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Orientalism, Mardi Gras style
Lead float of the Cleopatra Krew, Mardis Gras, New Orleans

Orientalism, Mardi Gras style

Project documents and interprets Middle East Americana

The riches of Middle Eastern Americana will soon be on display on a website that CNES is developing as part of a long-term project to collect, record and interpret Middle Eastern representations in American culture. The theme of Middle Eastern Americana or American Orientalism as pursued by the Center was introduced by Jonathan Friedlander at the First World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies held in Fall 2002 in Mainz, Germany, and more recently in a two-panel session he organized for the 2003 Middle East Studies Association Conference. The panels focused on Entertainment and the Media and The Built Environment and Material Culture, with papers by Reeva S. Simon, Columbia University, “The Middle East in American Popular Fiction: Thrillers and Spy Novels”; Sherifa Zuhur, Cleveland State University, “Tribal Princesses: Americans, the ‘Oriental’ Dance Industry and the Imagined Middle East”; Larry Michalak, University of California, Berkeley, “Recent Changes in the Stereotype of Arabs in Cinema”; Carel Bertram, San Francisco State University, “The Alhambra Phenomenon: From a Moorish Palace to a Theater Near You”; Jonathan Friedlander, UCLA, “Marketing Culture: The Middle East and Cigarette Iconography in American Popular Culture”; and Anne K. Rasmussen, College of William and Mary, “The Middle East Imagined: A Comparative Perspective on the Production of Musical Orientalism.”

These and other papers will be posted on the American Orientalism website, along with a rich array of sounds and images, including a sizable collection of photographs by Friedlander focusing on parades and pageantry—the Arabian Nights Festival in Opa Locka, Florida, the Indio Date Festival and New Orleans Mardi Gras parades featuring the Krews of Aladdin, Babylon, Cleopatra and Isis. Also prominently featured will be architectural motifs adapted from Ancient Egypt, Assyria, the Moorish style and Islamic Revivalism, as can be seen in private American homes, public buildings and the halls of commerce and entertainment. The site will also highlight Middle Eastern representations in music, cinema, dance, games, marketing, fashion, cuisine, and the artifacts, fetishes, curios and memorabilia which have become an integral part of American popular culture.

For more information on American Orientalism and Middle Eastern Americana, contact Jonathan Friedlander.

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