Many of our CR assignments this semester have asked you to analyze how local religious communities portray themselves on their websites. Media analysis is an important skill when it comes to religion in today’s world, as we are surrounded by so many competing representations of each tradition. The final paper assignment has been crafted to help you bring together all of the skills that you have been developing this semester, including media analysis. In lieu of a final exam, students are asked to write a paper on the following: choosing a topic or issue related to a religious group we have been studying this semester, analyze how your topic is presented and/or stereotyped in mainstream American media versus that religion’s internal understanding(s) of it.
Examples of successful topics from previous classes:
How the hijab is portrayed in mainstream American media (compared to how it is understood by Muslims)
Depictions of yoga in the United States (compared to its meanings in Hinduism)
To begin this assignment, you will select five items from different media sources that you would like to analyze in your project. You may select any type of media item that you would like, including but not limited to: news articles, commercials, music, billboards, comics, ads, movie clips, song lyrics, artwork, short stories, etc. Whatever items you choose, please be sure that they have a clear source that can be cited. Three of your media items should be the creations of “outsiders” (those who are not practitioners of the religious group that you are analyzing), the remaining two media items should be from “insiders” (practitioners who identify with the religious group).
After you have selected your five items, you will craft a paper (no more than 1,500 words) that showcases the different media items you selected and addresses the following questions: What images, assumptions, and stereotypes are most prevalent in the three “outsider” media items you have selected? How do “insiders” within the religious group challenge those representations? And, how do peer-reviewed (academic) sources complicate or support these views? During our class session on Tuesday, 10/20, I will answer questions about the assignment, teach you how to find appropriate academic sources, and give you time to start brainstorming and researching your topic.
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