by ELLIOTT BAZZANO for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MARCH 10, 2015:
In Muslims in the Western Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2015), Sophia Rose Arjana explores a variety of creative productions—including art, literature, film—in order to tell a story not about how Muslims construct their own identities but rather about how Western thinkers have constructed ideas about Muslims and monsters. To what extent are these imaginary constructs real? Is it possible for one’s imagination to create things that are more telling than what is actually real?
Arjana’s monograph is compelling, in part, because of the plethora of examples she offers—from a range of cultures and time periods—to help us understand just how deeply stereotypes and fears run in the very fabric of Western imaginations. She demonstrates, in fact, that it’s not just Muslims who are portrayed in troubling ways, but also characters that seem foreign to any extent. Dracula, for example, pushes boundaries between Muslim and Jewish — and is also not quite human; in this way, Arjana draws important parallels between the historically contingent categories of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Continue reading