Captivating Westerns: The Middle East in the American West

Captivating Westerns: The Middle East in the American West

Captivating Westerns: The Middle East in the American West

Captivating Westerns: The Middle East in the American West


Tracing the transnational influences of what has been known as a uniquely American genre, "the Western," Susan Kollin's Captivating Westerns analyzes key moments in the history of multicultural encounters between the Middle East and the American West. In particular, the book examines how experiences of contact and conflict have played a role in defining the western United States as a crucial American landscape. Kollin interprets the popular Western as a powerful national narrative and presents the cowboy hero as a captivating figure who upholds traditional American notions of freedom and promise, not just in the region but across the globe. Captivating Westerns revisits popular uses of the Western plot and cowboy hero in understanding American global power in the post-9/11 period.

Although various attempts to build a case for the war on terror have referenced this quintessential American region, genre, and hero, they have largely overlooked the ways in which these celebrated spaces, icons, and forms, rather than being uniquely American, are instead the result of numerous encounters with and influences from the Middle East. By tracing this history of contact, encounter, and borrowing, this study expands the scope of transnational studies of the cowboy and the Western and in so doing discloses the powerful and productive influence of the Middle East on the American West.


To examine the West in the twenty-first century is to think of
it as always already transnational, a … routed and complex
rendition, a traveling concept whose meanings move between
cultures, crossing, bridging, and intruding simultaneously.

—NEIL campbell

How can you just sit there listening to wailing cowboys
when our lives are falling apart?

homeland (2011)

In the twenty-first century, transnational developments in scholarship have recast the field of western American literature and culture, with borderlands criticism, Pacific Rim studies, comparative Indigenous theory, and environmental criticism offering important new frameworks for reconceptualizing the region. As both a response to anxieties emerging after 9/11 and as part of a larger criticism launched against the U.S. war on terror and its “Lone Ranger” foreign policy, western American fiction and film have also developed along transnational routes by featuring the U.S. cowboy hero in an international setting, where his adventures often involve battling foes and restoring order on the global frontiers of the Middle East. Just as the popular Western is not a monolithic genre but a divided and contested form that has the ability to articulate ideas across the political spectrum, recent narratives featuring the post-

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