You are on page 1of 215

From Orientalism to American Ummah: Race-ing Islam in Contemporary U.S. Culture, 1978-2008 by Sylvia Chan-Malik B.A.

(University of California, Berkeley) 1998 M.A. (University of California, Berkeley) 2003

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnic Studies in the Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkeley

Committee in charge: Professor Elaine H. Kim (Chair) Professor Jose David Saldivar Professor Colleen Lye Professor Robin D.G. Kelley Fall 2009

UMI Number: 3411249

All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion.

Dissertation Publishing

UMI 3411249 Copyright 2010 by ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.

ProQuest LLC 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, Ml 48106-1346

From Orientalism to American Ummah: Race-ing Islam in Contemporary U.S. Culture, 1978-2008 2009 By Sylvia Chan-Malik


From Orientalism to American Ummah: Race-ing Islam in Contemporary U.S. Culture, 1978-2008 by Sylvia Chan-Malik Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnic Studies Professor Elaine H. Kim, Chair

From Orientalism to American Ummah tracks the discursive production of "Islam" as religion, stereotype, racial signifier, marker of identity, and global cultureupon what writer Toni Morrison has called the "wholly racialized" terrains of the contemporary U.S. I follow this formation from a historical moment at the close of the 1970s in which Islam and Muslims in the U.S. could seemingly only be critically defined through an orientalist lens, onto a post-9/11 American landscape on which an emergent community of "Muslim Americans" is now tasked with the responsibility of defining itself, both as one of the myriad of socio-political-cultural groups in the U.S. marked by race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc., and as part of global community of believers, or ummah. Through interdisciplinary modes of analysis, I argue that cultural constructions of "Islam" and "Muslims" as the nation's foremost orientalized Other that have evolved over the course of the last three decades have not simply arisen out of traditional East-West orientalist hierarchies through which the imperial West has sought to control, restructure, and have authority over the Islamic "East" or the exotic oriental. Rather I contend that cultural representations of Islam which have arisen over the course of the last thirty years are also always rooted in domestic logics of race, gender, class, religion, and sexuality, and in many cases, are directly tied to the

longstanding relationships between Islam and Black American communities, as well as the vexed legacies of anti-blackness that initially facilitated such cultural and spiritual ties. Engaging an eclectic archive which includes examinations of media coverage of the 1979 women's movement in revolutionary Iran, the mainstream feminist press of the late-1970s, a series of Hollywood films about Black-White intimacy and racial reconciliation, and recent debates between immigrant and Black American Muslim communities, I advance a cultural and historical genealogy of the late 20th-early 21 st century as narrated through a series of crises-driven intersections of American racism and orientalism, which I argue have manufactured the thoroughly "race-d" cultural significances of Islam in the contemporary national imaginary.


Acknowledgments INTRODUCTION On Bikinis and Burqas CHAPTER ONE Bullet, Chadors, Terror: U.S. Media Representations of the 1979 Iranian Women's Movement CHAPTER TWO "The Sense of Touch": Interracial Intimacy and the Orientalized Other in Hollywood Cinema: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Grand Canyon, and Crash CHAPTER THREE "Common Cause": On the Black-Immigrant Debate and Constructing the Muslim American CONCLUSION New Muslim Cool Works Cited





192 199

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS As with so much in life, this dissertation has been a wholly collaborative effort, the completion of which would not have been possible without the encouragement and love of amazing friends, colleagues, and family members who have continually supported and inspired me every step of the way. I officially began this project in August 2001 as an incoming graduate student in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. However, the journey towards the ideas contained within it began long before. As an undergraduate at Cal, Professors Ronald Takaki and Mitchell Breitwieser led me to the realization that I might have something to say, then showed me the tools and "bricks" one could use to say i t Professor Takaki, you are so profoundly missed. At Mills College, Professor Elmaz Abinader showed me the importance of craft and diligence, and provided the finest example of this in her own life and work. My gratitude also goes out to J.H. 'Tommy" Tompkins, my former editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, who gave me a chance to shoot my mouth off in print, and in the process, taught me more about "culture writing" than he'll ever know. Laughter and friendship have buoyed this project from the start. During my time at UC Berkeley, I have had the honor of meeting and working with an amazing group of colleagues in Ethnic Studies and beyond whose challenges, contributions, and camaraderie are written all over these pages. To Rickey Vincent, Oliver Wang, David Hernandez, Mercy Romero, and Anna Leong; the 2001 Ethnic Studies cohortAnanda Sattwa, Vina Ha, Daphne Taylor-Garcia, Navin Moul, Gerardo Arellano, Francisco Casique, Lilia Soto; and the Riverside contingentJodi Kim, Setsu Shigematsu, and Dylan Rodriguez at: thank you for fine company, kind sympathy, and indefatigable intelligence. To Auntie Danika Medak-Saltzman,


those quilts rock. To Dory Nason and Quinton Shaw, thank you for good times and for opening your home to me in a time of needI am forever grateful. And Berkeley would not have been Berkeley without the abiding friendship and intellectual companionship of lyko Day, who has humored me through too many half-baked ideas and unwarranted fits of selfpity to mention, and to boot, is a party planner extraordinaire. In addition, two sisterfriends beyond the ivory tower have put up with my nonsensical rantings for far too long, and been kind enough never to ask, "Shouldn't you be done already?" To Karen Dere (Kern) and Susan Ku (Auntie Sue-Sue), thank you much, and come over for dinner soon. Finally, to my dear friends from American Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism (AMILA)Hina Azam, Lynn Jehle, Shahed Amanullah, Jessica Livingston, and Moina NoorJazak''Allah. You have been everything to this journey. It is no exaggeration to say that my teachers throughout graduate school have confronted me with a level of brilliance that has often left me breathless and stammering. To Professors Ruthie Gilmore, Michael Omi, Patricia Penn Hilden, and Sau-ling Wong, thank you for changing the world before my eyes and then having the patience to so beautifully explain how you did (and keep doing) it. A special debt of gratitude, however, goes out to the four members of the faculty committee who steered this project towards completion. To Professor Robin D.G. Kellyyou are, simply put, inspiration. Every word in this dissertation aspires to the incredibly high bar you have set through your work, teaching, and activism, which I constantly find all the more remarkable each time I encounter the thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit you so fully embody. To Professor Colleen Lye, this work would not have been possible without your remarkable insight, keen intelligence, and dizzying knowledge, all of which have pushed this project to places it never would have


gone otherwise. To Professor Jose David Saldivarwhose work I constantly turn to remind myself what the best politically-engaged cultural studies scholarship looks likemy deepest gratitude for encouraging this project from the start and for opening up my eyes to an entire world of possibilities about the study of race, culture, and all the spaces in between. And last, but in no way least, to my chair and mentor, Professor Elaine H. Kim: words really do fail to express the profound respect and appreciation I have for you. Your strength, kindness, vision, and incredible spirit have inspired me each and every step of the way. I would be merely stating the facts in saying that you, have, literally saved my life time and time again. Thank you for taking me in, opening doors, and showing me the way. Finally, there are those who have had to live with me and this dissertation on a dayto-day basisa challenging process, to say the least. Firstly, I want to thank my parents Ting and Sheila Chan for always teaching me to see things through to the very end. Time and time again, they have redefined the meaning of "support," providing child care, hot cooked meals, and more than anything, peace of mind. This dissertation is the culmination of their hard work, every bit as much as much as mine. To Badimy husband, partner, and the man I can, without hesitation, call the love of my lifeI know it has been hard, but here we are. Thank you for so patiently and lovingly listening to every new idea and telling me to breathe when I would stop making sense. I need to tell you more and more: your unfailing love is the constant that gets me through each day. To the lovely Miss Sareyah, whose strength and kindness continually inspire meI am so very, very proud of you. And finally, to Sumaiyya Noor and Safiyyah Jihanthank you for growing me up. This is for you and the world I pray you will someday change. Mommy's done with her dissertation. So yes, by all means, let's play.


INTRODUCTION On Bikinis and Burgas

"America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem." However the image enters its force remains within my eyes... - Audre Lorde "Afterimages" Malcolm X1

In November 2002, a photo of rapper Lil' Kim began circulating across the internet, setting off a minor uproar. Originally published on the cover of now-defunct hip hop magazine, OneWorld's December 2002/January 2003 issue, the image featured Kim in a "bikini" constructed out of thin scarlet fabric strips clinging precariously to her erogenous zones. Fairly standard garb for the well-known provocateurhowever, it was the manner in which Kim was both uncovered and covered that ultimately lent the photo its shock value. Topping off the ensemble was a billowing, blood-red burqa that covered her entire face, save her eyes, which gazed out from beneath the veil through a pair of bright blue contact lenses. A year following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and four months prior to the initial "decapitation" strikes of the second Iraq War, the image quickly sparked fierce debates across Internet message boards. Muslim organizations objected vehemently to the photo,

Malcolm X and Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Ballantine, 1992).

and one Black American Muslim charity group, Project Islamic Hope, called for a boycott of OneWorld and demanded an apology from the magazine's owner and editorial director, Russell Simmons. For many Muslims, journalist AN Asadullah stated in an editorial, the photo was "a clear and unambiguous jab at the religion of Islam."2 Others saw the photo as yet another reminder of hip hop's sexism and misogyny, while others simply took the opportunity to call Lil' Kim "a tramp and a slut" who was just "trying to push people's buttons." Some pointed out Islam's specific relationship with Black Americans as the reason behind the photo's offensiveness; others talked about how it was just another instance of a Black artist co-opting orientalist imagery for personal gain. Some who liked the photo said that it demonstrated Kim's capitalist and feminist agencythat she was, as one poster put it, "a beautiful young Black woman making her money." There were those who simply thought it was pretty picture, comparing its composition to that of the famous 1985 National Geographic cover featuring a young Afghani girl with striking green eyes, while still others commented on how Kim's blue contacts, breast implants, and seemingly lightened skin revealed an internalized race hatred that was indicative of larger structures of racist and sexist power. Finally, perhaps the most unexpected response of all emerged from a number of right-wing websites, where many conservative posters said that the photo actually made them even more proud to be Americans, as well as newly-minting them as hip hop enthusiasts: "Generally, I am far from a fan of rap or hip hop," wrote one respondent, "but if Lil' Kim is outraging Muslims, she's doing a good job." As for Kim herself, she seemed to care little of the photo's political implications; when asked in the accompanying interview

Ali Asadullah, "Rap Music Mogul Disrespects Muslims with Magazine Cover" (Palestine Chronicle, 2002 [cited); available from

if she worried about offending people because of what was going on in Afghanistan, she replied, "Fuck Afghanistanlet's shoot this."

This dissertation tracks the discursive production of "Islam"as religion, stereotype, racial signifier, marker of identity, and global cultureupon what Toni Morrison has called the "wholly racialized" terrains of the contemporary U.S. I follow this formation, as my larger title indicates, from Orientalism to American ummah; that is, from a historical moment at the close of the 1970s in which Islam and Musli ms in the U.S. could seemingly only be critically defined through an orientalist lens, onto a post-9/11 American landscape on which an emergent community of "Muslim Americans" is now tasked with the responsibility of defining itself, both as one of the myriad of socio-political-cultural groups in the U.S. marked by race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc., and as part of global community of believers, or ummah. Through interdisciplinary modes of analysis, I argue that cultural constructions of "Islam" and "Muslims" as the nation's foremost orientalized Other that have evolved over the course of the last three decades have not simply arisen out of traditional East-West orientalist hierarchies through which the imperial West has sought to "control, restructure, and have authority" over the Islamic "East" or the exotic oriental. Rather I contend that such representations, such as that of the image of Lil' Kim described above, are also always rooted in domestic logics of race, gender, class, religion, and sexuality, and in many cases, are directly tied to the longstanding relationships between Islam and Black American communities, as well as the vexed legacies of anti-blackness that initially facilitated such cultural and spiritual ties.

I begin with the photo of Lil' Kim and the controversy described above because I believe it is a revealing "afterimage" of the encounter between the wholly racialized American "us" and the orientalized Islamic "them" that took place on September 11, 2001. Just as Black Feminist poet Audre Lorde's poem generates "afterimages" of the lynching of EmmettTill that expose the tangled webs of racism, poverty, and misogyny that led up to Till's murder and continued to constitute a "force that remains within [our] eyes" long after his death, I have come to view both Kim's image and the impassioned response it engendered as indicative of the multiple layers of suppressed, and oftentimes, violent racialized histories that produced an inexorably orientalized "Islam" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, one which simultaneously elided the historical narratives of Black American Muslims, and silenced all forms of racialized dissent for the sake of a what Evelyn Alsultany has called "diversity-patriotism"a vacuous multicultural unity that swept persistent racial inequality under the rug for the sake of "national unity" in the face of Islamic Terror. As many were wont to say at the time: "We are all Americans now." In thinking through the "force" of these elisions, my engagement with Kim's image and the debate surrounding it provoked a series of questions that would became the catalysts for this dissertation: What did OneWorld intend for the photo to say? What cultural narratives enabled the photo's "shock" value and what did the fierce and varied responses say about the racial Zeitgeist of post-9/11 America? Also, as these responses reflected the views of both those who viewed the photo as pure orientalism as well as cause for a renewed sense of national pridei.e. a symbol that "we" would not back down in the face of Terrorwas Lil' Kim in bikini and burqa the new face of both American orientalism and nationalism, indicative of the "us" we had become in the face of "Islam"? More

specifically, what was the connection between a Black American woman's body and the orientalized trope of Islamic Terror, and what role did "feminism" play in this linkage? How did the image play into longstanding stereotypes of Muslim female victimization, while recasting the archetype onto distinctly American racial terrains? How to make sense of the renewed sense of "national unity" that emerged following 9/11, specifically the desire on the part of White Americans to embrace Black Americans and Black American culture in order to collectively oppose the enemy of Islam? And finally, what of the longstanding associations between Blackness and Islam in the U.S., a relationship though which the Black community had always appeared to regard the faith that Malcolm X said might "erase the race problem" with a certain amount of respect and esteem? What tensions, coalitions, and points of racial, cultural, and ethnic intersection had 9/11 triggered within Black American Muslim communities themselves, and what might a deeper exploration of such stories yield? In order address such a wide range of concerns, this dissertation attempts to advance a cultural and historical genealogy of the late 20th-early 21 st century as narrated through a series of crises-driven intersections of American racism and orientalism, which I argue have manufactured the significance of "Islam" in the contemporary national imaginary. I employ a methodological approach premised on Michel Foucault's well-known concept of "genealogy" which he describes lucidly in his 1977 essay, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" as, "gray, meticulous, and patiently documentary. It [genealogy] operates on a field of entangled and confused parchments, on documents that have been scratched over

and recopied many times."3 Indeed, the three areas of inquiry contained in my chapters posit "Islam" as a multifaceted signifier that has come to be articulated upon and through post-civil rights era discourse of race and citizenship that have been "scratched over and recopied many times." This process has taken place upon the shifting terrains of a nation that has undergone the end of the Cold War, led the rise of global neoliberal capitalism, and precariously occupies the helm of what sociologist Michael Mann has labeled an "incoherent empire." Following the work of American, ethnic, and cultural and literary studies scholars who have tracked the relationships between American Cold War foreign policy and race relations within the U.S.,41 situate my analysis in the constant dialectic between the "domestic" and the "global," asking how changing conceptions of race, nation, and an orientalized "them" have come to be defined through the post-civil rights fallout of the 1970s, the Reaganite social policies of the 1980s, the "multiculturalism" of the 1990s, and the present decade's War on Terror, as well as a larger international framework of U.S.Middle East relations and the rise of a post-WWII American empire. Engaging a diverse and wide-ranging archive which includes examinations of media coverage of the 1979 women's movement in revolutionary Iran, the mainstream feminist press of the late-1970s, a series of Hollywood films about Black-White intimacy and racial reconciliation, and recent debates

Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. D.F. Bouchard (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977). 4 See Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000), Robin D.G. Kelley and Betsy Esch, "Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution," Souls 1, no. 4 (1999), Christina Klein, Cold War Orientalism: Asian in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003), Colleen Lye, America's Asia: Racial Form and American Literature. 1893-1945 (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005), Nikhil Pal Singh, Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), Penny M. Von Eschen, Race and Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997).

between immigrant and Black American Muslim communities, I provide historical analysis of the parallel and symbiotic development between cultural discourses of national racial politics and global Islamophobia. Throughout, I argue for a process of "race-ing" Islamyet another term I borrow from Toni Morrison5 in the contemporary post-civil rights era, a process that I suggest is necessary in order to fully understand the racist demonization of Muslim and Arab American communities over the course of the past decade, as well as the ways in which Islam's race-d presence is changing the trajectories of racial formation in the 21 st century.

Ethnic Studies and American Orientalism I situate my scholarship in a growing field of work addressing the racialization of Muslims and Arabs within the United States. Scholars such as Sunaina Maira, Magid Shihade, Steven Salaita, Evelyn Alsultany, Nadine Naber, and Moustafa Bayoumi have addressed the critical project of incorporating the study of Arab Americans, as well as Muslim Americans more generally, into the discursive frameworks of ethnic studies scholarship.6 As Maira and Shihade argue, a focus on Arab American communities and cultural formations "helps situate U.S. empire in a much longer historical trajectory that links movements in, and out of, Asian and the Middle East" and forces race scholars to
From Toni Morrison, ed., Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of the Social Body (New York: Pantheon, 1992). 6 See Evelyn Alsultany, "Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11," American Quarterly 59, no. 3 (2007), Moustafa Bayoumi, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), Sunaina Maira, Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), Sunaina Maira and Magid Shihade, "Meeting Asian/Arab American Studies: Thinking Race, Empire, and Zionism in the U.S.," Journal of Asian American Studies 9, no. 2 (2006), Nadine Naber, "Muslim First, Arab Second: A Strategic Politics of Race and Gender," The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005), Steven Salaita, "Beyond Orientalism and Islamophobia: 9/11, Anti-Arab Racism, and the Mythos of National Pride," CR: The New Centennial Review 6, no. 2 (2006).


"intellectually confront imperial, not just national or ethnic politics."7 Steven Salaita further contributes to this dialogue by asserting that "the Arab is an ethnic icon manufactured painstakingly in the United States since the nineteenth century," contextualizing current processes of Arab racialization in the "uniquely American" tradition of "the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, institutionalized anti-Semitism until the 1960s, and a particularly durable xenophobia spanning decades."8 Approaching a similar set of issues through the lens of "Islam" as a primary form of identification, Sohail Daulatzai, Hisham Aidi, and Junaid Rana have explored the role of the religion in political and cultural imaginaries of Black radicalism and Third World liberation, as well the as specific contours of "Muslim" racialization, which, in the U.S. has extended beyond the Arab American community, in many cases, deeply affecting South Asian communities, both Muslim and non-Muslim, as well a wide-range of Others who might selfidentify, or be identified as, Muslim.9 Work in this latter vein continues the type of inquiry taken up in influential texts on Islam in Black America such as the work of C. Eric Lincoln, Richard Brent Turner, Aminah Beverly McCloud, who focus on the specific manner in which Black Americans took up Islam in racialized American cultural contexts, and in particular, for liberatory aims; for example, Aidi has recently begun to explore the "rich syncretism" of Latino Muslim communities in the U.S., "featuring congregational prayers in Arabic,

Maira and Shihade, "Meeting Asian/Arab American Studies: Thinking Race, Empire, and Zionism in the U.S.." 8 Salaita, "Beyond Orientalism and Islamophobia: 9/11, Anti-Arab Racism, and the Mythos of National Pride." 9 See Hisham D. Aidi, "Let Us Be Moors: Islam, Race, and 'Connected Histories'," Souls 7, no. 1 (2005), Sohail Daulatzai, "Protect Ya Neck: Muslims and the Carceral Imagination Inthe Age of Guantanamo," Souls 9, no. 2 (2007), Sohail Daulatzai, Return of the Mecca: Race, Muslim Diasporats, and the Cultures of Black Radicalism (Forthcoming (manuscript in progress)), Junaid Rana, "Tracing the Muslim Body: Race, Us Deportation, and Pakistani Return Migration.," in The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in the Circuits of Us Power, ed. Vivek Bald, et al. (New York: New York University Press, 2009 (forthcoming)).


sermons in Spanish and English, traditional Puerto Rican pork dishes served with lamb instead, Spanish poetry slams, and conga jam sessions."10 At the same time, there are no hard or fast lines to be drawn between the two highly arbitrary groupings of work I have described above; for example, one might also situate Bayoumi's work on Black American Ahmadi Muslims in the latter category, while Rana and Maira also both explore the specific effects of the War on Terror and Islam's racialization in South Asian American communities, which might account for a category of its own. From Orientalism to American Ummah also straddles the disciplinary approaches and areas of inquiry identified above. As with the first group of scholars, I approach the study of Islam's cultural significance in the contemporary U.S. through a comparative ethnic studies lens, maintaining a strong focus on processes of racial formation and interdisciplinary analysis that is deeply concerned with how Islam has resonated upon what political scientist Claire Jean Kimwhose work I discuss further in Chapter Threehas called the "field of racial positions" where concurrent processes of racialization take place. Like Salaita, I also believe it is crucial to view the state-sponsored demonization of Islam generated by President George W. Bush's War on Terrorwhich, Hatem Bazian has argued, led to a type of "virtual internment" for Muslims in the U.S.11as firmly situated in relation to racist and xenophobic logics and legacies particular to our nation's past, as well as acknowledging the discursive specificities of addressing the race-ing of Islam. I do not, however, highlight issues of anti-Arab racism, an omission I acknowledge constitutes a central limitation of this work, and a topic I hope to explore more fully in the future. This is

Hisham Aidi, "Ole to Allah," Islam For Today. Hatem Bazian, "Virtual Internment: Arabs, Muslims, Asians and the War on Terrorism," Journal of Islamic Law and Culture 9 (2004).



mainly due to my focus here, as with the work of the second groups of scholars mentioned above, on how the trope of "Islam" itself has functioned as cultural signifier for various racialized groups within the U.S. I am also interested in how this significance has had wideranging implications not only for Muslims themselves (and all those who might be interpellated as "Muslims") but for larger theorizations of the intersections of race and religion, specifically in regards to how race scholars might approach the issues of Islamophobia and Muslim racialization. Indeed this last point underscores yet another limitation of this project: my own undertheorization of previous historical processes of the racialization of religion in the U.S., especially in regards to, as Karen Brodkin puts it, "how Jews became White folks."12 More comparative work addressing the similarities and differences between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, as well as the processes of assimilation that Jewish Americans and Muslim Americans have undergone in American contexts is urgently needed, and again, are topics, I hope to address in subsequent research and writing. Finally, as is also the case with most of the work mentioned above, categories of gender and sexuality factor heavily into my analysis; to be sure, as I discuss more fully in Chapter One, the West's othering of "Islam" has always depended upon tropes of Muslim barbarity in regards to Islam's treatment of women, a narrative that has assumed discrete and specific contours in its transposition to the U.S. In addition to approaching Islam's cultural significance in the U.S. from an ethnic studies perspective that places a premium emphasis on theories of race, ethnicity, and gender, this dissertation has also been deeply influenced by the work of American, Asian American, and cultural studies scholars who have attempted to understand the discursive

Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998).


particularities of American Orientalism in various socio-historical settings.13 As my title indicates, Palestinian American scholar Edward W. Said's groundbreaking 1978 text Orientalism marked a critical juncture in approaching the study of Islam and Muslims in the U.S., an approach that Said's text itself addressed in its final section, acknowledging how since World War II, "the Arab Muslim has become a figure in American popular culture," as well as "in the academic world, in the policy planner's world, and in the world of business." Said noted that this marked a "major change in the international configuration of forces," in which "France and Britain no longer occupy center stage in world politics; the American imperium has displaced them." 14 As countless scholars have noted, Said's textoften called the text which birthed postcolonial studiesfundamentally changed the trajectories of scholarship in a wide range of disciplines across the humanities and social science fields. Of course, many also criticized Said's text, calling his work too broad, elitist, masculinist, and variously arguing that it presented a totalizing argument which "Occidentalized" the West

See Michael M.J. Fischer, "Orientalizing America: Beginnings and Middle Passages," Middle East Report 178, no. Sep.-Oct. (1992), Klein, Cold War Orientalism: Asian in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961, Anthony W. Lee, Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Fraincisco (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2001), Robert G. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999), Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945 (Chapel Hill, NC: Univerisity of North Carolina Press, 2002), Sheng-mei Ma, The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), Gina Marchetti, "America's Asia: Hollywood's Contruction, Deconstruction, and Reconstruction of the 'Orient'" (paper presented at the Out of the Shadows: Asians in American Cinema/54th Locarno International Film Festival, Lausanne, 2001), Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture Media, and U.S. Interest in the Middle East, 1945-2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), Bill V. Mullen, Afro Orientalism (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), Vijay Prashad, The Karma of Brown Folk (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), Malini Johar Schueller, U.S. Orientalisms: Race, Nation, and Gender in Literature 1790-1890 (Ann Arbor, Ml: University of Michigan Press, 2001), John Kuo Wei Tchen, New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture 1776-1882 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), Mari Yoshihara, Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). 14 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 284-85.



as a monolithic entity, ignored the subjectivities of colonial subjects, and failed to account for subaltern challenges to its formations.15 In many ways, the majority of scholars working on orientalism in U.S. contexts adapted Said's concepts to their subject matter through an engagement with such criticisms, acknowledging and addressing how American Orientalism, as Malini Joharr Schueller puts it, constitutes "an indigenous discourse deriving its impetus both from immediate sociopolitical circumstances and from...theories that naturalized the idea of a USAmerican empire" (italics added).16 Approaching the topic from the lens of American empire studies, those such as Schueller, Christina Klein, and Melani McAlister have explored this distinctly American orientalist discourse by examining "American incorporations of Asia," as Colleen Lye has put it.17 For example, in Cold War Orientalism, Klein examines the rise of "middlebrow" culture in the post-WWII U.S., arguing that magazines such as Reader's Digest and the musicals of Roger Hammerstein advanced portraits of the East that "helped construct a national identity for the United States as a global power," but did so through a sentimentalized rubric of late 20th-century liberal democracy that revealed the nation's desire to present itself as "a nonimperial world power in the age of decolonization."18 Along the same vein, Melani McAlister (whose work has been invaluable to my undertaking here) considers how changing relations between the U.S. and the Middle East from close of WWII

See Aijaz Ahmad, "Orientalism and After," in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), James Clifford, "Orientalism (Review)," History and Theory 19, no. 2 (1980), Arif Dirlik, "Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism," History and Theory 35, no. 4 (1996), Lisa Lowe, Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), Dennis Porter, "Orientalism and Its Problems," in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). 16 Schueller, U.S. Orientalisms: Race, Nation, and Gender in Literature 1790-1890, 20. 17 Colleen Lye, "Introduction: In Dialogue with Asian American Studies," Representations 99 (2007). 18 Klein, Cold War Orientalism: Asian in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961,11.



till the close of the century were reflected in various sites of American culture, such as Hollywood biblical epics, the Black Arts movement, and multicultural military discourse. From the field of Asian American studies, scholars have focused on the manner in which orientalized Asian subjects within the U.S. have been subjected to exclusionary practices of citizenship, enacted through political, legal, economic, and cultural means. Texts such as John Tchen's New York Before Chinatown, Robert Lee's Orientals, and Henry Yu's Thinking Orientals explore the way in which Asians were produced as a race of "orientals" within the U.S., a permanent class of "aliens," as Lee calls them, who have remained Others "no matter how long they may have resided in the United States nor how assimilated they are."19 As these scholars demonstrate, American Orientalism has not merely replicated the discursive contours of European orientalism, but has unfolded through very different sets of socio-historical-political circumstances, specifically in regards to the configurative ideologies of race, nation, and empire at a given historical moment in the nation's past, which have then produced discrete formations of orientalized discourse and the figure of the oriental in the U.S. Recognition of these "indigenous" forms of orientalism are vital, especially in light of the widespread (re-)circulation of Samuel L. Huntington's "clash-of civilization" thesis following the 9/11 attacks (the original article containing the thesis was originally published in 1993, while the full-length text was published in 1996), which posited "Islamic" and "Sinic" cultures as the preeminent threats to U.S. global hegemony, and has continually been used to illustrate the incompatibility between Islam and the West. In Huntington's own words:


Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, 4.


...culture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilization identities, are shaping the patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict in the post-Cold War world...The West's universalist pretentions increasingly bring it into conflict with Islam and China...The survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique not universal and uniting to renew and preserve it against challenges from non-Western societies.20 I address Huntington's rearticulation of the Manichean binaries between the "West" and "the rest" at length in Chapter Two; however, I raise the subject of the racial dimensions of his "neo-orientalism" here simply to point out the interdependence the Harvard political scientist posits between American global dominance and "our" reaffirmation of a "Western" cultural identity which for Huntington is inarguably White, Anglo-Saxon, and Christian. Thus, in refuting such claims, I argue that it is essential to level an equally "indigenous" critique of these neo-orientalist claimsadvanced, in addition to Huntington, by a wide range of influential public intellectuals such as longtime orientalist scholar Bernard Lewis and New York Times columnist Thomas Freidmanthat exposes the complete falsity of discrete dividing lines between "cultures" and "civilizations," and instead highlights the wholly syncretic processes of cultural formation that underlie every aspect of national life. This dissertation attempts to reveal this syncretism by drawing upon both of the approaches to American orientalism named above, contemplating how the nation has incorporated orientalized tropes of Islam into commonsense cultural discourses as well as formal discourses of the state in order to justify imperial aggression, while also considering how

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the New World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 20-21.


Islam and Muslims in the U.S. have been categorized as internal alien Others, polluting the nation from within.

"No Distinct Place" From Orientalism to American Ummah proposes that a central basis for refuting orientalist stereotypes asserting rigid "cultural" divisions between "Islam" and the "West" in the context of the U.S. lies in the religion's long history in Black American communities, which could be said to date back almost 400 years, when up to a third of nation's slave population consisted of West African Muslims.21 While much of the history of those slaves has been lost, the start of the twentieth century witnessed a robust emergence of "Islam" amongst Blacks in the north following the Great Migration, established through protoIslamic movements such as Nobel Drew Ali's Moorish Science Temple and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam (NOI). As Sherman A. Jackson, a scholar whose work I examine in the final chapter, has argued, despite these movements' "tenuous connections" to more traditional or orthodox practices of Islam: these movements had the seminal effect of transforming Islam itself, at least as an idea, into the cultural and ideological 'property' of Blackamericans as a whole. In this capacity, these movements conferred upon Blackamericans a sense of the ownership in Islam. Over time, this would evolve into a visceral/psychological

See Allan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum American: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles (New York: Routledge, 1997), Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 1998), Michael A. Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).



attachment on the part of Blackamerican Muslims to the legacy and achievements of Islam in history.22 To put it another way, since the start of the twentieth century, or perhaps even before, "Islam" has played a central role in shaping Black American cultural practices, while in many cases, American Islam has been adapted and redefined to address the specific needs of Black American struggles for freedom. To this day, the faith has held a distinct significance in Black American communities that is not transferable to the wider publics of an American imagined community; consider the words of writer James Baldwin, who wrote of this of his experience sitting down to dinner with NOI leader Muhammad in The Fire Next Time: "I was black, and therefore a part of Islam." From jazz musicians such as Art Blakey, Ahmad Jamal, and Yusef Lateef who converted to the faith in the 1950s and 60s; to the inseparable relationship between the Nation of Islam, the figure of Malcolm X, and movements of Black nationalism and radicalism in the 1960s and 70s; to the resurgence of the NOI's Black nationalist politics in hip hop culture in the 1980s and 90s through artists like Public Enemy and Nas; to the current proliferation of orthodox Sunni Islam amongst Black American hip hop artists and entertainers such as Mos Def, Dave Chappelle, and Lupe Fiasco, "Islam" has always been at the forefront of the construction of Black American culture, a culture which inarguably come to drive American, and now, global cultural formations. Thus, it would seem an incontrovertible response to those asserting the cultural incompatibilities between "Islam" and the "West," to assert the success with which practices of Islam have been culturally adapted into Black American communities.

