American Muslims and American Culture

Defining Popular Culture: Popular culture encompasses ideas, images, attitudes, and phenomena reflected in the arenas of entertainment, sports, fashion, technology, the arts and popular parlance. Popular culture is a site of personal expression, but also a locus of consumption. For American Muslims, an increasing presence in mainstream film, literature, art, social media, fashion, and other creative realms means both an increased opportunity for self­ reflection through artistic production, and a significant opportunity to participate in pious consumption. The resources listed here include the categories of: Theater, Comedy, Poetry, Dance, Film, Television, Music, Painting, Calligraphy, Graphic Design, Architecture, Sculpture, Tilework, Textiles, Photography, Fashion, Memoirs, Fiction, Graphic Novels, and Sports.

Representation: Our focus is on works produced in America and which reflect the American Muslim experience. However, this includes artistic pieces that are not set in the U.S., as there are many transnational ties that connect American Muslims to a larger global community, or ummah. Several pieces grapple with stereotypes—contradicting them, complicating them, or possibly even exploiting them. The image of the terrorist is a recurring theme, but it is far from the only representation available in regards to American Muslims and we hope that this resource will allow a fuller and more complex view of a richly diverse demographic.

Identity and Affiliation: All people have multiple, intersecting spheres of identity that play a role in how they see themselves as actors in the world. To reduce a person’s artistic production to just one such identity, such as religious affiliation, is to deny the complex ways in which people express themselves. Doing so runs the risk of essentializing both the artist and the religion. Religious affiliation, in this case identifying as a Muslim, is a notoriously difficult thing to ascertain (see #WhoAre) and may not be a major influence on an artist’s work.

Access and Engagement: This site is not meant to be comprehensive, but is intended to introduce resources appropriate for teaching. All of the media listed here are easily accessible online or through a major library system. In addition, these resources were chosen based on their ease of use for students and their ability to generate classroom discussion and engagement with the broader themes of this website, as well as the broader issue of representation and visualization. Some media may be more appropriate for college­level students, and will be noted as such.

How to use these resources: The primary materials listed here can be used to illuminate larger themes in your course, or as starting points for student research projects or presentations. Within most entries, you’ll find hashtags that cross­reference that item with the broader themes across this site.

  • #WhoAre = demographic issues in the study of American Muslims
  • #ImmigrantExp = the immigrant Muslim experience
  • #AfAmExp = the African American Muslim experience
  • #Global = American Muslims in global context
  • #Politics = engagement with and reaction to American politics
  • #WarOnTerror = works produced in response to the events of 9/11 and Bush’s “War On Terror”