Jack G. Shaheen Collection on Arabs in US Film and Television (TAM 535) (VIDEOS 15)

“It is with a feeling of enormous loss and grief that I note the sudden passing of Jack G. Shaheen on July 9, 2017. He devoted his life to documenting Hollywood and television’s misrepresentations of Arabs and Muslims, constantly documenting, writing, and speaking about this caricature and that image long before the public and academics paid attention to the origins and consequences of such dehumanizing cultural politics. He understood these stereotypes as linked to the racializing of various othered peoples, always seeking to compare and interrelate. Before I met the man, I expected his 40 years of painstaking, thankless, and pain-inducing documentation of each character in each movie and show to make for an embittered and cynical person. Yet he was upbeat, loving, and relentlessly positive. Jack always spoke and wrote with grace, generosity, and hope. We’ll miss him dearly. His work, gaining international recognition in the past ten years, is now more important than ever.”Jack Tchen, Founding Director, A/P/A Institute at NYU



Born in 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dr. Jack G. Shaheen (1935-2017) dedicated his career to identifying and contesting damaging stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims in American media. He connected their development to the portrayals of other marginalized groups including Jews, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and African Americans. His research analyzed the origins of these visual caricatures, explained their stubborn persistence, revealed their very real ramifications, and presented solutions to counter them effectively.

A professor, author, and professional consultant for films such as Syriana and Three Kings, Shaheen, with the help of his wife Bernice Shaheen, collected and analyzed materials which depicted Arabs and Muslims as the “cultural other.” The Jack G. Shaheen Collection on Arabs in US Film and Television now contains nearly 3,000 motion pictures (spanning from late-19th century silent films to contemporary Hollywood productions) and television programs (including comedies, dramas, cartoons, as well as commercials) on DVDs and VHS tapes. Paper ephemera in the archive comprises of editorial cartoons, motion picture posters and stills, comic books, and advertisements. Also included in the archive are movie and TV scripts, law cases, books and magazines, as well as toys and games.

Shaheen wrote several books including The TV Arab (1984), Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11 (2008), and the award-winning Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (2001, 2009), which the Media Education Foundation produced as a documentary in 2006. He served as an Oxford Research Scholar and as a consultant for the Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and New York City’s Commission on Civil Rights.

Most recently, Shaheen was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies and Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU. He received two Fulbright teaching awards, the University of Pennsylvania’s Janet Lee Stevens Award, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Archangel Michael award (from the Greek Orthodox church), and the Pancho Be Award. His extensive collection provides valuable documentation of the representations of Arabs and Muslims in US popular culture and mass media from the late 19th to the 21st century.

The Jack G. Shaheen Collection on Arabs in US Film and Television is housed in multiple repositories at New York University. To access the contents of the collection, please download this collection guide and contact the appropriate repository.


Related resources:

2019-20 Jack G. Shaheen Research Grants, a call for proposals to conduct research in the Jack G. Shaheen Collection

A is for Arab: Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture, a traveling exhibition featuring items from the Jack G. Shaheen Collection

A is for Arab: Archiving Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture, a publication featuring items from the Jack G. Shaheen Collection