Sherman A. Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 5. 19

Despite this fact, however, there has been a pervasive, and oftentimes troubling, elision of the Black American history of Islam in the work of progressive scholars and writers who have attempted to refute neo-orientalist claims such as Huntington's and orientalist scholarship from which his thinking is derived. 23 The most glaring example is to be found in the work of Edward Said himself, whose follow-up to Orientalism, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (originally published in 1981, but updated and revised by Said in 1997) remains perhaps the most influential scholarly repudiation of how the mainstream media, primarily in the U.S., has perpetuated orientalist distortions of Islam. First written in the wake of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, Covering Islam is an unabashedly polemical text, relentlessly taking to task the continual inaccuracies of American and European portrayals of Islam and the Middle East through Said's scathing deconstructions of a wide assortment of writers and media sources. Specifically, as in Orientalism, Said argues that something called "Islam" has come to be viewed by in the West as a force that "regulates Islamic societies from top to bottom." 2 4 Such a generalization, he contends, "is of the most irresponsible sort, and could never be used for any other religious, cultural, or demographic groups on earth" and has served to Broadly speaking, such critical scholarship, as found in the otherwise remarkable work of M. Shahid Alam, Mahmood Mamdani, and Tariq Ali, focuses on the global dimensions of the unequal core-periphery relationships which have given rise to both modern state-sponsored and non-state forms of Terror, and addresses the dangerous reconfigurations American hegemony has assumed in the post-Cold War era. All are concerned with the way Islam has been characterized through what Mamdani calls "culture talk", a post-Cold War discursive phenomenon that "assumes that every culture has a tangible essence that defines it, and...then explains politics as a consequence of that essence."(17) In other words, culture talk says that the whole of person's public behavior or acts is innately tied to their habits and traditions, i.e. all acts of "terror" by those who happen to be "Muslim" must intrinsically be premised upon the religious culture of Islam. See M. Shahid Alam, Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on the 'War against Islam' (North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2006), Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads, and Modernity (London & New York: Verso, 2002), Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Pantheon, 2004). 24 Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (New York: Vintage Books, 1997), xvi.


create the now-inseparable associations between Islam and "fundamentalism" that have come to "ensure that the average reader comes to see Islam and fundamentalism as essentially the same thing."25 Through its passionate, and often scathing, assertions, Covering Islam laid much of the discursive groundwork for subsequent critiques of the of the racist and orientalist representations of Islam in the U.S. throughout the 1980s and 90s, and was much-cited in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Thus, all the more disquieting are Said's own "distortions" in discussing the historical presence of Islam in the United States, as he does throughout the volume's first chapter, titled "Islam as News." Speaking of the differences between how Islam has been portrayed and understood in Europe and the U.S., Said asserts that while "Islam has never been welcome in Europe," there has still been a great deal more "cultural and spiritual dialogue with the Muslim and Arab worlds," whereas "little of this European concreteness be found in America's experience of Islam."26 In the updated 1997 edition, he comments that the "current obsession" about Islam in the U.S. is "all the more peculiar, more abstract, more secondhand" due to how "few Americans...have actually had much to do with real Muslims."27 He continues: Culturally there was no distinct place in America for Islam before World War II. Academic experts did their work on Islam usually in quiet corners of schools of divinity, not in the glamorous limelight of Orientalism nor in the pages of leading journals...More significantly, the occasions for public discussions of Islam, by experts or nonexperts, have almost always been provided by political crises...Only when

26 27

Ibid., 14. Ibid., 13.


there is a bomb in Saudi Arabia or the threat of violence against the United States in Iran has "Islam" seemed worthy of general comment-Consider therefore that Islam has entered the consciousness of most Americans...principally if not exclusively because it has been connected to newsworthy issues like oil, Iran, and Afghanistan.28 As follows, it would appear from these passages that Black American practices of Islam did not, for all intents and purposes, count for Said as any form of contact with "real Muslims." Indeed, there is "no distinct place" for Black American Islam anywhere in Said's assessment of the orientalization of Islam, as if the "Islam" that "entered the consciousness" of Americans through the Nation of Islam and the figure of Malcolm X did not exist, and if it did, bore no relation to or significance upon the "Islam" Said saw as being the target of orientalist distortion stereotype. In such a rendering, the American orientalization of Islam that Said is decrying in from the 1970 through the mid-1990s is understood solely as occurring through the machinations of imperial foreign policy and international relations, partly a cultural inheritance of European orientalism, partly American exceptionalist hubris. Furthermore, there is no room for the possibility that the rising tide of American hostility towards "Islam" that has take place since the close of the 1970s might in any was be attributable to its associations with Black militancy and radicalism, i.e. that the orientalism and Islamophobia that Said found "peculiar" were possibly linked to the types of racial logics that had largely silenced Black nationalist assertions of Islam by the start of the 1970s. As Moustafa Bayoumi has noted, "the culture of the United States was never Edward Said's major focus...[his work] challenges the United States largely on the level of its

ibid., 15-16.


foreign policy and barely on the level of its internal dynamics."

Various scholars have

criticized Said for this inability to address the very cultural landscape of the nation he called home from 1951 (when he arrived in Massachusetts from Egypt to attend boarding school) until his death in 2003, while others have said in his defense that Said's exile from Palestine required him to choose "a cosmopolitan, exilic identity over an American one."30 To be fair, Said's inability to register a linkage between Black America's "visceral/ psychological attachments" to Islam might not simply have to do with a racial myopia on his part, but with the ways in which, as Edward Curtis has written, "the study of African-American Islam has been too consumed with dismissing certain Muslims as cultists, heretics, and sectarians,"31 i.e. scholars of Blacks American Islam themselves have often portrayed organizations such as the NOI as "inauthentic" or not truly "Islamic," thus placing them beyond the pale of the focus of more "traditional" forms of Islam. As already stated above, however, Said's body of work on perspectives of power, knowledge, and representations has pioneered scholarship in a number of fields, including, but not limited to, women's and gender studies, Asian American studies, Islamic studies, and ethnic studiesthe disciplinary discourses of which this dissertation seeks to engageand thus requires us to practice, perhaps, an at times over-exacting diligence and meticulousness in approaching his claims. As Curtis says, "the mere fact that one has labeled oneself a Muslim indicates some sort of participation, however slight, in the process of Islamic history."32 It is from this perspective that I view the history of Black American Islam as deeply imbricated in any and all "larger" discussions

Moustafa Bayoumi, "Our Work Is of This World," Amerasia 31, no. 1 (2005). Ibid. 31 Edward E. Curtis, Islam and Black America: Identity, Liberations, and Difference in African-American Islamic Thought (New York: State University of New York Press, 2002), 6.



about the "Islamic" world and Islam's cultural significance in the U.S. Thus, the process of "race-ing Islam" described throughout this dissertation attempts to create a discursive space which situates practices of Islam indigenous to the United States simultaneously in relation to the national legacies that have shaped their existence, as well as the global geopolitics that have always, and so intimately, effected their forms.

As stated previously, each of my chapters attempts to take up a set of issues raised by the controversy surrounding the image of Lil' Kim. Chapter One"Bullets, Chadors, and Terror: U.S. Media Representations of the 1979 Iranian Women's Movement"considers the emergences of orientalist constructions of Islamic Terror and the figure of the Poor Muslim Woman in the distinct cultural contexts of the U.S. through an investigation of the American media coverage of the nation's first engagement with Militant Islamthe Iranian Women's Movement of March 1979. Through analysis of archival television footage and newspaper accounts of the movement, which took place six months before the Iran hostage crisis, I explore how the U.S. was introduced to a contemporary "discourse of the veil" which pitted "feminism" against "Islam" at opposite ends of the orientalist divide. Through close-readings of the media's visual portrayals of Iranian women, coverage of feminist Kate Millett's trip to Tehran, a series of editorials from the nation's leading newspapers, the reporting on Tehran from Ms. Magazine, and debates between white, Black, and Third World feminists, I argue that the subjectivities of white, middle-class, second-wave American feminists were crucial in determining the trajectory of national discussion surrounding Islam and issues of gender in the 1980s and 90s. Such white feminist subjectivites were formed through the ideological lens of racial orientalism, in which global


geopolitical discourses of orientalism were articulated through domestic rubrics of race and gender. As such, while White American feminists passionately took up the cause of the women in Tehran, concerns voiced by Black and Third World women within the U.S. went largely ignored, a silencing which concurrently facilitated the erasure of Islam's race-d presence within the United States. Chapter Two"The Sense of Touch": Interracial Intimacy and the Orientalized Other: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Grand Canyon, and Crashaddresses how national discourses of moving "beyond race" of the last forty years have continually taken place in what moments of "orientalist nationalism," when tense relationships between the U.S. and an "oriental" enemy have prompted sentimentalized narratives of national unity facilitated through acts of Black-White racial reconciliation. I suggest that during these instances of orientalist nationalismand specifically, during the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Iraq (also known as the Second Persian Gulf) warsappeals for transcending the nation's racial/racist legacies have been most powerfully narrated through the medium of Hollywood cinema. In my readings of each of the films named in the chapter's title, I follow how the threat and/or fear of Foreign Others differentially shapes the decision-making processes for the film's Black and White characters, and consider how the narratives of Black-White intimacy that lie at each film's core are developed as a means to avert an amalgam of crises represented by these orientalized Others. I begin and end the chapter with a consideration of the proliferation of "post-racial" discourse that has so powerfully arisen in relation to the election of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president, a discourse I argue is deeply interconnected with and dependent upon the new forms of racialization that have emerged in response to the threat of Islam.


In my final chapter, I turn my attentions to an emergent "Muslim American" community itself, or American ummah, now struggling to find its identity upon the politically-charged terrains of post-9/11 America. "Common Cause: On the Black-Immigrant 'Debate' and Constructing the Muslim American," takes up the issue of Black-Immigrant relations within the Muslim community in the U.S., and explores how these relationships have become constitutive of its development over the course of the last decade. Through an engagement with an influential text on interracial and interethnic associations amongst Muslim Americans, Dr. Sherman Abdul-Hakim Jackson's Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection, I argue that the long lens of ethnic studies scholarship, in particular theories of comparative racialziation and Black-Asian intersections, should be considered by both within theses communities, as well as by scholars engaged in its study. This is critical, I contend, in order to arrive at fuller understandings of the political significance of linking current understandings of Islam in the U.S. both to its roots in the Black American community and historical processes of Asian and Arab raciallziation that have so deeply effected Muslim immigrant communities. Finally, in the conclusion, I offer some closing thoughts on the recent documentary, New Muslim Cool, as well as the changing cultural landscapes upon which Islam is being articulated into the twenty-first century.


CHAPTER ONE Bullets. Chadors. Terror: U.S. Media Representations of the 1979 Iranian Women's Movement

In Betty Mahmoody's Not Without My Daughter, Betty's courtship with Sayyed Borzog Mahmoody begins in a hospital in Carson City, Michigan in 1974, where Betty meets "Moody," as he is called, while undergoing treatment for severe, debilitating migraines. Moody, an Iranian Shiite Muslim doctor pursuing his studies in the United States, is the therapist assigned to her case, and immediately, his treatments become the "bright spot" of her stay.1 Betty describes Moody as "the most caring doctor I had ever encountered," and as her final therapy session ends, Moody asks for her phone number and plants a gentle kiss on her lips.2 "I had no way," Betty recalls, "of knowing where that simple kiss would lead." 3 Betty's statement implies that she was, at the time, unaware that this "simple kiss" would bring about her and Moody's eventual love affair and marriage, the birth of their daughter Mahtob, and most importantly, the horrifying and now, well-known story of her and Mahtob's captivity and subsequent escape from Iran following Moody's transformation from "caring doctor" to violent, misogynistic, abusive, tyrannical Muslim fanatic during the family's visit to Tehran. 4

Betty Mahmoody, Wot without My Daughter [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987), 47. All subsequent quotes from this addition. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 For those not familiar with Mahmoody's book, the text's description on the back cover of its 1991 edition, released in tandem with the opening of its Hollywood film adaptation that year, provides a succinct description of the text's intended storyline: "In August 1984, Michigan housewife Betty Mahmoody accompanied her husband to his native Iran for a two-week vacation. To her horror, she found herself and her four-year-old-daughter, Mahtob, virtual prisoners of a man rededicated to his Shiite Muslims faith, in a land where women are near-slaves and American are despised. Their only hope for escape lay in a dangerous underground that would not take her child..." The autobiography, written in collaboration with William Hoffer (who also co-wrote Midnight Expressa similar story of an American


However, where the kiss immediately leads, for all intents and purposes, is Detroit, where the couple continues their love affair while Moody completes a three-year residency at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital. During this time, Betty and Moody's attraction solidifies into a full-blown relationship, a time of which she writes: "Our lives were busy and blissful. (Moody) was a good part-time father to my children. Together we took Joe and John (her sons) on outings to the zoo or on picnics, and often to ethnic festivals in Detroit where we were introduced to eastern culture."5 She says little else about Detroit, until later in the text, when after a rocky stint in Corpus Christi, Texas where the now-married Betty and Moody's relationship is strained due to the events of the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis, the couple moves to a small town in Michigan named Alpena, where Moody suddenly finds himself out of work. Betty orders him back to Detroit to find a job, and reluctantly, Moody goes, finding a position at a medical clinic the very next day. Betty stays in Alpena, and the
held captive in a Turkish prison) begins with Moody, Betty, and Mahtob arriving in Tehran, and ends following Betty and Mahtob's harrowing escape from Tehran into Turkey, where they finally arrive at the American embassy. Betty's relationship with Moody is told in flashbacks; a narrative strategy that punctuates her account of Iran, its people, and culture with constant reminders of the "freedom" and "happiness" found in the U.S. Not Without My Daughter is perhaps the most well-known American story of a woman suffering under Islamic Terrorism, a cautionary tale of the dangers of cultural and religious mixing and the rampant misogyny of "fundamentalist Islam." Most of the overwhelmingly favorable reviews which emerged after the text's 1987 publication characterized Mahmoody's tale as such, saying the book's main "lesson" lay in it demonstration of the difficulties and often insurmountable obstacles confronting bi-cultural, interracial, and inter-faith unions. "The picture of a bicultural marriage under strain is instructive," wrote Maude McDaniel in a review in The Washington Post ("Repression in Iran," The Washington Post, Sept 211987), while Marita Golden, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said explicitly that the text "can be read as a cautionary tale." She continued, "Like many cross-cultural marriages, the Mahmoody union was based on the seductive but often misleading assumption that culture can be acquired and discarded like an article of clothing. Just as Ms. Mahmoody found it difficult to love her husband as the Iranian that he was by birth and conditioning, so he, once they got to Iran, could accept her only if she conformed to his vision of a proper Moslem wife." ("Her Husband's Captive." The New York Times Book Review, Dec 27 1987.). In most cases, Betty's descriptions of women's oppression and Iranian Muslim male misogyny were immediately accepted as incontrovertible fact; "There can be no doubt," wrote McDaniel, "that the condition of women (in Iran) is most unhappy. Every aspect of female life is controlled or subject to 'criticism,' from clothing to the amount of sugar in one's tea...Mahmoody has reason to despise Iran." In 1991, just prior to the first Gulf War, the book was made into a Hollywood feature film starring Sally Field, and has since been translated into over a dozen languages, enjoying bestseller status all over the world. 5 Mahmoody, Wot without My Daughter, 51.


couple returns to seeing each other only on weekends, "a routine that was deliciously reminiscent of our courtship years."6 Thus, their relationship is rejuvenated, and Moody realizes that "his professional future lay [in Detroit] in one capacity or another," due to how "he found much less bigotry in the metropolitan environment" of Detroit than anywhere else he and Betty had lived.7 For Betty Mahmoody, Detroit in the 1970s and 80s is a site of opportunity and happiness, where love blossoms and wealth grows. For most of Detroit's actual residents, however, the period in question reflected a decidedly different realitya moment in which the city (and almost all of the American Midwest) entered a severe recession from which it would never recover, becoming the very symbol of the "rust belt"a site of empty auto factories and unemployed workers, and a city unable to survive the constant shifts of an ever-increasingly global economy.8 Additionally, long after the string of race riots which rocked Michigan and the rest of the country at the close of the 1960s (of which the 12th Street riots in Detroit, which left 43 dead and 467 injured, still stands as one the deadliest in the nation's history), racial tensions

Ibid., 345. Ibid. 8 In a 1998 chapter, historian Jeffrey Mirel writes: "During the 1980s, [Detroit's] population continued the precipitous decline that had begun four decades earlier. At its peak in 1950, Detroit had almost 1.9 million people. Over the the next 40 years, the city lost almost 47 percent of its population, registering just over 1 millions inhabitants in the most recent census. One consequence of that massive population loss was the increasing racial and social class homogenization of the city. Due to the almost unrelenting exodus of white since the 1950s, by 1990 over three-quarters of Detroit's inhabitants were African American, most of whom lived in racially-isolated neighborhoods-Detroit remained not only racially segregated but also overwhelmingly poor. Since the 1970s, the city has become a classic case of deindustrialization with a massive loss of manufacturing jobs. Not surprisingly, it has suffered from chronically high rates of unemployment. As late as 1992, unemployment in the city stood at over 15 percent, more than double the United States average." From Jeffrey Mirel, "After the Fall: Continuity and Change in Detroit, 1981-1995," History of Education Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1998).


continued to fracture the state, leading many to continually characterize the cityas the title of an 1971 anthology put it"A City in Racial Crisis."9 Thus, what to make of Betty and Moody's harmonious Detroit, a city of their blossoming and (later) rejuvenated love, ethnic festivals, and minimal racial bigotry? What discursive strategies allow Betty to describe Detroit from the early 1970s up through the mid-80s with such fondness and in such an overwhelming affirmative light? Indeed, the Detroit Betty describes in Not Without My Daughter reveals none of the era's harsh realities, and does little to reflect an era in which white flight, the globalization of industry, and the federal government's rollback of 1960s civil rights gains would gut out the city's economy and produce the conditions which served as catalysts and context for the host of social ills the city experienced during this timethe crack cocaine epidemic, the mass incarceration of African American males, steep rises in drug-related violence and property crimes, wide-scale poverty and unemployment, and anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment (such as that that leading up to the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982). Furthermore, from Betty's perspective, Moody appears to be the only Muslim in Michigan, an exotic anomaly who teaches Betty "Islamic cooking" and instructs her on the basic tenets of Islam. By the early 1980s, however, Detroit had already become home to a large diaspora of Muslim immigrants from the Middle East (including many Iranians) as well as being the birthplace and a central headquarters for the Nation of Islam (NOI). Yet Moody stands as the text's prime example a "Muslim American": an foreign individual from the Middle East who claims to love the U.S. and partakes in all of its privileges, while secretly

Leonard Gordon, ed., A City in Racial Crisis: The Cast of Detroit Pre- and Post- the 1967 Riot (Dubuque, IA: Brown, 1971). For additions reading, see Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of Racial Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).


harboring the mind and soul of a fanatic fundamentalist. The multilayered history of Islam within various immigrant and African American communities does not exist in Betty's Americaonly the singular image of a violent, two-faced, and irrevocably foreign Moody. Thus, while Mahmoody's text goes on to provide consistently graphic, detailed, and meticulous descriptions of the religious practices of Islam and the filth and corruption of Iran, her characterizations of the American landscape are conspicuously not graphic, void of detail, and unfailingly celebratory. Betty's Detroitand in effect, her Americais a place where interracial romance flourishes; where one lives the global resonances of Detroit not through poverty or prison, but through ethnic festivals and exotic food; where Islam is foreign and far-away; and where an urban center like Detroit is a hazy, dreamlike paradise of readily available employment, little prejudice, and unproblematic intercultural and interracial connections. In this first chapter of my dissertation, I am interested in exploring how such a vision of Americaan America whose "freedoms" are continually posited in contrast and comparison to the consummate "unfreedom" of Islam and Iranis irrevocably rooted in a national subjecthood like Betty Mahmoody's: that of a white, middle- to upper-class American woman writing through the historical lens of the 1970s and 80s. Such a subjecthood, I contend, has been crucial in determining the discursive contours of current American orientalism and Islamophobia, which I assert are steeped in liberal late-Cold War discourses of civil rights, feminism, and citizenship which emerged in the United States at the close of the 1960s and crystallized into national "commonsense" by close of the 1970s, a time in which the formal language of "equality for all"namely for minorities and w o m e n was rendered a rhetorical mainstay in the formal language of the state. I want to suggest it


is this subjectivity that enables the production of Betty's "blissful" Detroit, a perspective that firstly elides the ravages of racial inequality and the mass production of social death so pervasive during the historical instances she takes up in the "American" portions of her text; and secondly, dismisses the presence of Muslims and Islam within the U.S., thereby providing the vision of America necessary to stand in contrast to Islam and Iranthat of a tolerant, harmonious, Christian nation. In the standard Saidian critique of American orientalist portrayals of Muslim misogyny and the Poor Muslim Woman, the focus has generally been on the inaccuracy of portrayals of the Orient and the Islamic Other. In this alternative method of orientalist critique, I consider the "domestic" fronts of American orientalismthose discourses of race, gender, and nation which shaped national perceptions of the U.S.'s first encounter with the issues of gender and Islamic Terror: the Iranian women's movement of March 1979. Taking place shortly after the overthrow of Shah Reza Pahlavi and after Ayatollah Ruholloah Khomeini's rise as the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Iranian women's protests marked a moment in which the U.S. nation-statewhich had been an ardent supporter of Pahlavi's regime (while, Pahlavi, in turn, had been an indispensable ally of the U.S.)could grasp onto a specific explanation why Khomeini was a tyrant, why Iran was in turmoil, and why Islam was the enemy. From that moment on, "women's rights" became a rallying call which could be employed by the U.S. to explain the ills of the Middle East and the "terror" of Islam. Eight months before the saga of the Iranian hostage crisisand more than two decades before the events of 9/11media coverage of the women's movement in Iran ushered in an orientalized conception of the religion as the symbol of an irrevocably foreign and oppressive faith, culture, and system of thought which endures until this day.


The American media coverage of the Iranian women's movement American recast the longstanding orientalist narrative of the Poor Muslim Woman upon distinctly American intersections of discourses of nationalism, civil rights, and second-wave feminism taking place at the time.10 Thus, while the context of a global orientalist narrative as tied to the trajectory of Euro-American imperialism wasand iscertainly a crucial framework in understanding how those such as Mahmoody have constructed their images of a free U.S. vs. a barbarous Islam, it is also important to understand that current conceptions of Islam and the Middle East emanating from the U.S. must be seen through what I call a racial orientalist lens, in which the fatal couplings of power and difference which have occurred as a result of transnational networks of orientalism and imperiality are also understood as always working in relation with domestic neo-colonial legacies of white supremacy, antiblack racism, and anti-immigrant xenophobia, and the particular ideological configurations these legacies have assumed in the post-civil rights era. In this racial orientalist dialectic between global orientalism and American racism, the language and ideology of second-wave feminism the United States has played a crucial role in constructing a contemporary "discourse of the veil," pitting "feminism" against "Islam" on opposite ends of the orientalist divide. White American feminists took up the cause of the women of Iran en masse in 1979, staging protests against Khomeini, rallying against the veil, and ultimately viewing the events in Tehran as, in the words of Ms. magazine, "the beginning of a new unity...for international feminism."11 What was striking about the zeal and passion with which these feminists took up this "internationalist" cause is that it took


For an excellent history of the origins of this stereotype, see Mohja Kahf, Western Representations of Muslim Women: From Termagant to Odalisque (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1999). 11 Mim Kelber, "Iran: Five Days in March," Ms. Magazine, June 1979, 96.


place amidst a maelstrom of criticism directed at them by Black and Third World feminists in regards to "domestic" issues of racism, elitism, and cultural insensitivityall crucial components to understanding the long and complex history of Islam in America.12 Since that time, the plight of the Poor Muslim Woman has been taken up time and time again within the mainstream American publishing industry in a substantive corpus of literature documenting the abuse of women under Islam and Islamic Terror.13 Concern for the Poor Muslim Woman's fate has enabled political alliances between such unlikely bedfellows as the Feminist Majority and First Lady Laura Bush,14 and was featured prominently in speeches by former President George W. Bush and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in their calls for the continuation of the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.15

U.S. feminism's roots in, as Louise Newman has written, "race-specific ideas about gender, citizenship, social development, and racial progress" and as a discourse "about the evolutionary advantages that accrued to white women because of their race, and a demand that power should be reconfigured in U.S. society to take account of this fact"in other words, a project of securing "white women's rights"has often stripped mainstream white American feminist discourse of the nuance and insight necessary to understand that when one constantly focuses on the "oppression" of women of "other" cultures, nations, ethnicities, and races, it is generally at the expense of acknowledging and addressing the many layers of such "oppression" taking place at "home." 13 Examples of this literature include Geraldine Brooks, Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women (New York: Anchor Books, 1995), Jan Goodwin, Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World (New York: Plume, 1994), Latifa, My Forbidden Face: Growing up under the Taliban - a Young Woman's Story (New York: Hyperion, 2003), Jean Sasson, Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman's Survival under Saddam Hussein (New York: Penguin-New American Library, 2004), Jean Sasson, Princess Sultana's Daughters (New York: Windsor-Brooke Books, 2001), Jean Sasson, Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992), Souad, Burned Alive: A Victim of the Law of Men (New York: Warner Books, 2004). Charles Hirschkind and Saba Mahmood, "Feminism, the Taliban, and Politics of Counter-Insurgency," Anthropological Quarterly 75, no. 2 (2002). 15 Former President George W. Bush, in an editorial marking the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in The New York Times named "respect for women" as a "nonnegotiable demand of human dignity" in the War on Terror and that "the oppression of women (is) everywhere and always wrong." In relation to the American occupation of Iraq, former Bush Deputy Secretary of Defense and current President of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz wrote in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post published on Feb 1004 citing the advancement of women's rights in the "New Iraq" as proof of American progress in the region, a symbol that U.S. efforts were "helping give birth to freedom in a country that was abused for more than three decades by a regime of murderers and torturers.



To explore the racialized and gendered structure of this racial orientalist national narrative, my chapter proceeds in three parts. In the first section, I track the narrative's construction in relation to the enemy of Islamic Terror from the end of the 1970s and into the present by considering the nation that came to meet the women of Iran in March 1979. In an examination of the mainstream media coverage of the protests, both on television and in print, I investigate the discursive strategies by which the U.S. press constructed a distinctly American discourse of the veil by refracting the age-old orientalist narrative of the Poor Muslim Woman through liberal discourses of pluralism, gender equality, and what Mary Dudziak has called "cold war civil rights," in which racial progress was championed by the state in order to assert American superiority over the Soviet Union.16 However, in this instance, the same "story that led ultimately to the conclusion that, in spite of it all, America was a great nation," was used to declare American superiority over Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Islam.17 In the second section, I turn to the press's coverage of American feminist Kate Millett's trip to Iran to march in solidarity with the women of Tehran. I suggest that Millett's presence enabled the deployment of "feminism" as an ideological stand-in for the nation; in other words, Millett's "feminist" presence in Tehran functioned as proxy for the "American" values of progress, freedom, and equality, a means by which the nation could assert its superiority through noting the incompatibility of "feminism" and "Islam." As such, the "cold war civil rights" notion of a racially harmonious nation joined with that of a country committed to the ideals of gender equality and women's rights in the project of asserting American dominance, an ideological union, I contend, which remains to

Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000). 17 Ibid., 46.



this day. In the third and final section, I examine the ways in which white American feminists themselves constructed the issue of Islam and the women of Iran, and how feminist discourse has subsequently come to occupy an uneasy space in this American neoracial orientalist discourse of Islam. I consider how the "plight" of Iranian women suffering under Militant Islam was employed as a means though which U.S.-based second-wave feminist activism could "go global," and argue that this move was partially premised upon mainstream American feminist's inability to deal with "domestic" issues of race, in particular, the assertions of Black and Third World feminists and the race-d history and presence of Islam in the U.S.

Constructing an American discourse of the veil On Thursday, March 8,1979, less than a month following the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's rise to power, Iranian women took to the streets of Tehran for International Women's Day. While the marches, rallies, and speeches of the day had been planned well in advance, a spate of recent actions and comments made by Khomeini on the status of women in the newly-minted Islamic republicincluding a reported remark in which the Ayatollah stated that all working women should be required to wear the black head-to-toe covering of the chadorseemed to fuel a maelstrom of anger amongst many of the women in Iran's capital city, and brought them out en masse in the day's heavy snows to voice their objections to the clergyman's views. Up to thirty thousand women joined the day's protests, many of whom belonged to "progressive" and "leftist" organizations, and who had been central organizers and participants in the revolutionary struggles which had overthrown the monarchy of Shah Reza Pahlavi, whose regime had come to be viewed as


corrupt, authoritarian, and a puppet of the American government. During the revolution, progressive and leftist middle-class Iranian women, most of whom had traveled extensively or been educated in Europe or the United States and would most likely not veil otherwise, had taken up the chador as a sign of solidarity with their brothers and sisters in struggle.18 Wearing the chador had been a means of displaying the unity of the opposition during the revolution; however, most women had not expected to continue wearing it after the shah's downfall, nor had they thought veiling would become an official policy of the newlyinstalled Islamic state. As such, many of the women felt not only anger, but betrayal over the Ayatollah's remarks, frustrated that a revolution that had seemed to promise women so much had yet to follow through on its word. The American media had closely followed the events of the Iranian revolution, from the early rumblings amongst the anti-shah forces led by Khomeini (who had been living in exile on the outskirts of Paris, in early 1978), through the shah's forced departure from Iran in mid-January, and Khomeini's triumphant return on February 1,1979. Throughout these

Anne H. Betteridge notes in an early account of the protests, "Wearing the veil represented a particular moral stancemorality defined positively by Islamic law or negatively by opposition to the immorality of the Shah's regime and to the West in general." (From Anne H. Betteridge, "To Veil or Not to Veil: A Matter of Protest or Policy," in Women and Revolution in Iran, ed. Guity Nashat (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983). Of course, the adaptation of such a gendered trope as the veil as a symbol of resistance during the revolution was problematic in a number of ways. As Minoo Moallem points out, while it would be a "mistake to read women's acceptance of the fundamentalist encouragement to wear the black chador as a sign of passivity or religiosity [for] women perceived it as rather a gendered invitation to political participation and as a sign of membership, belonging, and complexity," it also served to reinforce "a hegemonic masculinity and heteronormativity as central practices of citizenship" in Iran. (From Minoo Moallem, Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Politics of Patriarchy in Iran (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005). The complex and multilayered meanings of the veil as a positive assertion of Islamic identity and cultural resistance, Muslim women's religious piety, and/or a symbol of hegemonic masculine dominance over women's bodies, and how such meanings circulate in shifting constellations of power determined by material circumstances which cannot be understood through the lenses of Western-based secular-liberal thought is a subject that has been taken up in recent texts such as Moallem's and cultural anthropologist Saba Mahmood's Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005), which examines the practices of the women's piety movement in contemporary Cairo.


reports, the American press expressed a deep skepticism that the revolution would succeed, constantly stressing the ragtag nature of Khomeini's supporters and the power and might of the Shah's military. On April 2,1978, the New York Times reported that "the Shah looks secure in his nearly absolute power," and as late as December 13,1978, the paper cited President Jimmy Carter as "asserting that the Shah of Iran would be able to overcome his present difficulties and maintain power."19 In piece after piece, the media described the Shah as a dedicated reformer who modernized Iran, brought immense wealth to the nation, and liberated women, while his challengers were named "the strangest revolutionaries ever to challenge as ruler."20 And while some reporters did challenge and criticize the Shah's rule, such criticisms "hardly had the sound of ringing condemnation," as William Dorman and Mansour Farhang write in their study of American press coverage of Iran between 1951-1978.21 A question posed by the NEW YORK Times aptly described general U.S. bewilderment towards the events in question: How could Iran, with its oil and strategic situation between the Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf, between Europe and the Middle East, fall under the sway of a holy man out of he mists of the 13th century? How could the Shah, a monarch who
Paul Hoffman, "However Slight, an Opposition Does Exist in Iran," New York Times, April 2 1978, Terence Smith, "Carter Deplores Agitation from Outside," New York Times, December 13 1978. It can be argues that American unwillingness to accept the waning power of the Shah lay in the monarch's importance as an U.S. ally in the region. Between 1958-1978, the U.S. sold more than $18 billion worth of arms to Iran and helped to organize and equip a vast state security structure that gave the Shah absolute power. In return, the Shah, as reported by Nicholas Gage in the New York Times on July 9,1978, "committed his country to protect the vital routes of the Persian Gulf that carry more than half the oil used by Western countries. Furthermore, the income from his arms purchases plus the American technology he buys to help develop his country return to the United States almost $2 annually for every $1 the United States spends on Iranian oil." 20 Nicholas Gage, "Iran: The Making of a Revolution," New York Times, December 17 1978. 21 William A. Dorman and Mansour Farhang, The U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and theJounrnalism of Difference (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987), 147. "Invariably," Dorman and Farhang continue, "news accounts balanced discussion of the absence of even modest political freedom with a virtual litany of assertions about the shah's social accomplishments or his general popularity...rarely if ever has the American press accorded such consideration to rulers with a record like that of the shah."


commanded more tanks than the British Army, more helicopters than the United States First Calvary in Vietnam be pressured so neatly out of power? To many Americans and Europeans, the whole thing must seem mad (italics added).22 Such sentiments preempted and thus framed the coverage of the women's movement from the very starta notion that Iran had "fallen under the sway" of a religious madman from the hands of the enlightened, modernizing Shah, and that the protesting women were the first in the nation to "come to their senses" about what was going on. These narratives detailing the Ayatollah's "madness" and demonstrating how enlightened Iranian women were "coming to their senses" became quickly apparent when the story of the Iranian women's protests broke on American television the evening of March 8, and in most of the major papers the following morning of March 9,1979. On television screens across the nation, the three major news networksCBS, ABC, and NBCdisplayed images of hordes of chador-clad women and a graven-faced Khomeini on March 8 in order to demonstrate, as ABC's Tehran correspondent Jack Smith put it, the "hysteria of the revolution,"23 while the procession of protesting women marching in the day's heavy snows for "women's rights" and "freedom," mostly with hair uncovered and wearing Western-style clothing were the manifestation of, in the words of CBS reporter Mike Lee, "Iran's simmering post-revolutionary tensions."24 In major newspapers across the country, the story broke more gradually, as a handful of papers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times ran lead stories on the protests on March 9, while the New York Time and Chicago Tribune reserved the bulk of their coverage for their March

R.W. Apple Jr., "Iran: The Heart of the Matter," The New York Times Magazine, March 111979. 3/8/1979 ABC 24 3/8/1979 CBS



11 Sunday editions. Throughout the week, the coverage ebbed and flowed, as bursts of reporting following the major demonstrations staged by women in Tehran between March 8 and March 13 which on some days comprised the lead story of the day, while on others, was delegated to a quick news item or short article to run down the day's details.25 Both the TV and print coverage early on in the week were quick to focus on the chador as their central image. In addition to the barrage of footage of women of chadors in every report, American journalists also explicitly utilized the rhetorical trope of the veil to frame their reporting on the events. NBC news anchor David Brinkley's introductory remarks for the network's March 8 report typified the type of standard orientalist assumptions that characterized the coverage early on: The chador is the traditional veil and cloak worn by women in conservative Moslem countries, a symbol of modesty and a station inferior to men. In Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini has ordered, at least the women who work for the government, to get back into it. Those accustomed to Western clothes don't want to. Today, several thousand of them went to the prime minister's office to protest. This equation between the veil and "a station inferior to men" was apparent in the print media's headlines as well. Los Angeles Times reporter Charles T. Powers echoed such an

An aspect of the coverage that I am unable to explore in full detail at this time is the manner in which the story of the women's protests was presented as an inseparable companion to the reporting on President Carter's trip to Egypt to broker the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which was eventually signed on March 26,1979, making Egypt the first country in the Middle East to officially recognize Israel as a state. Both stories were presented as interconnected harbingers of the changing relations between the United States and the Middle East; as reporter Peter Jennings said at the beginning of ABC's March 8 report, "It is perfectly clear that what is going on in Iran has a direct effect on [the peace] talks and the ones Mr. Carter will hold in Jerusalem. The revolution in Iran has shaken Egypt as well as Israel," as well as the entirety of the region. Almost four months earlier, the New York Times had already reported that, "the political turmoil in Iran" was "troubling officials [in the U.S.] because [these officials] are beginning to see it as a symbol of a much wider fundamentalist counterrevolution that is influencing politics all the way from Lebanon through Syria and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan." (From James Reston, "Counterrevolutions," New York Times, November 19 1978.)


emphasis on the chador as he characterized the situation in Iran as one in which, "the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as the moral and political power in Iran, has embarked on the battle of the veil," while headline after headline employed the veil as its central trope. "Veiled Warning: Modern Iran Women Cool to Holy Edicts" read the headline on the cover of Power's Los Angeles Times piece,26 while the New York Time's Sunday Magazine ran a feature titled "Iran's 'New Women' Rebel At Returning to the Veil"27 and an Associated Press piece in the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle on March 11 named the protests "an unveiled threat" towards Khomeini.28 Every article provided a definition of the chador"a black wraparound garment,"29 a "full-length cloak,"30 "the head-to-toe veil Orthodox Islamic custom dictates,"31 "a shapeless, full-length Moslem veil,"32 "the traditional head-to-toe covering of Moslem women"33and often offered stark orientalist oppositions between "the medieval principles of old Islam"34 and the modern female protestors dressed in "tight jeans or Western dresses,"35 "skirts and jeans,"36 and "blue jeans and jackets."37 Orientalist discourse that used the issue of the veil to paint a firm

Charles T. Powers, "Veiled Warning: Modern Iran Women Cool to Holy Edicts," The Los Angeles Times, March 9 1979. 27 Youssef M. Ibrahim, "Iran's 'New' Women Rebel at Returning to the Veil," New York Times, March 11 1979. 28 Associated Press, "Iran's women protest: an unveiled threat," San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, March 111979. 29 Powers, "Veiled Warning: Modern Iran Women Cool to Holy Edicts." 30 Jonathan C. Randal, "Women Protest in Iran, Shout 'Down with Khomeini'," The Washington Post, March 9 1979. 31 Associated Press, "Iranian Women March Against Khomeini," The San Francisco Chronicle, March 9 1979. 32 Tribune Wire Service, "Mob of men attacks women protesting loss of rights in Iran," The Chicago Tribune, March 111979. 33 Gregory Jaynes, "Iran Women March against Restraints on Dress and Rights," New York Times, March 111979. 34 Editorial, "Iran's Women Talk Back," The San Francisco Chronicle, March 9 1979. 35 Associated Press, "Iranian Women March Against Khomeini." 36 Ibrahim, "Iran's 'New' Women Rebel at Returning to the Veil." 37 Randal, "Women Protest in Iran, Shout 'Down with Khomeini'."



dividing line between Khomeini's "Islam" and "modernity" flowed readily and easily throughout all of the media's coverage, especially on the Op-Ed pages of papers across the county. Following the very first day of the protests, the SF Chronicle ran an editorial characterizing Khomeini as gripped by "righteousness" and "religious fervor," asserting that the revolution had occurred due to the Shah's efforts to "bring his country too rapidly into the twentieth century," and arguing that the Ayatollah "had better yield women the equality they are winning almost everywhere else in the modern world."38 The Chicago Tribune spoke of "a conceptual gap" between Khomeini's followers and the female protestors, a gap that "seems unbridgeable" because, concluded reporter James Yuenger, "It spans centuries."39 The aforementioned piece by Charles Powers in the Los Angeles Times naming the events a "battle of the veil" characterized the conflict this way: "The basic question" wrote Powers, "is whether an Islamic revolution means a step backwards in
+:~ J ' 4 0

time. The media's coverage demonstrated that standard orientalist discourse of the veil as a signifier of Islam's oppression of women would be a primary logic through which Americans came to understand the events in Iran. In hindsight, the immediate public fascination with the chador and the issue of veiling and the media's reliance on orientalist tropes was to be expected. The "discourse of the veil" had long been an expression of the West's orientalization of Islam, the main idea of which was that "Islam was innately and immutably oppressive to women, that the veil and segregation epitomized that oppression, and that these customs were the fundamental reasons for the general and comprehensive
Editorial, "Iran's Women Talk Back." James Yuenger, "New Revolt in Iran: Feminism," The Chicago Tribune, March 111979. 40 Powers, "Veiled Warning: Modern Iran Women Cool to Holy Edicts."
39 38


backwardness of Islamic societies."41 As post-World War II America assumed the helm of Western global power, it made sense that it would also absorb the imperial discursive legacies which had undergirded the colonial principles of its European predecessors in regards to Islam and the Middle Eastnamely the colonial feminist ideology of those such as Lord Cromer and the Victorian male establishment who had espoused the language of feminism in order to promote British expansionism in Egyptutilizing the same discursive tactics to initiate their own colonizing mission in the region, as one might say the Bush administration did following 9/11. Yet in March 1979, while one could make the case that oil politics, the U.S.-lsrael alliance, and a general desire to expand U.S. markets (all of which were central factors in President Jimmy Carter's attempts to broker the Egypt-Israel treaty) might constitute the beginnings of the current U.S. neo-imperialist occupation of the Middle East, there was not, for all intents and purposes, an active colonizing mission that the nation was involved in at that time as there had been with 19th-century Great Britain. As such, while the American "discourse of the veil" which occurred around the women's protests in Iran certainly mimicked many of the discursive legacies of British colonial feminism, and undoubtedly utilized much of the same orientalist lexicon of phrases, terms, and ideas employed by Lord Cromer and his associates, the context within which it was deployed historically, ideologically, and culturallywas vastly different, and reflected a very different construction of "empire" than that of its predecessors. In order to comprehend the imperial locale from which this neo-orientalist discourse of the veil emerged, it is firstly important to note that the central figures in the saga of Khomeini versus the women of Iran, were, in fact, the "modern," Western-educated, and

Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 152.


un-veiled women of Iran. These were, as mentioned above, women the media consistently portrayed as wearing jeans and skirts, holding hands with their boyfriends, and, most significantly, as acting unambiguously "defiant" in the face of Khomeini's edicts and Islam's religious strictures. In fact, beyond the continuous spotlight on the chador, the most frequently featured item in all the week's coverage was the "defiance" of the female protestors. On television, reports showed women engaged in passionate debates with men on the streets of Tehran, pumping their fists in the air, demanding "liberation." In piece after piece in the print media, reporters spoke of how "thousands of women in Iran marched in Tehran in defiance of the veil,"42 how "thousands of Iranian women (were) defiantly marching on Prime Minister Mehdi Barzagan's office," how the "defiant, fistwaving women threatened further demonstrations,"43 how every march that was staged "took place in defiance of (Khomeini's) government,"44 "and how the women were all "dressed defiantly in anything they wanted to wear."45 TV and print reports described in detail ferocious standoffs women encountered with male religious fanatics and Khomeini supporters,46 while television images emphasized that the women were under constant threat, demonstrated through pictures of "fanatic" mobs of screaming, snarling Iranian men which seemingly surrounded the protesting women at every turnfor example, ABC

Editorial, "Iran's Women Talk Back." Associated Press, "Iran's women protest: an unveiled threat." The San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, March 111979. 44 Jonathan C. Randal, "Militant Women Demonstrators Attack Khomeini Aide Who Heads Iran Radio," The Washington Post, March 12 1979. 45 Los Angeles Times Staff, "Women Claim Iran Veil Victory," The Los Angeles Times, March 13 1979. 46 The Associated Press ("Iran's women protest: an unveiled threat," 3/11/79) reported on "Moslem zealots enraged by the unveiled protestors," while the Washington Post ("Militant Women Demonstrators Attack Khomeini Aide Who Heads Iran Radio," 3/12/79) described harassments from "nastier, jeering, and taunting Moslem men boasting allegiance to Khomeini" and the Tribune Wire Service ("Mob of Men Attacks Women Protesting Loss of Rights in Iran," 3/11/79) spoke of mobs of "male revolutionaries (who) hurled stones and curses, brandished knives, and fired rifles at the women, who, despite these threats, stood their ground and persisted with their protests, steadfast in their efforts to reject the chador.


illustrated this dynamic on the opening night of its coverage by showing the image of a lone, bare-headed woman arguing passionately while surrounded by a group of angry, gesticulating Iranian men. The images which emerged from the protests generally depicted the women of Iran with their hair uncovered and wearing stylish Western attire, such as Jackie-0 style sunglasses, flared jeans, and fur-collared coats. Television coverage offered sound bites of young Iranian women telling the camera in flawless English that they were marching for "freedom"47 and "liberation,"48 and saying that since the end of the revolution, Khomeini had turned "against women," and was now "a dictator" and "a fanatic." The women were also often shown with their fists raised in the airreminiscent of the salute which had become the symbol of the Black Power Movement in the U.S. during the late 1960s-early 1970s. However, the female protestors featured in the American media's images were definitely not "Black," nor did they even look particularly "Arab," as had women featured in popular depictions of post-revolutionary women of Algeria in 1962 (who had also employed the veil as a symbol of opposition to French colonialism and struggled with a return to "traditional" Islamic values and gender roles following their revolution), or more recent images of women in Iraq and Afghanistan in our contemporary era. In fact, many of the fairskinned, straight-haired Iranian women featured in American television news reports and print media looked far more phenotypically "White." For example, on NBC news' March 12 broadcast, the segment on Iran featured a long lingering shot of a heavily made-up blond female protestor, whose eye shadow, glossed lips, and feathered hair almost rendered her
47 48

CBS, March 8,1979 ABC, March 11,1979


an Iranian version of a Charlie's Angel, one of American television's most popular shows at the time. A cover story for the New York Times magazine on the issue of women and Islam in Iran featured as its central image a photograph of a woman named Susan Kamalieh, a sandy-haired "liberal" Iranian female painter, who, according to reporter Gregory Jaynes, loved skiing, lived with her boyfriend, drank beer with her friends, and painted "in a pair of sandals, jeans, and a denim shirt," often "slipfping] one bare foot out of a sandal and scratching] the back of one calf with her toes."49 Liberal Western morals and "feminist" values like Kamalieh's figured prominently in most American media accountsin another New York Times article, reporter Youssef Ibrahim quoted an unnamed Iranian female technician at the protests expressing her frustration at the constant comparisons the "religious fanatics" were making between the female protestors and women in the U.S.: "They are calling us American dolls because we don't want to wear the chador. They say our moral character is flawed because we wear Western clothes...doesn't [the Ayatollah] know that his Islamic women can also fool around under the chador?"50 Thus, it seemed that in the eyes of the American media, the protesting women of Iran looked, thought, and acted a great deal like American women circa 1979, in particular, those white, educated, middle-class, and unmistakably "defiant" second-wave feminists currently involved in their own "battle of the sexes"e.g. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Kate Millett, who had spearheaded the feminist movement and sexual revolution in the U.S. throughout the late 1960s and into the 70s. In fact, the Iranian women featured in the TV coverage and newspaper photos filling the streets of Tehran could almost be mistaken


Gregory Jaynes, "Iranian Women: Looking Beyond the Chador," New York Times Magazine, April 22 1979. 50 Ibrahim, "Iran's 'New' Women Rebel at Returning to the Veil."


for those American women who had marched in equality drives and "Women Power" protests throughout the earlier part of the decadeprotests which had fueled a "revolution in the status of women" (as a New York Times editorial called it in 1970)s: by advancing the tenets of second-wave "equal rights" feminism (gender equality in all spheres, abortion rights, and female autonomy)-save the occasional woman in chador or the bearded mullah at the edges of each image's frame. Demands for "equal rights" were listed in almost every news report as the central goal of the women of IranIranian women were repeatedly reported as wanting the same things as women in the West: "equal civil rights with men; no discrimination in political, social and economic rights, and a guarantee of full security for women's legal rights and liberties," reported the New York Times,52 as well as rights of "education, abortion, child-care, divorce, and employment," reported the Washington Post.53 And while all of these demands undoubtedly did reflect the true desires of many of the Iranian female protestors, and certainly represented legitimate demands in the face of Khomeini's edicts, few news reports discussed how the vast majority Iranian women who lived outside the urban centersmostly poor, working-class peasant women who worked in the fields and rural industries whose lives before and after Khomeini's rise to powerwere still plagued by the same issues they had struggled with before the revolution, i.e. poverty, hunger, lack of opportunity.54

51 52

Editor, "The Liberated Woman," The New York Times, August 27,1970. Jaynes, "Iran Women March against Restraints on Dress and Rights." 53 Jonathan C. Randal, "Sexual Politics in Iran: Kate Millett Finds Tehran's Feminists Are Not United," Washington Post, March 12 1979. 54 For further reading, see Moallem, Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Politics of Patriarchy in Iran, Guity Nashat, ed., Women and Revolution in Iran (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983), AzarTabari, "The Enigma of Veiled Iranian Women," Feminist Review 5 (1980), Azar Tabari, "The Women's Movement in Iran: A Hopeful Prognosis," Feminist Studies 12, no. 2 (1986).


In other words, the American media represented the Iranian women's movement by explicitly rehashing the terms, antagonisms, and goals which had characterized the women's liberation movement in the U.S. just a few years priorportraying the protesting women of Iran as the international doppelgangers of "liberated" women in the U.S.and then implicitly, by iterating the widespread acceptance of the ideology of equal-rights feminism as an accepted part of "our" nationalist discourse. However, in this case, the "enemy" was not only the structures of sexism and male dominance which American women had rallied against, but sexism and male dominance as sanctioned by fundamentalist Islam. As such, the post-revolutionary struggles of the women of Tehran were cast not only through the binaries of East vs. West and Islam vs. modernity, but through a new binary of "Islam" vs. "feminism" in which the two concepts became diametrically opposedwomen were marching "to protest the increasingly antifeminist overtones of Iran's fundamentalist Moslem revolution"55 and mounting "a growing feminist revolt (as) a direct challenge to...Khomeini,"56 while all who opposed the protests or supported Khomeini's views were, whether they knew it or not, inherently "antifeminist," "anti-woman," or "male chauvinist pigs." In this way, supporting the "feminism" of the women of Iran, as the press uniformly did in March 1979, became not only a means of supporting "feminist" ideals in general, but also a way of asserting nationalist pride in the face of fundamentalist Islam an equivalence which would become increasingly deployed in the years to come.

Randal, "Women Protest in Iran, Shout 'Down with Khomeini'." Associated Press, "Iran's women protest: an unveiled threat."


Kate Millett vs. the Ayatollah Khomeini Such discursive equations between "feminism" and "nation" were enabled by the historical moment at hand, in particular, the fact that in 1979, the idea of feminism in the US was enjoying a moment of widespread public acceptance in which issues of gender equality at work and at home, sexual autonomy and freedom, and abortion rights had moved out of the realm of the "radical," and into the space of national "common sense," if not in actual practice, than at least through mainstream cultural rhetoric and the formal language of the state. For example, in 1977, 20,000 delegates had gathered in Houston, TX for the first federally-financed conference on women's rights, while women's studies departments were being established across the country. In 1978, President Carter had issued Executive Order 12050, which ordered the establishment of a National Advisory Committee for Women, while Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (which as its name suggests, banned employment discrimination against pregnant women), and two major citiesSan Francisco and Chicagowere headed by women (Dianne Feinstein and Jane Byrne, respectively). In the cultural arena, the success of films with decidedly "feminist" storylines, such as Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Norma Rae (1979), and the following year's Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) and 9 to 5 (1980) reflected the ways in which notions of shifting gender roles and female empowermentas well as the anxieties surrounding themwere at the forefront of popular national consciousness, as well as how the public was hungry to see portrayals of how "feminism" was reshaping the contours of American lives. This widespread appeal of popular feminism spurred a great deal of public interest in radical feminist activist and author Kate Millett's journey to Iran, a story which comprised


a significant portion of the week's news coverage of the women's protests, in particular in the print media. Millettthe author of Sexual Politics, the 1970 text often regarded as the first and most prominent manifesto of the American women's liberation movement 57 had long been involved with the Committee for Artistic and Intellectual Freedom in Iran (CAIFI), an American-based anti-Shah organization, and in early 1979, was invited by a group of Iranian feminists to speak in Tehran for the events of International Women's Day. While Millett's initial arrival in Iran in early March did not make the news, the American feminist quickly became a focal point for the American media after reportedly commenting that the Ayatollah Khomeini was a "male chauvinist pig" on March 11,1979a statement which was roundly repeated in the U.S. press on March 12. Millett made headlines again a few days later when news outlets learned of the Iranian government's plans to expel the feminist from Iran, after which the press closely followed the events of Millett's arrest, detention, and subsequent ejection from Tehran. 58


Millett's text has often been criticized for its studied ignorance of issues of race. Margaret Simons has criticized Millett's comparison of slavery and racism to her analysis of sexual politics, saying, "[Millett] both misrepresents the slavery experience and ignore the experiences of minority women in the analysis as well as masks the differences between the situations of white and minority women. Her theory relies on an ethnocentric view of women's power, of the character of sex roles, and the meaning of family." From Margaret A. Simons, "Racism and Feminism: A Schism in the Sisterhood," Feminist Studies 5, no. 2 (1979). In a piece exploring Western perceptions of the Islamic veil, Homa Hoodfar writes that Sexual Politics indicated Millett's "lack of commitment to and understanding of issues of race, ethnicity, and class." From Homa Hoodfar, "The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women," in The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, ed. Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 1997). 58 Millett herself later catalogued her journey in her 1982 autobiography. Going to Iran, in which she describes the events leading up to her trip to Tehran and her time there, including her detention in an Iranian prison. In passages such as these, describing some of Millett's first impressions of Tehran, the account provides a clear idea of the orientalist, and often racist, assumptions, Millett held of Iran and Islam: The first sight of them was terrible. Like black birds, like death, like fate, like everything alien. Foreign, dangerous, unfriendly. There were hundres of them, specters crowding the barrier, waiting their own, a sea of chadori, the long terrible veil, the full length of it, like a dress descending to the floor, ancient, powerful, annihilating us. And the men beside them too, oddly enough, nondescript in their badly cut Western suits,a costume that had none of the power of an Arab robe. And in giving themselves this bit of "Westernism," this suit that looks...never really


Prior to her Iran coverage, Millett's profile in the press had been decidedly unflattering. Following the publication of Sexual Politics, a piece in the New York Times dubbed her the "Karl Marx of New Feminism,"59 while her general portrayal in the mainstream media was that of an aggressive renegade who had positioned herself as "a high priestess of the current feminist wave"60 by advocating for the complete abolition of sexual difference, decrying the traditional nuclear family "patriarchy's chief institution,"61 and labeling Freudian psychology as a counter-revolutionary force infused with "male supremacist bias."62 In addition, Millett' was described as a typically "unfeminine" feminist, a woman who swore "like a gunnery sergeant," and worked as a sculptor in a Bowery loft in New York.63 In its August 31,1970 edition, Time magazine featured Millett on its cover, with the cover story calling her the "Mao-Tse Tung of Women's Liberation," who had come along to take on the role of "ideologue to provide chapter and verse for [second-wave feminism's] assault on patriarchy" and whose 1970s text had supplied a "coherent theory to buttress [feminism's] intuitive passions."64 It included a quote from George Stade, a professor at Columbia, who stated that reading Millett's work was "like sitting with your testicles in a nutcracker."65 Portrayals like these reflected early national attitudes and opinions of the women's liberation movement as a radical fringe group of man-hating

quite right since it is an adopted clothing, a deference to the wealth and political force of another section of persons, the men announce their alliance with the "new," the world of business and technology, currency, and bureaucratic forms and industrialism. Relgating women to the old, the traditional, the tribal garment...The men control them, insignificant as they appear, hardly visible before the splendor and drama of the chador. [From Kate Millett, Going to Iran (New York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, 1982), 49.] 59 Marilyn Bender, "Some Call Her the 'Karl Marx' of New Feminism," The New York Times, July 20 1970. 60 Frank J. Prial, "Feminist Philosopher: Katherine Murray Millett," New York Times, August 27 1970. "Ibid. 62 Bender, "Some Call Her the 'Karl Marx' of New Feminism." 63 Prial, "Feminist Philosopher: Katherine Murray Millett." 64 "Who's Come a Long Way Baby?," Time, August 311970.


women who had traded their "femininity" for, as one article described Millett, a "casual dashiki-workpants-sandals lifestyle."66 Yet as already discussed, in 1979 such views appeared to have evolved since the start of the 1970s, a shift that was apparent in the press's later assessment of Millett. From the beginning of the coverage of Millett's journey to Iran, she was often described as a courageous patriota far cry from the portrayal of almost a decade prior when she had been compared to Marx and Mao. Calling her "one of the few Americans daring to speak up publicly in what has become an extremely anti-American revolution,"67 journalists delighted in Millett's characterization of the Ayatollah Khomeini as a "male chauvinist pig," citing Millett's words in their headlines (e.g. "U.S. Feminist Calls Khomeini 'Chauvinist,") and on air (both David Brinkley of NBC and Walter Cronkite of CBS reported on Millett's comment in their broadcasts on March 12 and March 15, respectively), although in reality, Millett's full comment had actually discouraged usage of the term. Asked by a reporter at a press conference she organized to introduce her Iranian feminist colleagues whether she thought the phrase could be applied to Khomeini, Millett had replied that it would be although "it would be would be a simple idiot way of describing him.68 However, she continued, "when we are dealing with something as serious as this, when people's lives are at stake, we should avoid banal phrases."69 The lack of context in reporting Millett's comment demonstrated the press's desire to depict the events of the women's protests in distinctly American terms, downplaying the fact that many left-leaning liberal women of


"The Liberation of Kate Millett," Time, August 311970. Reuters, "U.S. Feminist Calls Khomeini 'Chauvinist'," San Francisco Chronicle, March 12 1979. 68 Quote from Randal, "Sexual Politics in Iran: Kate Millett Finds Tehran's Feminists Are Not United." 69 Reuters, "U.S. Feminist Calls Khomeini 'Chauvinist'."


