When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
My dissertation argues for popular culture as a public pedagogy by analyzing internet series, stand-up comedy and music videos created in the US to subvert stereotypes. Popular culture is a powerful force in generating stereotypes, including those involved in Islamophobia; and film and media have long defined Muslims (along with Arabs, who are often conflated with Muslims) in terms of religion, gender and race, for instance by portraying Muslim men as “terrorists”, Muslim women as either helpless maidens or veiled and oppressed, and Islam altogether as a “problem”. However, stereotyped groups also use popular culture to speak for themselves. Popular culture is used to resist, contest, counter and subvert stereotypes. This potential is being realized by second-generation Muslims familiar with the platforms provided by Anglo-American popular culture. Their work has come into its own especially in the aftermath of 9/11, a time that saw both the intensification of stereotypes and heightening of Muslim-American consciousness.
I also argue that current efforts at contesting stereotypes by Muslims in the American cultural sphere have been facilitated by the fact that the circulation of digital and digitalized culture on the internet allows diverse voices to be more easily heard by a wide audience. I discuss how each of these works counters stereotypes and allows the targeted communities to be understood more positively and realistically by serving as a public pedagogy through it accessibility and its offering of knowledge previously omitted in representation. First, I argue that Muslim-Americans are drawing on a long tradition of minority groups, such as African-Americans and Jewish-Americans, utilizing popular culture in similar ways. Understanding how minorities were historically situated as the “Other” and how they were not only defined by but also responded through popular culture sheds light on the current movement by Muslims who are challenging stereotypes by creating a third space defining modern Americanness through a popular culture that is the most widespread and imitated in the world; thus I will be examining activity that has a wide influence. American popular culture also has great potential to have a transnational impact, an aspect I address in the conclusion.