After the American Century

The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East

Brian T. Edwards

Columbia University Press

After the American Century

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Pub Date: May 2017

ISBN: 9780231174015

288 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $25.00£19.95

Pub Date: December 2015

ISBN: 9780231174008

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£27.95

Pub Date: December 2015

ISBN: 9780231540551

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.95

After the American Century

The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East

Brian T. Edwards

Columbia University Press

When Henry Luce announced in 1941 that we were living in the "American century," he believed that the international popularity of American culture made the world favorable to U.S. interests. Now, in the digital twenty-first century, the American century has been superseded, as American movies, music, and video games are received, understood, and transformed.

How do we make sense of this shift? Building on a decade of fieldwork in Cairo, Casablanca, and Tehran, Brian T. Edwards maps new routes of cultural exchange that are innovative, accelerated, and full of diversions. Shaped by the digital revolution, these paths are entwined with the growing fragility of American "soft" power. They indicate an era after the American century, in which popular American products and phenomena—such as comic books, teen romances, social-networking sites, and ways of expressing sexuality—are stripped of their associations with the United States and recast in very different forms.

Arguing against those who talk about a world in which American culture is merely replicated or appropriated, Edwards focuses on creative moments of uptake, in which Arabs and Iranians make something unexpected. He argues that these products do more than extend the reach of the original. They reflect a world in which culture endlessly circulates and gathers new meanings.
After the American Century offers a fascinating tour of the appropriation and deployment of American popular culture in a globalized, restless Middle East. From cinema and novels to hip-hop and comic books, this wonderfully written and richly observed book presents novel and exciting readings of familiar cultural forms in new political environments. Marc Lynch, author of The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East
After the American Century is a book of exquisite audacity. Bold in its detailed precision and daring in its imaginative topography of topics, Brian T. Edwards's writing cuts through much noise and nuisance to lay bare what lies ahead. Its arguments do not just dismantle the imperial fantasy of an 'American century,' but point to the uncharted worlds far beyond its captured imagination. Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
This book is a rich account of what happens when cultural objects, literary texts, and films circulate between the Middle East and the United States: how they are interpreted and reinvented, in the process engendering new publics and counterpublics. A nuanced analysis of cultural politics that extends our understanding of the forms and limits of Western domination of the Middle East. Saba Mahmood, author of Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject
In After the American Century, Edwards has devised subtle, ethnographically informed reading methodologies to explain how anomalous logics of transnational circulation have radically undermined plans for a 'new American century.' The book will fast become indispensable to an understanding of the genealogy of transnational American studies. Donald E. Pease, Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities and founding director of the Futures of American Studies Institute at Dartmouth College
Edwards plunges into the cultural lives of Cairo, Casablanca, and Tehran to illustrate the demise of one aspect of "the American century": the outsize influence that U.S. popular culture exercised in the Middle East. John Waterbury, Foreign Affairs
Edwards' background and considerable expertise shine... making the book a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the region. Middle East Journal
Now that American power is receding across the globe it is a good time to ask how... methodologies might adapt to these new circumstances, and what we might name such an academic adaptation. Brian T. Edwards' important new book... provides us with a possible answer to this arguably urgent question. Post45
Ambitious, wide-ranging, and highly valuable. European Journal of American Culture
Edwards challenges traditional narratives of US cultural imperialism.... Highly recommended. CHOICE
Edwards is to be commended for his ethnographic methods, his command of local languages, and the originality of his archive. International Journal of Middle East Studies
A genuinely important contribution to our understanding of how American literary studies circulates internationally in the twenty-first century. American Literature
A welcome work, valuable for its rich readings of unfamiliar yet important Middle Eastern artists and for its stimulating arguments about the transnational circulation of American culture in our global, digital age. Journal of American History
Preface
1. After the American Century: Ends of Circulation
2. Jumping Publics: Egyptian Fictions of the Digital Age
3. "Argo Fuck Yourself": Iranian Cinema and the Curious Logics of Circulation
4. Coming Out in Casablanca: Shrek, Sex, and the Teen Pic in Contemporary Morocco
Epilogue: Embracing Orientalism in the Homeland
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

About the Author

Brian T. Edwards is Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and professor of English and comparative literary studies at Northwestern University, where he is also the founding director of the Middle East and North African Studies Program. He is the author of Morocco Bound: Disorienting America's Maghreb, from Casablanca to the Marrakech Express (2005) and a coeditor of Globalizing American Studies (2010). His articles have been published in the Believer, Public Culture, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere.