Media and the Construction of the Arab-American Women's Identity

Open Access
Williams, Rahima A
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 12, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Robin Redmon Wright, Committee Member
  • Ilhan Kucukaydin, Committee Member
  • Identity
  • Arab American
  • Woman
  • Critical Media Literacy
  • Culture
  • Islam
Abstract The purpose of this qualitative action research study was to explore how a group of Arab American women have constructed their identities living in the U.S. and their perceptions of the role of media and popular culture in that process. The theoretical framework of the study was informed by critical media literacy, critical and feminist theory, and media studies, particularly related to the construction of identity. The study began with interviews with the seven Arab American women participants. Sources of data included these transcribed interviews, field notes of data collected from four learning sessions that were part of a facilitated critical media literacy pedagogical process of viewing, discussing, and analyzing films relating to Arabs and Arab Americans, and transcripts of a final interview exploring their learning and its effects on their ongoing construction of Arab American identity. The findings of the initial interviews at the outset of the study in regard to participants’ identity and experience of media focused on: the experience of being “other; the backlash of 9/11; frustration with Western media images; and the complexity of having an Arab and American female identity. Their awareness and analysis of media messages grew with each learning session, and findings from final interviews indicated that participants: came to the realization that media largely reflects hegemonic interests; that media had an effect of transmitting ideology that affected their identity construction; began to deal with the lack of representation in the media by giving voice to others and in beginning forms of social action. The study ends with a consideration of findings in light of the theory, and offers implications for adult education and media literacy practice and offers suggestions for further research.