Iran were actually wary of Millett's presence in the region. As one Iranian woman commented: I think [Millett] has no right to talk for Persian women...We have our own tongues, our own demands. We can talk for us...She and no one else who is not Iranian can say anything that we should listen to about Iranian women. She does not know us. I do not know what she is doing here.70 Yet, the reporting of such sentiments was rare, save for a few accounts which did so in order to demonstrate Iranian and/or Muslim women's inability to comprehend the benefits of Western feminism. For example, the Washington Post reported on March 12 that at the press conference in which Millett made the comment about Khomeini's chauvinism, she had magnanimously invited those women who had been heckling her to join her on the podium. However the women had declined, because, the Post explained, "talking out problemsand the techniques of consciousness-raisinghave not caught on Iran."71 Such hostility towards Millett's opinions were contextualized within the mood of anti-American, "xenophobic postrevolutionary times," not the fact that Millett seemed to continually speak of the goals of Iranian women as nothing more than an offshoot of the American women's movement, at one point saying at a press conference, "our rights of education, abortion, child-care, divorce, employment in the professionsall the things we have fought for since the commencement of the women's rights movement in 1847are in great jeopardy in this society (italics added)."72 Of course, Millett's citation of 1847 as the beginning of the women's rights movement was a reference to the actions that led up to the Seneca Falls, NY

John Kifner, "Iran's Women Fought, Won, and Dispersed," New York Times, March 16 1979. Randal, "Sexual Politics in Iran: Kate Millett Finds Tehran's Feminists Are Not United." 72 Ibid.



convention of 1848, the first women's rights convention in the United States, and thus inadvertently ignored and dismissed any feminist movements that might exist beyond a Western-American historical paradigm. On March 15,1979, Millett was refused entry to the Intercontinental Hotel in Tehran, where she had been scheduled to hold a press conference that day. After being formally asked to leave by the hotel's manager, Millett decided to hold the conference instead on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, where she discussed the recent report that Iranian Deputy Premier Abbas Amir had said she would be expelled from the country for "provocations against the revolution." The Los Angeles Times reported that Millett appeared flustered and tense throughout her interviews, her "hands...shaking in nervous reaction to the confrontation in the lobby" she had just had with the Intercontinental's manager.73 The paper then went on to report that a single Iranian women "heckled" Millett as she spoke, telling her that she did "not have the right to decided what is happening in Iran." Two days later, on March 18, when Millett was detained by the Iranian government and ordered out of Iran, the Tribune Wire Service reported that Millett told ABC news that she was "absolutely terrified" and could "not understand why I have been treated like this...I came in friendship to help my sisters."74 "Iran Expulsion Terrifying, Says Kate Millett," read the headline on the second page of the Los Angeles Times on March 19, in an item that quoted Millett as telling the Associated Press that she "had never been so terrified in my life," and that the experiences of the last 24 hours, during which she had been deported from Tehran to Paris "had made her understand the true meaning of human


Associated Press, "Hassled, Heckled Kate Millett Not Leaving Iran, Yet," Los Angeles Times, March 16 1979. 74 Tribune Wire Service, "Millett, friend arrested, told to leave Iran," Chicago Tribune, March 19 1979.


rights."75 Three weeks following her expulsion, Millett told Los Angeles Times reporter Nancy Rivera that she was still bewildered" I never did anything illegal or even impolite. I had gone there in peace and in the best will in the world, being thrilled by the insurrection and the hopes of a democracy in Iran. I'm still in a kind of state of astonishment.76 Thus, in a space of week, the American press transformed Kate Millett from a brash, outspoken feminist who had come to Iran to defend the nation's women from Khomeini, into a terrified and defeated victim of fundamentalist Islam, confused and trembling over how her good intentions towards the people of the region could have been so misconstrued. Such was the power and barbarity of Khomeini's brand of Islam, the coverage seemed to say, an ideology that could make even an iconoclast like Kate Millett shudder in its wake. Like Betty Mahmoody, Millett was a white American woman who seemed to have begun her affair with Iran and Islamthis time in the form of her involvement with CAIFIwith the best of intentions, only to be thwarted by malicious foes gripped by fundamentalist ideology and religious fervor, who were unable to stomach her "modern" ideas about women's rights and international feminist solidarity. Instead, these enemies of Western-American modernity and freedom terrorized, captured, and ultimately rejected Millett and her feminist ideals. In a sense, Millett's story was a harbinger of the captivity narrative of the hostage crisis that would come to grip the nation at the close of the yearthat of an American caught, held, and terrorized by Radical Islam. Except in this case, the true prisoner was not Millett, but a white American "feminist" subjecthood, a subjectivity that had become part and parcel of "our" national identity, and came to

Associated Press, Naomi Pabst, "Iran Expulsion Terrifying, Says Kate Millett," Los Angeles Times, March 19 1979. 76 Nancy Rivera, "Feminist Fears for Iran Women Leaders," Los Angeles Times, April 10 1979.



characterize the nation's direct opposition to fundamentalist Islam. As Americans looked on at the events of that week, what had happened to Kate Millett appeared a clear indication of the type of treatment "American" values such as "democracy," "equality," and "feminism" would receive in the Islamic Middle East, and provided ample justification that "Islam" should, from here on out, like the Soviet Union, be viewed as a dangerous and formidable enemy of the U.S.77

"The Beginning of a New Unity" Race was rarely mentioned throughout the week's coverage, despite the intense media attention upon a religion which had just one decade prior been primarily known in the U.S. as that of Black American Muslim figures such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, or Elijah Muhammadperhaps the only "Muslims" the American public had ever known before 1979. Indeed the only brand of "militant Islam" most Americans had heard before that of the Ayatollah Khomeini was that practiced by the Nation of Islam, once considered

Another fascinating aspect of the press coverage of Kate Millett that I do not have the space to discuss here is the portrayal of Millett's relationship with her "partner," photographer Sophie Kier. Millett was open about her homosexual relationship with Kier, and had once lamented how the mainstream feminist movement had shunned her after discovering that she was, as she called it, a "queero." Called Millett's "companion" throughout most of the press coverage, Kier was featured prominently in the press photo that accompanied the story of Millett's ouster from Iran, a picture of her with Millett at Tehran's airport as they waited for a plane to take them out of the country. In addition, it is important to strongly acknowledge how many Muslim feminists themselves felt about Millett's visit to Tehran, that Millett's journey was a gratuitous act of self-promotions that ultimately, did nothing to aid the cause of Islamic feminism. Homa Hoodfar offers a succinct account of this perspective: "Given the atmosphere of anti-imperialism and anger toward the American government's covert and overt policies in Iran and the Middle East, [Millett's] widely publicized trip to Iran was effectively used associate those who were organizing resistance to the compulsory veil with imperialist and pro-colonial elements. In this way her unwise unwanted support and presence helped to weaken the Iranian women's resistance." From Hoodfar, "The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women."


by white Americans as "the hate that hate produced," a group one judge who had presided over a 1965 case involving Black Muslims called "the personification of Luciferdangerous, exotic zealots with mystical motivations."79 For most Black Americans, however, Islam had long held very different meanings; as Melani McAlister has argued, following the 1960s and 70s, "Islam" functioned as significant cultural trope for Black American communities, a symbol of antiracism, anticolonialism, and Black nationalist radicalism.80 Thus, as discussions of feminism far out-shadowed any discussion of Islam's significance in the context of American racial politics, Islam became quickly and effectively de-linked from blackness in national public discourse, irrevocably jettisoned from the domestic terrains of the nation's racial politics into the realm of foreign policy. No longer would mentions of the religion solicit images of Black men in bow ties or discussions of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Instead, it seemed that "Islam" in national public discourse would be forever transformed into an orientalized trope, reflecting all that America was against and/or was
This was the well-known title of the 1959 CBS documentary hosted by journalist Mike Wallace that introduced the NOI to American television audiences. 79 Claire Spiegel, "Postscript: Verdict of Jurist in Muslim Case: Judges Have Lost Independence," Los Angeles Times, August 27 1979. 80 In her book. Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East, 1945-2000 (Berkeley: UC Press, 2001), McAlister writes, "In the early to mid-1960s, the Nation of Islam brought its interpretation of Islam to prominence in the African American community and defined Islam as the religion of black American militancy." In addition, transnational affiliations between Black Americans, the Middle East, and Islam were also developing at the end of the 1970s. In February 1979, Black American U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young praised Islam as "a vibrant cultural force in today's world" and said that the Ayatollah Khomeini would certainly someday come to be regarded as "a saint," though later that year Young would be forced to resign from his post after taking a meeting with Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat ("Young Praises Islam as 'Vibrant' and Calls the Ayatollah 'a Saint'," New York Times, February 8 1979.), while journalist Askia Muhammad wrote in an editorial in the Washington Post in August 1979 (Askia Muhammad, "Blacks and Arabs: The Missing Links," Washington Post, August 26 1979.), Black Americans themselves felt a growing sense of connection with Islam and the Middle East. In most Arab countries, the most popular public personality isn't Yasser Arafat. It is Muhammad AM. From Morocco to Kuwait, Ali is revered almost as a hometown hero, and black Americans are considered brothers in Islam. Meanwhile in Chicago, in Harlem, all across American, many black Americans have turned to Islam and pray toward Mecca. Just as millions of Arabs consider black Americans exempt from their denunciation of American "imperialism" and support for Israel, so, for millions of black Americans, Moslem and Christian alike, Arabs are "blood brothers"sharing similar geographical and cultural roots.



A year following the Bakke anti-affirmative action case and what would soon reveal

itself to be a steady rollback of the civil rights gains of the 1960s, and as Black militancy and nationalism, antiracism, radicalism, and anticolonial thought fell (perhaps forever) out of the national eye, this elision of the race-d history of Islam in the United States coalesced with changing attitudes towards race, in particular the way in which racism no longer seemed a viable issue of national concern.82 Indeed, the only discussion of race which appeared in the coverage of the protests was through the persistent language of "equal rights" that pervaded the news of the women's struggles, such as a Chicago Tribune editorial published following the close of the protests, which concluded:

In fact, the only discussions of race which appeared in the coverage of the protests was in the persistent language of "equal rights" that pervaded the news of the women's protests, such as a Chicago Tribune editorial ("Who Will Follow the Chador?," March 19 1919) published following the close of the protests, which concluded: Iranian women have no choice but to make it abundantly clear they will not surrender their hardwon rights and freedoms in the name of religion or revolution and dewesternization. They deserve the sympathy and support of all who value human rightsand who would be protesting in their behalf if they were blacks being forbidden to participate in major areas of national life. Thus, in the eyes of the Tribune's editorial staff, the struggle for African American civil rights was a battle that had already been wonBlack Americans were no longer "being forbidden to participate" in all aspects of American civic life, and thus, "we" American could move on to the project of sympathizing with and supporting the women of Tehran. A significant effect of such a perception is the way in which it silenced the long and indigenous history of Black American Islam. This is a silence that is only nowthrough recent scholarship on the longstanding presence of Islam in the Americas, the legacies of Islam in Black America, and the perspectives of Black American Muslim womenbeginning to be broken For further reading on the roots of Islam in the Americas, see: Allan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum American: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles (New York: Routledge, 1997), Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 1998), Michael A. Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005). For reading on the Nation of Islam and Islam's resurgence and development in 20th-century Black America, see: Edward E. Curtis, Islam and Black America: Identity, Liberations, and Difference in African-American Islamic Thought (New York: State University of New York Press, 2002), Sherman A. Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, Ml: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), Aminah Beverly McCloud, African American Islam (New York: Routledge, 1995), Richard Brent Turner, Islam in the African American Experience (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997).


Iranian women have no choice but to make it abundantly clear they will not surrender their hard-won rights and freedoms in the name of religion or revolution and dewesternization. They deserve the sympathy and support of all who value human rightsand who would be protesting in their behalf if they were blacks being forbidden to participate in major areas of national life (italics added).83 Thus, in the eyes of the Tribune's editorial staff, the struggle for African American civil rights was a battle that had already been wonBlack Americans were no longer "being forbidden to participate" in all aspects of American civic life, and thus, "we" American could move on to the project of sympathizing with and supporting the women of Tehran. This discursive transfer of "IslarrTs significance from the realm of Black domestic politics onto the global stage was further buffered by the fact that the "feminism" deployed by the national media during its coverage of the women's protests in Iran was also conspicuously "un-raced,"a white, middle-class feminism untouched by the ferocious internecine debates about issues of race, class, and sexuality that had been spurred on by the writings, theory, activism, and direct challenges of African American, Third World, and postcolonial feminists critiquing the racism, classism, and homophobia of mainstream second-wave white feminism at the time. Yet such a construction was not only on advanced by the mainstream news media, but by prominent feminist activists, organizations, and publications themselves, such as the preeminent publication of the American feminist movement, Ms. magazine. Thus, in this concluding section of my chapter, I want to consider how the Iranian women's protests were constructed in Ms. and in relation to the racialized contexts in which discussions of feminist activism were taking place at the time.


Editor, "Who Will Follow the Chador?," Chicago Tribune, March 19 1979.


By the close of the 1970s, Black and Third World feminists had become increasingly vocal in their criticisms of the mainstreamand overwhelmingly middle-class and w h i t e feminist leadership and their political agenda. Since the early 1970s, Black women and other women of color had been defining and developing their own definitions of "feminist" principles, principles that simultaneously addressed the sexism of their own ethnic and racial communities alongside the racism and elitism of mainstream white feminism. In 1977, the group of Black feminists in the U.S. calling themselves the Combahee River Collective released their landmark "Black Feminist Statement," in which they declared that while Black feminist organizing and principles had certainly developed in relation to the second-wave of the women's movement, "Black feminism"whose practitioners were "actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression" and operated on the central principle that "the major systems of oppression are interlocking"was "the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women face." 84 Feminists of color like those of the Combahee Collective challenged, as Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thornton Dill have written, "the hegemony of feminisms constructed primarily around the lives of white middle-class women," taking issue primarily with unitary theories of gender which did not and could acknowledge women's existences "not merely as gendered subjects but as women whose lives are affected by our location in multiple hierarchies." 85

Combahee River Collective, "A Black Feminist Statement," in Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Social Feminism, ed. Zillah Eisensteian et. al. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978). 85 Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thornton Dill, "Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism," Feminist Studies 22, no. 2 (1996). On the ground, Black women's critiques of white feminists were often fierce. For example, at the first National Women's Studies conference held in 1979, Combahee Collective head Barbara Smith lambasted the sentiments of white women who claimed that the subjects of race and racism had been talked about too much, to which Smith responded:


The effects of such internal debates could certainly be seen playing themselves out on the pages of Ms. in 1979, as the publication opened the year with the front page of its January issue featuring a full-page photo of Michelle Wallace, the young Black American woman writer who had just published Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, the controversial and now-well known text addressing the issues of black male sexism within Black Power movements and cultural constructions of black women. Calling it "the book that will shape the 1980s," the magazine ran an eight-page excerpt of Wallace's text, alongside a list of Black women's groups in the U.S., and stated on its table of contents page that this issue of the magazine, would "inaugurate a series of special reports by and about black feminists that will feature personal voices and contemporary perspectives on the sexual politics of black womanhood." 86 Accompanying Wallace's excerpt was another blurb from the editors stressing that the magazine's focus on Black women would continue on "Next month," the editors stated, "the special report by and about black feminists continues. The February Ms.and other issues to comewill include additional personal voices and contemporary perspectives on the sexual politics of black womanhood." 87 The extended excerpt, the list of Black women's organizations, and the editors' repeated declarations of commitment to the perspectives of Black women revealed Ms.'s pointed desire, at the start of 1979, to present itself as a publication that was sensitive to issues of race. Yet their publication of Wallace's text was accompanied by no other Black feminist

This, of course, is not true. If it had been all we had all talked about...we might be at a point of radical transformation...that we clearly are not. For those of you who are tired of hearing about racism, imagine how much more tired we are of constantly experiencing it, second by literal second, how much more exhausted we are to see it constantly in your eyes. (From "Racism and Women's Studies," Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies, National Women's Stuides Association Selected Conference Proceedings 1979 5, no. 1,1980.) 86 Editors, Ms., January 1979. 87 Ibid.


perspectives, such as that of poet June Jordan, who later that year published a scathing critique of Wallace's text in the New York Times Book Review which ultimately accused Wallace's text of playing into the hands of the white feminist establishment. In her review, Jordan wrote "You do have to concede champion qualities to Miss Wallace's capacity for unsubstantiated, self-demeaning, historical pronouncement," and summed up the text as "nothing more nor less than a divisive, fractious tract devoid of hope or dream."88 Palpable throughout the review, perhaps even more so than her frustration with the text, however, was Jordan's anger with the way Black Macho had been held up by the white American feminist establishment as a groundbreaking text in a time when, as she states at the very start of her review, "American mass media rolled the camera away from black life and the quantity of print on the subject became too small to read." Citing a string of recent events such as the Bakke decision and the passage of California's Proposition 13, Jordan asserted that in 1979, more than ever, "collective affirmation (and) political resistance" was needed from the Black American community in order to counter the "swift and radical reversion to national policies of systematic exclusion and disablement of black life" that had taken place in the U.S. throughout the 1970s.89 At review's close, Jordan stopped just short of implying that the text's popularity was due mainly to the desires of white feminists, and in turn, all white Americans, to sweep the issue of antiblack racism under the nation's rug: Why did Michelle Wallace write this book? And, I wonder, how does it happen that this book has been publishedthis book and not another that would summarily

June Jordan, "To Be Black and Female," New York Times Book Review, March 18 1979.


describe black people to ourselves, and to the other ones who watch us so uneasily...It is something to think about, indeed.90 While Jordan's was only one opinion among many, one might conclude that the magazine's singular focus on Wallace's text seemed to expose Ms.'s desire to declare itself in solidarity with Black women without engaging in any sort of sustained critique of white women's racism. This desire to assert sisterhood without simultaneous self-reflection became even more clear in the magazine's February issue, when the magazine ran four short pieces by writers Alice Walker and Audre Lorde, and activists Sandra Flowers and Christine Bond entitled "Other Voices, Other Moods" in what it now called its "Continuing Series on the Sexual Politics of Black Womanhood." While all four of these featured authors were known as outspoken critics of white racismand in particular cases, the racism of white secondwave feminists91the published pieces only took to task sexism in the Black community (Walker and Flowers), ignorance in the Black community (Bond), and homophobia in the Black community (Lorde) as the premier agents of Black women's oppressionfeaturing no Black feminist critiques which addressed the continuing legacies of anti-black racism or white supremacy in the U.S., nor acknowledged the existence of racism within the mainstream women's movement itself, nor attempted to link the feminist cause with any type of antiracist goals. Furthermore, following the February issue, this series was suddenly and unceremoniously dropped. Without apology or explanation, no pieces with anything to do with race ran in the March 1979 issue, and for the remainder of the year, Ms. offered no more articles on "the sexual politics of black womanhood," unless one counted an essay on
90 91

ibid. Audre Lorde, "Letter to Mary Daly."


raising an only child penned by Walker for the August 1979 issue or an excerpt from Toni Morrison's 1979 commencement speech at Barnard College, published in the September issue.93 Instead, the magazine chose to turn its eye towards less contentious issues, such as women in the workplace, balancing a career and motherhood, women's financial independence, fashion, and female health. With titles like "How to Buy a Home on Your Own," (March 1979), "How To Get Dressed and Still Be Yourself" (April 1979), and "Is Success Dangerous To Your Health? The Mythsand FactsAbout Women and Stress" (May 1979), the majority of the stories published for the rest of the year addressed the grievances of white, middle class women and explored how such American women could live their lives guided by feminist ideals. In addition, most all these subsequent stories in Ms. functioned in a decidedly "domestic" framework, focusing on feminism in American contexts and rarely linking the predicament of women in the U.S. with other women around the globe. Profiles and features were of American women (e.g. Jacqueline Onassis, Barbara Walters, Patty Hearst, Jane Fonda, etc.), analysis of the feminist movement was grounded in discussion of various U.S. based organizations and institutions (the labor movement, women's colleges, women's art collectives, etc.) and thus, feminism seemed a resolutely American affair; little to none of the language of globalism and/or transnationalism that permeates discussion of feminism today made its way into the pages of Ms. circa 1979.

"Five Days in March" However, the one "international" story that did find its way into the publication that year concerned the women's movement in Tehran. On the cover of Ms.'s June 1979 issue
92 93

Alice Walker, "One Child of One's Own-an Chapter on Creativity," Ms., August 1979. Toni Morrison, "Toni Morrison on Cinderella's Stepsisters," Ms., September 1979.


beneath story titles such as "How to Find A Feminist Therapist" and "Dolly Parton Has the Last Laugh"ran the headline "Iran: The Women's Revolution Goes On." The accompanying piece, written by longtime feminist and political writer Mim Kelber, opened with the question: "Was the revolution a beginning of Women of the World United?"94 It then posed another question to its intended audience of American feminists: "Do we know...that Iranian feminists need our supportand vice versa?" The article went on to provide a summary of the events leading up to the protests of International Women's Day on March 8,1979the participation of Iranian women in the revolution, the deposal of the Shah, Khomeini's rise to power, and his subsequent conservatism and calls for women to return to the veil. To her credit, Kelber generally offered a rich and complex portrait of the Iranian women's movement, noting from the start of the piece that "feminism" in Iran was not a Western import, that "Persian queens ruled long before the Koran, and feminist activists existed as early as the 19th century in Iran."95 Kelber also attempted to avoid the simplistic characterizations that much of the mainstream press had engaged in which rendered the Shah as modern and pro-woman, and the Ayatollah Khomeini as backwards and sexist, informing Ms. readers of the despotism of the Shah, the torture and persecution of political prisoners under his rule, the American CIA's involvement in the coup which overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and installed the Shah in 1953, and the numerous rapes of Iranian women suffered at the hands of SAVAK, the Shah's secret police. She stressed that women had voluntarily taken on the chador during the revolution and did not overemphasize or fetishize the significance of the veil throughout.

Kelber, "Iran: Five Days in March." Ibid., 90.


Two central points that emerged from Kelber's piece, however, that demonstrated how women's actions were directly linked to the fates of American feminists were that (1) Western/American feminist involvement with this issue was central to the success of Iranian women's goals, and (2) the struggles of the women of Iran would ultimately be a boon for the feminist cause worldwide. Pinpointing Kate Millett's participation in the March 8 protests as a pivotal moment, Kelber wrote: Not until Kate Millett, the guest speaker invited for March 8 by the Iranian feminists, had arrived did press attention beginan only then did police protection follow. The lesson was not lost: international attention could be helpful to the women's struggle to keep the anti-Shah revolution democratic.96 At article's close, Kelber offered a resounding 'yes' to the question she had posed at the start of the article as to whether or not the Iranian women's protests signaled the start of a new phase of the feminist movement. "For the women in Iran," she concluded, "for women all over the Islam [sic] world threatened by a growing religious fundamentalism, and for international feminism, the five days in March can and must be the beginning of a new unity."97 Statements such as these echoed sentiments expressed by Millett at the time of her visit to Tehran; when asked by a New York Times reporter why she had come to Iran, she replied, "I'm here because it's inevitable. This is the eye of the storm right now. Women all over the world are looking here. It's a whole corner, the Islamic world, the spot we thought it would be hardest to reach, and wow, look at it go!" 98 In addition, at a New York demonstration staged in front of Rockefeller Center on March 15,1979"the first

97 98

Ibid Jaynes, "Iran Women March against Restraints on Dress and Rights."


large-scale show of solidarity with those agitating for women's rights Iran"featuring prominent feminist activist such as Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, actress Mario Thomas, and author Susan Brownmiller, organizers called the day's events part of an "international feminist action" which coincided with demonstrations across America, and in

Paris, London, and Rome. Perspectives like these demonstrated the importance white Western American feminists placed upon their own participation in an "international" feminist struggle such as the one taking place in Iran, as well as their belief that these "five days in March" would bear a strong significance upon the very future of Western feminism. Thus, it is important to note that the "growing fundamentalism" within the "Islamic" world provided the necessary catalyst to spur on "the beginning" of this new international feminist unity. Such a notion once again emphasized the fundamental opposition between "feminism" and "Islam," and implied that if tenets of second-wave equal rights feminism could flourish in this "Islam world"in particular the Middle East where feminists like Millett had thought it "would be hardest to reach"then that was certainly a sign that Western-style feminism certainly was ready to go global. Furthermore, Millett's unfettered enthusiasm in her characterization of Western feminist participation in Iranian women's struggles as "inevitable" and the events in Tehran as "the eye of the storm," alongside Kelber's confident assessment that the struggles "can and must" signal the start of global feminist unity revealed the sense of destiny many second-wave activists felt in regards what was going on in Iran. For while certain of feminism's tenets were enjoying a moment of widespread acceptance in mainstream America in 1979, the organized feminist movement

Information and quotes from Judith Cummings, "Demonstrators in City Back Iranian Women's Rights," New York Times, March 16 1979. 67

itself was, in many ways, in decline, as "feminism" became more of a lifestyle and a way of thinking as opposed to an activist agendaa development which would ultimately result in what Susan Faludi later famously named the "backlash" against feminism that took place in the ensuing Reagan years. This desire to "spread" feminist ideology internationally was readily apparent in an essay by Ms. magazine founder and original publisher Gloria Steinem in the magazine's endof-year December 1979 issue, entitled "The Decade of Women." Titled 'The Way We WereAnd Will Be," Steinem's piece detailed the ideological and cultural shifts that the feminist movement had engendered amongst American women and within the nation throughout the 1970s, from the coming-to-consciousness experienced by many women in the early stages of the movement to the then-current popular support of almost every major feminist issue, from "the supposedly 'easy' ones like equal pay, women in political office, and equal access to education to the supposedly 'controversial' ones like the Equal Rights Amendment, a woman's right to choose abortion, and the question "would-youwork-for-a-woman?"100 Steinem told a tale of women coming into their own sexuality, into their own power, and detailed how feminism had transformed every aspect of American lifefrom relationships to families, work and finance, to politics, language, and the very conception of sexuality. By article's close, Steinem offered this synopsis of the decade in question: The 70s were a decade in which women reached out to each other: first in consciousness-raising groups that allowed us to create a psychic turf (for women have not even a neighborhood of our own); then in movement meetings and a


Gloria Steinem, "The Way We Were-and Will Be," Ms., December 1979.


woman's culture that created more psychic territory; and finally across national and cultural boundaries. The 80s can build on these beginnings (italics added).101 In other words, Steinem characterized the American second-wave feminist movement as an ever-expanding enterprise, one which had begun with the establishment of "psychic turf" within the minds amongst circles of privileged white women, then increased through the conquering of more "psychic territory" throughout the West, and was now growing even more "across national and cultural boundaries." And while perhaps unintentional, Steinem's description of the feminist movement's desire for expansion and territory was fittingly imperial, a portrayal which demonstrated how the movement wished to expand its borders beyond the domestic realm and claim more territory beyond national bounds. Yet all of this energy and enthusiasm emanating from white middle-class American feminists in support of the women of Iran and against the enemy of fundamentalist Islam took place against a pointed lack of energy and enthusiasm of these same activists in regards to addressing issues of racism and elitism. As Combahee Collective head Barbara Smith pointed out, in 1979, white feminists appeared "tired of hearing about racism," and, like so many post-civil rights era White Americans, had deemed themselves "not racist," because of how, to quote Smith once more, they felt they were "capable of being civil to black women...because I do not snarl and snap at black people."102 Furthermore, few feminist critiques of the Ayatollah's edicts and fundamentalist Islam were combined with indictments of American involvement and oil politics in the Middle Eastthe central catalysts to the development of movements of religious fundamentalism. As a result, from

Barbara Smith, "Racism and Women's Studies," Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies, National Women's Studies Association Selected Conference Proceedings, 1979 5, no. 1 (1980): 49.


the "feminist" perspective, a flattering portrait of the nation once again emerged, one in line with the vision of a free and just American imagined by the mainstream press in its coverage of the Iranian women's protests, and the "blissful" America later imagined by Betty Mahmoody. By constructing themselves against the enemy of fundamentalist Islam, turning away from the issue of what Margaret A. Simons has called "a schism in the sisterhood," 103 and by insisting upon a teleological discourse of progress in the movement in which they moved uncritically towards a "global feminist unity" premised on unitary and universalizing notions of second-wave ideology, White feminists at the close of the 1970s unwittingly allowed their cause to be subsequently aligned with the nationalist and racial orientalist rhetoric that would come to dominate the ensuing Reagan years, and continue on into the post-9/11 era. 104 In this chapter, I investigated America's initial encounter with discourses of women's rights and Militant Islam through an examination of the U.S. press and media coverage of the Iranian women's movement of 1979, and argued that a whiteness-invested, secondwave feminist subjectivity steeped in the contexts of American racial politics was central to the construction of current American orientalist discourses of Islam. Throughout the 1980s, this race-d and gendered orientalization of Islam become central in enabling the Reagan Simons, "Racism and Feminism: A Schism in the Sisterhood." As Saba Mahmood and Charles Hirshkind have pointed out, white American feminists took up the cause of Afghanistan Muslim women suffering under the rule of the Taliban en masse, while maintaining "a studied silence about the crucial role the United States had played in creating the miserable condition under which Afghan women were living,"104 while also, I might add, remaining silent about racism against Muslim American communities and the harassment and abuse of Muslim American women, especially those who wore the hijab. In other words, while (as discussed on p. 28) there was no active colonizing mission by the U.S. in the Middle East in 1979, the combination of white second-wave American feminists disavowal of race, the absence of critique of American foreign policy, a fundamental opposition towards Islam, and the clear desire to expand a universalizing feminist ideology beyond the nation's bordersissues which all coalesced around interpretation of the women's movement in Iranengendered the roots of the American colonial feminism and feminism-as-imperialism that continues to constitute a large portion of the current discourses of Islamophobia.


regime's initiation of Islamic Terror as the nation's preeminent foe following the fall of the Berlin Wall, and laid the discursive groundwork for the racialization of Islam that would occur in the post-9/11 era. In this way, the national discourse of Islam, terror, and the "plight" of women within Islam which emerged March 1979 left a lasting legacy in the national imaginary and commonsense understandings of "who we are" as a nation, constructing the liberal vision of a free, feminist, and multicultural nation as fundamental necessary counterpart to the decidedly un-free, antifeminist, and monolithic ideology of Islamic Terror. In Chapter Two, I turn to the manner in which a racial orientalist paradigm has also evolved in the post-civil rights era in the cultural arena of the mainstream Hollywood cinema.


CHAPTER TWO "The Sense of Touch": Interracial Intimacy and the Orientalized Other in Hollywood Cinema: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Grand Canyon, and Crash

"We have the largest percentage of Americans we've ever had that are literally aching to live in a post-racial future." William Jefferson Clinton Speech in Spartansburg, VA, 2008 1

During Barack Obama's 2008 bid for the presidency of the United States, "postracial" became a commonplace term in the American public sphere. 2 Proclamations that the U.S. was a "colorblind" nation had been circulating for decades by then; however, it was during the Democratic primary race between Obama and Senator (now-Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton that the language of the post-racial became the prevalent mode of describing the nation's current move "beyond race." Defined in a June 2008 Chicago Tribune piece as

Interestingly enough, this quote was widely circulated in the press as being spoken by Barack Obama, though he has never used the term "post-racial" in a public setting. 2 The term flooded the nation's media outlets immediately after Obama's Democratic primary victory over Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses of January 2008. In the weeks following Obama's win, the term appeared regularly in print, television, radio, and Internet news stories, and a July 2008 Google search returned over 124,000 hits, almost in relation to Obama's candidacy. By the end of January, National Public Radio's senior new analyst Daniel Schorr had deemed post-racial "the latest buzzword in the political lexicon," a term "embodied by Obama" due to his biracial and bicultural background, his use of racially inclusive rhetoric, and the willingness of voters of all racesspecifically, whitesto support him. An editorial in the 1/26/08 issue of The Economist called Obama's candidacy a "post-racial triumph," while a New Yorker piece published in its 2/4/08 issue announced the emergence of a "post-racial generation." Obama was a "breakthrough figure" wrote New Yorker contributor Peter Boyer, who had "developed a political style of conciliation, rather than confrontation" that rendered him "(an) African American politician whose appeal transcends race." The positive public response to Obama's rhetoric of unity, according to NY Times columnist Juan Williams writes, "appears to represent breathtaking progress toward the day when candidates and voters are able to get beyond race." Like Obama himself, the language of the post-racial also seemed to bridge partisan divides; well-known Black conservative and member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council Robert L Woodson, Sr. came out in support of Obama's "post-racial message" in an April 2008 editorial in the Washington Times: "Barack Obama's


"a putative state of racial harmony in which America has grown out of its historical and noxious preoccupation with race and is now functioning in a completely colorblind manner," 3 "post-racial" thus emerged in the media's presidential primary coverage not only as "the latest buzzword in the political lexicon," but as a Main Street pronouncement of America's post-millennial racial Zeitgeist. While a number of opposing voices in the media also surfaced,4 "post-racial euphoria," as Alys Weinbaum called it, has since continued to prevail. 5 As former President Bill Clinton's epigraph above demonstrates, the sentimentalized goal of a" "post-racial future" seems to have joined the ranks of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as an uniquely American ideal. As Clinton's quote also reveals, the desire for the post-racial might also be understood as a deeply personal, one might say intimate, longing on the part of a particular segment of the nation's population, due to the manner in which the legacies of domestic racism have caused "us"both as individuals and a collectiveto "literally ache" for a nation rid of race. The irony of the post-racial's current ubiquity is not simply that this nation is, by no means, done with race. Indeed, even "traditional" legacies of anti-Black racism persist doggedly in all aspects of American lifeone need only to review mainstream news coverage of Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, to marvel at the sheer audacity of

message is commendable...No matter what the outcome of the election, the dream of a post-racial America needs to prevail." 3 Timothy J. McNulty, "What Exactly Is 'Post-Racial'?," Chicago Tribune, June 6 2008. 4 See, for example, Uzodinma Iweala, "Racism in 'Post-Racial' America," Los Angeles Times, January 23 2008, McNulty, "What Exactly Is 'Post-Racial'?." Should Obama become president," writes Uzodinma Iweala of the Los Angeles Times, "he will not suddenly cease to be black, nor will white Americans be any less white." s Alys Eve Weinbaum, "Racial Aura: Walter Benjamin and the Work of Art in a Biotechnological Age," Literature and Medicine 26, no. 1 (2008).


pundits and writers employing the term .6 In addition, what is potentially even more disquieting about the term's proliferation is how it is taking place in a historical moment in which new forms of racialization are evolving at breakneck speed, often producing new forms of "racial" identity that are not even "racial" at all, but signifiers of self forged from complex matrices of race, gender, religion, sexuality, politics, generational difference, geography, and state interpellation. All of which leads one to ask: how can the nation be "post-" a phenomenon (i.e. racialization) that is continually, and seemingly indefatigably, taking place before our very eyes? At the current time, the question of such "new ethnicities," as Stuart Hall once called them, is particularly relevant in considering the predicaments of Arab, South Asian, and other "Muslim" communities across the U.S. since 9/11. For those who have come to "hold the dubious distinction of being the first new communities of suspicion after the hard-won victories of the civil rights era,"7 affiliations of race and nation are fraught with meaning, and often approached with trepidation and fear. To turn back to the example of Barack Obama once more, in no instance was the public discourse surrounding him decidedly less post-racial than when discussing the current President's supposed associations with "Islam," rhetoric perhaps best exemplified by a

In April 2008, videos of Wright, the former pastor at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, emerged on video site, featuring Wright forcefully critiquing US foreign and domestic racial policies, and at one point, proclaiming, "God Damn America." Transformed into a sound bite, the comment engendered an overwhelmingly negative response with much of the American public, connecting Obama with "the angry racial repudiation that many whites associate with black leaders," and rendering him far "too black" for mainstream America. After attempting to mollify the public response through nationallytelevised speech on race, Obama ultimately responded to the Wright controversy by publicly denouncing Wright's views and leaving Trinity's congregation. Throughout it all, the Wright controversy spurred questions of Obama's national allegiances; foes whispered that Obama was secretly a Black nationalist, just another anti-white, Black separatist whose post-racial demeanor served as cover for racist, divisive, and anti-American views. 7 Moustafa Bayoumi, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America (New York: Penguin Press, 2008).


phrase circulated in set of untraceable, viral emails the campaign calling Obama a "cryptoMuslim Manchurian candidate."8 In this second chapter of my dissertation, I consider how calls to move "beyond race" in the post-civil rights era have crystallized most forcefully in historical moments of what I call orientalist nationalism, when strained relations with a oriental nation or enemy have engendered nativist and ethnocentric hegemonic nationalist reactions within the U.S. from the Cold War era to the present.9 Focusing on the cultural arena of the mainstream

Later, a photo of Obama wearing traditional Kenyan Muslim garb during a visit to Africa was circulated as well, while Republican foes repeatedly referred to the candidate by his full name "Barack Hussein Obama," in order to further link him to Islam. This "Muslim smear," as some called it, however, was not confined to anonymous e-mails and postings or Republican party sources. In May 2008, the NY Times ran an op-ed piece by military historian Edward Luttwak claiming that while Obama was not currently a Muslim, he was a Muslim by birth, and hence, was now an apostate"the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder." Luttwak claimed that Muslims all around the world would be horrified at an Obama presidency, a presidency which would "compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the US in the fight against terrorism, as well as American efforts to export democracy abroad." Edward N. Luttwak, "President Apostate," New York Times, May 12 2008. As with the Wright controversy, Obama responded to such claims by forcefully distancing himself from Islam and the Muslim community, declaring on his campaign website that he "has never been a Muslim, and was not raised in that faith," as well as unequivocally denouncing any Palestinian claims to Jerusalem, a stance which put him at odds with the position of a majority of Muslims around the world. Finally, in July 2008, Obama's "Black" and "Muslim" associations came to a head in the hullabaloo over a now-infamous New Yorker magazine cover, in which Obama was portrayed in the Oval Office wearing Islamic garb while bumping fists with his wife, Michelle Obama, who wears camouflage pants, a 1970s-style Afro, and a AK47 strapped across her chest, i.e. all the accoutrements of a militant Black nationalist. On the wall was a portrait of Osama Bin Laden, while an American flag burned in the fireplace. Finally, there was the incident in which one of John McCain's supporters told him at a rally that she did not trust Obama because "he's an Arab."

While I only discuss moments of war in this chapter, orientalist nationalism is not by any means only a wartime phenomenon. Two prominent recent examples from the past decade were the Wen Ho Lee case and Chinese Spy Plane incident that took place in As a result of the crash, the Chinese pilot was killed in the crash, while the American pilot managed to land his plane on Chinese soil. China demanded an apology from the U.S. for the death of the Chinese pilot and held the 24-person American crew for eleven days. The event set off a rash of speculation over the state of U.S.-China relations, as well as triggering a wave of inflammatory anti-Chinese rhetoric in the American media, such as this comment from an April 4, 2001 column by neoconservative National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg: "I will be in favor of apologizing [to the Chinese] the moment they apologize for all those menus they keep leaving outside my front door...l've got considerable sympathy for the red Chinesedespite the fact that if my dog were a member of the American crew, [then-Chinese president] Jiang Zemin would have eaten him by now." In March 1999, physicist Wen Ho Lee was fired from his job at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratories in New Mexico because of allegations that he was a spy. On December 10,1999, the U.S. federal government brought a fifty-nine count indictment against Dr. Lee, a Taiwan-born, American citizen, accusing him of


Hollywood cinema, I want to suggest that in such orientalized moments of national crisis and most specifically, during the three largest American military operations of the postWorld War II period: the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Iraq (also known as the Second Persian Gulf) warsappeals for transcending the nation's racial/racist legacies have been most effectively narrated through sentimentalized portrayals of Black-White interracial intimacy in which the nation's Black and White citizens develop deep and lasting relationships through which their "fates" become inexorably intertwined. In the face of foreign enemies, oriental and otherwise, these narratives of interracial intimacy serve as cinematic signifiers of a unified nation that moves "beyond race" as a result of the ability of Blacks and Whitesand no one elseto develop what I call a "sense of touch" between and amongst themselves. A term drawn from the 2004 film Crash, a film I will discuss at the close of this chapter, this racialized "sense of touch" connotes a deeply intimate, redemptive, and oftentimes, spiritual form of interracial contact that does not require any mediation on the part of the state, but instead depends on the private actions of individual Black and White citizens who come together for the common cause of healing both themselves and a wounded nation from the "ache" of race. Steeped in the logics of universal humanism and civil rights liberalism, the act of engaging in this "touch" becomes a substitute for addressing and/or providing redress for racial inequality. The act of cultivating this touch, achieved through the continual reiteration of a sentimentalized discourse of racial healing along a Black-White racial binary, functions to ward off any and all possible threats from foreign

providing the Chinese government with American intelligence secrets. After being arrested and held in solitary confinement for almost a year, Lee was released after pleading guilty to one of the fifty-nine counts. All other charges were subsequently dropped. The survey in question was commissioned by the Committee of 100an non-partisan organization of Americans of Chinese descent who track issues


enemiesbe it the Viet Cong, "illegal" aliens, or Militant Islamnone of which are a match for a cohesive, redeemed, and ultimately revitalized American citizenry. Indeed, Barack Obama's rise as the nation's first "post-racial" president exemplifies this narrative; as the biracial son of a Black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, he emerged as a beacon of "hope" for a deeply divided nation, yet was only able to gain the public's trust by consistently and aggressively distancing himself from any and all associations with Islama stance Obama has since carried over into his current administration. Through analysis of three Academy Award-winning films that have come to be known as "groundbreaking" portrayals of race relations of the last forty years, I consider how this false tale of Black-White interracial intimacy, national healing, and foreign invasion has been repeatedly repackaged and updated to suit the ideological, social, and political environments of the wartime nation since the putative close of the formal era of civil rights. Director Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1968), director/screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon (1991), and Haggis' Crash were all filmed and/or released in the midst of U.S. military engagements in foreign proxy wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and have largely been received by both critics and general audiences alike as instructive, uplifting, and ultimately, progressive tales of how intimate encounters between individual Black and White citizens can provide, as Kasdan himself once said, "a model for the culture and the society turning around"10i.e. cinematic parables that show the nation how to "break down barriers" and "get beyond race" through individualized expressions of universalist humanism. In my readings of each film, I track how the threat and/or fear of

pertaining to Chinese- American communities and U.S.-China relations. It was originally released on April

25, 2001.

Jay Carr, "Trying to Film Decency in 'a War Zone'," Boston Globe, January 5 1992.


Foreign Others exerts social, cultural, and psychological pressures on the film's White and Black characters, and consider how the narratives of Black-White intimacy that lie at each film's core are developed as a means to avert the crises represented by such Others. In addition, building upon the influential critiques of writers and scholars such asToni Morrison, Ed Guerrero, Hazel Carby, Sau-ling Wong, and a host of others (many of which I discuss in this chapter), I argue that these films once again reveal, as Morrison puts it "the parasitical nature of white freedom"11i.e., the manner in which the very fullness of White humanity can only be constituted in the presence of a crude, static, and ultimately, subordinate Blackness. However, I also want to deliberate on how this parasitic relationship between White freedom and Black degradation has come to function in what this dissertation previously called a racial orientalist frame, in which domestic forms of racialization develop in relation to transnational configurations of American orientalism and imperiality, and vice versa. Thus, whereas the previous chapter of this dissertation attempted to understand how a discourse and critique of American orientalism was fashioned upon the discursive terrains of U.S. racial politics, this chapter attempts the inverse, asking how cultural narratives of getting "beyond race" have been articulated upon and against the orientalist topographies of the post-civil rights era nation. As mentioned earlier, the foreign Other viewed as posing the greatest threat to the security of the nation at our current historical juncture is a nebulous conglomeration of

See Hazel Carby, "Encoding White Resentment: Grand Canyon-a Narrative for Our Times," in Race, Identity, and Representation in Education, ed. Cameron McCarthy and Warren Crichlow (New York & London: Routledge, 1993), Henry A. Giroux, "Living Dangerously: Identity Politics and the New Cultural Racism: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Representation," Cultural Studies 7, no. 1 (1993), Ed Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 57, Sau-Ling C. Wong, "Diverted Mothering: Representations of Caregivers of Color in the Age of



"Islam," "Muslims," "Arabs," and anyone who might be perceived as falling into any of those categories. While the aftermath of 9/11 has, to some small degree, promoted a greater interest in understanding Islam and engendering "tolerance" towards Muslim American communities, this has in no way matched the intensity of state-sanctioned and implemented practices of racist-orientalist Islamophobia. 12 In recent years, important and much-needed studies on such emergent formations of Islamophobic and anti-Arab discourse in the U.S. have appeared, as well as a number of innovative and enlightening volumes examining Muslim communities in the U.S. In my contribution to this growing corpus of texts, I want to once again demonstrate, as in my previous chapter, that studies of Islamophobia and Muslims in the U.S. should also be approached through the long view of comparative ethnic studies scholarship, in which the current racialization of Muslims and Arabs is contextualized against longstanding national legacies of race and nation, including that in which various Oriental Others have assumed the role of the nation's principal Other in moments of political, economic, and social crisis. To put it another way, while 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror are rightly viewed as engendering orientalist framings which have facilitated the current racialization of Islam, cultural representations of Islam in an age of U.S. state-sponsored terror also reinforce and reinstate Black-White binarisms that had long been discredited as outdated, crude, and wholly inadequate for addressing

'Multiculturalism'," in Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency, ed. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Grace Chang, and Linda Rennie Forcey (New York: Routledge, 1994). 12 Immediately following 9/11, thousands of Muslims in the U.S. were detained, deported, and monitored as part of the War on Terror. Since then, Muslims within the U.S. have been routinely subject to unwarranted arrests, special registration, police raids, FBI interrogations, profiling at airports, and unlawful detention and deportation, while all notions of terrorism have become synonymous with Islam. In addition, those identified as Muslims and Arabs have bore the brunt of national security policy formulated in the seemingly eternal "state of exception" in which the U.S. has been entrenched in since the 9/11 attacks, the dehumanizing violence of which was perhaps most grotesquely represented through photographs of prisoner abuse leaked during the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal.


contemporary issues of race and racialization. Thus, by drawing out connections between a character such Dr. John Prentice, the saintly doctor portrayed by Sidney Poitier in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, fleeting allusions to "illegal" immigration and the portrayal of Los Angeles as a post-Vietnam, urban "war zone" in Grand Canyon, and the relationship between Daniel Ruiz, a Latino locksmith, and Farhad, an Iranian Muslim shopkeeper in Crash, this chapter reveals how nationalist narratives of Black-White interracial intimacy, such as those in these movies, have continually required the presence of a Foreign Other to move "beyond race." They have emerged and resonated most compellingly during times of major U.S. wars which, over the course of the last forty years, have all been waged with "eastern" enemies who have been predominately perceived through an orientalist lens.

The Parochial Blackness of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner White American personhood and hegemonic national citizenship have long been constructed in relation to the nation's racialized Others.13 In Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, she discusses how Black bodiesthe "Africanist presence" as she calls ithave occupied a pivotal role as catalysts for moments of self-actualization and/or discovery in the White American literary imaginary, or as she puts it, how "black people ignite critical moments of discovery or change or emphasis in

As Nikhil Singh so eloquently put it, "In the U.S. context, the ideal national subject has actually been a highly specific person whose universality has been fashioned from a succession of those who have designated his antithesis, those irreducibly non-national subjects who appeared in the different guises of slave, Indian, and at times, immigrant. The capaciousness of American nationalism was due not to its inclusiveness, but to its ability to accommodate significant national, class, and religious diversity among its settler populations. Here, the forging of national subjectivity, famously described by Hector St. John Crevecoeur as 'the melting' of men of all nations and ranks into a 'new race of American race,' was derived from a carefully delimited heterogeneity..." From Nikhil Pal Singh, Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).



literature not written by them."14 Throughout American literature, Morrison argues, White authors have continually come to express the fullness of their humanity against the infinite pain and horror of Blackness. Indeed, it is only the presence of a subordinate Blackness that gives Whiteness definition: "Whiteness, alone, is mute, meaningless, unfathomable, pointless, frozen, veiled, curtained, dreaded, senseless, implacable. Or so our writers seem to say."15 The history of mainstream America cinema seems to say this as well. From the virulent anti-blackness of Birth of a Nation, to the blackface minstrelsy of The Jazz Singer, to the omnipresent images of "toms, coons, mulattoes, and mammies"16 in Hollywood films in the first half of the 20th century, Black characters in mainstream Hollywood cinema long seemed to exist only to render Whiteness meaningful (or to provide whites the leisure they needed to search for meaning). The social turbulence of the 1960s, however, appeared to usher in significant changes in the manner in which Blacks were portrayed on screen. As film historian Donald Bogle writes, "In 1960, Negroes were quietly asking for their rights. By 1969, blacks were demanding them. The decade moved from the traditional goal of cultural and academic assimilation to one of almost absolute separatism and the evolution of a black cultural aesthetic.The movies of the period reflected the great transition."17 To be sure, by the close of the 1960s, Black filmmakers and audiences appeared to collectively embark on

Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, viii. Ibid., 59. 16 For a wonderful exploration of these stereotypes, see Marlon Riggs' 1987 documentary Ethnic Notions. 17 Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, Fourth Edition ed. (New York: Continuum, 2001 [1973]), 195.



a project of Black American identity politics that voiced an "outspoken, critical dissatisfaction with Hollywood's persistent degradation of African Americans." 18 This rise in Black cultural and political consciousness coincided with mounting national opposition to the Vietnam War, especially in the latter half of the decade. As Blacks and other communities of color confronted the violent limits of state-sanctioned equality, most clearly manifest in race riots that raged throughout nation in the years following the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the immorality of domestic anti-Black racism became increasingly clear in the face of the U.S.'s seemingly intractable involvement in the Vietnam War. As Dr. Martin Luther King himself lamented in March 1967, young black men were fighting "eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia or East Harlem." 19 Nearing the close of the of the decade, in the years just prior to his assassination in April 1968, King had become increasingly critical of the war in Vietnam, placing the Black freedom struggle in an international frame by directly linking racial injustice at home to the perpetration of military violence abroad. "If America's soul becomes totally poisoned," King stated in a speech delivered at Riverside Church in New York on April 4,1967, "part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam." The moment during which King began openly expressing such "worldly" sentiments, however, was also the same time when the public discourse surrounding the civil rights leader began down a path that would eventually render King, as Nikhil Singh puts

Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film, 69-70. Perhaps the clearest example of this transition was the rise of "Blaxploitation" in the American cinema, a term generally defined to indicate Hollywood films that centered on Black narratives released roughly between 1969 and 1974. It was a genre, film scholar Ed Guerrero argues, "made possible by the rising political and social consciousness of black people (taking the form of a broadly expressed black nationalist impulse at the end of the civil rights movement) which translated into a large black audience thirsting to see their full humanity depicted on the commercial cinema screen."



it, "frozen in time before the Lincoln Memorial."

Centered around one line of the "I Have

a Dream" speech in which King dreamed of an America where people "will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," this discourse promoted a one-dimensional reading of the leader that advocated "color-blind" social policy as the ultimate goal of civil rightsa policy that simply "leveled the playing field" for Blacks and Whites without addressing, or redressing, the material, cultural, and psychic damage wrought by three hundred years of virulent anti-Black racism. Such a color-blind position was one King would never have advocated himself; as he wrote in 1967, "A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years now must do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis" (italics added).21 At the close of 1967, in the midst of cultural and political tumult described above, director Stanley Kramer released a film explicitly dealing with the "race issue" starring the biggest Black American film star of the day, Sidney Poitier. Kramer was known for his social dramas, exploring such issues as atomic warfare (On the Beach, 1959) and the Holocaust (Judgment at Nuremburg, 1961), as well as a previous film that also addressed racial intolerance (The Defiant Ones, 1958, also starring Poitier). This time around, Kramer sought to deal with the topic of racial miscegenation in the romantic comedy/drama Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, a film which told the story of John Prentice (Poitier), a Black American doctor who falls in love Joey Drayton, a beautiful, young White co-ed (played by Katherine Houghton). Joey is the daughter of a staunchly "liberal" White couple in San Francisco, famously played by Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in what would be Tracy's final

Melvin Small, At the Water's Edge: American Politics and the Vietnam War (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005), 86. 20 Singh, Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy, 6.



performance before his death), and the film chronicles what ensues after the doctor and Joey turn up on the Draytons doorstep to announce their intention to marry. The film also includes the response of Dr. Prentice's blue-collar parents, played by Roy E. Glenn, Sr. and Beah Richards, who appear later on to weigh in on John and Joey's union, as well as the caustic commentary of the Draytons Black maid Tillie, played by Isabelle Sanford, who winds up speaking the film's strongest opposition to interracial marriage. The film received widespread critical praise, both for its entertainment value and social message; in his review in the Chicago Daily Defender, critic Vernon Scott wrote of Kramer's intent, "Plainly the director is crying out for tolerance, and end to discrimination."22 The tact with which Kramer advanced this social message this time around, however, was markedly different than any manner he had adopted in his previous films, all dramas, due to his belief that issue of miscegenation could not be addressed in a serious way [Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court decision rendered antimiscegenation laws unconstitutional was passed just that year). Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was "not a drama of racial conflict," Kramer declared in a 1967 interview, "We're playing it as a lighthearted comedy in which pigmentation is the problem"23a view that dovetailed neatly with the national discursive turn toward towards color-blindness as the intended goal of civil rights. In a sense, Kramer's words reflected a comment that actress Katherine Houghton made in a 2008 interview, in which she surmised that Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was film "made by white people for white people,"24 in that the film advanced the

21 22

Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (Boston: Beacon, 1968). Vernon Scott, "Kramer's Latest Film Also Has a Message," Chicago Daily Defender, December 13 1967. 23 Quote from Ruthe Stein, "Looking Back at 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'," San Francisco Chronicle, February 28 2008. 24 Quote by Katherine Houghton, from Ibid.


message that racism was a matter of personal choice on the part of the nation's Whites, i.e. that racism would disappear if Whites would simply choose not too see the pigmentation of a Black person's skin, as the Draytons do by the film's end. A harbinger of how a particular kind of liberal Whiteness would emerge in relation to the militant and radical Black and Third World identities developing throughout the 1970s, the film ultimately trumpeted an ideology of non-racialized universal humanism, eliding issues of "racial conflict"to return to Kramer's quote once morein order to simply not "see" race, as Katherine Hepburn claimed not to when she worked with Poitier, saying "I can't consider Sidney a Negro; he's not black, he's not white; he's nothing as far as color is concerned."25 At the same time, however, Kramer's film also revealed how Whites' ability to "not see" race necessitated unprecedented forms of intimacy with Blacks, intimaciesphysical and emotionalthat would irrefutably demonstrate how Whites were indeed unconcerned with said problems of pigmentation. In this regard, Poitier was the perfect actor to cast as the Black man with whom a White American family like the Draytons could come to engage with in the most intimate of acts: entry into their bloodline through heterosexual marriage with their daughter. As already stated, the Bahamian American actor was the preeminent Black star of the decade, and had already scored box-office hits earlier that year with blockbusters In the Heat of the Night and To Sir With Love. "Noble," "dignified," "wellmannered" were terms constantly applied to Poitier's on-screen persona, and Kramer played these characteristics to the hilt, making the character of John Prentice a Nobel Prizenominated doctor living in Switzerland and working for the United Nations, who refuses to sleep with Joey out of respect for her feelings, and who tells her father that he will only


Hepburn quoted in Mark Harris, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New


marry young Joey if he approves. Poitier's portrayals of such saintly characters had drawn the ire of the Black community who accused him of selling out and "tomming" it for White audiences with his ever-noble, patient, and decidedly sexless onscreen persona.26 Thus, in this way, 1967 also marked a turning point in Poitier's career, a moment of "triumph and contradiction" for the actor in the face of "the surging new sense of black identity and the instability of blacks' conflicted position" on screen.27 In the words of Ed Guerrero, "Poitier's ebony saint' image was increasingly wearing thin for African Americans; it did not speak to the aspiration or anger of the new black social consciousness that was emerging."28 A central aspect of this Black social consciousness, and one closely related to the outspoken stance Martin Luther King, Jr. adopted towards the Vietnam towards the end of his life, was the idea that anti-racist struggles in the U.S. now should, and must, join forces with Third World liberation movements worldwide also fighting against the yoke of Western colonialism and White supremacy. Such "an appeal to the world" on the part of Blacks, as W.E.B. DuBois called it in 1946 had long been a part of the Black radical tradition. However, in light of connections made between racism at home and struggles abroad made by prominent Black leaders and figures such as King, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali (who so famously asserted in 1966, "I ain't got no quarrel with the Viet Viet Cong ever called me a nigger."), as well as the fundamental linkage of these struggles in anti-racist political work such as that advanced by Black feminist such as those involved in the

Hollywood. 26 Of this persona, Ed Guerrero writes, "But perhaps the most ridiculous and humiliating narrative contrivance, designed to uphold the protocols of white masculinity through Hollywood's erasure of Poitier's sexuality, occurs in The Long Ships (1964), where even though Poitier stars as a Moorish prince with and extensive harem of beautiful women of all races at his call, he is celibate." From Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film, 72. 27 Ibid., 71.


Combahee Collective (discussed in the previous chapter) and the Third World Liberation Movement struggles at UC Berkeley and SF State that would take place in 1968, Black worldliness was certainly an integral component of the "great transition" from accommodationism to separatism that took place in the 60s. Thus, in addition to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner's reiteration of Poitier as the nonthreatening and complint Black man and the film's articulation of a burgeoning ideology of White universalism and liberal color-blindnessboth representations that stood in stark contrast to the social, cultural, and political realties of the erait should also be noted that the film presented a peculiar relationship between Poitier and the "East," and for that matter, all of the world beyond the nation's borders which I want to suggest was integral to enabling the interracial intimacy between John and Joey that lies at the film's core. In particular, by spotlighting the function of Hawaii (where Dr. Prentice and Joey meet), a coolie hat they bring back from the islands, and Dr. Prentice's putatively "cosmopolitan" lifestyle, I want to bring into focus how an assertion of what I call Black parochialism on the part of Poitier's character was crucial in allowing Kramer to present a film about racial miscegenation that not once addressed the issue of anti-Black racism. Instead, the film presents a worldly, educated, and sophisticated Black man, who, as the Whites receiving him choose not to see his race, then in turn chooses to deny any and all possibility of intraand interracial intimacy with anyone other than the White American family into which he seeks entry. In the cultural logics of the post-civil rights/Vietnam era, I want to suggest that it is Dr. Prentice's political and cultural parochialismhis deliberate denial of both Blackness and the worldthat ultimately renders him the nation's ideal Black citizen, in a sense, the cinematic equivalent of the Black soldiers who, unlike Muhammad Ali, would willingly kill


the Viet Cong for the nation's greater good. In order to be allowed to engage in the interracial intimacy that is suggested will take place between himself and Joey if the Draytons approve of their union, John must also demonstrate that he is willing to stake his fate in the same nationalist ideology of American exceptionalism and universalism as the White family he hopes to join, an ideology yoked to a teleological narrative of racial progress proffering color-blindness as its ultimate end. In this sense, the union beyond John and Joey represented two idealized archetypes of citizenship integral for manufacturing the types of nationalist sentiment so urgently needed in the face of an increasingly unpopular war: that of a White American citizen willing to get beyond race alongside a Black citizen willing to get beyond racism. For both, the discursive limits of their beings stopped at the nation's borders; nothing beyond the U.S. could provide them with any more gratifying forms of social, cultural, and psychological intimacy than that which they could find in the color-blind space of "home." Guess Who's Coming to Dinner opens with a long shot of a plane flying into San Francisco International Airport (SFO), as "The Glory of Love"the film's theme songplays cheerily in the background. After the plane lands, the camera cuts to a shot of passengers exiting the plane. We quickly see the young couple at the heart of the film's enterprise Poitier characteristically immaculate in well-cut gray flannel suit and fresh-faced ingenue Houghton (incidentally, Hepburn's niece) making her film debut in a lemon yellow dress and trench coat, white gloves, and decidedly sunny disposition. Dangling from her right arm are a ruffled white parasol and a large straw "coolie" hat, clearly a souvenir from wherever she and her companion have just returned. The two giggle and coo as they make their way through the airport, though we are not privy to their conversation due to overlying strains


of the musical soundtrack. Beaming at one another and touching each other affectionately, the couple engages in seemingly relaxed conversation that at one point turns to the topic of the hat, which Poitier takes from Houghton and turns upside down, as if explaining something to her about its function. She smiles as she takes the hat back, and they continue on their way through the baggage claim and into a taxi, where we soon see, as "final chorus of "The Glory of Love" comes to a close, the only moment of physical intimacy that takes place between the couple in the entire film: a kiss that is seen through the eyes of a clearly disapproving White cabdriver as reflected in the taxi's rearview mirror. In the scenes following the cab ride, the first set in a downtown San Francisco art gallery run by Christina Drayton (Joey's mother), and then at the Draytons posh home, where the remainder of the film will take place, we learn that Joey and John have just returned from Hawaii, where they have just met a week prior. They have decided to be married, and after encountering various forms of shock and disapproval in response to their union, first from Hillary, Mrs. Draytons White assistant at the gallery, then Tillie, the Draytons Black maid, and finally, Mrs. Drayton herself (all of which Joey is oblivious to), Joey proceedswith the same youthful naivete that Houghton will exude throughout the f i l m to tell her mother that she can explain her love affair with the doctor "all in two minutes." As she speaks, the group gathers on the Draytons terrace, as Tillie serves them sandwiches and coffee, and a shell-shocked Mrs. Drayton looks on: JOEY: You see, John was invited to lecture at Hawaii University and we met at this big party at the dean's. And after the party, we went for a long drive. And since then, we've been somewhere together every night. We've been swimming every day. Then John was supposed to fly back to Los Angeles Saturday to see his parents-that's where they live. (Tillie brings the group coffee and sandwiches). Thank you, Tillie. (To John, gesturing toward the sandwiches) Try one of these, they're great. 89




Does your father know that you're back? No, I was going to phone him. Do you think he'd come back early if... He's coming back early, all right. He's playing golf with Monsignor Ryan. That's marvelous. Then he can meet John and we can all talk over dinner because you see, John has to fly to New York tonight to see a friend at Columbia University. Then tomorrow night, he's flying to Geneva to do three months work for the World Health Organization. And I intend to fly to Geneva next week so that we can be married. And that's the whole situation. In a nutshell... Except he (John) thinks that the fact that he's a Negro and I'm not creates a serious problem.... (sarcastically) Does he?


Indeed as Joey says, that is "the whole situation." Few more details of the whirlwind romance between herself and the good doctor emerge for the remainder of the film except for in a brief scene later on between Joey and her mother in which Joey explains how they met on the terrace overlooking a beautiful view and that it took only "twenty minutes" for her to fall in love. Finally, she divulges the information that the pair have not yet been to bed because "he wouldn't" due to his concerns about Joey "getting hurt." The scenes described above function to establish a path towards to the film's narrative epicenter, in which the Draytons will eventually confront their own racial prejudices and we will also discover the content of "Black" objections to interracial unions as voiced through Tillie and John's parents. Throughout these scenes, "Hawaii" as an idyllic locale where interracial love might flourish is mentioned constantly, as character after character asks Joey if she enjoyed herself in Hawaii, if she and Dr. Prentice met in Hawaii, whether Dr. Prentice lives and practices in Hawaii, etc. (Later, we will learn that the doctor specializes in "tropical medicines, mostly in Africa"which is why he was asked to lecture


at, as Joey calls it, "Hawaii University.") No specific city or island are mentioned, though one might assume the pair met at the University of Hawaii's flagship campus at Manoa, located right outside of Honolulu, and the only university in Hawaii in 1967 where it was even remotely plausible that a renowned doctor such as Dr. Prentice and a starry-eyed young woman like Joey Drayton might meet on a terrace at "this big party at the dean's." While the doctor's presence at the party is explained, however, one wonders, how did Joey wind up at a dean's party at the University of Hawaii? Which then begs other questions: What was she doing in Hawaii in the first place? Was she simply on vacation, visiting friends at the university, considering attending the university herself? Was she traveling alone, and if so, what might have motivated such a pristine young woman from an upstanding family to venture so far on her own, considering that up through the 1960s, "unescorted female travelers had generally been viewed as bohemians, sexual adventuresses or lonely ladies (sometimes all three)"29? Of course, none of these questions are answered in the film; perhaps the central point of the inclusion of "Hawaii" is to convey that the differently-raced lovers met in a tropical paradise beyond the lines of the contiguous forty-eight states of the US mainland, and thus, beyond the standard racial hierarchies of the continental US, yet simultaneously within the boundaries of American citizenship and cultural common sense, thus allowing them to be aware of and then, transcend their racial differences. Indeed, national perceptions of Hawaii as a "part of, but different from, the union" had evolved quickly following the "Aloha" state's induction into US statehood less than a decade prior in 1959, "an awareness brought home by the sudden influx of curious tourists attracted by newly


Susan Jacoby, "Traveling Alone, Women Often Feel...Alone," New York Times, February 18 2001.


affordable jet travel."

