Britz: Muslims and Postmodern Media after 9/11

Curator's Note

The clip is the trailer for the television drama Britz which was shown on Channel 4 in the UK at the end of 2007. It was a well publicised drama with the burning of the Union Jack flag and the refrain 'Whose side are you on?' splashed across public billboards, as well as regularly aired on television prior to broadcast. Britz effectively brings together the two main modes of (liberal) representation of Muslims in the west post 9/11 - one as a social realist documentary-style drama about Muslim life, the conditions they live in, and the causes and motivations to become Jihadists; the other as a thriller in the form of a Spooks or 24, where the enjoyment is derived by showing and thwarting terrorism. This postmodern documentary-thriller, with the refrain 'Whose side are you on?', while being framed by an ideologically problematic choice, made good, dramatic 'mainstream' television. It's two-part structure - telling the same story twice from the perspectives of a young male Muslim MI5 security agent, and his sister, who becomes a suicide bomber - presents being Muslim in the UK as a diasporic community struggling over competing narratives of identity, and the only rationale for state racism and terrorism. In a globalised media sphere, especially after 9/11, the issue of diaspora culture and communities is not a marginal interest but one that is central to western geo-politics, as well as the media and cultural economy. This liberal drama blurs the distinction between nation and diaspora by presenting the concerns of the diasporic community in terms of national belonging. I would argue that diasporic Muslims are becoming one of the key 'floating signifiers' of an emergent global reality-entertainment media that does not just present news and documentary as entertainment but entertainment is serious social analysis. (The Britz DVD was immediately on sale after broadcast). The 'diasporization' of the national media, or conversely, the nationalisation of diaspora, at least in the UK, maybe changes how we politically understand diaspora media in a global capitalist context, where national and diaspora media and culture are converging. It has been argued that 9/11 marked the end of the 'playful simulation' of postmodernism, and the return to 'reality'; it seems to me that the spectacle of the 'war on terror' is even more inscribed in a transnational postmodern culture where signs of antagonism and difference are presented as ideological enjoyment and 'solutions' to the crisis of neoliberalism.


I think the era of diasporic artistic performances being consigned to self-contained spaces is becoming a thing of the past in recent times. However, it is still a challenge for diasporan producers to showcase their work in shared spaces, ie mainstream media. Channel 4 is unique in giving voices to the marginalised ethnic groups because it is part of its remit. There is a need for all groups to celebrate what we have in common and respect/tolerate our differences.

It seems that the 'solutions' end up being containment and incorporation of the diaspora--it is the neoliberal project trying to solve the neoliberal crisis through neoliberal ideology. Turn threat into pop culture, nationalize and make a profit. The market loves democracy, because it means more buyers. Post 9/11 the diaspora became the major 'problem' for the state to deal with. What better way to diffuse uncertainty than to transform the diasporic signifier into entertainment value.

in looking at both of these clips, in comparison to the one from monday, it is interesting to note the differences and similarities to the production of programming in the US. the differences in history of migration, colonialism, and class create different agendas. and yet the heightened visibility and need to reconcile or contain "brown" muslim bodies is probably and increasing similarity for dominant programming.

The emergence of "brown" Muslim bodies on mainstream US and UK entertainment TV is functioning crucially to define what is "American/British" and what is " foreign." I agree with the comment that is important to examine representational practices of dominant programming and locate them within the distinct histories of representing "race" on US and UK televison. in the US for example, the brown muslim body has been key to reinforcing a normative white masulinity in the action/adventure genre. (much like in videogames).

[...] Muslims and Postmodern Media after 9/11 A post I wrote for for the In Media Res online project for a diaspora media themed [...]

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