Dr. Evelyn Alsultany, Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, will discuss her new book, “Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion,” at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena on Tuesday, Nov. 29. The event starts at 7 p.m.
In the book, published by New York University Press, Alsultany writes about how diversity initiatives have ended up marginalizing Arab Americans and U.S. Muslims even more.
When Donald Trump became president, one of his first actions was to sign an executive order to limit Muslim immigration to the United States, a step toward the “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” he had campaigned on. This “extraordinary act of Islamophobia,” Alsultany writes, provoked unprecedented opposition: Hollywood movies and mainstream television shows began to feature more Muslim characters in contexts other than terrorism, universities and private businesses included Muslims in their diversity initiatives, and the criminal justice system took hate crimes against Muslims more seriously.
In “Broken,” Alsultany argues that, even amid this challenge to institutionalized Islamophobia, diversity initiatives fail on their promise by only focusing on crisis moments.
She writes that Muslims get included through “crisis diversity,” where high-profile Islamophobic incidents are urgently responded to and then ignored until the next crisis. In the popular cultural arena of television, this means interrogating even those representations of Muslims that others have celebrated as refreshingly positive. What kind of message does it send, for example, when a growing number of “good Muslims” on TV seem to have arrived there, ironically, only after leaving the faith?
In the realm of corporations, she critically examines the firing of high-profile individuals for anti-Muslim speech – a remedy that rebrands corporations as anti-racist while institutional racism remains intact. At universities, Muslim students get included in diversity, equity, and inclusion plans but that gets disrupted if they are involved in Palestinian rights activism. Finally, she turns to hate crime laws revealing how they fail to address root causes.
In each of these arenas, Alsultany finds an institutional pattern that defangs the promise of Muslim inclusion, deferring systemic change until and through the next “crisis.”
Dr. Alsultany’s research, teaching, and lecturing are driven by a commitment to bringing Arab and Muslim Americans into the broader conversation about racial politics in the U.S. In her lectures, she seeks to educate audiences on the history of stereotypical representations of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media, its consequences as evident in public opinion and government policies, and alternatives to foster greater human respect and dignity.
She is the author of “Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11” that examines a paradox in an increase in positive portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media after 9/11 and a simultaneous increase in hate crimes and government policies targeting Arabs and Muslims. She shows that even seemingly positive images can produce meanings that justify exclusion and inequality.
Professor Alsultany received a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2005. She has an associate professor at USC since 2019.
Prior to USC, she taught at the University of Michigan for 13 years where she co-founded and served as the director of the Arab and Muslim American Studies. She has won numerous awards for her undergraduate teaching, including the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship, the highest teaching award at the University of Michigan. She has also been awarded prestigious fellowships such as the ACLS/Luce Program on Religion, Journalism, and International Affairs and a Fulbright Specialist Award to serve as a consultant in Qatar.
In 2012, she was honored with a Jack G. and Bernice Shaheen Achievement Award.
Attendance at the event on Tuesday is free. For more information, call (626) 449-5320 or visit www.vromansbookstore.com/event/evelyn-alsultany-discusses-broken.
Vroman’s Bookstore is at 695 E. Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena.