How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream, 1790-1935 / Edition 1

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Over the course of 150 years, until the Greet Depression, generations of native- and foreign-born actors took on lavish North African, Middle Eastern, or Indian costumes, accents, and names. At circuses, theaters. fairs, and street parades and in printed materials, they "played Eastern" in ways that could be controversial or celebrated but always had to be financially viable. To document this lived experience, Nance draws on a wide array of primary sources, including newspapers and magazines, memoirs, travel narratives, and photographs, that reveal how a broad spectrum of Americans behaved as producers and consumers in a rapidly developing capitalist economy. In admiration of the Arabian Nights, people creatively reenacted Eastern life, but these performances were also demonstrations of Americans' own identities, Nance argues. In particular, the story of Aladdin, made suddenly rich by rubbing an old lamp, stood as an apt metaphor for how consumer capitalism might benefit each person. The leisure, abundance, and contentment that many imagined were typical of Eastern life were the same characteristics used to define "the American dream."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This engaging, thoroughly researched look into an intriguing facet of US cultural identity is well worth the read.--Choice

Deeply researched. . . . Richly drawn chapters. . . . Provides a substantial archive to complement our understanding of the American orientalist tradition.--Journal of American History

Surprises with its persuasiveness and originality.--Saudi Aramco World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807832745
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Nance is assistant professor of U.S. history at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Playing Eastern 1

1 Capitalism and the Arabian Nights, 1790-1892 19

2 Ex Oriente Lux: Playing Eastern for a Living, 1838-1875 51

3 Wise Men of the East and the Market for American Fraternalism, 1850-1892 79

4 Arab Athleticism and the Exoticization of the American Dream, 1870-1920 111

5 Making the Familiar Strange: The Racial Politics of Eastern Exotic, 1893-1929 137

6 Eastern Femininities for Modern Women, 1893-1930 171

7 Turbans and Capitalism, 1893-1930 205

8 Sign of Promise: African Americans and Eastern Personae in the Great Depression 231

Notes 255

Bibliography 299

Index 335

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