Digital media, Image (Philosophy), Islam, Visual perception
Do two people, coming from different cultural backgrounds, see the same image the same way? Do we employ technologies of seeing that embed visuality within relentless cultural and ideological frames? And, if so, when does visual difference become a tool for inclusion and exclusion? When does it become an instrument of war? I argue that we‘re always implicated in visuality as a form of confirmation bias, and that what we see is shaped by preexisting socioideological frames that can only be liberated through an active and critical relationship with the image. The image itself, albeit ubiquitous, is never unimplicated - at once violated and violating; with both its creator and its perceiver self-positioned as its ultimate subject. I follow a trace of the image within the context of a supposed Islam versus the West dichotomy; its construction, instrumentalization, betrayals, and incriminations. This trace sometimes forks into multiple paths, and at times loops unto itself, but eventually moves towards a traversal of a visual divide. I apply the trace as my methodology in the sense suggested by Derrida, but also as a technology for finding my way into and out of an epistemological labyrinth. The Visual Divide comprises five chapters: Chapter One presents some of the major themes of this work while attempting a theoretical account of image perception within philosophical and cross-cultural settings. I use this account to understand and undermine contemporary rhetoric (as in the works of Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis) that seems intent on theorizing a supposed cultural and historical dichotomies between Islam and the West. In Chapter Two, I account for slogan chants heard at Tahrir Square during the January 25 Egyptian revolution as tools to discovering a mix of technology, language and revolution that could be characterized as hybrid, plural and present at the center of which lies the human body as subject to public peril. Chapter Three analyzes a state of visual divide where photographic evidence is posited against ethnographic reality as found in postcards of nude and semi-nude Algerian Muslim women in the 19th century. I connect this state to a chain of visual oppositions that place Western superiority as its subject and which continues to our present day with the Abu Ghraib photographs and the Mohammed cartoons, etc. Chapter Four deploys the image of Mohamed al-Durra, a 3rd grader who was shot dead, on video, at a crossroads in Gaza, and the ensuing attempts to reinterpret, recreate, falsify and litigate the meaning of the video images of his death in order to propagate certain political doxa. I relate the violence against the image, by the image, and despite the image, to a state of pure war that is steeped in visuality, and which transforms the act of seeing into an act of targeting. In Chapter Five, I integrate the concept of visuality with that of the human body under peril in order to identify conditions that lead to comparative suffering or a division that views humanity as something other than unitary and of equal value. I connect the figures of der Muselmann, Shylock, Othello, the suicide bomber, and others to subvert a narrative that claims that one‘s suffering is deeper than another‘s, or that life could be valued differently depending on the place of your birth, the color of your skin, or the thickness of your accent. v Finally, in the Epilogue: Tabbouleh Deterritorialized, I look at the interconnected states of perception and remembering within diasporic contexts. Cultural identity (invoked by an encounter with tabbouleh on a restaurant menu in Orlando) is both questioned and transformed and becomes the subject of perception and negotiation.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic, Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities
Akil, Hatem Nazir, "The Visual Divide Islam Vs. The West, Image Peception In Cross-cultural Contexts" (2011). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1819.