Like most of these "curious tourists," however, Joey Drayton is

certainly not curious about the long history of American military occupation, annexation, and the ensuing economic and cultural devastation of Hawaiian native peoples that has created the context for her romantic encounter. In many ways, this is no surprise; one does not expect such insight from a young, privileged White woman such as Joey, whose racial position has indoctrinated her into that studied inability to discern racist imperial histories that is a hallmark of what George Lipsitz calls "the possessive investment in whiteness." For Joey, Hawaii is a nothing more than an exotic vacation destination, with the coolie hat that dangles from her wrist as she exits the airport simply a kitschy souvenir, evoking none of the multiethnic histories of Asian immigrant field labor present on the islands for centuries. Indeed, I wonder if the hat might have evoked any associations on the part of White audiences watching the film at the time to the coolie hats which figured so prominently in mainstream news coverage of the Vietnamese at the time. However, while Joey's ignorance might be ascribed to a certain racial structure of feeling likely to produce such violently blindly orientalist eyes to the relationship between Whiteness and empire at the time, the same ignorance does not "fit" the good Dr. Prenticea highly-educated, cosmopolitan Black American man who travels between Geneva, Manhattan, Hawaii, and "Africa" with ease. Inasmuch as the film is supposed to be "ludicrous," as Kramer once stated in an article responding to critics of the film, 31 this ludicrousness is most apparent not in the doctor's "saintliness" or the objections of the liberal White Draytons. Indeed, the film's true absurdity lies in how John's character is


Keiko Ohnuma, "'Aloha Spirit' and the Cultural Politics of Sentiment as National Belonging," The Contemporary Pacific 20, no. 2 (2008). 31 Stanley Kramer, "Guess Who Didn't Dig 'Dinner'," New York Times, May 26 1968.


completely impervious to creating or acknowledging connections with any racial, ethnic, or culturally-demarcated group of people beyond those marked by Whiteness. While I am well aware that "logic" has never been a crucial factor in the plot development of Hollywood romantic comedies, the film's construction of John's character as a doctor who works in "tropical medicines" in Africa, Hawaii, and beyondone who would surely be working directly with populations of "native" people, many of whose health have surely been devastated through the long-term effects of colonial occupationand then imbuing him with the same nationalist-orientalist perspective as someone such as Joey Drayton reveals a national desire for Black parochialism as a fundamental prerequisite of the ideal Black citizenship as imagined in the film. To put it another way, the only person John can, and should, make contact with in Hawaii is Joey Drayton. He should turn a blind eye to the violence perpetrated upon the Hawaiian people by the nation that has granted him his education and newly-minted class status in a post-Voting Rights Act moment and become, like Joey Drayton, just another American tourist, ready to consume Hawaii with the same "aloha" spirit as the privileged White Americans all around him. The doctor should continue working in Africa, commuting to Geneva, and visiting colleagues at Columbia University while aware that his most crucial alliances to the nation may only be forged through intimate contact with the lives of liberal Whites like the Draytons (as well as the occasional "ideal" person of color like himself), and at the same time denying any and all connections with his "native" patients and with "non-ideal" Blacks. This denial is reiterated in two of the few other scenes that John and Joey appear in beyond the Drayton home. The first takes place before Poitier's character enters the Drayton home. After John and Joey exit the cab after arriving at her parents' home, Joey


hands the coolie hat she has brought back from Hawaii hat to John and runs in to tell her family that she is home, leaving John to pay the cabdriver. Standing on the stoop of the house, John puts the hat on in order to free his hands so he can pull his wallet from his pocket. With the coolie hat atop his head, the doctor asks the driver how much he owes him. "$10.50, mac," replies the White cabdriver, smirking. "Twelve bucks, right?" John says, offering the driver his tip. "Right," the White cabbie says slowly, snatching the money after sizing John up one last time. As the driver walks back to the cab, a wry smile crosses John's lips, registering the not-so-subtle racism he has just encountered. Then Joey appears once more, rushing towards him, snatching the hat off his head, and pulling him into the Drayton house. Most likely intended as a sight gagthe refined doctor looks ridiculous with the hat on his headthe image of Poitier in a coolie hat seems to be included in order to provide an odd sense of levity to the moment of racism he has experienced, as if to cushion the blow for any discomfort the film's White audiences might have. Yet even more noteworthy is how the film provides an indelible visual image of Poitier's ideal Black American's participation, unintentional or otherwise, in the nationalist orientalist fantasy the coolie hat embodies, in the very moment before Dr. Prentice enters the household where he embark upon the most intimate of relationships with this White American family. John's willingness to participate in such fantasies is demonstrated once more in a scene that takes place much later in the film, as the young couple go to meet Joey's friends Peter and Judith for drinks before picking up John's parents at the airport. Of all the establishments in San Francisco in which such a scene might have taken place, Kramer stages the two young couples' meeting in a environment of pure orientalist fantasy: an Asian-themed lounge


decorated gilded pagodas and tapestries of pink lotus blossoms where graciously-smiling geisha girls serve chilled martinis and old-fashioneds to swank white patrons. Through scenes such as the ones described above, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner demonstrated how a character such as Dr. John Prentice exemplified the most desirable, most palatable Blackness possible for the nation at a historical juncture when the public tide against the Vietnam War had officially turned and the discourse and politics of ethnic and cultural nationalism were on the rise. Indeed, while Kramer's outspokenly liberal convictions might lead one to surmise his opposition to the Vietnam War, his depiction of Dr. Prentice's dispassionate attitude towards the people of the "world," as implied through his actions and attitudes, offered a possible remedy to the "painful dilemma" Americans of color faced "about how to understand their role in a war that appeared increasingly racial in its essential conflict," a conflict in which part of "Washington's preparation of you American men for this mission [Vietnam] began in basic training, where the Vietnamese were referred to as 'gooks' or 'dinks.'"32 The fact that Kramer intentionally constructed his Black "saint" as a world traveler that willfully chose to deny his possible alliances with "the world" in exchange for an intimate relationship with the Draytons reflected both a robust faith in American democracy, as well as the sense of national crisis felt by Whites that was embodied by forms of radical and worldly Blackness becoming increasingly prevalent at the time, a crisis which would eventually be stymied through "policing, carceral, and punitive technologies" developed throughout the 1960s and 70s that enacted a "historically unprecedented repression of, Native American, Puerto Rican, Chicana/o, and other


Small, At the Water's Edge: American Politics and the Vietnam War.


U.S. based Third World liberation movements.

Dr. Prentice's "humanity"and in effect

the humanity of all Black Americanswas bestowed upon him in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner as a result of his character's willingness to engage in a highly specific form of heterosexual intimacy with Whiteness, in which he claimed ideal Black citizenship by adamantly renouncing and/or denying all possible affiliations with any group of people who stood beyond, or would challenge, the domestic hierarchies of what Evelyn Higginbotham has deemed the "metalanguage" of American racial politics, which at the time remained tied to practices of Black subordination. Thus, at the same time that film made visible White desires for interracial intimacy as a means of eliding racial conflict and reducing racism to a "problem of pigmentation," Kramer's movie also proposed a sanitized, saintly, and wholly domesticated Blackness, far removed from the unwieldy ideological networks of transnational Black consciousness (or for that matter, any critique of U.S. empire or colonialism) emerging across the nation at the time, as fundamental prerequisites of ideal Black citizenship. Consequently, despite its pretense of being a film about racial miscegenation, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner ultimately put Blacks "in their place" not only through its "liberal" rehashing of a longstanding litany of racist stereotypes, but also by conscripting Black Americans into a wartime ideology of orientalist nationalism which required a firm denial of any possible coalitions with the "world" as fundamental prerequisite of full Black citizenship.34

Dylan Rodriguez, Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2004), 19. 34 Nominated for ten Oscars, including for Best Picture, Kramer's film went on win two awards for Best Screenplay (William Rose) and Best Supporting Actress (Katherine Hepburn) at the 1967 Academy Awards ceremony. Originally set to air on April 8,1968, the ceremony was postponed for two days due to Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination April 4,1968. In addition, that year's annual post-ceremony Governor's Ball was canceled that year due to King's death, as well as what the Academy cited as general political upheaval due to the Vietnam War.



Insular White Citizenship in Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon By the start of the 1980s, the nationalist assertions of the Blaxploitation era in American cinema were a thing of the past, and the right-wing agenda of the Reagan administration would soon come to radically revision the meanings and practices of U.S. citizenship, including how this citizenship was represented on screen. Central to the transformation of Hollywood films from the close of the 1970s throughout the 1980s was an "ideologically conservative cycle of production" made up of "big-budget films that reestablished with a vengeance a thematically and formally conservative, linear, illusionist style."35 This "cinema of recuperation," as Ed Guerrero has called it, was a deeply reactionary response to the period of experimentation and cultural auteurship in the American cinema which had flourished throughout the 1960s and 70s, as well as to the radical political activism of the era. As Guerrero writes: In the wake of the eruption of black cultural nationalism and the insurgent claims of other marginalized social formations, including women and gays, America's catastrophic defeat in Vietnam, the loss of hegemony over Iran and Nicaragua, the paranoia of Watergate, the Arab oil shocks, and the late 1970s spiral of inflation, the widespread public perception at the end of the Carter presidency was that America was in overall decline...Reagan in the political sphere and Hollywood on the screen

This turn was exemplified by the two top money-making films which rounded out the decade, Rocky and Star Wars. The former, featuring "an implied racial context and the triumph of the ethnic white working class," and the latter, with its "white versus black allegory that celebrated the recovery of patriarchy and a technological militarism," were the earlier harbingers of a new brand of cinema that would come to characterize the 1980s. From Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film.



sought to recuperate in the realm of the imaginary ail that had been damaged or lost in reality.36 What had been "damaged or lost in reality" by the close of the 1970s, as George Lipsitz has so powerfully argued, was a sense of unbridled nationalism premised upon the centrality of white heterosexual masculine identity.37 Thus, the cinema of recuperation would come to operate effectively as lockstep cultural accompaniment to Reaganite social policy, working to enact a "renewal of patriotic rhetoric and display,"38 that ""did not concern itself with challenging the spectator-consumer to address issues of social inequality, race, gender, and most certainly not the possibility of social transformation in American life." At the same time, however, the films that made up the cinema of recuperation now advanced their conservative values on the charged grounds of the "culture wars," and were thus infused with ample doses of the type of civil rights liberalism and color-blind racial politics discussed in the previous section of this chapter, which were now updated to meet the increasingly "multicultural" discursive terrains of the nation. Films featuring Black actors or dealing with Black "issues" such as Stir Crazy (1980), 48 Hours (1982), Trading Places (1983), The Blues Brothers (1986), and Lethal Weapon (1987) simultaneously normalized the presence of Black actors in mainstream films (thus, connoting that Blacks had now "made it" in


Ibid., 115-16.

George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998). 38 In addition to the Rocky and Star Wars series, a cinema of recuperation reflecting these values emerged across film genres, from the militaristic recoveries of war films such as the Rambo series, An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Red Dawn (1984), Iron Eagle (1986), and Top Gun (1986), to the "neominstrelsy" of comedies such as Stir Crazy (1980), The Blues Brothers (1986), and Soul Man (1984), to the biracial "buddy films" of 48 Hours (1982), Trading Places (1983), and Lethal Weapon (1987). In the narratives of these films, audiences were assured that: (a) 1970s Black Rage had dissipated into Black assimilation (Blacks were funny, not mad), (b) once assimilated, Black men could be good friends with White men (whereas White women were angry, and Black women were nowhere to be found), (c) the U.S. was indisputably the


Hollywood), all the while assuring filmgoers that the Black rage of the 1970s had dissipated, Blacks were now entirely assimilableready and willing to befriend Whites, and that race in America was still Black and White. The Black-White binaries continually represented on screen were, of course, fantasies, indicative of a 1960s model of race relations steeped in the idea that the "quintessential core of the racial problematic was a social conflict between black and white."39 By the start of the 1990s, as Manning Marable writes, a "massive flood of both legal and undocumented workers from Third World countries seeking low-wage employment...[had] sharply transformed the ethnic, cultural and social composition and character" of the nation, and in particular, in urban areas with high concentrations of working-class communities. Increasing numbers of Latinos and Asians, many of whom had immigrated to the U.S. as the result of the 1965 Hart-Crane immigration Act and neoliberal economic policies (which would culminate in the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, in 1994), were fundamentally changing the face of metropolitan areas such as New York, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles; the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings would irrefutably and irrevocably indicate that the U.S. was now a nation that had moved beyond Black and White. Furthermore, during a decade when the traditional Black-White model of race relations would be radically transformed, the nature of Whiteness was also altered, as a new generation of White Americans declared that racism was now a "problem of the historical past, not a contemporary problem of inequality with practical consequences for the oppressed." As a result of these shifting terrains of race, on which

world's preeminent global superpower, and (d) that race in America was still, inexorably. Black and White. From Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film.


Black-White binarisms were increasingly obsolete and White Americans distanced themselves from the problems of racism, the domestic political discourse of the 1990s focused on issues such as affirmative action, welfare reform, and "illegal" immigrationall topics that either directly or indirectly seemed to reinforce the idea that "white elite males somehow had become the most oppressed social class in the country."40 At the same time, Reagan's two terms in office had also drastically shifted the direction of American foreign policya trend that was also evident in militaristic entries in the 1980s cinema of recuperation. Movies like Red Dawn (1982), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Top Gun (1986), and the films of Sylvester Stallone's Rambo seriesFirst Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) ,and Rambo III (1988)reflected the cowboy ethos of the iiber-masculinist chauvinism inherent in what would come to be known as the Reagan doctrine, through which the U.S. provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerillas and resistance movements in an effort to "rollback" Soviet-backed left-wing governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Such films reflected that the Vietnam war was still a raw wound in the American psyche, and that the desire to heal these wounds formed the basis of a powerful cultural narrative that sought to reinstate an indisputable American global dominance in a "New World Order." The push for this new unilateral world order, the outlines of which were most clearly articulated by Reagan's Republican successor and former Vice President George Herbert Bush, culminated in U.S. invasion of Iraq in the First Gulf War launched in August 1990, and lasted seven months till the end of February 1991. As various scholars have noted, Gulf War I represented the complete transformation


Manning Marable, Beyond Black and White: Transforming African American Politics (London & New York: Verso, 1995), xii.


of war into spectacle, a "television event" that portrayed war as precise and bloodless.41 Just as significantly, however the U.S. "victory" in the Gulf also performed the political and cultural work of asserting various nationalist narratives that ultimately worked to alleviate the traumas of Vietnam; as Melani McAlister writes, "the success of U.S. military action in the Gulf War vanquished the ghost of Vietnam from American discourse."42 Director and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon was released at the close of 1991, nine months following the formal "end" of the Persian Gulf War, and four months prior to the racial uprisings that would engulf Los Angeles in April 1992. The only film in this chapter not released in an "official" moment of U.S. foreign war, Grand Canyon nonetheless stands as heir apparent to the White liberal nationalist ethos of Guess Who's Coming Dinner, as well as the indisputable predecessor of the "post-racial, post-9/11" wartime politics of Crash, to be discussed in the next section, in the manner in which it utilizes a narrative of Black-White interracial intimacy as a means of expressing White desires to "break down" barriers of race through the dismissal of racism, while presenting this intimacy as a means to expel foreign threats from the internal spaces of the nation. In my following analysis, I want to simultaneously contextualize Grand Canyon's themes of interracial friendship, human interconnectedness, and "fate" in Los Angeles in three related and overlapping frames. Firstly, building upon critiques of the film from the mid-1990s by scholars Hazel Carby, K. Anthony Appiah, and Henry Giroux, I situate Grand Canyon as a late entry in the cinema of recuperation, a film that as Hazel Carby wrote in 1993 "employed "the surplus symbolic value of black embody the anxieties of the white middle


"Estimates on the number of Iraqi casualities have varied widely, ranging from one hundred thousand (including civilians who dies as a result of war-inflicted damage) to fifteen hundred." McAlister, 236-7.



Secondly, focusing on the "work" of the film's protagonist, Macka wealthy White

immigration lawyer played by Kevin Kline, I consider the film's portrayal of wide-scale Latino and Asian immigration and the shifting nature of racial categories at the start of the 1990s, and argue that as much as the film expresses a fear of Black aggression posing as idealized aspirations of color-blindness, it also performs a dehumanization of Asian and Latino immigrants that becomes central to the retrieval of White cultural agency that lies at Grand Canyon's core. Thirdly, I explore how Kasdan's portrayal of Los Angeles as a war zone was an attempt to resolve the legacies of Vietnam not through any allusions to the Persian Gulf War, but by transplanting the Vietnam conflict to urban America, where poor Blacks would become a domestic stand-ins for the Viet Cong. Finally, I want to point out that in marked contrast to the domesticated Blackness that was required of Dr. John Prentice in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, in Grand Canyon, it was now the nation's White citizens that needed to "shut out" the world in order to engage in redemptive and humanizing acts of interracial intimacy. To put it another way, Grand Canyon might be viewed as film in which its white characters gradually reveal their desire for what I call a condition of white insularity, a state that allows them to turn away from the horrors of "the world" and reorient their lives inward towards the most intimate spaces of their livesfamily, friends, spirituality, etc.44 As such, the film told a story of how liberal white Americans at the start


Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture Media, and U.S. Interest in the Middle East, 1945-2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 237. 43 Carby, "Encoding White Resentment: Grand Canyon-a Narrative for Our Times," 245. 44 This is very similar to what Lauren Berlant has called the "intimacy of citizenship," a social condition that arose out of the Reagan era to "convince a citizenry that the core context of politics should be the sphere of private life." She continues: "In the patriotically-permeated pseudopublic sphere of the present tense, national politics does not involve starting with a view of the nation as a space of struggle violently separated by racial, sexual, and economic inequalities that cut acress every imaginable kind of social location. Instead, the dominant idea marketed by patriotic traditionalists is aof a core nation whose survival depends on personal acts and identities performed in the intimate domains of the quotidian."


of the 1990s came to understand their need to regain a sense of safety and insularity within the domestic spaces of the nation, a realization that necessitated a representational repositioning of Black Americans as cultural allies that would work with Whites to strengthen the nation and ward off increasing encroachments from peoples from Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as the generalized threat of an increasingly chaotic, dangerous, and "multicultural" world. Grand Canyon's narrative of white insularity is primarily initiated through a friendship between Mack (Kline) and Simon, a black mechanic and tow truck driver played by Danny Glover. Driving his Lexus home from a Lakers game at the LA Forum one night, Mack decides to take a detour through a poor Black neighborhood in order to avoid traffic. The neighborhood's streets are unambiguously menacing; condemned houses, homeless vagrants, and liquor stores line the streets while rap music blares from every corner. As Mack realizes he is lost, a car full of young Black men pulls up beside him. The men glare and gesture at him. Then Mack's car suddenly sputters and dies, leaving him all alone in hostile racial territory, trapped, as Giroux writes, "in a zone of difference coded with racial fear and difference."45 After calling for a tow truck and returning to wait in his Lexus, he sees the earful of young Black men that drove by him earlier pull up behind him, indicating that Mack is officially "under siege" in this urban war zone. At this moment, Simon appears to "save" Mack from his captors. By reasoning with the young Black men threatening Mack, Simon manages to convince them to walk away from the situation, thus leaving Mack and Simon to forge the interracial friendship that will constitute the core of the film's narrative.

From Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, 2nd ed. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002 (1997)), 4.


A far cry from the young Black men who assault Mack, Simon, of course, is the kindest and gentlest of men, the direct descendent of Poitier's character in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"the noble good-hearted black man or woman, friendly to whites, working-class but better educated than most working class Americans, and oh so decent."46 Throughout the course of the film, Mack will help Simon's sister find an apartment in a safe white neighborhood and fix Simon up with a black woman who works at his law firmactions prompted by the fact that Mack believes Simon entered his life as a "miracle" and that he (Mack) now must figure out what Simon's presence in his life "means." At film's close, Simon returns Mack's favors by driving Mack's family, along with his new black girlfriend (who has turned out to be the love of Mack's life) and Black nephew (who is now "safe" due to his relocation to a White neighborhood), to the Grand Canyon, where together, they silently gaze out upon this most iconic of American landscapes, visibly awed by its scope and magnitude. In his 1993 essay on the film, Giroux argued that Grand Canyon documented an encounter between what he called "New Age Whiteness" and a multicultural politics of difference, during a historical moment in which, "the encounter with the harsh colonial terrain of American society can no longer be avoided by the rich and powerful," specifically, the "white, male, privileged."47 In fact, Kasdan himself affirmed in an interview with the Boston Globe that the inability to sequester oneself from societal ills was a central impetus behind his making of the film:


Giroux, "Living Dangerously: Identity Politics and the New Cultural Racism: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Representation," 15. 45 K. Anthony Appiah, '"No Bad Nigger': Blacks as the Ethnical Principle in the Movies," in Media Spectacles, ed. Marjorie Garber, Jann Matlock, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz (New York & London: Routledge, 1993), 80.


The fantasy that we can separate ourselves is a destructive fantasy. There is no cloister here. As soon as you leave your house, you're in it. In fact, in your house, you're in it. I mean, the sounds of a helicopter is oppressive to me. The movie starts that way (Mack's assault) because we're in a war zone, you know? That's the sense you have. It's not just LA. What matters is your sense of the Zeitgeist. What's going on is people under siege. And feeling that they're not safe anywhere. You can't get safe because we're all in this together and the soup is foul and until someone tries to improve the whole mix, we're all doomed.48 The fear and anguish in Kasdan's comments are palpable, the feeling that he himself experienced a fundamental loss of safety in his "sense of the Zeitgeist." In addition, the quote also reflected how the director's perception of the urban spaces of Los Angeles as a "war zone" were central to the entire construction of the film, specifically, the way in which Mack's assault in the Black ghetto and his chance meeting with Simon were to be viewed as reflective of both the horrors (represented by the Black boys) and heroism (represented by Simon) of war. Distinguishing Kasdan's comments from Giroux's critique, of course, was any acknowledgment on the part of the director that the only "we" that desired to "separate" or "cloister" itself was a hegemonic bloc of powerful white, mostly male, American citizens. In this way, the deracinated "we" of Kasdan's comments provides a useful means of identifying the film's desire for White racial recuperation and insularity. For despite the fact that Grand Canyon's decidedly "liberal" leanings might initially have seemed to distinguish it from the far-more straightforward assertions of the 1980s films mentioned above as part of


Giroux, "Living Dangerously: Identity Politics and the New Cultural Racism: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Representation," 14. 48 Quote from Carr, "Trying to Film Decency in 'a War Zone'."


the cinema of recuperation, Kasdan's film nonetheless reinstated a normalized male whiteness as the basis of national belonging and citizenship. Yet as Giroux also argues, the film also exposed a shift in middle and upper class White Americans' engagement with identity politics in which, he explains, they began to "recognize that cultural differences are here to stay, but don't want to be positioned so as to call their own racism or complicity with economic, social, and political inequalities into question."49 In other words, upon the multicultural terrains of the 1990s, and encoded in the liberal discourse of pluralism, Kasdan's white characters sought intimacy with Blackness "in order to imagine an alternative national future," in which the sanctity of the lives of the nation's privileged white citizenry might remain intact through intimate acts of incorporating Blackness into their ranks, thus improving "the whole mix." Interestingly enough, throughout the film Kasdan's white characters are generally only concerned about their complicity in anti-Black racism being called into question, despite the fact that Mack, the film's central protagonist, is a partner in what appears to be large, successful Los Angeles immigration law firm. Shortly following the opening scenes with Simon, we see Mack in his office, a swank executive-style high-rise suite with huge plate-glass windows. Dee, his young and attractive white legal assistant, played by Mary Louise Parker, enters his office to bring him his case files. Through a sly glean in Dee's eye, we are quickly cued into Dee's attraction for Mack. As she approaches him, Mack asks her to fill him in on the afternoon's client list, and the following conversation ensues: MACK: DEE: MACK: Who's up? Mrs. Flores and her three sons. Then what?


At 4:30, Mr. Due. (pronounces it "Dook," intentionally employing a guttural sound from the back of her throat) Mr. Duck? Mr. Due. (same tone once more) Mr. Daffy Due? (Mack now employs the same guttural tone as Dee) You're awful, (sarcastically) That's why I can't stand you.

(italics added to demonstrate actors' vocal emphases) At that moment, Dee slides her hand over Mack's, caressing his fingers gently before giving him a seductive smile and exiting the office. As one of the only scenes throughout the film portraying Mack at "work," I want to consider why Mack and Dee's attraction is played out against the conversation detailed above. Later, we will learn that Dee and Mack have previously engaged in a one-night stand, as well as the fact that Mack has refused to continue the affair due to his devotion to his wife Claire (played by Mary McDermott) and his son, Roberto (Jeremy Sisto). The tryst with Dee then, we are led to believe, is an indicator of a mid-life crisis Mack is going through, which when coupled with his assault and chance encounter with Simon, leads Mack down a path of self-introspection that we will accompany him on for the rest of the film. In this early scene with Dee, however, we are still unaware that Mack will come to develop a friendship with Simon, nor are there many clues about the profound effects this friendship will have on the entirety of Mack's life. What we are acutely aware of, however, is Mack's success practicing immigration law in Los Angeles in the late-1980s/early 1990s when the film supposedly takes place. The posh office, his beautiful assistant, the stacks of case files on his deskall these indicate that business is booming, and that Mack is reaping its financial rewards. It certainly makes sense that Mack would be experiencing prosperity practicing immigration law in Los Angeles at start of the 1990s, perhaps mainly due to the passage of

the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). The "ambitious goal" of IRCA was to "restore control over burgeoning undocumented immigration by offering two new policy tools: (1) the creation of "civil and criminal penalties for U.S. employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants," and (2) the authorization of "a set of temporary, onetime-only immigration benefits programs to 'legalize' certain undocumented immigrants already living in the United Statesprograms that came to be 'amnesty.'"50 The act's passage was directly tied to a government report issued in 1981 by the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (SCIRP) that asserted that undocumented workers, or "illegal aliens" as these workers came to be called, were the nation's number one immigration problem (as SCIRP's chair, Father Theodore Hesburgh, unambiguously stated in the report, "We recommend closing the back door to undocumented/illegal migration.") Such a view came to dominate subsequent discussions of immigration throughout the 1980s and 90s, drawing stark boundaries between the "legality" and "illegality" of said workers' lives, a division that enabled a xenophobic discursive framework through which voices across the political spectrum came to decry the putative draining of government resources and the sense of cultural invasion generated by this "flood" of illegals supposedly pouring across the nation's border. Many immigration scholars later concluded that IRCA ultimately did little to curb undocumented migration to the Susan Gonzalez put it at the end of the 1990s, "over the long haul, undocumented immigration persists virtually undaunted." In the years immediately following the passage of IRCAe.g. the time period in which Grand Canyon takes placethe act produced a number of dramatic short-term effects which would undoubtedly increase the need for


Susan Gonzalez Baker, "The 'Amnesty' Aftermath: Current Policy Issues Stemming from the Legalization

Mack's services, specifically the fact that many "illegal" workers were now coming forward to adjust their legal status through IRCA's amnesty clause. Thus, one could reasonably surmise that "Mrs. Flores and her three sons," and "Mr. Due" might be coming to see Mack in order to legitimate their presence in the U.S., and surely paying Mack handsomely to aid them in this process. With this in mind, I want to then return to the question of why the film chooses to convey Mack and Dee's sexual attraction through the aforementioned conversation about "Mrs. Flores and her three sons" and the unfortunately-named "Mr. Due." In order to address such a question, however, I believe it is first necessary to highlight the important role the notion of "fate" plays throughout the film; what makes fate so important for Kasdan's characters is "their sense that the world is organized through a random sense of chance, luck, and danger,"51 and thus, any trace of "meaning" that crosses their paths (such as the chance encounter between Mack and Simon) must be relentlessly pursued in order to reinstate order into their lives. Yet even the act of pondering one's fate is racialized in Kasdan's film, only Grand Canyon's White characterswhich, in addition to Mack, are Claire, Mack's friend Davis (a Hollywood producer of schlock films played by Steve Martin), Roberto, and Dee are consistently obsessed with trying to understand how fate has shaped, and should shape, the trajectories of their lives (Simon, on the other hand, appears unconcerned with discerning any larger sense of meaning behind his encounter with Mack). As a result, I want to suggest that the act of pondering one's fate in the film actually functions as a means to recuperate White agency in the film, agency the aforementioned

Programs of the 1986 Immigration Control Act," International Migration Review 31, no. 1 (1997). Giroux, "Living Dangerously: Identity Politics and the New Cultural Racism: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Representation."


characters feel has been lost due to their diminishing sense of power in a "multicultural" world that makes less and less sense to them. In the end, it is this recuperation of agency that allows them insulate their lives. At this early point in the film, Mack has not yet instigated his friendship with Simon, i.e. he has not yet begun to engage in the ruminations of fate that will eventually lead him to reclaim his agency. In fact, in the moment in which we witness the encounter between himself and Dee, we find Mack in an extremely vulnerable state; he is middle-aged, his teenaged son is away from home for the summer for the first time, and his life has just been "saved" by a working-class Black tow truck driver. To put it another away, Mack appears to be relatively devoid of agency in the moment when Dee enters his office, due to how his psychological and physical well-being have become wholly dependent on the actions of others. Taking Mack's relative "powerless" in this moment into account, I want to note the sardonic tone of Mack and Dee's exchange as a means of understanding the very different discursive spaces Latino and Asian bodies occupy in the film's narrative which stand in stark contrast to the redemptive and idealized Blackness which comes to be represented by Simon. For in addition to Dee's vocal emphasis upon the fact that Mrs. Flores has three sons that will accompany her during her appointment with Mack (i.e. implying, perhaps, that those Mexicans have so many children? Or that they travel in packs? Take up too much space?), Mack's mispronounciation of Mr. Due's most-likely Vietnamese surnamewhich he engages in as a means to flirt with Deeprovides an indication of the type of relationship Mack has with Mrs. Flores and Mr. Due, in particular, the sense of detached superiority he feels over these "foreign" clients who provide him with economic power and financial well-being. In a moment of weakness in his life, Mack attempts to assert agency in


two specific waysby blithely mocking the foreign-ness of his client's Vietnamese name, and engaging in adulterous behavior with a woman half his age. Indeed, beyond being problematic simply due to their racist and sexist implications, Mack's actions are also revealing in how they place Latino and Asian lives beyond the film's symbolic realm of redemptive intimacy, i.e. despite the fact that as an immigration lawyer, Mack most likely deals with Latino and Asian clients every single day, their resolutely "foreign" bodies do not seem to hold the same recuperative promise that Simon's will come to embody. Indeed, for a character that will become so compulsively fixated on the role of fate in his life in regards to his meeting with Simon, Mack appears completely oblivious to the fact that he, in a sense, holds the fate of all of his immigrant clients in his very hands. For those such as Mrs. Flores, her sons, and Mr. Due, Mack is their equivalent of saintly Simon, the cultural insider who must swoop into the "enemy territory" of the U.S. they now find themselves in and negotiate with the "enemy"(in this case, the state) in order to acquire the reprieve, or "amnesty," necessary to achieve their personal safetywhich in their case means the ability to live and work in the US without fear of imprisonment or deportation. The only other part of the film in which Mack's discusses his work comes about a bit later, in a scene set in the kitchen of his and Claire's posh Hollywood Hills home. They are preparing dinner together, and Claire appears tense; in one of the film's "miraculous" storylines, Claire has found a baby in the bushes one day while jogging, and she has been trying to convince Mack that they should adopt the child. Mack is resistant to the idea, and unaware of Claire's unhappiness as he complains about one of his law partners, named Harlan, to which Claire tersely replies, "I don't think I can talk about Harlan again tonight...l've been telling you to get away from him for eight years." Her comments seem to


pique something in Mack, who then replies emphatically, "Why, so I can go start a new immigration practice on my own? That night, when I thought those boys were going to kill me, I realized, / hate fucking immigration law." As in the previous scene, Mack once again reveals disdain for his profession, this time unequivocally. However, Kasdan does not provide for us any reasons as to why Mack's brush with mortality might lead him to realize his hatred for immigration law, nor what precisely it is about immigration law that Mack hates (The legal bureaucracy? The long hours? The resolutely "foreign" clientele?) Interestingly enough, directly following Mack's admission, Claire launches into a reflective monologue that seems to aptly encapsulate the emotions both she and Mack are experiencing at the moment: Look Mack, I don't even know what I'm gonna say from one second to the next. The world doesn't make sense to me anymore. What's going on? There are babies lying around in the streets. There are people living in boxes. There are people ready to shoot you if you look at them. And we're getting used to it. The world is so nuts, it makes me wonder about all the choices that we've made. Through Claire's words, we discern the sense of desperation underlying Grand Canyon's search for "sense," a search driven by a desire to figure out how its White protagonists can simultaneously shut out the economic, cultural, and social forces threatening their privilege (e.g. (babies in the streets, people in boxes, people ready to shoot them), while maintaining innocence about their own roles in creating itin other words, how redeem themselves while insulating their lives from any unforeseen dangers looming on the horizon. For Claire, we come to see that this means coming to an understanding that it is her "fate" to adopt the baby she finds in the bushes; in the framework of the film's intensely retrograde, and


oftentimes outright offensive, gender politics, Claire's sense of redemption is gained through a return to motherhood as her life's primary function: an act that also secures her insularity from a world gone "nuts." For Mack, on the other hand, his brush with death leads him to the conclusion that "sense" can only be found through an intimate and personal relationship with Simon. The morning following his and Claire's conversation, instead of going to work, Mack sets out to find Simon at the garage where he works, where he thanks Simon once more for saving his life and offers to buy him breakfast. It is during this breakfast that Mack instigates the actions that will intertwine Simon's life with his in the most intimate of ways; after hearing about a recent incident in which Mack's sister's home was the target of a drive-by shooting, he asks Simon if she might be interested in moving to Canoga Park he "know(s) a guy" that owns an apartment complex. Simon rejects the idea at first, however, due to a series of events, his sister and her family eventually do wind up moving to Mack's friend's apartment in the small, mostly-White San Fernando Valley suburb. For the remainder of the film, following breakfast and Mack's proclamation that he "hates immigration law," we hear no more discussion of Mack's work, there are no more depictions of him in his office, nor any more mention of Mrs. Flores, Mr. Due, or any of the other clients with whom he works. Indeed, it almost seems as if Mack has stopped working at all. Instead, thinking about and helping Simon becomes Mack's primary form of work, a metaphorical change of profession that has the overall effect of re-orienting Mack's life inward towards the most intimate spaces of his lifehis wife and family. Over the course of this transformation, Mack and Simon eat together, talk about their families, and in what is perhaps the most "intimate" moment in the film, play basketball with each other in Mack's driveway. Because of his


friendship with Simon, Mack ends the relationship with Dee, rekindles the fire with Claire, bonds with his son, and finally agrees to adopt the child with Claireall acts that infuse his life with the type of social, cultural, and spiritual agency he was not able to access through preventing deportations or securing citizenship papers for his foreign clients. No longer just a guest coming for dinner, Simon has become a permanent fixture in Mack's personal life, a "safe" Black presence that enables Mack to consistently view himself as living a life "beyond race." To end this section, I want to point out that throughout Grand Canyon's interconnected narratives of racial intimacy and fate in 1990s Los Angeles, helicopters constantly buzz overhead, shining glaring spotlights over a seemingly "war-torn" city. As Carby points out, for those of the Baby Boomer generation (such as Kasdan and the fortysomething characters in Grand Canyon), the sound of helicopters forge "an immediate connection...[to] a particular social and geographic space. For more than twenty years, the noise made by a low-flying helicopter was used by film and television studios to signify the presence of Americans in the war zones of Southeast Asia."52 By the 1990s, however, the same sound had somehow become inexorably bound to the "symbolic landscape of a black urban neighborhood."53 Less than a year following the close of what Melani McAlister has called "what would become one of the largest military operations of the post-World War II period," Kasdan released a film which made no reference to the war in Iraq, but instead constructed a racialized war at home that that seemingly had no enda shrewd approach for film whose target audience was, as Carby puts it, the "white liberal intelligentsia." As McAlister argues, the "failure" of American liberals in regards to Vietnam was that it


Carby, "Encoding White Resentment: Grand Canyon-a Narrative for Our Times."

