Rhetorical (Re)Constructions: Ground Zero, Park51, and Muslim Identity

Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Lois P. Agnew


9/11, American Muslims, Ground Zero, Islam, Islamophobia, Park51

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


"Rhetorical (Re)Constructions: Ground Zero, Park51, and Muslim Identity" examines Islamophobic rhetoric and the rhetorical practices Muslim women employ to counter dominant stereotypes. I argue that Muslims have been constructed as a monolithic Other and explore how the rhetoric of spaces and places constitutes Muslim identity and shapes the American Muslim experience. My methods include rhetorical analysis, spatial analysis, and interviews. Drawing on constitutive rhetorics, rhetorics of space and place, and transnational feminist theories, I analyze the marginalization of American Muslims in three sites. I begin by tracing how Islamophobic rhetoric circulates from Ground Zero to surrounding sites such as Park51. Next, at the 9/11 Museum, I analyze artifacts, educational materials, and the museum's design in order to investigate how Muslims are represented. At the third site, the Muslim Women's Story Lab, I interview participants in a 6-month community writing workshop in New York City for Muslim women. This research provides a glimpse at the ways in which Muslims are denied the protection of their citizenship and subjected to attacks via violent and exclusionary rhetorics.

A growing body of research has theorized Islamophobia (Bazian, Beydoun, Kumar, Lean and Esposito, Sheehi) and issues pertaining to Muslim women in America (Haddad et al.; Hammer; Karim; Mir). Yet there has been limited research in the field of rhetoric and composition on Islamophobic rhetoric and the rhetorical construction of Muslim identity in America. To do this work, I draw from constitutive rhetorical studies (Burke, Charland, Clark); rhetorics of space and place (Cresswell, Massey, Reynolds, Wright); and transnational feminist theory (Maira, Mohanty, Puar). My research contributes to our understandings of Islamophobic rhetoric in the context of Ground Zero. It identifies the racist undertones in arguments for and against seemingly innocuous projects such as Park51. It also offers insights into how Muslim women respond via a community literacy initiative, identifying the rhetorical practices they use to counter dominant stereotypes.


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