‘A Geography of Racism': Internal Orientalism and the Construction of American National Identity in the Film Mississippi Burning
Abstract:This article examines the contribution of the film Mississippi Burning to the construction of American national identity within the context of the discourse of internal orientalism. This discourse consists of a tradition of representing the American South as fundamentally different from the rest of the United States, and an important strand of this tradition involves construing ‘the South' as a region where racism, violence, intolerance, poverty and a group of other negative characteristics reign. In contrast, ‘America' is understood as standing for the opposite of these vices. Mississippi Burning continues this tradition by creating a ‘geography of racism', juxtaposing the brutality of white Southerners with the morality of two FBI agents sent to Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of three civil rights workers. A variety of the film's devices, including the comparison between the racist white Southerners and the FBI agents, reproduces an American national identity that stands for tolerance, justice and peace.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2005