American Arabesque: Arabs and Islam in the Nineteenth by Jacob Rama Berman

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 might modify how we comprehend them this present day.


Moving from the interval of America’s engagement within the Barbary Wars during the Holy Land commute mania within the years of Jacksonian enlargement and into the writings of romantics comparable to Edgar Allen Poe, the ebook argues that not just have been Arabs and Muslims prominently featured in nineteenth-century literature, yet that the diversities writers confirmed among figures reminiscent of Moors, Bedouins, Turks and Orientals supply 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 appears to be like in captivity narratives, commute narratives, resourceful literature, and ethnic literature concurrently instantiate and undermine definitions of the yankee kingdom and American citizenship.

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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. Chapter 2 turns its attention to the figure of the indigene as it relates to the question of nativity and ownership in the American context. The writers detailed in chapter 2 are privileged rather than enslaved, moving relatively freely through Near Eastern deserts, cities, and ruins rather than being trapped in North African prisons and speaking to a domestic audience that is not as mindful of the question of American Revolution as they are of the question of American Empire.

The chapter argues that the variations in these different writers’ representation of Arabs, Islam, and Morocco speak directly to central debates in black uplift discourse about the politics of respectability, as well as to key class divides between the talented-tenth and street-level black-empowerment movements. Barbaresques ultimately could be mobilized for either spiritual or secular discourses on black identity, and charting their uses in the first decades of the twentieth century reveals how intraethnic class and religious reconciliation were often sacrificed on the alter of interethnic racial reconciliation.

Government agent in the Louisiana Territory. Despite their obvious geographical separation, the physical spaces of Barbary and Louisiana, I argue, are treated with ideological continuity in Cathcart’s writings. Both are spatially chaotic and historically abject, and both The Barbarous Voice of Democracy 33 have the potential to be cultivated into the smooth spatio-temporality of empire. Cathcart’s America is a mobile concept more than it is a geographically bounded space. But whether he is in Barbary or Louisiana, Cathcart’s idealized vision of a coherent and culturally homogeneous America is constantly harassed by the multicultural and multilinguistic reality of the literal landscapes he surveys.

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