A distinct premise of my work, inspired by Cultural Studies approaches, is that positive representations do not in themselves solve the problem of negative representations. My work enables an expanded analysis that takes into account how even seemingly positive images can produce meanings that can justify exclusion and inequality.
In Arabs and Muslims in the Media, I argue that seemingly positive representations of Arabs and Muslims have contributed to the formation of a new, subtle form of racism, one that projects anti-racism and multiculturalism while simultaneously producing the logics and affects necessary to legitimize exclusionary policies and practices.
I introduce the term, “simplified complex representations”: a new standard in racial and cultural representations that involves balancing a negative representation with a positive one in order to subvert stereotyping. This has meant that if the storyline of a TV drama or film represents an Arab or Muslim as a terrorist, then the storyline also includes a “positive” representation of an Arab, Muslim, Arab American, or Muslim American to offset the potential stereotype.
Simplified complex representations operate in multifaceted ways – through images, logics, and affects and through coding race, religion, gender, and sexuality.