A Liminal Community: A History of Arabs in America

April 12, 2023
Withers 232A

Arabs have largely been ignored in narratives of American history, appearing only at its margins. Nineteenth-century Orientalist representations, a century of Hollywood images, US government policies, and decades of militarized encounters in the Middle East have formed and fed a concept of “the Arab'' as “the Other”: a homogenous category that signified someone both physically and morally alien to America. 

What is most puzzling about this state of being is that Arab Americans have been citizens of the United States for nearly 140 years, and their experiences are in many ways the very narrative of modern America, and most certainly of its various immigrant populations. So, why do they remain, as an ethnicity, outside the body politic of America? Why do they remain hidden even in multi-cultural spaces and popular culture until they emerge as villains? This talk will explore these questions and provide an overview of the history of Arabs in America.