Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense

12-3-2012

Graduate Advisor

Lisa M. Dorner, Ph.D.

Committee

April Regester

Rebecca Rogers, Ph.D

Rehana Shafi, MSW

Alina Slapac, Ed.D

Abstract

In the years since September 11, 2001, increased racial profiling changed what it means to be an Arab, and/or Muslim in the United States. While a small but growing number of studies have focused on Arab-American adolescents and identity development (Chadhury, 2008; Sarroub, 2002), few have studied those who were “emerging adults” (Arnett, 2000) at the time of the attacks, or analyzed how they construct their current lifespan narratives (McAdams, 2006) in light of the national discourse linking terrorism and Islam. To fill this gap in the literature, my study explored the links between community discourse and narrative identity development through these specific questions: 1) How was the Arab-American Muslim population represented in local St. Louis media between 1999 and 2011? 2) How do community leaders, Muslim and non-Muslim, view the Arab-American/Muslim population in St. Louis? 3) How do American Muslim women in their 20s and 30s, who lived in the U.S. during “9/11,” narrate their lives and identities? 4) In comparison of these texts, how do the personal narratives align or dis-align with others’ discourse, and what does this mean for individuals’ emerging adulthood experiences and identity development? This project included lifespan interviews with four local American Muslim women with family origins in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey; and discourse analysis of nine community interviews and 66 St. Louis Post Dispatch opinion pieces. Using Narrative Inquiry and discourse analysis, this study wove together interviews, artifacts, research reflections, newspaper articles and field notes into multi-dimensional narratives. Analyses of interviews and newspaper articles suggest that there is still a lack of knowledge about Muslims and their beliefs, which continues to generate fear in the community. Findings from narrative interviews with the American Muslim women demonstrate that close familial relationships and generative natures (McAdams, 2006) that developed around the time of 9-11, along with increased public interest in Islam, shaped their identity processes and helped the participants feel more empowered over time. This indicated that there is a disconnect between what was portrayed in the media, what was understood in the community, and identities formed among these four American Muslim women.

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