"symbolized the possibility of effective anti-war protest and large-scale social mobilization against the exercise of U.S. power," a failure that once again revisited the Left despite their "widespread and rather well-organized" protest against the Persian Gulf War. Unlike the conservative cultural narrative espoused by George H. Bush and the like in which the Gulf War righted Vietnam's wrongs, the Persian Gulf represented yet another crushing disappointment for White American liberals who opposed the war. Thus, by creating a war zone in the domestic space of urban Los Angeles, I want to suggest that Grand Canyon ultimately demonstrated how liberal, middle-class Whites could finally derive a sense of post-Vietnam triumph, gained through their realization that they could stop this war "at home" through their willingness to engage in interracial intimacy with the nation's Black citizens. Such liberal sentiment that cast the film's urban war zones as fertile terrain for the retrieval of a nationalist ethos of (White) redemption is apparent in the Washington Post's review of the film, in which critic Rita Kempley wrote: This City of the Angels captured by Kasdan, its skies buzzing with helicopters reminds us most of all of Vietnam. But this is not war, it's suicide, America in the latent stages of self-inflicted apocalypse. Kasdan validates our fears, but he doesn't strip us of hope, for the central image also promises something greater than ourselves. The view from the edge is awesome."54

The Crash of Civilizations: Confronting the Post-Racial in Post-9/11 America

In the years leading into the new millennium, the nation found itself confronting yet another form of crisis, what many media outlets decried as an increasingly widespread




sense of civic apathy. Research conducted at the close of the 1990s appeared to back up such claims, as polls suggested that the United States "was a nation in a poor state of democratic health."55 Various scholars argued that the nation's citizens were becoming more and more cynical, and that the national divisions borne out of culture wars, and the to responses the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings and the Persian Gulf war had created intractable cleavages in the American psyche that had propelled the nation into "a continual state of decay."56 Such divisions appeared to come to a head during the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, a race decided by the Supreme Court over Florida's 25 electoral college votes, which were, along with the presidency itself, ultimately granted to Bush. In addition, 2000 witnessed a shift in the economic trajectory of the nation; early on in the year, America's longest period of postwar expansion had ended, and by March, the U.S. economy had entered a formal recession. The nation's total employment had fallen by more than 1.3 million, there were steep downturns in domestic manufacturing, and the "dot-com bubble" that had spurred record-setting rises in stock values and inflated market confidence suddenly burst, leading to hiring freezes, massive layoffs, and corporate downsizing and consolidation. With civic participation at an all time low, the economy in decline, and partisan wounds still smarting from the election, the general public consensus seemed to emerge that the United States had become, perhaps irrevocably, a nation "deeply divided" along partisan and ideological lines. However, some scholars, particularly conservatives, surmised that the causes underlying civic apathy and national divisions at the time were not simply rooted in domestic economic

54 ss

Rita Kempley, "Grand Canyon," Washington Post, January 10 1992. Diana B. Carlin et al., "The Post-9/11 Public Sphere: Citizen Talk About the 2004 Presidential Debates," Rhetoric and Public Affairs 8, no. 4 (2005): 617.


and social issues such as the ones detailed above, but also due to the fact that following the formal end of Cold War (officially marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991), there was no longer a "unified" sense of American identity. For example, in an article published in the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs, Condoleezza Rice, who would become President Bush's National Security Advisor in 2001 and Secretary of State in 2005 argued that, "The United States has found it exceedingly difficult to define its national interests in the absence of Soviet Power."57 The idea that the U.S. was a country "in decay" had already emerged some years ago in a cultural thesis that would come to resonate powerfully after the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001. In Harvard political scientist Samuel L. Huntington's highly influential (as well as oft-criticized58) "clash of civilizations" thesis, originally published in a 1993 Foreign Affairs article, he argued that that the post-Cold War world had come to be divided along civilizational, as opposed to national, lines, in which "Islamic" and "Sinic" civilizations, or cultures, ("civilizations" and "cultures" are synonymous terms in Huntington) now posed the greatest external threats to American global hegemony. In the 1996 full-length book follow-up to his article, titled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Huntington expanded his arguments in a vitriolic final chapter which included a scathing critique of "multiculturalism," defined by


ibid. Condoleezza Rice, "Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest," Foreign Affairs (2000). 58 For critiques of Huntington's thesis, see: M. Shahid Alim, Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on the "War against Islam" (North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2006), Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Pantheon, 2004), McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture Media, and U.S. Interest in the Middle East, 1945-2000, David Palumbo-Liu, Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), David Palumbo-Liu, "Multiculturalism Now: Civilization, National Identity, and Difference before and after September 11," boundary 2 29, no. 2 (2002), Edward Said, "The Clash of Ignorance," The Nation, October 22 2001.


him as a cultural movement supported by "a small but influential number of intellectuals and publicists" who have "attacked the identification of the United States as with Western civilization, denied the existence of a common American culture, and promoted racial, ethnic, and other subnational identities and groupings."59 The fracturing of the nation into such sub-groupings in the decades following the civil rights era had led to "internal processes of decay" that would, if left unheeded, "lead to the stage of invasion" for the U.S., most likely, at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.60 Huntington contended that only a "re-commitment" to the nation's "core" culture of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant civilization could work to ward off such an attack, and that a rejection of this culture would "mean the end of the United States of America as we have known it." 61 Thus, the "clash between the multiculturalists and the defenders of Western civilization and the American Creed" constituted the "real clash" for Americans. He concluded: "The futures of the United States and of the West depend on Americans reaffirming their commitment to Western civilization."62 As stated above, Huntington's words seemed to ring ominously prescient for many following the 9/11 attacks, and many of the Harvard professor's critics immediately lined him up with the hawkish neoconservatives then populating President George W. Bush's cabinet in their drumbeat for war. However, Huntington was actually a lifelong Democrat who had spent two years on President Jimmy Carter's National Security Council and served as an advisor for Hubert Humphrey's unsuccessful 1968 presidential campaign. As one


Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the New World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 305. 60 Ibid., 303.

Ibid., 306-7.
Ibid., 307.


obituary read following his death in January 2009, Huntington was "a Democrat of a now largely extinct breed, liberal on domestic policy but a supporter of an assertive and unflinching use of US power abroad."63 Huntington continued to express his desire for American hegemony and internal cohesion in his 2004 follow-up to The Clash of Civilizations, entitled Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity. In what would be his final text, Huntington reaffirmed the beliefs he had expressed Clash concerning the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and the detrimental effects of multiculturalism; however this time around, he turned the brunt of his attacks towards what he called the "Hispanization" of America, questioning whether the United States could ultimately assimilate increasing numbers of "Hispanic" immigrants"legal" and "illegal" into its ranks and once again argued that the nation needed to curb such a tide by remaining and English-only nation that stayed true to its Western Anglo-Saxon Protestant cultural roots. In the wake of 9/11, Huntington surmised at the start of Who Are We?, the

nation faced "a substantive problem of national identity" epitomized by the national confusion around who precisely the American "we" was. "Are we a 'we,' one people or several?" he asked. "If we are a 'we/ what distinguishes us from the 'thems' who are not us?...Do we have any meaningful identity as a nation that transcends out subnational ethnic, religious, racial identities? These questions remain for Americans in the postSeptember 11 era."64 In many ways, it seemed that 9/11 had alleviated the putative "problems" of apathy and civic disengagement charted at the close of the 1990s. Discourses of nationalism


Rupert Cornwell, "Professor Samuel Huntington: Political Scientist Who Wrote 'the Clash of Civilizations'," The Independent, January 2 2009.


seemed to emerge in full force following the days, weeks, and months following the attacks, and by the end of the year, according to another Harvard scholar, Robert Putnam, "Americans were more united, readier for collective sacrifice, and more attuned to public purpose than we have been for several decades."65 At the same time, a state-sponsored brand of the "multiculturalism" Huntington had so vehemently decried appeared to be an inextricable component of the language of national unity that materialized after 9/11, reflecting what Evelyn Alsultany has called the ideology of "diversity-patriotism" "whereby racialized groups are temporarily incorporated into the imagined community of Americans...(and) the idea of diversity is mobilized urgently and expediently, motivated in response to trauma, and it serves to comfort and heal the nation."66 The nation had encountered practices of diversity-patriotism in the past decade, particularly, as Melani McAlister has argued in the "military multiculturalism" of the first Gulf War, which had "fused a contained racial liberalism with a confident reassertion of U.S. global power."67 Yet, while previous terrorist attacks by political Islamist groups had taken place during the 1990s (e.g. the 1993 World Trade center bombing, the Air France hijacking in 1994), in the post-9/11 period, the "diversity" of the nation was mobilized in direct opposition to Arabs, Muslims, and Islam, or anyone perceived to be connected with these groups. Thus, as Alsultany argues, diversity-patriotism "function(ed) to create an imaginary multiracial and equal America, yet (did) not solve the dangerous configuration of Americans versus Arabs/Muslims, but rather function(ed) to mobilize ambiguous assimilative diversity to unite


Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004). 65 Robert D. Putnam, "Bowling Together: The United States of America," American Prospect, February 11 2002.


Americans in supporting the government's 'War on Terror' against Arabs and Muslims."68 In other words, post-9/11 "multiculturalism" had actually come to work towards exactly the same ends as Huntington's diatribe against multiculturalism: to cohere the nation around a shared sense of identity, rooted in liberal Western values of universalist humanism, so that "we" might stand united against the foreign enemy of a militant and fundamentalist Islam. Beneath the discursive shadows of the clash-of-civilizations and a patriotic nation now unified in its diversity, the language of the "post-racial" began circulating throughout the mainstream media. In 2003, Slate columnist Rob Walker penned an editorial for the Boston Globe discussing how corporations had begun "embracing the idea of a post-racial America," where "whiteness as a synonym for American-ness" was disappearing and Blackness could now be every bit as American "as baseball and apple pie."69 Also in 2003, a nationally-syndicated NPR show "The Connection," ran an episode entitled "Post-Racial America" discussing the rise of a multiracial generation of Americans reared on corporate multiculturalism.70 Yet perhaps the cultural arena in which the idea of the "post-racial" was

Evelyn Alsultany, "Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11," American Quarterly 59, no. 3 (2007): 598. 67 McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture Media, and U.S. Interest in the Middle East, 1945-2000, 265. 68 Alsultany, "Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11," 599. 69 Rob Walker, "Whassup, Barbie? Marketers Are Embracing the Idea of a 'Post-Racial' America. Goodbye, Niche Marketing," The Boston Globe, January 12 2003. Discussing the popularity of Budweiser's "Whapssup?" ad, the success of actor Vin Diesel, and Mattel's release of its racially-ambiguous "Kayla" doll," Walker surmised that racial "niche marketing may be finished""Could it turn out that the way to conquer a diverse world isn't to tailor the product or the pitch to fir a narrow band of consumers, but rather to be as indistinct as possible and let everyone else fill in the blanksthe Rorschach theory of identity?" 70 The program examined the rise of a "new generation" of Americans reared on the aforementioned forms of corporate multiculturalism. The NPR broadcast detailed the multiracial identities of today's youth, which young people themselves described in such terms as "Mexipino" (someone of Filipino and Mexican ancestry), "Blaxican" (Black and Mexican), and "Chino-Latino" (Asian and Latino). "Post-racial," host Gordon suggested, was simply one amongst many terms being used to described this new "hip hop, transracial, postethnic" Generation Y. "What's notable about this (generational) shift," Gordon


expressed most fully not just as media catchphrase, but as full-blown cultural aesthetic was the Hollywood cinema, in which blockbusters such as 2 Fast 2 Furious, X2: X-Men United, and The Matrix: Revolutions (all released in 2003) featured multiracial casts filled not only with Whites and Blacks, but Latino, Asian, and biracial/multiethnic/racially ambiguous characters. Commenting on these blockbusters, film critic Michael Medved lauded Hollywood for moving beyond its "racial obsession," saying that the industry deserved "credit for a revolutionary, colorblind approach to selecting actors and directors" and for bolstering top stars such as Will Smith, Denzel Washington, and Halle Berry into "post-racial superstardom." 71 He closed his piece by commenting on what he believed were the larger social implications of such films, "When it comes to racial issues, recent films deserve praise for their implicit endorsement of the welcome message that black people and white people can work together, laugh together, even love together, without making a huge fuss over their differences." 72 In the midst of the nation's media-declared move towards the post-racial, directorscreenwriter Paul Haggis released Crash in May 2005, a film I argue merged the "post-racial aesthetic " named above with a nationalist imaginary borne directly out of the domestic racial logics of Huntington's clash-of civilizations theory. Four years after the 9/11 attacks and two years following the start of the second U.S. invasion of Iraq, Haggis' film (co-written with Bobby Moresco) unambiguously positioned itself as a "compelling urban drama" that dove "headlong in the diverse melting pot of post-9/11 Los Angeles." As with the blockbuster films mentioned above, Crash employed a large, multiracial castmany of

continued, "is that the categories and divisions that obsessed boomers aren't even talked about any more by this generation...(and) they're making up new rules about race for everyone else." 71 Michael Medved, "Hollywood Finally Moves Beyond Racial Obsession," USA Today, June 10 2003.


whom were A-list Hollywood stars. Unlike those films, however, Crash was a film explicitly about race relations, which, I want to suggest, advanced its intertwined storylines of racial conflict with the ultimate goal of a "post-racial future" posited as both its narrative and figurative end. As many critics pointed out following its release, Crash drew its structure and themes directly and indirectly from a number of other "cross-cutting Los Angeles stories" which utilized large ensemble casts and intersecting storylines to present sprawling portraits of modern-day in the "City of Angels." Narratively and thematically, however, Haggis' film was a direct descendent of Grand Canyonparticularly in how both films portrayed a beleaguered Whiteness, expressed concerns about the interconnectedness of human lives, and used depictions of "fate" (in Kasdan's case), and what I call "the magical" in Crash in order to facilitate the redemptive catharses that took place at their ends. Like both Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Grand Canyon, Crash was a film steeped in a liberal longing for racial progress, the optimistic hope that universalistic "a sense of touch" might be regained between individual citizens which could then enable them to better comprehend, and thus subsequently, "get beyond" the racial, ethnic, class, gendered, cultural, and religious differences that they viewed as marking American lives. At the same time, I argue Crash also advanced a resolutely nationalist narrative of American unity that, like the work of Samuel Huntington mentioned above, premised its "post-raciality" upon the nation's ability to re-ground itself in White Anglo-Saxon culture by performing specific disavowals of "Islam" and "Hispanic" cultures. Taking these issues into account, I want to consider how Crash updated, revised, and in some ways, fundamentally transformed the narrative of Black-White interracial intimacy and the foreign Other that I have tracked


Ibid. Tellingly, he conceives "multiracial" as "black and white."


throughout this chapter in a way that allowed the film to resonate so powerfully for certain audiences in a contemporary moment in which two "post-""post-9/11" and the "postracial"had become fundamental components of U.S. cultural and civic discourse on race, citizenship, and nation. Crash opens with a series of blurred snapshots of Los Angeles' highways at nighta hazy fork of skid marks, row after row of softly glowing headlights, street lamp glaresunfolding over veteran film composer Mark Isham's quietly pulsing electronic score. Against the edge of one of these frames, one image comes into distinct focus: a length of barbed wire. As the opening credits subside, we hear the voice of Black American Los Angeles police detective Graham Waters, played by actor Don Cheadle: It's the sense of touch. Any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people. They bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, we crash into each other just to feel something. We quickly discover the basis for Water's epiphany. The car he is a passenger in has just been involved in a car accident. Water's Latina partner and sometimes-lover Ria (Jennifer Esposito) is in the driver's seat beside him, and voices an irritated "What?" in response at Graham's philosophical reverie. "You don't think it's true?" Graham asks. Ria replies, increasingly annoyed, "Graham, I think we were rear-ended. I think we spun around twice. And somewhere in there, one of us lost our frame of reference." Ria exits the car, and immediately begins trading racial barbs with Korean woman who has rear-ended them. "Mexicans don't know how to drive," the Korean woman fumes to the traffic cop on scene, gesturing towards Ria. "It's all her fault. She blake too fast."


Graham's monologue is proffered as a moment of lucidity before the film's action begins, a wistful soliloquy that seeks to temper the morass of irrational fears and prejudices that Crash's characters will advance, confront, and embody in its ensuing plotlines; in Haggis' LA., racism seethes under every surface, unapologetically rearing its head at every wrong turn. As such, Graham's opening evocation of this "sense of touch" functions as an immediate appeal to the better angels of our American nature, those angels that might spur racial progress if we might only heed their calls. Yet the film also warns, through its opening sequence, that these angels have become increasingly difficult to hear, their voices stymied not only by physical barriers of "metal and glass," but the ideological divisions of race, or as one critic put it, "those mutual abrasions of white, black Latino, Middle Eastern, and Asian citizens in a pot that never melts." Ria's sharp rebuke of Graham's fit of introspection works to return the scene to the proper "frame of reference," the one Graham seems to have "lost": the gritty post-1992 uprisings, post-9/11 hyper-reality of the simultaneously racialized and racist exchange between herself and the Korean woman. Graham's insights are left hanging in cinematic midair, brushed aside by Ria as a traumatized response to the sudden impact of the accident. In the way that Graham's monologue is presented as encapsulating Crash's ultimate truth, delivered in a moment of clarity and calm that will not return again for the remainder of the film, I want to suggest that his introductory invocation of the "sense of touch" actually comprises the most intimate moment of the entire film, and establishes the unconventional relationship of interracial intimacy will operate as Crash's narrative core. Following the impressionistic swirl of nighttime colors and lights of the opening sequence, the screen fades to black and Graham's voice first emerges over this blank tableau. After he


speaks the words "In LA., nobody touches you ," the camera cuts to a close-up of actor Don Cheadle's face, which critics have repeatedly praised for its melancholy presence and the actor's intensely expressive eyes. Graham is positioned off to the left side of the screen, in semi-profile, as blurry red and yellow lightswhich we will later discover are police lightsglow in the background. Face tilted forward, Graham delivers the line, "I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something," almost directly into camera, seemingly breaking the fourth wall between himself and the audience. Though we hear Ria voice a frustrated, "What?" in response to following Graham's first few lines, the effect is negligible, inferring that Graham is indeed speaking directly to "us" and that "we" are alone with him in this pivotal scene. The effect of engaging in such intimacy with Graham is crucial: for the remainder of the film, the sentiments of his words seep into every frame, as viewers are repeatedly asked to recognize both the arbitrariness and futility of racial conflict, to see racism and its discontents as postmodern expressions of human alienation, and to long for a decidedly post-racial "frame of reference," in which "a sense of touch"not racial categoriesserves as the fundamental foundation of how "we" as humans interact. In order for us to understand the interaction between Graham and the film's audience as premised in a relationship of Black-White interracial intimacy requires us to first recognize that the target demographic of Haggis' film, just as with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Grand Canyon, were liberal, middle-class to affluent White Americans, who felt they were now suffering not only from the threat of cultural nationalism (as in Dinner), nor only the fear of Third World immigrants or the traumas of Vietnam (as in Grand Canyon), but also, the trauma of 9/11 and their apprehensions that a "better world" might not be


possible in an increasingly divided world. White Canadian-America Haggis has stated repeatedly in interviews that he conceived of the film after he was carjacked his then-new Porsche by two young Black men in Los Angeles in 1991, an incident he could not get out of his head for years following the incident. However, he says he was unable to fully articulate his response to the incident until after 9/11, when one night shortly following the attacks, he awoke in the middle of the night: The ideas were haunting meI just woke up at 2:00 in the morning and just started writing about them [the carjackers], and who they bumped into. I thought 'What did we do when we got home at 2:00 in the morning? 'Well, we changed the locks.' I asked myself how would I have felt if the kid who came to change out locks at two in the morning was Hispanic and looked like a gangbanger, had tattooswould I have felt safeand I said 'No,' and I thought 'Wow, that's pretty dark stuff.'73 By 10 AM, Haggis says, he had all the stories that would wind up in the film done, which all came flooding after his decision to "let my fears and hopes and prejudices and dreams for a better world run loose."74 His ability to "run loose" with his ideas, he later surmised after Crash received the 2005 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, was rooted directly in his perspectives on the historical moment in which he found himself at the time, perspectives that echoed many of the same concerns as those of Samuel Huntington mentioned above : "We're in a time of war here, and you go one or two directions. You head off and escape, or



Greg Ursic, "Crashing with Paul Haggis: An Interview with Hollywood's New Go-to Drama Guy," (2005). Paul Haggis, On the Origins of Crash (2005 [cited); available from


you start talking about questions...about who we are, and I guess that's what we were trying to do, as well."75 Thus, in considering Haggis' discussion of the film, I believe it is possible to discern a certain set of social and cultural investments in the film which would resonate most powerfully with, to reiterate the term invoked by Carby in regards to Lawrence Kasdan in the previous section, the "white liberal intelligentsia." It is interesting to note the parallels between Haggis and the fictionalized character of Mack in Grand Canyon: both are wealthy and powerful white men who embark on a search for meaning following traumatizing interactions with Blackness. Just as a Mack comes to view Simon as a savior who leads him to find meaning in his own life, Haggis constructs the character of Graham Waters as sorrowful sage through which to voice the director's own personal "truth," which ultimately functions not only to relieve Haggis of the traumatic "haunting" of the carjacking, but also provides a sense of catharsis and release for those in the film's audience who might share Haggis' racialized habitus. In addition, just as with Poitier's Dr. Prentice in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Graham is portrayed as a Black American man who appears to intentionally turn his back on his own racial community; he is a loner who has strained relations with his family, with no friends or social life beyond his work (as stated already, his partner Ria, is also his sometimes-lover, though by no means do they have a committed or supportive relationship). Unlike many of the other characters in the film, Graham has no narrative arc and experiences no major epiphanies or transformations throughout the film, despite the fact that we will eventually learnin perhaps the film's most crucial twist of fatethat Graham has actually "crashed" into a crime scene in the opening scene where he


Terry Weber, "Haggis 'Dumbfounded' by Crash Oscar Win," Globe and Mail, March 6 2006.


will discover by film's end that it is his own errant younger brother, Peter, a carjacker and petty thief, who has been found shot and killed. Graham begins the film somber, jaded, and melancholy and ends the film in same waya static figure like Dr. John Prentice and Simon, despite being on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. However, in Graham's case, due to the chaos and trauma that Haggis advances as marking the narrative landscape of Crash's L.A., his ideal Black citizenship is not gained through entry into a liberal White family like the Draytons, nor by allowing a kindly White man like Mack to help him, but by acting as a narrative vessel through which sympathetic Whites may come to believe they are engaging in a process of racial reconciliation by simply viewing the film. In other words, the film's interracial intimacy comes from the White viewer seeing the world through Graham's "Black" eyes, which are to be perceived as seeing from an "authentic" Black experience, and believing that Graham's eyes essentially "see" the same way theirs do: through the lens of post-racial desire that longs for a "sense of touch" over and beyond any form of redress for or acknowledgment of anti-Black racism. In this manner, we might recognize how the film revises the longstanding relationship between Black degradation and parasitic white freedom for a nation now "literally aching to live in a post-racial future" by obscuring the role of whiteness, specifically the liberal white sentiment represented by the Draytons in 1968 and Mack in 1991 that animated Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Grand Canyon's messages of racial reconciliation and human connection. As a result, I argue that the overall effect of Graham's monologue, as well as his positioning as the narrative center of the film's many intertwined tales, is to let the film's White viewersas well as Haggis himselfoff the hook for the "dark stuff' of their racial imaginings. By engaging in, to borrow another


phrase from Lauren Berlant, this most intimate of "pain alliances" with Graham,76 the film's liberal White viewers are invited to exorcise this "dark stuff," and eventually exit the theatre feeling as if they too, like Haggis in writing the script, have engaged in a process of letting their "fears and hopes and prejudices and dreams for a better world run loose."77 However, if Crash's construction of interracial intimacy is forged between the film's liberal White audiences and the fantasy Blackness represented by Graham (as well as to a lesser extent, the character of Black television producer Cameron, played by Terrence Howard78) as I am arguing here, then what to make of the numerous non-White/non-Black bodies that populate the film? As mentioned earlier on, the film features a number of intersecting storylines involving a wide range of characters in addition to Graham, including the aforementioned Black Hollywood television producer played by Terrence Howard and his light-skinned wife (Thandie Newton), a racist White cop (Matt Dillon) and his naive new partner (Ryan Phillipe), a pair of Black male carjackers (Larenz Tate and rapper Ludacris), a Brentwood housewife (Sandra Bullock) and her District Attorney husband (Brendan Fraser), a Korean human trafficker (Greg Joung Paik), a Latino locksmith (Daniel Ruiz), and a Persian convenience store owner (Shaun Toub). In chronicling the 36-hour period leading up to Graham and Ria's accident, the film literally slams together these characters lives in a series of racialized "crashes" meant to expose the seething underbelly of American racism. Thus,

Lauren Berlant, "Poor Eliza," American Literature 70, no. 3 (1998). Indeed, the critical response to the film has reflected this sentiment. The New Yorker's David Denby remarked that the film exuded an "exuberant frankness (that)-.burns through embarrassment and chagrin and produces its own kind of exhilaration," while critic Roger Ebert called Crash the best film of the year, saying it offered "the possibilities of making [its] audiences better people." In addition, the NAACP lauded the film as well, giving it the organization's 2006 Image Award for Best Picture. 78 Howard's character, Cameron, winds up voicing an angry denunciation of rapper Ludicrous' character Anthony towards the close of the film, telling the car thief and petty thug, that he "embarrasses" him because of his "bad" behavior. In this sense, the denunciation of Anthony's criminalized "bad" Blackness



while Kramer's and Kasdan's films are far easier to characterize as hewing to binary models of Black-White race relations, Haggis' film features a decidedly multiethnic cast, in which a Latino, an Asian, and a Middle Eastern character figure prominently. In closing the final section of this chapter, I want to explore a number of questions about Crash in ways I hope will provide some insight as to why it is so crucial to consider recent cultural constructions of Muslims, Arabs, and Islam in the domestic frameworks of race and representation I have outlined in this chapter, as well as offering some preliminary ideas about the ways in which we might think about the racialization of Islam in post-9/11 America in relation to existing rubrics of race and historical legacies of racism . Specifically, I want to deliberate on how Crash's Asian, Latino, and "Muslim" characters "fit" within the wartime racial calculus of Black-White interracial intimacy and the Foreign Other I have outlined throughout. In Crash's intricately intertwined storylines, what role do each of these non-White, non-Black characters play in facilitating the sense of catharsis I have argued the film provides for a particular segment of the film's audiences? Why include these characters if the intimate relationship between Blacks and Whites is ultimately what enables the film's truth? How do these characters participateor not participatein the film's quest for the post-racial "sense of touch"? Are we to believe that they also ache for this post-racial touch? And if so, does their desire for this touch allow them the opportunity to achieve the ideal racial citizenship that Dr. John Prentice, Simon, and Detective Graham Waters all come to possess? Finally, what might the film's portrayal of these characters tell us about, to return to Haggis's quote cited earlier, "who we are" as a nation in a time of war? Or to rephrase Samuel Huntington's questions, at the close of Crash, is the film's multiracial 'we' one

is spoken by a "good" Black, represented by Cameron, once again, letting white viewers off the hook


people or several? And if an American "we" is to be found in the film's narrative, through what processes does this "we" incorporate the Latino and Muslim bodies found in its narratives borders? In order to address such questions, I want to spend the remainder of this chapter focusing on how Crash constructs the character of Persian-Muslim convenience store owner Farhad, as well as the relationship between Farhad and Latino locksmith Daniel Ruiz. I pay particular attention to the role Farhad plays in facilitating the film's larger narrative of interracial intimacy between its depiction of idealized Blackness and the film's White liberal viewing public, not simply because Farhad is the "Muslim" character of Haggis' post-9/11 drama, but also because he is, of all the non-White, non-Black characters represented in the film, only one whose storyline has a distinct narrative arc, through which Farhad undergoes a crucial transformation that allows him to "see" the world more clearly. Furthermore, I am interested in Farhad's relationship to Daniel Ruiz, again, not only because Ruiz is the only Latino character that figures prominently in the film, but because the locksmith is essentially Farhad's only connection to the rest of the film's action, i.e. unlike the other characters who are revealed to have multiple and oftentimes critical associations with a number of the film's other personages, Farhad and his storyline really have no bearing on the fates of any other characters besides Daniel, and in a way, seems completely "outside" the narrative of Black-White interracial intimacy I argue is so crucial to all the films I have examined throughout. By examining how Farhad's character develops through his relationship with Daniel, I want to propose that Crash allows us the opportunity to witness how both the threats of "Islam" and the "Hispanization" of the nation come to be

when they nod their heads in agreement with Cameron's claims.


ideologically controlled and contained within a sentimentalized narrative of liberal democracy, so that these "threats" do not ultimately impede the film's post-racial fantasies, and thus, represent its overarching desire to "recommit"a la Huntingtonall of its characters to the fundamental principles of the American Creed. In the scene directly following Graham and Ria's opening "crash," we are introduced to Farhad and his daughter Dorri in a gun shop, apparently trying to buy a gun for Farhad to keep at the family's convenience store. We see the gun store owner, a white, crew-cutted man in his 40s or 50s, pushing a handgun forward on the counter, while telling Dorri and Farhad that they get "one free box of ammunition" with their purchase. As Farhad responds in Farsi, asking Dorri what the man has just said. Dorri responds, also in Farsi though she clearly speaks English, obviously frustrated with her father's desire to purchase a firearm. English subtitles translate the exchange between Farhad and Dorri at the bottom of the screen, and as the two bicker back and forth in Farhad's native tongue, the store owner is seen growing more and more agitated, finally throwing his arms up and exclaiming, "Yo, Osama, plan the jihad on your own timewhat do you WANT?" Suddenly, Farhad seems to partially comprehend the store owner's words, turning to Dorri once more, this time with a look of anger. Turning back to the store owner, Farhad says, in English, "Are you making insults at me?" The following exchange ensues, entirely in English: GUN SHOP OWNER: FARHAD: GUN SHOP OWNER: FARHAD: GUN SHOP OWNER: (mockingly) Am I "making insults at you"? Is that the closest you get to English? (shouting) Yes, I speak English! I am American citizen! (rolling his eyes) Oh God, here we go... (gesticulating angrily) I have rights like you! I have right to buy gun! (pulling the gun on the counter back) Not from my store you don't. (Gesturing towards the store's security guard) Get him out of here! You are an ignorant man!




