Constructing American Identity and the Terrorist ‘Other’

Jacob Pembroke


This research approaches the question of ‘Othering’ within Hollywood cinema, and the impact that these processes might have on the perceived legitimacy of American foreign and domestic policy in the post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’ context. Following a discussion of the literature charting the history of ‘Othering’ from the Cold War to 2007,((outlining the negative stereotypes attached to Muslims and Arabs regarding a predisposition towards terrorism and fanaticism), the research analyses seven post-2008 Hollywood films using a hegemonic discourse analysis approach that gives significance to the social, political and cultural context in which they are viewed by an audience. The conclusions drawn from this analysis indicate a continued prevalence of negative stereotyping within Hollywood cinema towards Arabs and Muslims, but increasingly towards Koreans, Iranians and domestic terrorism in order to construct a perception of emerging geopolitical threats from these groups. Such portrayals of terrorism are found to seek to legitimise a particularly hawkish foreign policy, and repressive domestic policies in many cases, though there are films found to provide a critical engagement with such policies.

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