Identity is a fluid concept that has no static meaning. It continuously takes and loses references and connotations. This continuous change of identity results often from defining one’s place in the world and his/her relationship to others. Defining the other is, therefore, integral to defining the self and defining the self is indispensible from shaping one’s identity in others’ perceptions. Identity definition is a multifaceted complex process that is deeply rooted in the web of human social, cultural and lingual interaction as Jenkins suggested:
Identity is the human capacity-rooted in language-to know ‘who’s who’ (and hence ‘what’s what’). This involves who we are, knowing who others are, them knowing who we are, us knowing who they think we are and so on: a multi-dimensional classification or mapping of the human world and our places in it, as individuals and as members of collectivities….It is a process-identification-not a ‘thing’ (Jenkins 2008, 5)
Identity is not only constructed by the perceiver but it is also construed by the target. It is a process that includes a two-way identification of the self and the other. Changing the perceiver’s impression and understanding of oneself is a process through which the self is redefined and constructed. It is a process referred to by Swann as the “making of minds” through which “perceivers and targets interactively forge agreements regarding the identities of targets” (2005, 69).
This making of minds lies at the core of the making of identity. Colonialist and post-colonialist discourses rest on this idea of changing the matrix of relationships between perceivers and targets and making and remaking minds. The west, according to Edward Said, has historically used a colonial discourse to make the identity of the East/Orient through monopolizing language and knowledge over it and creating a matrix in which the West claims authority over the East. “To have such knowledge over such a thing is to dominate it, to have authority over it. And authority here means for ‘us’ to deny autonomy to ‘it’─ the Oriental country─ since we know it and it exists, in a sense, as we know it” (32). The west used a colonial discourse to carve the others’ identities. “The objective of colonial discourse,” according to Homi K. Bhabha, “is to construe the colonized as a population of degenerate types on the basis of racial origin, in order to justify conquest and to establish systems of administration and instruction (70). To refute these artificial westernly-made identities, postcolonial examples appeared to construct and construe a new identity more authentic than earlier. The stereotype has been always the colonialists’ weapon to deform others’ identities and demolishing the stereotype becomes the post-colonialists’ armor to redefine and refine identity.
There is a long history of colonial discourse and writings that construed the identity of Arabs/Arab Americans in American popular culture. In American popular culture,...