American Studies Encounters the Middle East

American Studies Encounters the Middle East

American Studies Encounters the Middle East

American Studies Encounters the Middle East


In the field of American studies, attention is shifting to the long history of U.S. engagement with the Middle East, especially in the aftermath of war in Iraq and in the context of recent Arab uprisings in protest against economic inequality, social discrimination, and political repression. Here, Alex Lubin and Marwan M. Kraidy curate a new collection of essays that focuses on the cultural politics of America’s entanglement with the Middle East and North Africa, making a crucial intervention in the growing subfield of transnational American studies. Featuring a diverse list of contributors from the United States, the Arab world, and beyond, American Studies Encounters the Middle East analyzes Arab-American relations by looking at the War on Terror, pop culture, and the influence of the American hegemony in a time of revolution.



In the hills above the Casino du Liban, in the predominantly Maronite Catholic Keserwan district of Lebanon, sits El Rancho, a Texas-style dude ranch that hosts the Cedar Stampede Rodeo, a Sunday Texas barbeque, evening campfires, and deluxe lodging in “genuine” Sioux Indian tepees. El Rancho is a tourist destination in which visitors, some of whom may be both Lebanese and American, recreate a mythic U.S. frontier, a landscape populated by images of cowboys and American Indians made popular in globalized U.S. culture. El Rancho promises visitors “an authentic Tex-Mex experience,” where they can “set off on a dude ranch escape.” For Lebanese and regional visitors who may not know the meaning of the term “dude ranch,” the El Rancho website provides ample definition and examples. According to its advertising, “El Rancho Lebanon is modeled on the history of ranching in the United States, a history that can be accessed through the iconography of the ‘wild west’ made popular in the Hollywood Western.” Visitors can go to El Rancho to indulge in Angus beef hamburgers imported from the United States in a restaurant that recreates a western saloon, with John Wayne paraphernalia. Moreover, visitors can walk through a recreated western town filled with wooden statues of cowboys and forlorn images of defeated, but noble, Indians.

El Rancho is a private venture owned by a Lebanese businessperson, but the U.S. consulate and several U.S.-based corporations such as BaskinRobbins and Krispy Kreme sponsor some of its activities, including the annual Cedar Stampede Rodeo. In this sense, although El Rancho is a private Lebanese venture, it is connected to the United States not only because it features a version of U.S.—Tex-Mex—culture but also because it receives authenticity through occasional sponsorship of the U.S. consulate.

Although El Rancho promises an authentic Tex-Mex experience, its symbols and icons have been reorganized and shuffled so that various particularities of western U.S. expansion are confused. The advertised . . .

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