Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia Haynes, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Victor Vitanza

Committee Member

Dr. James Spencer

Committee Member

Dr. Amit Bein

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the association between the geopolitical region Middle East and the unjust profiling of Islamic terrorism. I examine this connection from the lens of border-politics and deconstruct Western cartographic discourses that constructed the current misrepresentative and extensively totalizing identity of Middle East as the land of Muslim terrorists. My conjecture is framed around Karen Culcasi’s argument on how Middle East was re-invented in the discourse of Orientalism during the early twentieth century. To challenge the region’s current misrepresentative and unjust socio-spatial identity, I map how the region’s inherently othered identity under the European gaze of Orientalism has arrived to its current state as a result of changing discourses of power and geopolitical relations throughout the twentieth century. In this light, I investigate three central questions in this dissertation:

1) How the discourse of global war on terrorism has emerged from the haunting image of the Oriental discourse and continues to respond and counter-respond to the great Middle Eastern question: continuous reproductions of the region in the totalizing image of the Western tree-system.

2) How this continual process of reproducing Middle East in the same problematic rhetoric has mirrored itself into re-constructing the cartographic reality of the region both in its Western perceptions and Middle/Eastern receptions: internalization of the Western tree-image and finally arriving to the Islamic tree-system of a violent and fundamental ideology of terrorism.

3) How these cartographic reproductions have been suppressing the diverse identities in the region while these socio-spatial formations have always already been disrupting various systems of subordinations: how the internalized tree-system of the West and its tap-roots have been cutting the lines and paths of the rhizomatic identities of the region.

As I unpack these three questions, I approach the Western modern scientific knowledge production and information design (dominant mode of production) as a form of alienating rhetorical re-invention. I best understand the working structure of the Western rhetoric of alienation through Walter Benjamin’s notion of ‘mechanical reproduction.’ I draw from cartographic hermeneutics and cartographic deconstruction to unpack how the Western ground logic of this machinic system has been re-inventing the socio-spatial consciousness of Middle East. I argue that the unjust image of Middle East as the land of Muslim terrorists has been another process for Western society to re-define its non-Western other.

I define the mapping of this project as a dis/orienting rhizomatic mapping which draws from Deleuze and Guattari’s models of rhizome and tree-system. As I analyze the shifting discourses to map the shifting borders, changing names, and transforming otherness of Middle East, I approach the Western process of re-inventing and homogenizing Middle East as a tree-system while I read the region’s organic heterogeneity and complex relations of meaning-making as rhizomatic. In this light, I conduct a carto-rhetorical deconstruction on the cartographic discourses (maps of dominant gaze) representing Middle East with a focus on the rhetorical and narrative qualities of maps as technical documents. The central agenda is to dis/other the geography of Middle East by mapping with its rhizomatic socio-spatial identities and to write an anti-memory challenging the Islamic stereotypes and prejudices that have been produced in the dominant vision and discourses of alienation, enemization, and victimization of the region.

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