By Jacob Rama Berman
American Arabesque examines representations of Arabs, Islam and the close to East in nineteenth-century American tradition, arguing that those representations play an important position within the improvement of yankee nationwide identification over the century, revealing principally unexplored exchanges among those cultural traditions that would adjust how we comprehend them this present day.
Moving from the interval of America’s engagement within the Barbary Wars throughout the Holy Land shuttle mania within the years of Jacksonian growth and into the writings of romantics similar to Edgar Allen Poe, the publication argues that not just have been Arabs and Muslims prominently featured in nineteenth-century literature, yet that the diversities writers proven among figures reminiscent of Moors, Bedouins, Turks and Orientals offer facts of the transnational scope of family racial politics. Drawing on either English and Arabic language assets, Berman contends that the fluidity and instability of the time period Arab because it seems in captivity narratives, shuttle narratives, ingenious literature, and ethnic literature concurrently instantiate and undermine definitions of the yankee kingdom and American citizenship.
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Additional info for American Arabesque: Arabs and Islam in the Nineteenth Century Imaginary
Yet the very figurative nature of these metaphors of nativity made them unruly and subject to co-option by “nonwhites” such as Jews and African Americans. Looking closely at Erich Auerbach’s definition of figura in the context of Ibn Khaldun’s fourteenth-century definition of the Bedouin, chapter 2 examines the stakes in translating a foreign archetype into a domestic stereotype. Read in an intercultural context, the translation of the Arab Bedouin into the American Bedouin does something more than stabilize white nativity in America and create a national symbolic that differentiates American Empire from its historical predecessors.
The disappearance of primitive man in the face of civilized advance was a universal phenomenon, these travel narratives implied, visible in the Arabian Desert as well as on the American frontier. But America’s colonial advance into its continental hinterland was differentiated from Ottoman colonialism, and American Manifest Destiny was distinguished from historical examples of imperial hubris through reversal. Whereas Edom is cursed, America is chosen, as evident in the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau being played out on America’s own frontier.
The other narrative, the narrative that suggests the United States’ own history of slavery, hegemony, and imperial aggression, remains as a ghostly complement to the New World symbol that American historiography was to fashion out of Hamet’s Mameluke sword. The proceedings from the court marshal of an American sailor aboard a ship sent to the Barbary Coast during the War with Tripoli provides a telling example of the gap many Federal-era Americans felt existed between the promise of revolutionary freedom and the reality of continued American bondage, between the affect of national fantasy and the lived experience of those still occluded from the values the national fantasy promoted.