(Editor’s Note: Some students in the International Media program at American University are now researching their final capstone projects. These projects will take the form of either scholarly papers, or professional and creative projects. We are posting proposals and updates on these projects to demonstrate their progress.)
by Anna Griffin
Special to Sutradhar’s Market
My capstone research looks at the U.S. media’s portrayal of Arab culture and identity. Many past researchers have studied the stereotypes and typical frames that plague U.S. news and popular media’s representation of the Arab and Muslim world. Jack Shaheen and Rasha Mohamed used content analysis to identify and the later, to quantify, the prevalence of certain categories of stereotypes.
However, much of this work has yet to be updated since the Arab Spring. Much has happened in the region since 2007 (when Mohamed’s study was published), particularly in the past year. In theory, American news media frames will need to have shifted in order to accurately portray events on the ground in many countries. Frames popular during the height of the War on Terror under the Bush Administration may no longer fit.
The content analysis I have proposed takes Mohamed’s existing research design and updates it using current stories from a sample of major media outlets in the United States. He found network news portrayal of Arab men to fit into five main categories: involvement in terrorism, reference to Islam and Jihad, involvement in physical violence (bombing in particular), possession of weapons, and as victims or targets of physical violence committed by other Arabs and Muslims. His research supported past findings that categorize Arabs as “brutal, heartless, uncivilized, religious fanatics.”
My hypothesis is that the networks’ focus on terrorism and religious extremism will decrease while portrayals of Arabs as victims or targets of violence from other Arabs may stay the same.