Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-13-2023


Across the United States, a genre of romance novels is sold centering on a “sheikh” character and set in fantasy desert kingdoms modeled off the “Middle East.” The covers feature primarily White Western women in the arms of sheikh characters against backdrops including sand dunes and Bedouin tents with titles referring to sheikhs, sultans, deserts, virgins, and brides. This study uses a decolonial feminist framework to engage in a critical visual discourse analysis of the cover images and contents of these so-called “desert romance” novels (Jarmakani, 2015), alongside pláticas with Muslim women, to understand what this imagery teaches about gender, race, and sexuality, how the imagery acts pedagogically, and with what implications. Through the visuals, titles, and contents, these novels act as a form of public and cultural pedagogy conveying and asserting particular ideas about Muslims, Arabs, and Muslim majority countries with very real impacts and implications.


Orientalism, Visual Representation, Desert Romance, Muslims, Public Pedagogy, Visual Discourse Analysis

Document Type




Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Glenabah Martinez

Second Committee Member

Carlos LopezLeiva

Third Committee Member

Bee Chamcharatsri

Fourth Committee Member

Manal Hamzeh

Available for download on Tuesday, May 13, 2025