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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: July 2009

6 - Representation of Arabs in Cultural Products

Summary

In the present chapter we review studies that have investigated the representation of Arabs in Israeli Jewish channels of culture – specifically, representation in Hebrew literature, plays, and films of the past 100 years. Cultural products express the values, beliefs, and norms of the society. They delineate the boundaries of what is considered an acceptable societal expression of social reality and sometimes provide new perspectives. While they reflect the prevailing beliefs and widely shared assumptions and norms, they can also present the public with unusual or innovative ideas. In contrast to school textbooks, which adhere to the mainstream tradition and ideology and are almost never innovative, literature, plays, and films can definitely go beyond, sometimes even far beyond, consensual beliefs to present views that are controversial at the time but may, eventually, be accepted by at least part of a society.

In line with this reasoning, an analysis of the representation of Arabs in cultural products may reveal not only widely shared stereotypes but also new images. In the former case, cultural products serve as a mechanism of reflection, which validates and thus helps to maintain the consensual stereotype, whereas in the latter the cultural products serve as sources of innovation, which can transmit and disseminate new and unusual images of Arabs.

In reviewing studies that investigate Arab representation in Hebrew literature, we consider first adult literature and then children's (or adolescent) literature.