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 adjust how we comprehend them at the present time.


Moving from the interval of America’s engagement within the Barbary Wars throughout the Holy Land shuttle mania within the years of Jacksonian enlargement and into the writings of romantics akin to Edgar Allen Poe, the e-book argues that not just have been Arabs and Muslims prominently featured in nineteenth-century literature, yet that the variations writers proven among figures corresponding to Moors, Bedouins, Turks and Orientals offer facts of the transnational scope of household racial politics. Drawing on either English and Arabic language resources, Berman contends that the fluidity and instability of the time period Arab because it appears to be like in captivity narratives, trip narratives, creative literature, and ethnic literature at the same time instantiate and undermine definitions of the yank kingdom and American citizenship.

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Mirroring the way that nineteenth-century white Orientalist discourse used the Orient as a screen to project national narratives and to configure New World racial hierarchies, Drew Ali used the figure of the Moor to establish a narrative of black American nativity and historical privilege. The rhetorical reversal of a white American discourse on race is directly evident in Drew Ali’s handling of the story of Ham. “Old man Cush and his family are the first inhabitants of Africa who came from the land of Canaan,” relates Drew Ali’s Circle Seven Koran.

Beyond the material support Barbary captivity narratives provided for actual slaves in Africa, the genre was clearly also a source of entertainment and intrigue for American readers. According to Paul Baepler, “Although the Barbary captivity narrative in English existed for more than three centuries, it caught the attention of United States readers primarily during the first half of the nineteenth century. Between John Foss’s 1798 narrative and the numerous printings of James Riley’s 1817 account, .

35 A mameluke is a slave or possession of someone, but a malik (derived from the same verbal root) is a king, and mulk is something that Ibn Khaldun theorized as natural kingship. In practice, the Mameluke dynasty combined these seemingly opposed states of being: they were both slaves and kings, both victims and administrators of imperialism. No man could become a Mameluke ruler who had not first been a Mameluke slave. The janissary body of the Mamelukes was not hereditary and theoretically could only be refreshed with new orphans.

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