Heroes wear dupattas : Muslim representation in American comic books

Date
2016-06-23
Authors
Sanchez, Katherine Elizabeth
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Abstract

In this report, I argue that comic books are a cultural site for the construction of Muslim religious identity in the United States. Comic book Muslim superheroes are as much markers of religious identity, as Qur’anic verses or prescriptive hadith. With the new American Muslim character, Ms. Marvel, in mind, I focus on the ways Muslims have been constructed as heroes in comic books and how that works to shape their religious identity for a popular audience. Analyzing comic books from two major comic book publishers, Marvel and DC, I identify three types of Muslim heroes: Magical Muslims, Black Muslims, and Outsider Muslims. Until Marvel Comics created the character Kamala Khan, Muslim superheroes fit one of these three types. These were the representational limits of good Islam in popular culture. But Kamala Khan was made to challenge these limits, even as she was intended to continue the lineage of Ms. Marvel. In contrast to the characters that fit the earlier types, members of the American Muslim community have played a key role constructing Kamala Khan’s religious identity, which has effectively changed the narrative surrounding Muslim representation in the comic world. With a different authorship than the previous types, Kamala is both an American Muslim and a cultural hero. And she has been called upon by comic readers and street artists alike, to combat negative images and stereotypes that affect the Muslim community.

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