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Critically unpacks National Geographic's portrayal of the Arab World

Veils and Daggers

A Century of National Geographic's Representation of the Arab World

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Linda Steet

The American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Critics’ Choice Award, 2001

"Veils and Daggers is one of those rare books that is important, well-written, and has a sense of humor.... This book demonstrates the importance of theoretical eclecticism, empirical richness, and the judicial use of illustrative photos. It's a great read!"
Sari Knopp Biklen, Laura and Douglas Meredith Professor, Chair, Cultural Foundations of Education, Syracuse University

National Geographic magazine is an American popular culture icon that, since its founding in 1888, has been on a nonstop tour classifying and cataloguing the peoples of the world. With more than ten million subscribers, National Geographic is the third largest magazine in America, following only TV Guide and Reader's Digest. National Geographic has long been a staple of school and public libraries across the country.

In Veils and Daggers, Linda Steet provides a critically insightful and alternative interpretation of National Geographic. Through an analysis of the journal's discourses in Orientalism, patriarchy, and primitivism in the Arab world as well as textual and visual constructions of Arab men and women, Islam, and Arab culture, Veils and Daggers unpacks the ideological perspectives that have guided National Geographic throughout its history. Drawing on cultural, feminist, and postcolonial criticism, Steet generates alternative readings that challenge the magazine's claims to objectivity. In this fascinating journey, it becomes clear that neither text nor image in the magazine can be regarded as natural or self-evident and she artfully demonstrates that the act of representing others "inevitably involves some degree of violence, decontextualization, miniaturization, etc." The subject area known as Orientalism, she shows, is a man-made concept that as such must be studied as an integral component of the social, rather than the natural or divine world.

Veils and Daggers repositions and redefines National Geographic as an educational journal. Steet's work is an important and groundbreaking contribution in the area of social construction of knowledge, social foundations of education, educational media, and social studies as well as racial identity, ethnicity, and gender. Once encountered, readers of National Geographic will never regard it in the same manner again.

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Excerpt

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"Steet's in-depth analyses are incisive, provocative, and multilayered. Accessible and theoretically rich, Veils and Daggers is highly valuable for scholars and students of cultural studies, ethnic studies, women's studies, journalism, and education."
Leslie Rebecca Bloom, author of Under the Sign of Hope: Feminist Methodology and Narrative Interpretation

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Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. What Would I Be Without You?
2. "The Arab Is an Anachronism": National Geographic, 1888 Through the 1920s
3. "The Fury and Excess": National Geographic, 1930s Through the 1940s
4. "The Arabian Nightmares": National Geographic, 1950s Through the 1960s
5. "Anonymous Women": National Geographic, 1970s Through the 1980s
Afterword: The Bazaar and the Bizarre
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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About the Author(s)

Linda Steet is Assistant Professor of Social Foundation of Education and Co-Coordinator of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at the University of Michigan, Flint.

Subject Categories

Education
History
Sociology

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