Saturday, January 5, 2013: 9:40 AM
Conti Room (Roosevelt New Orleans)
I will highlight an emerging theme in the historical scholarship of U.S.-Arab relations: the role that interactions with the Arab world have played in the shaping and reshaping of U.S. political, civic, cultural, and religious identity. Over the last couple of decades, scholars have explored how the challenge posed by the Barbary States of North Africa structured late eighteenth-century debates over the founding of U.S. political institutions; how, in the nineteenth century, local resistance to American Protestant missionaries’ efforts in the Levant pushed those missionaries to adopt a more secular and scientific outlook; how, around the turn of the twentieth century, Arabesque iconography helped U.S. society move away from a culture of thrift and piety and into a world of commodity consumption; how, in our own era, violent contact with parts of the Arab (and Muslim) world has provoked a fundamental debate over America’s constitutional character; and how, over the last century-and-a-quarter, Arab immigration has altered the content and texture of domestic U.S. life.
While the scholarship establishing these influences is innovative and perceptive, the individual works tend to operate in isolation from one another. I will explore the insights that become possible when works of this sort are examined in combination.