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Epic Encounters : Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945 (American Crossroads) [Paperback]

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

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Book Description

July 5, 2005 0520244990 978-0520244993 First Edition, Updated Edition, with a Post-9/11 Chapter
Epic Encounters examines how popular culture has shaped the ways Americans define their "interests" in the Middle East. In this innovative book—now brought up-to-date to include 9/11 and the Iraq war—Melani McAlister argues that U.S. foreign policy, while grounded in material and military realities, is also developed in a cultural context. American understandings of the region are framed by narratives that draw on religious belief, news media accounts, and popular culture. This remarkable and pathbreaking book skillfully weaves lively and accessible readings of film, media, and music with a rigorous analysis of U.S. foreign policy, race politics, and religious history.

The new chapter, titled "9/11 and After: Snapshots on the Road to Empire," considers and brilliantly analyzes five images that have become iconic: (1) New York City firemen raising the American flag out of the rubble of the World Trade Center, (2) the televised image of Osama bin-Laden, (3) Afghani women in burqas, (4) the statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled in Baghdad, and (5) the hooded and wired prisoner in Abu Ghraib. McAlister's singular achievement is to illuminate the contexts of these five images both at the time they were taken and as they relate to current events, an accomplishment all the more remarkable since—to paraphrase her new preface—we are today struggling to look backward at something that is still rushing ahead.

Frequently Bought Together

Epic Encounters : Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945 (American Crossroads) + American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945 + Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1820-2001
Price for all three: $70.83

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A vitally important book because it warns against easy explanations of U.S. foreign policy." - Diplomatic History "It is one of the achievements of McAlister's subtle and complex book that her analysis allows one to situate public perceptions...and the responses of the U.S. Government within a coherent and persuasive framework. [An] excellent book." - Times Literary Supplement"

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

Product Details

  • Series: American Crossroads (Book 6)
  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, Updated Edition, with a Post-9/11 Chapter edition (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520244990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520244993
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Melani McAlister is Associate Professor of American Studies and International Affairs at George Washington University. She received her PhD in American Civilization from Brown University and her BA in International Affairs from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

She is interested in US relationships with the Middle East, particularly cultural relations, and in US evangelical culture. She is currently working on a study of U.S. Christian evangelicals, popular culture, and international affairs, tentatively titled Our God in the World: The Global Visions of American Evangelicals.

McAlister has written for the Washington Post, New York Times, and The Nation, among other, and she has spoken frequently to media outlets about US-Middle East relations and US evangelical life and culture. She has been a fellow at Princeton's Davis Center for Historical Studies, a faculty fellow at University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, and a fellow at Princeton's Center for the Study of Religion. She currently serves on the International Advisory Board of the Center for American Studies and Research at the American University of Beirut, and the editorial boards of American Quarterly and, starting in 2012, the Journal of American History.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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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By ZMC
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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