North American Muslim Women Artists Talk Back : Assertions of Unintelligibility book cover
1st Edition

North American Muslim Women Artists Talk Back
Assertions of Unintelligibility

ISBN 9780367263669
Published July 21, 2022 by Routledge
164 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book focuses on the ways in which North American Muslim women artists "talk back" to dominant discourses about Muslim identity and work to counter mainstream stereotypes and representations. It examines the possibilities of constructing discourses of resistance to domination.

Against a backdrop of dominant media representations of oppressed and passive Muslim women, the media interventions of the exceptional women artists whose voices are showcased in this book, demonstrate that Muslim women are diverse and autonomous agents who have, historically, and continue contemporarily, to fight against all forms of injustice including those that seek to circumscribe their realities and experiences. To explore expressions and articulations of alternative discourses, this book analyzes the media texts of exceptional women artists: the stand-up comedy of Palestinian-American Maysoon Zayid, the cinematic interventions of Iranian-American Shirin Neshat, and the television comedy of Pakistani-Canadian Zarqa Nawaz. Using a methodology consisting of a textual analysis grounded in the theoretical framework of postcolonial theory and informed by gender studies and alternative media research, the analysis is supplemented with semi-structured interviews with the artists.

This book is suitable for scholars and students in Gender Studies, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Sociology, and Politics.

Table of Contents


1: Talking Back to Power

2: Assertions of Unintelligibility: Shirin Neshat’s Visual Innovations

3: Using Humour to Talk Back: The Stand-Up Comedy of Maysoon Zayid

4: Transitioning to the Mainstream in Television: Zarqa Nawaz’s Film and Television Productions

5: Conclusions

Appendix A: Resource Guide

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Kenza Oumlil is an associate professor in Communication at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. Oumlil holds a PhD in Communication from Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. She has published widely on representation, gender, and media, including articles in the Journal of North African Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Journal of Middle East Media, and Al-Jazeera English.


"Kenza Oumlil’s book is a compelling interdisciplinary analysis of gender and cultural representations of Muslim diasporic communities in North America. The text orchestrates an intellectual dialogue between U.S. black feminists and Muslim diasporic artists, providing a prescient intersectional framework with which to discuss issues of identity and self-representation. Oumlil makes a perceptive intervention that exposes the hegemonic cultural apparatus while also highlighting alternative aesthetic practices that challenge and subvert it."

Ella Shohat, author of Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices

"Can Muslim women represent themselves? Kenza Oumlil’s North American Muslim Women Artists Talk Back: Assertions of Unintelligibility is the sustained record of her critical reflections on this vital question. The result is a pathbreaking momentum in rearticulatig the possibilities of constructing discourses of resistance to domination—a focussed and deeply satisfying read."

Hamid Dabashi, author of Contemporary Art, World Cinema, and Visual Culture: Essays by Hamid Dabashi

"North American Muslim Women Artists Talk Back describes an infiltration. Artists creep up on the mainstream, ambush and unsettle what they can, when they can. Oumlil shows us that the mainstream is no easy place for Muslim women artists to navigate. Riding with them through the currents of patriarchy and white supremacy will fill us with wonder. We will gasp and laugh and shake our heads in dismay and it will all be worth it."

Sherene H. Razack, author of Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics and Nothing Has to make Sense, Anti-Muslim Racism, White Supremacy and Law.