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Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East, 1945-2000 [Paperback]

Melani McAlister
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since1945 Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since1945 5.0 out of 5 stars (2)
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Book Description

Oct. 28 2001 American Crossroads (Book 6)
In the last half of the twentieth century, cultural products--from films and news reports to museum exhibits and novels--profoundly shaped ideas about the relationship between Americans and the Middle East. In this innovative book, Melani McAlister explores the cultural history of political interests, arguing that U.S. encounters with the Middle East were influenced by both the presence of oil and the religious symbolism of the region. McAlister's richly textured study shows how culture functions as a social and historical force in shaping politics and identity. She skillfully weaves lively and accessible readings of popular culture with a rigorous analysis of U.S. foreign policy and the domestic politics of race.
McAlister begins by situating the postwar development of U.S.-Middle East relations, including the rise of anticolonialism and the establishment of the state of Israel. Subsequent chapters consider specific events and cultural texts such as the epic film The Ten Commandments, the King Tut museum exhibit, writings from the Black arts movement, the U.S.-Iranian hostage crisis, and the 1990-1991 Gulf War. In each of these cases, McAlister demonstrates how representations of the Middle East have been a site of struggle over both the nature of U.S. foreign policy and the construction of race, religion, and gender within the United States.
Truly interdisciplinary, this work will appeal to a wide audience as it illuminates the significant intersection of culture and politics that is at the heart of both nationalism and globalization.

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Review

"Our 25 Favorite Books of 2001: McAlister is uniquely placed to reveal . . . the significance of the Middle East to Americans."--"Village Voice

From the Inside Flap

"A wonderfully original and compelling study, essential for understanding the complex relations between the US and the nations and peoples of the Mideast. McAlister argues powerfully that American interests in the Mideast range far beyond the realm of foreign policy to become of paramount importance to the creation of American culture in the post World War II era. . . . A model for those interested in the interconnections of culture and foreign policy in an era of globalization. An engrossing read."--Amy Kaplan, author of The Social Construction of American Realism

"Melani McAlister has written a marvelous book that draws together a vast array of materials from the media, archives, scholarly sources, and popular culture, interpreting it through her rich knowledge of cultural studies. Scholars in many fields--American studies, sociology, religious studies, political science, media studies, among others--will want to read this lively and engaging book."--Robert Wuthnow, author of After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s, and Creative Spirituality: The Way of the Artist

"A fascinating and completely original analysis of the relation between culture and foreign policy. . . this book casts entirely new light on US military, financial, and emotional investments in the Middle East. Conservative Christian sensibilities, television, Biblical epics, Black Power, and a host of gender-related representations--these and other factors all played a part in the shaping of American foreign policy in ways that have never before been noticed. No historian of twentieth-century American culture or politics should miss this brilliant book!"--Gail Bederman, author of Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the US, 1880-1917

"Diplomatic historians are now turning to Edward Said's Orientalism to explore the cultural dimensions of 20th Century America's representations of the Middle East. They are too late! Melani McAlister develops a "post-orientalist" approach to U.S. culture, foreign policy, and identity. Hers is also the first book ever to recognize that African -Americans matter to such a project. Epic Encounters is a blockbuster of a book."--Robert Vitalis, author of When Capitalists Collide: Business Conflict and the End of Empire in Egypt

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
When Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments opened in New York in November 1956, the critical consensus was that the director had created a middle-brow, melodramatic, and highly suspect account of the biblical story of Moses. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and informative Sept. 14 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
McAlister has succeeded in writing a multi-faceted description of the uniquely American view of the Middle East. This book offers unemotional and impartial perspectives on the subject.
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By fml66
Format:Paperback
An incredibly good book. McAlister dissects and analyzes the representations of the Middle East in various media -- movies, news, plays, books, etc. -- and their relationships to the projection of US global power and the shaping of US cultural identity since the end of World War II. As she puts it, her goal is to address the absence of culture from discussions of the history of US imperialism, the absence of empire from discussions of US culture, and the absence of the US from discussions of postcolonial imperialism.
Among her subjects, all of which she treats deftly and with attentive detail, are: Amiri Baraka's "A Black Mass," the Israeli military raid on Entebbe, the 1977 John Frankenheimer movie "Black Friday," the tour of King Tutankhamen's artifacts through the United States during 1977-1978, Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," the rise of the Moral Majority, the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1980 and its obsessive coverage in the US media, the prevalence of military revenge movies in the 1980s like "Navy Seals" and "Delta Force," Betty Mahmoody's book "Not without My Daughter," and the Gulf War.
I found particularly compelling her discussion of 1950s biblical epics, such as "Ben-Hur" and "The Ten Commandments." The recent controversy over "The Passion of the Christ" is put into definite context when you see how "The Ten Commandments" was received (and what purposes it served) when it was released in 1956.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent exploration of cultural and social identity March 17 2004
By fml66 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An incredibly good book. McAlister dissects and analyzes the representations of the Middle East in various media -- movies, news, plays, books, etc. -- and their relationships to the projection of US global power and the shaping of US cultural identity since the end of World War II. As she puts it, her goal is to address the absence of culture from discussions of the history of US imperialism, the absence of empire from discussions of US culture, and the absence of the US from discussions of postcolonial imperialism.
Among her subjects, all of which she treats deftly and with attentive detail, are: Amiri Baraka's "A Black Mass," the Israeli military raid on Entebbe, the 1977 John Frankenheimer movie "Black Friday," the tour of King Tutankhamen's artifacts through the United States during 1977-1978, Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," the rise of the Moral Majority, the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1980 and its obsessive coverage in the US media, the prevalence of military revenge movies in the 1980s like "Navy Seals" and "Delta Force," Betty Mahmoody's book "Not without My Daughter," and the Gulf War.
I found particularly compelling her discussion of 1950s biblical epics, such as "Ben-Hur" and "The Ten Commandments." The recent controversy over "The Passion of the Christ" is put into definite context when you see how "The Ten Commandments" was received (and what purposes it served) when it was released in 1956.
4.0 out of 5 stars A look into American Politics through literature and popular thought... Dec 16 2008
By ZMC - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I chose this book to pair it with Natasha Zaretsky's book "No Way Home" for my final paper and it helped me to make the connection between how American Foriegn Policy is formed by way of the media and the American public interest in the Middle East Region. To learn more about how American policies are shaped regarding the Middle East region, I suggest that you read this book.
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