Representing Muslims: Islamophobic discourse and the construction of identities in Britain since 2001
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AbstractEmploying critical race theory as a theoretical and analytical framework, this thesis explores the nature, structure and purpose of Islamophobic discourse, and offers two central contributions to the scholarly debate on Islamophobia. First, it contributes to the literature on the nature of Islamophobia by analysing the form and structure of discourse that seeks to represent Muslims and Islam in a number of social and political sites. Second, the thesis addresses a significant gap identified in the scholarly literature, which has largely overlooked the purpose that Islamophobic discourse serves for those employing it. In order to address the nature and structure of Islamophobic discourse, the thesis analyses representations of Muslims and Islam in dominant national community cohesion and counterterrorism discourses; rearticulation of these discourses at the local level in the West Midlands town of Dudley; the use of Islamophobic discourse by the English Defence League; and the ways in which Islamophobic narratives were used to mark national boundaries in Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and France. I explain the convergence of narratives across these levels by extending Ghassan Hage’s theoretical formulation of racism as nationalist practices to Islamophobic discourse and argue that, as a cultural racism, Islamophobia can be conceptualised as upholding a system of Eurocentric supremacy, where Western subjects receive a better social, economic and political ‘racial contract’ and seek to defend these privileges against real and imagined Muslim demands. Whether employed for local, national or civilisational purposes, Islamophobia relies on the notion that space has been culturally compromised by Muslims and must be restored to authenticity by legitimate non-Muslim cultural managers. Islamophobia operates through a three-stage ideological process, and restores fantasised power to those who perceive Muslim cultural difference to be unacceptably changing the spaces in which they reside by representing Muslims as making incongruous demands of a territory, singling out a particular timeless value that is under threat, and reifying this value to an absolute. Through this process Muslims are put back in their place, while those employing this discourse experience a restoration of their cultural power to decide the values of a space.
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.