Orientalism(s), World Geography Textbooks, and Temporal Paradox: Questioning Representations of Southwest Asia and North Africa

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In this critical discourse analysis of six high-school world geography textbooks, we explore how constructions and representations of North Africa and Southwest Asia have served to reinforce Orientalist discourse in formal curriculum. Visual and written representations in these textbooks were overwhelmingly confounded by a traditional/modern dichotomy that constructed a paradoxical “Muslim world.” Gender and religion coding perpetuated the temporal paradox with women and Islam used as symbols of the traditional in need of western modernization. This paper begins with a contextualization of the study of textbooks and addresses investigations of media portrayals of Muslims, Arabs, and Islam. We then describe our theoretical grounding in criticalist perspectives and detail methods of analysis. Lastly, we present the three themes revealed through analysis and conclude with recommendations for enhancing geographic literacy in schools.