangerous Muslims who always seem to arrive from foreign parts—someplace backward that threatens to overwhelm the ever-porous borders of western civil societies. While American Islamophobia has received enormous critical attention, this course also traces iterations of the phenomenon in British, French, and Indian cultures. We will consider the myriad histories, psychic forces, social networks, and cultural signage of Islamophobia across media: in critical essays, short fiction, essays, novels, poetry, political speeches, public policies, new bulletins, television shows, films, and image archives. The idea is to not only understand the historical formations of Islamophobia but also responses from heterogeneous Muslim communities all over the world.
Students will be expected to participate in class discussion, write two short papers, and collaborate on a final group project (with an individual component). The course readings will include two novels (Shashi Tharoor’s Riot: A Love Story, 2001, and Moshin Hamid’s A Reluctant Fundamentalist, 2007) and a book of essays (Edward Said’s Covering Islam, 1981); all other readings will be collated in a course reader. There will also be three screenings scheduled outside regular class hours: Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966), Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burqa, (2016) and Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantanomo (2006).