American popular culture through the lens of Saidian and post-Saidian Orientalist critiques

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This essay provides a historical evaluation of how scholars have employed Saidian Orientalism to analyse the representation of Arabs, Muslims, the Middle East and North Africa in American popular culture from the revolutionary period to the present day. The scholarship examined here focuses on the American media, film, literature, material culture, world fairs, the expansion of the westward frontier, and consumer culture. I argue that whereas academics in the 1980s were concerned primarily with the extent to which European stereotypes of the Middle Eastern Arab/Muslim other proliferated in contemporary American popular culture and politics, this concern with negative stock images failed to provide a compelling and satisfactory explanation for how Americans actually engaged with ‘the Orient’ in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A historical approach to studying Orientalism in American culture has produced what I am calling post-Saidian analyses showing that American society has not merely been constructed in contradistinction to the Oriental other; rather, traditions of self-Orientalising have also played a vital part in creating multiple American selves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalCritical race and whiteness studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Orientalism
  • American popular culture
  • American media
  • Arab/Muslim stereotypes
  • consumerism
  • gender


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