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Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945, Updated Edition (American Crossroads) Paperback – July 5, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0520244993 ISBN-10: 0520244990 Edition: First Edition, Updated Edition, with a Post-9/11 Chapter

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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: #349,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By fml66 on March 17, 2004
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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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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