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Donohue ’18 Examines Muslim Women in the Media


Passionate about storytelling, Samantha Donohue ’18 crafted a summer research project that plays to that interest. Her work, funded by the Emerson Foundation, looked at the portrayal of Muslim women across several platforms in the U.S. and New Zealand: television, social media and virtual realities. She's a cinema and media studies and a creative writing major.

Donohue spent part of a summer in New Zealand, where she visited a mosque and spoke with the Muslim Students Association at the Victoria University of Wellington, among other research.

She hoped to come away from the internship with a deeper understanding of the Muslim community and the dangers of misrepresentation in the media.

She learned, among other things, that most Muslims in American television are portrayed as terrorists or as American officials fighting terrorism but rarely as everyday people. She says many news networks portray Muslim women as helpless and victimized and as “needing to be unveiled.”

“The media often ignores the fact that the hijab is often a wanted part of a Muslim woman’s religion,” she says. “This ‘save the Muslim woman’ attitude that American media developed was then used as propaganda to fight in the war on terror.”

Donohue’s research supervisor was Associate Professor of Africana Studies David Angel Nieves, who is director of the cinema and media program and co-director of Hamilton’s Digital Humanities Initiative, where Donohue has worked as an intern. 

“As someone interested in writing and the humanities, I didn’t expect to have a lot of research opportunities in college, but between this Emerson and my work in the Digital Humanities Initiative, I have learned that humanities research and conveying that research in an accessible way exists and is important,” she says.

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