The Discursive Construction of Muslim Identities by Contemporary Muslim Televangelists in the West.

El Naggar, Shaimaa (2016) The Discursive Construction of Muslim Identities by Contemporary Muslim Televangelists in the West. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Televangelism or the use of satellite television/YouTube to preach religion has become one important media phenomenon, inter alia, among Muslim communities in minority contexts such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America (e. g. see Echchaibi, 2011). In a similar way to public figures, televangelists have become "media celebrities" with hundreds of thousands of fans and followers on YouTube and social media networks. The aim of the PhD thesis is twofold: first, to provide an explanatory framework for the rise of the phenomenon of televangelism, explore the broader dynamics it relates to and its characteristic features; second, to examine three case studies of American Muslim televangelists popular in the West, who belong to three different generations, namely Yusuf Estes (born 1944), Hamza Yusuf (born 1958) and Baba Ali (born 1977). The "celebrity status" that these televangelists have acquired (see Chapter 1 of the study) raises the question of what self-presentation strategies televangelists draw upon (e. g. see Goffman 1959), i. e. what identities they present for themselves and what multi-modal features they use to construct their identities and appeal to their audiences. Further, the post 9-11 context, which has witnessed the rise of anti-semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric raises the question of how the three televangelists, that have achieved popularity among Muslim communities in the West, represent Muslim identities in their sermons, for example, if they draw on particular legitimation strategies to respond to anti-Muslim rhetoric. In fact, over the past few decades, many scholars in different disciplines (e. g. psychology, sociology and linguistics) have explored the concept of identities' construction (e. g. see Triandafyllidou and Wodak 2003 and Anderson 2006). Discourse-language in use- can be one domain for constructing identities (e. g. Hall 1996: 17 and Wodak et al 2009:22). Through discourse, individuals can instruct others and be instructed as to who they think they are, with whom they should align, and from whom to distance themselves; from that perspective, identity is a discursive construction (e. g. Wodak et al 2009:22). From this perspective, this study seeks to: a) explore the multimodal and discursive strategies televangelists use to self-represent their identities and b) construct Muslim identities in their sermons. Given the nature of the topic of the study and the many features that are related to this phenomenon (e. g. use of entertainment, use of websites and social networks), a Critical Discourse Studies (thereafter, CDS) approach is well-suited for the study. CDS can be briefly defined as an approach towards exploring complex social phenomena that pays particular attention to the relationship between language, ideology and power (e. g. Wodak and Meyer 2009; Angouri and Wodak 2014). A critical approach will enable us to go beyond perceiving televangelism as a "novel" phenomenon towards raising the question of what might be at stake in televangelism and what might be the wider interactions that have contributed to the shaping of this phenomenon and maintaining its existence. This study employs an innovative synergy of the Discourse Historical Approach and the theory of Visual Grammar to deconstruct the layers of contexts surrounding the phenomenon of televangelism and to explore televangelists' discourses. I argue that televangelism is a complex phenomenon that can be seen within the contextual prism of media power, transnationalism, info-tainment and rise of digital Islam, among other aspects (Chapters 1-4). The study makes general and more specific claims about televangelism and the discourses of the three American Muslim televangelists under investigation. First, the study illustrates that televangelists' sermons and YouTube excerpts represent hybrid multi-modal fields in which televangelists navigate through different discourses and modes to self-represent their (multiple) identities, and gain wider constituencies of audiences, which testifies to the understanding of this type of religious celebrity who can play multiple roles (see Chapter 6). Second, one finding of the study is that the three televangelists are -in varied ways- addressing the socio-historical context of Muslims in the West (e. g. awareness of misrepresentation in mass media), which could be one reason for their popularity. In terms of the representation of Muslim identities in televangelists' sermons, using the DHA, I explore the nomination, predication and argumentation strategies, among other aspects and explain that one feature of the sermons of the three televangelists is that they are also addressing non-Muslims, attempting to bring about change of attitudes towards the perception of Islam. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2016.
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02 May 2019 16:29
Last Modified:
10 Oct 2023 23:44