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Photo of Torsten Janson

Torsten Janson


Photo of Torsten Janson

The Islamization of Images for Religious Socialization. Paper presented at Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, Washington DC, US


  • Torsten Janson

Summary, in English

Abstract in Undetermined
Picture books and other visual merchandize for children and youth have a central role in Euro-American Sunni Muslim efforts at religious socialization. The proposed paper aims at making some analytical remarks on the complex cultural interplay inherent to the visual aspects of such pedagogic–cum–commercial material.

Islamic children’s literature originated in Muslim American and European minority organizations from the 1970s, but since then the market is gradually being globalized. The first producers adhered to a normative tradition of Sunni-Islamic revivalism and dawa, that is, efforts of ’mission’ and edification, counteracting what was perceived as the pressures of assimilation of Muslims into secular culture. Gradually, however, the picture books accommodated to (originally) Euro-American models for marketing and aesthetics, while creatively renegotiating classic religious norms of visual representation.

This paper will discuss the trends of visual innovation present in the material. Through the use of discourse analysis, this paper presents how the religious and iconographic references of the images gradually have changed over time, partly reflecting the changing status and needs of the Muslim minority communities. The literature displays a topical development from a male transmission of archaic sacred tradition, to a diversified line of production where female authors have come to dominate, dealing with broader contemporary and moral issues.

The re-invention of an Islamic visual culture manifest in the children’s literature seems to display an interesting balancing act between emulation and rejection of perceived “Western” cultural and commercial values. Theoretically, this may be understood in terms of cultural creolization (Hannerz 1996), that is, as equally creative and subversive measures enacted from a position of socio-cultural marginality, aspiring influence, recognition and the reversal of the processes of cultural subordination.


  • Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)
  • MECW: The Middle East in the Contemporary World

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Other Social Sciences


  • Children's literature
  • Muslims Non-Muslim countries
  • Dawah (Islam)
  • Religious ethics
  • Children's books

Conference name

The Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting (MESA), 2011

Conference date

2011-12-01 - 2011-12-04

Conference place

Washington, DC, United States