(furious) Yeah, I'm ignorant. You're liberating my country and I'm flying 747's into your mud huts and incinerating your friends. Get the fuck out of my store!

At that point, Farhad is dragged out of the store by a burly security guard and Dorri is left alone with the store owner, to whom she turns and says, "You can give me the gun or give me the money back, and I'm really hoping for the money." With a smirk, the store owner slides the gun back across the counter and calmly asks once more what kind of ammunition Dorri would like. When she tells him she wants "whatever fits," he launches into a long litany of all the types of ammo he sells"long colts, short colts, ball heads, flat-nose, hollow points..." "It just depends," he finally leers, while eyeing Dorri with a predatory smirk, "how much bang you want for your buck." Snapping back brusquely, Dorri tells the store owner she'll "take the ones in the red box." With a raised eyebrow, the store owner asks her condescendingly, "Do you know what those are?", to which Dorri replies impatiently, "Can I have them?", quickly snatching the red box off the counter and hurriedly exiting the store. The gun shop scene contains Crash's only explicit reference to the 9/11 attacks, voiced in the white gun shop owner's sarcastic comments about "flying 747s into...mud huts" and "incinerating [Farhad's] "friends." Such comments are evidently meant to expose the racist ignorance of the white gun shop owner, who is signified not only through his decidedly right-wing profession but his crew cut and plaid shirt, as a standard White "good ol' boy." Yet despite the store owner's ignorance, the scene does little to establish Farhad beyond standard stereotypes of Muslim male rage or Islamic backwardnessthe same types of stereotypes Betty Mahmoody employed to describe the violent Moody in this dissertation's previous chapter. In the exchange between Farhad and the gun shop owner detailed above, we learn that Farhad is hot-tempered, rude, and thoroughly unassimilated,


a trait demonstrated through his inability to speak English and his seeming lack of knowledge about basic manners. His lack of civility is highlighted by the presence of Dorri, who has clearly been raised and educated in the U.S. (we later learn she is a medical intern), traits which inform us that despite Farhad's having lived in U.S. long enough to raise an adult daughter who is thoroughly "American," he remains inconversant of the fundamental mores of U.S. civil society. What Farhad does seem to know, however, is that since he is an American citizen, as he emphatically tells the gun shop owner, he is entitled to buy a g u n just like any other angry Muslim American man out there in post-9/11 America. The racist gun store owner and his security guards are the only whites Farhad will have contact with for the entire film; in fact, he has little contact with any other characters, white or black, beyond his own family, which is made up of Dorri and his wife Shereen, and Ruiz, whose relationship to Farhad I will discuss momentarily. Even with his own family, though, Farhad is consistently ill-tempered and boorish, his tone snappish and irritable with Shereen when she tells him she cannot close the store's back door entirely, as well as in conversation with Dorri after we learn that his decision to buy the gun stems from a nearassault experienced by Shereen, when he barks at his daughter, "That man could have killed your mother. You think I should let crazy people do what they want to us?" Daniel Ruiz arrives at Farhad's store later that evening to fix the door Shereen was unable to close, shortly after the locksmith has also changed the locks at the home of Los Angeles County's affluent white male district attorney, Rick Cabot and his wife Jean, who, in one of the film's storylines obviously inspired by Haggis' personal experience, have just been carjacked by two young Black men. Furthermore, in the scene just prior to this first encounter between Daniel and Farhad, we see Daniel at home with his young daughter


Lara, who is hiding under her bed for fear that the Ruiz home will once again be hit by gunfire in a drive-by shooting, as we learn from the conversation between Daniel and his daughter, that it once has before. Daniel is portrayed as a sensitive, model father, a hardworking man that has moved his wife and daughter out of the dangerous neighborhood they previously lived in to a better area. To comfort Lara, he climbs under the bed with her, telling her that he possesses a invisible cloak was given to him by a fairy as a child that he now wants to give to Lara. The cloak will protect her from all harm: "nothing bad can get through it. Not bullets, nothing." Thus, in contrast to Farhad, Daniel is presented as a kindly, compassionate, and wholly decent American who is deeply committed to his family and thoroughly assimilated, despite the "gangbanger" personae suggested by the tattoos on his neck and arms. This decency show through in his first meeting with Farhad; after installing a new lock on the storekeeper's door, Daniel realizes it is not the lock that is not working, but the door itself. He goes in to tell Farhad that the storeowner actually has to replace his door, not the lock. In response, as expected, Farhad immediately becomes furious, and begins screaming that Ruiz is trying to cheat him. Trying to remain calm, Daniel tells Farhad he won't charge him for his time since the door is not fixed, and asks if Farhad "can just pay for the lock." "You no fix, but I pay?" Farhad yells, once again hysterical. "You think I'm stupid. You cheat! You fix the lock!" Becoming annoyed, yet still calm, Daniel responds, "Fine, don't pay. Have a good night," then exits the store. Thus despite its new lock, Farhad's door remains broken, and the next morning, when he comes into work, he finds that his store has been ransacked, with epithets like "RAGHEAD" and "TOWELHEAD" spray-painted all over its walls. Farhad immediately calls the lock company for which Daniel works, convinced that it was Daniel's inability to fix his


lock that is to blame for his store being broken into. As he screams at the lock company's tattooed receptionist, who explains to Farhad that her company bears no responsibility since Daniel had told Farhad he had a broken door, Farhad's wife, Shereen, aggressively scrubs the store's wall, at one point turning to Dorri, who has just arrived, and saying mournfully, "Look what they wrote. They think we're Arab. When did Persian become Arab?" In the background, we hear Farhad continually yelling at the lock company receptionist, ranting over and over that he "want[s] the name" of the locksmith who visited his store the previous evening. Shereen's response to the store's break-in is particularly generative for the purposes of understanding how an orientalized trope of "Islam," "Arabs," and "Muslims" operates throughout Crash. As opposed to Dorri, Shereen is portrayed as a "traditional" Muslim woman who wears hijab and seemingly defers to the wishes of her generally histrionic husband. With her headscarf wrapped strangely around her head in a haphazard configuration that does not resemble any of the standard methods of how hijab is generally worn by Muslim women,79 Shereen appears completely stunned that anyone in post-9/11 America might confuse her Persian family for Arabs. In considering her response, I want to suggest that Shereen's question ("Since when did Persians become Arab?") reflects how, in addition to the film's fantasy portrayal of Graham's post-racial desires, Crash also constructs the characters of Farhad, Shereen, and Dorri merely to perform a particular function in enabling the film's narrative of redemptive interracial intimacy, a portrayal which is not grounded in any sort of Muslim-American/Persian-American "reality." Indeed, Haggis'


A quick Google search of "hijab styles" reveals over 43,000 hits for sites describing the numerous types of styles and trends in headscarf fashion. While it would be impossible for me to list the huge range of


depiction of Shereen and her family is intensely problematic on a number of fronts. First and foremost, the marked ignorance both Shereen and Farhad display about the manner in which Persians are, and have been, perceived in the U.S. is highly unrealistic; in addition to Farhad's bad behavior in the gun shop, it is difficult to believe that any woman in Shereen's positiona woman who wears hijab, and has been in the U.S. long enough to raise a grown daughter completing her medical residencywould be surprised that "Persians" might be conflated or confused with "Arabs," not only following 9/11, but ever since Iran entered the American consciousness through the events of the 1979 described in the previous chapter. Secondly, the film's portrayal of the family's ignorance of American cultural norms and opinions is rendered even more suspect when one considers that Los Angeles has often been called "Tehrangeles" due to the large number of Iranians residing there, an estimated population of 600,000 which is comprised of both Muslims and Jews and constitutes the largest concentration of Iranians living outside of Iran. Many of the Iranian diasporic community in LA. emigrated to the U.S. following the fall of the Shah, and are thus, as one article put it, "all Iran, they were not maids or shepherds but people who had enough sophistication and cash to get to America."80 And while I am sure there are certainly exceptions to this categorization, most accounts of the Iranian diaspora in LA. portray the community as a professionalized, highly-educated, and more than anything, tightly-knit community, which "boasts 10 Iranian newspapers; numerous Iranian-owned stores, restaurants and other businesses; locally produced Iranian television and radio

methods for tying hijab here, suffice it say the enormous yield of the search results demonstrates that for Muslim women, the manner in which one wraps the hijab is quite significant. 80 Heather Catherine Orr, "Tehrangeles: La., the Iranian Expatriate Capital Abroad," Persian Journal, August 19 2004.


shows; Iranian yellow pages; and the largest Persian bookstore outside of Iran."81 Finally, besides the fact that Farhad never interacts with anyone beyond his family and Ruiz, he and Shereen themselves are never seen in any setting except the family store, a portrayal that denies the couple any and all forms of sociality beyond their work. Thus, while it would seem that Haggis made the decision to make Farhad and family "Persian" as opposed to "Arab" in order to demonstrate the director's own cultural competency in regards to the differences between the two groups, the film in fact winds up putting forth an utterly generic depiction of Muslim backwardness and the unassimilable nature of Islam. To put it another way, despite the family's presence within the nation's borders, they are, borrowing a term from Johannes Fabian completely "denied coevalness" in their "American" lives in the very same orientalized fashion as those "living in mudhuts" overseas: unable to access the same temporal plane of cultural reality as other characters in the film.82 Following the break-in, Farhad learns from an Asian American insurance agent that his insurance company refuses to cover the damage inflicted on the store due to their conclusion that the break-in was caused by Farhad's negligence to fix his broken door. Left with no other recourse, Farhad decides that he must seek revenge on Ruiz, whose name he finds on a crumpled invoice in the trash. The next time we see Farhad, he is parked in front of Daniel's home, where we see the locksmith's daughter hugging her mother after returning home from school. Gun in hand, Farhad remains in front of the Ruiz home, until eventually, Daniel pulls up in front of the house in the company van. Then, in what is perhaps the film's most harrowing scene, Farhad exits his car and approaches Daniel,

81 82

ibid. Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

gripping his gun. Confronting Daniel, Farhad tells him to "give me my money," assuming that it is Ruiz that has robbed his store. As their altercation ensues, Lara Ruiz runs to door, and sees Farhad pointing the gun at her father. Lara exclaims to her mother, who is inside washing dishes, that "he hasn't got it," referring to the magical cloak Daniel has given her that is supposed to protect her from everything, "including bullets." Bounding out of the house, Lara throws herself into her father's arms, just as Farhad fires the gun at Ruiz. The camera closes in around Daniel's face as he screams out in agony, believing that his daughter has just been shot and killed. Then, suddenly, just as the audience has begun to process the fact that Daniel's young daughter is dead, we hear Lara's voice in a whisper: "It's okay, Daddy. I'll protect you." Daniel feels ups and down Lara's back, searching for a wound, finding nothing. Lara is unharmed. Clutching his child in his arms, Daniel takes one last glance at Farhad, then alongside his wife, silently turns and enters his home. In the shooting's aftermath, the film offers one final scene of Farhad. Sitting in a darkened and empty store, Farhad is curled on the ground, still holding the gun. Dorri enters and squats in front of her father, her eyes searching his face for clues to what has taken place. DORRI: FARHAD: FARHAD: DORRI: FARHAD: DORRI: FARHAD: FARHAD: Baba, what did you do? I shoot a little girl. (Dorri gasps) She's okay...the gun shoot her, but she's OK, Dorri. Nothing happen... Oh my God. She's my firishta. What are you talking about? My firishta, Dorri. My angel. She came to protect me. To protect us. Understand? (Dorri nods and Farhad hands her the gun) Take it. Please.

Dorri does take the gun and walks over to the register, where she places the firearm in her purse and opens a drawer where we see the red box of ammo she requested at the gun

store. For the first time in the film, we see the label, which reads "Westminster 38 SpecialBLANKS." The scene also marks the only moment of the film in which Farhad is not histrionic; in fact, for the first time, the storeowner is calm, quiet, and almost serene, apparently exorcised of the one character traitragethat has marked him throughout. As stated earlier, Farhad is the only of the film's non-White, non-Black characters that undergoes a fundamental transformation during the course of the film: Daniel is portrayed as an upstanding, decent, and thoroughly placid citizen throughout, who does not even seem to anger following Farhad's "shooting" of Lara, while the film's only semi-prominent Asian character is the Korean human trafficker, of whom we know nothing except that he is married to the loud Korean woman involved in the accident with Ria at the beginning, and in perhaps the film's most far-fetched moment, is portrayed as dim-witted enough to conduct his sale of slaves with a personal check. Unlike these characters, Farhad is depicted as experiencing a profound epiphany following the incident with Daniel and his daughter, through which he apparently comes to realize that his life in America is "okay," and that both himself and his family are not the victims of injustice that he has perceived them to be throughout, but actually the blessed recipients of the divine "protection" of Farhad's//'r/s/7tothe Persian word for angelembodied by Lara Ruiz. Invoking his religious beliefs for the first time as well, Farhad appears to ultimately have realized the destructiveness and futility of his rage at Daniel Ruiz, the insurance agency, those who vandalized his store, the gun shop owner, or any other individuals or institutions in his adopted land he might have once perceived as a threat or cause for alarm. This realization that leads him to give up his gun, thus relinquishing the one item that had provided him


with any sense of safety or protection, and the symbol through which he had asserted his rights as a U.S. citizen ("I am U.S. citizen! I have right to buy gun!") Yet, in unpacking the sequence of events leading up to Farhad's scene of salvation, I want to ask: what or who ultimately prevents Farhad from killing Lara Ruiz? In the final scene in the store, it appears that Dorri was aware that she had purchased blanks for her father's gun. However, her decision to choose the red box of blanks did not arise out of careful deliberation or conscious intention, but as a result of the tense exchange between herself and the gun shop owner that occurred after Farhad had been escorted out of the store. In her attempt to brush off the store owner's simultaneously racist, sexist, and demeaning comments about how much "bang she want[ed] for her buck," Dorri hastily chose the red box of blanks in order to escape the gun store owner's sordid and offensive comments; in fact, it's unclear whether she was aware she chose blanks until after the purchase. In addition, if not for the store owner's racist and imperialist attitudes, expressed in his comments about "planning the jihad," "flying 747s into...mudhuts," Farhad would not have been ejected from the store at all, thus leaving him to choose the ammunition he would have wanted, which most likely have been real bullets, not blanks. Thus, Farhad's true "savior" is, in the nuts and bolts narrative logic of the film, the only white man he has interacted with throughoutthe gun shop owner. In the end, Farhad's gun did not "shoot" Lara Ruiz because the gun store owner sold Dorri a box of blanks, a transaction fundamentally determined by the store owner's racist and imperialist attitudes about Farhad's status as a "citizen" within the U.S. and America's role as "liberator" in the Middle East, coupled with virulent misogyny he displays towards Dorri. Thus, though it seems at first that the film sets up the exchange between Farhad, Dorri, and gun shop owner in order


to expose the gun shop owner's racist ignorance, and expose the types of injustices Muslim Americans might be encountering in post-9/11 America, in the end, it in fact appears that the gun shop owner's xenophobia, nativism, sexism, and racism wind up playing a crucial and necessary role in enabling Farhad's salvation. In other words, while Farhad's final scene is staged a sort of religious awakening, it is not "Islam" (which literally means "submission to Allah") he submits to, but the subordinated racial positioning he as a "good Muslim" must now assume in a post-9/11, post-racial, and unified America. In this way, Crash's portrayal of the Persian Muslim immigrant storekeeper, and his positioning within the larger framework of the film, mirrors Samuel Huntington's assertions in The Clash of Civilizations and Who Are We? concerning the "external" threats of Islam, and the "internal" threats of what he calls multiculturalism, represented by those who do not accept the U.S.'s Western European cultural foundations and deny the importance of securing and maintaining American global hegemony. Throughout the film, Farhad simultaneously represents both such external and internal threats, demonstrating how "Islam" must be simultaneously pacified and demonized in the nation's racial equations in a time of war. Representing film's external foreign enemy, Farhad remains emphatically outside the fold of Black-White interracial intimacy that lies at heart of the film's "healing," and is portrayed primarily as an Orientalized otherbackward, non-coeval, and hopelessly unassimilable in his "native" form. On the other hand, as an enemy now within the nation's borders, Farhad must also me made to submit to the American Creed; he can no longer be angry, hostile, or disgruntled about the racism and xenophobia directed against himself, his ethnicity, or his faith, and like Dr. Prentice, Simon, and Detective Graham Waters, he must now also place his faith in the teleological freedom narrative of American liberal democracy


that has been at the heart of all the films I have discussed in this chapter. However, as already noted, it is critical to realize that the threat symbolized by Farhad is only made tangible through the character of Daniel Ruiz. In that Crash renders Ruiz wholly "American" through the locksmith's completely assimilated persona and obvious commitment to the nation, the film also offers a post-racial solution to white racial anxiety felt by Mack in Grand Canyon regarding "Mrs. Flores" and "Mr. Due," and the problem of "Hispanization" posed by Huntington, by offering Daniel Ruiz as the template of ideal citizenship that Farhad is to follow into his participation into the humanizing "sense of touch." In the end, I argue that Crash answers Haggis' and Huntington's question about "who we are" by reaffirming a model of American nationalism and citizenship, ideologically rooted in the anti-Communist logics of the Cold Wara crude and banal logic that tells us that "we" will stand most united in the face of an irrevocably foreign "them." While at first glance, Crash's sentimentalized plotlines and sanguine expressions of post-racial unity might seem a far cry from (what many have deemed) Huntington's reactionary rhetoric, both Haggis's film and the clash of civilizations thesis ultimately advance a similarly tenacious commitment to a neoliberal assertion of American nationalism. Thus, even as Huntington warns of racial and ethnic insurgency from within the nation, his conclusions are, in a sense, extremely inclusive: anyone who is will to commit themselves to "the heritage of Western civilization and politically the principles of the American Creed" may be admitted into the national "we," regardless of their racial, ethnic, or religious background. In the same way, Crash's post-racial fantasies are implicitly steeped in a desire to recruit the nation's OthersGraham Waters, Daniel Ruiz, and finally, Farhadto commit themselves to a united American "we," a commitment sought through the movie's sentimentalized


language of healing and recovery"the sense of touch" that supposedly bridges cultural, political, ideological, and racial divides. In this sense, I believe the clash of civilizations thesis and cultural constructions of the post-racial such as that found in Crash constitutes two sides of the same neo-orientalist coin, both imploring Americans to stand "united" behind two of the foremost discourses of post-9/11 American nationalismthat of "getting beyond race" and "fighting Terror." While never directly referenced, postcolonial scholar Ann Laura Stoler's work on imperialism and intimacy has been crucial to my thinking throughout this chapter, and specifically in regards to how "intimate matters and narratives about them figured in defining the racial coordinates and social discriminations of empire."83 Thus, while I do not directly incorporate a critique of empire or imperialism into my analysis here, it is my sincere hope that the imperial biopolitics inherent in these narratives of interracial intimacy have been made alarmingly clear as reflections of larger state governing techniques that have relied on "the disciplining of individual bodies and the regulations of the life process of aggregate human populations."84 In addition, Raymond Williams' oft-cited concept of the "structure of feeling" has also been key in my ability to recognize how forms of repressive state power are integral in producing cultural narratives of moving beyond race during moments of crisis, and to understanding why sentimentalized tales of interracial intimacy resonate so powerfully during times of war. In addressing the structure of feeling, Williams writes, we are "defining a social experience which is still in process, often indeed not yet recognized as social but taken to be private, idiosyncratic, and even isolating, but which in


Ann Laura Stoler, "Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American History and (Post) Colonial Studies," Journal of American History 88, no. 3 (2001). 84 Michel Foucault, cited in Stoler, p. 832


analysis (though rarely otherwise) has its emergent, connecting, and dominant characteristics, indeed its specific hierarchies."85 Indeed, historical hindsight allows me to see the outcomes of the shifting configurations of the color-blind cultural Zeitgeist that were "in process" during the first two films discussed here, e.g. how the ideology of civil rights racial liberalism undergirding Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was contingent on the elision of emergent discourses of Black radicalism and internationalism, or how the type of multiculturalist desires expressed in Grand Canyon became instrumental in the xenophobic logics driving anti-immigration bills such as California's Proposition 187 in 1994 and Proposition 209 in 1996. And while it is perhaps too soon to fully ascertain what specific hierarchies will emerge out of the "post-racial" desires underlying our current racialized structure of feeling, which I believe are encapsulated in Haggis' Crash, I do think it is safe to say that post-racial discourse does appear to embody one of the central contradictions of our times: how the continuing desire to do away with race coincides and intersects with new forms of racialization and racism which are always on the rise. Thus, in thinking through how the "literal ache" for a post-racial future continues to develop upon the orientalized landscape of the contemporary U.S., I hope this chapter has in a small way revealed the powerful pressures our desire for "a sense of touch" exerts upon the national discourse on race. In examining this "touch," we might come to delineate the contours of the "specific hierarchies" of power that will surely shape our future, at home and in the world.

Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 132.


CHAPTER THREE "Common Cause:" On the Black-Immigrant Debate and Constructing the Muslim American

"Whether cultures are inherited or consciously and deliberately created, basic problems of definitionwho belongs where or with whom, who belongs and who doesn'tare unavoidable the moment we translate our dreams of diversity into social visions and agendas." - Satya P. Mohanty1 "How does a religious civilization like Islam, which relies on a defined code of behavior and traditions based on a holy book, cope in an age which self-consciously puts aside the past and exults in diversity?" - Akbar S. Ahmed2

On June 30, 2009, the New York City council overwhelmingly passed a resolution to add two of the most important Muslim holy daysEid al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast) and Eid al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice)to the public schools' holiday calendar. The resolution was met with little opposition, both within the council itself or the general public. As the resolution's advocates pointed out, roughly 600,000 Muslims currently live in New York City, while 12 percent, or more than 100,000 of the city's public school students are Muslimnumbers, these advocates argued, that made the Muslim community welldeserved of the city's recognition. A piece in the New York Times covering the Council's decision said that the resolution's success "reflected the political maturation of the city's diverse Muslim population, which has at times seen its political and political ambitions

Satya P. Mohanty, "The Epistemic Status of Cultural Identity: On Beloved and the Postcolonial Condition," in Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernisn, ed. Paula M.L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000). 2 Akbar S. Ahmed, Postmodernism and Islam: Predicament and Promise (London: Routledge, 1992), 5.

hamstrung by schisms among competing groups."3 Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, a leader of the predominately Black American Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem and a major proponent of the resolution, attested to the increasing unity amongst the city's Muslims, saying: "When there are issues of common concern and broad-based impact, the people put aside their differences and unite around a common cause."4 Throughout this dissertation thus far, I have considered how various configurations of an orientalized "Islam"as religion, culture, and/or global discourse of powerhave been constructed in relation to domestic racial politics of the nation since the close of the 1970s, first from the perspective of the American media (Chapter One) and then in the Hollywood cinema (Chapter 2). In this final chapter, I turn my attentions to the manner in which Muslims living in the U.S. have situated themselves within and in relation to domestic discourses of race, gender, and culture, and explore how the emergent contours of a distinctly "Muslim American" identity might be most successfully theorized at the scholarly intersections of ethnic, gender, and religious studies scholarship, as well as civic discourses of race and religion. As Jodi Eichler-Levine and Rosemary R. Hicks recently reminded us, "Prevailing ideas about 'ethnicity,' 'race,' and 'religion' developed out of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European understandings of Christianity and scientific inquiry and have influenced each other greatly."5 Thus, while there are a myriad of historical, social, and political reasons for why these modern categories have been parsed and separated, I propose that it is critical for those working in the fields named above to consistently

3 4

Kirk Semple, "Council Votes for Two Muslim School Holidays," New York Times, July 1 2009. Ibid. 5 Jodi Eichler-Levine and Rosemary R. Hicks, "As Americans against Genocide: The Crisis in Darfur and Interreligious Political Activism," American Quarterly 59, no. 3 (2007).


theorize the category of the "Muslim American" as an ethnoracial-religious identity which is also fundamentally imbricated by discourses of class, gender, sexuality.6 Drawing upon notions of epistemological truth and identity articulation derived from the work of Satya P. Mohanty and Stuart Hall, I first consider a constitutive debate within the Muslim American community concerning the issue of Black-immigrant conflictthrough an examination of arguably the most influential text that has yet emerged to address the topic, Sherman A. Jackson's Islam and the Blackamerican. I engage the text from an ethnic studies perspective, and ask how Jackson's assertions might be contextualized through existing theories of comparative racialization, in particular those which have addressed issues of Black-Asian intersection. Taking into consideration Satya Mohanty's assertion that the "recovery of an individual's sense of personal worth...partly depends on finding the right social or political theory,"7 I argue issues of Black-immigrant difference in the Muslim American community have yet to be examined through the "right" interdisciplinary intermixture of theories of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and religion which might provide Muslim Americans new discursive horizons for articulating the "common cause[s]" of their communities. As the example of the campaign to institute Eid holidays in New York public schools above indicates, issues of faith lie at the heart of the social visions and agendas of a cohesive Muslim American community. Thus, as an ethnic studies scholar myself, I want to be particularly mindful in considering how forms of spiritual practice have informed routes of cultural expression and political activism, as well as how Islamic spiritual practices have

For more on this term, see Henry Goldschimdt and Elizabeth McAlister, Race, Nation, and Religion in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). 7 Mohanty, "The Epistemic Status of Cultural Identity: On Beloved and the Postcolonial Condition," 62.


themselves developed in relation to what many Muslims know as urfan Arabic Islamic term denoting the customs and practices of a given society, in this case, the U.S. To this end, I introduce the Islamic concept of the ummah as part of this chapter's critical vocabulary. A term familiar to all Muslims, the concept of ummah is drawn directly from the Qur'an and refers to a global "community of believers" who struggle in unison to submit their will to the Will of Allah. In the most basic sense, Muslims understand that they are to put aside their individual identities and personal desires for the sake of the ummaha global collective that must work together to uphold what is right, forbid injustice, and worship Allah. In the American context, however, determinations of what the "common causes" of the ummah have been directly affected by domestic differences of race, ethnicity, class, and gender, as well as the transnational contexts out of which so many immigrant Muslims are formed. Such differences have led various scholars, such as Jamillah Karim, to speak of an "American ummah" in order to more accurately identify the discursive contours of "justice," both in the spiritual and political sense, in nation fundamentally stratified by race, class, and gender.8 In this regards, it is my contention that the Muslim American community presents a particularly fascinating set of issues for scholars interested in the formation of interracial or intraethnic political coalition, due to the community's obligatory commitment to empower the ummah. Indeed, part of the "political maturation" of the Muslim American communities currently taking place appears to arise out of an understanding that they will have the most success as a community in promoting the "common cause" of the American ummah's shared spiritual practice, despite marked

Jamillah Karim, American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender within the Ummah (New York: New York University Press, 2009).


political differences about how they view the attacks of 9/11, questions of U.S. imperialism and militarism, Israel/Palestine, racism and anti-racism, etc. In investigating the theoretical underpinnings of a central debate that currently informs the formation of the American ummah, I hope to pose some critical questions that might lead us towards a richer understanding of both the "schisms" and "common cause" of Muslim American communities. At the same time, however, I hope this chapter also reveals the vibrancy, creativity, and dynamism that marks contemporary Muslim communities through examples highlighting the emergence of indigenous Muslim American hip hop, controversies over female-led prayer services and Muslim-owned liquor stores, and unprecedented forms of coalition and political activismall of which have critically informed the evolution of "Muslim America" over the tumultuous course of a post-9/11 decade.

"The Right Social or Political Theory"? In his essay, "The Epistemic Status of Cultural Identity: On Beloved and the Postcolonial Condition," Satya P. Mohanty suggests that cultural identity, as understood from what he calls a postpostivist realist perspective, is formed in the "fusion" between personal experience and the social and theoretical experiences and knowledges with which this experience comes in contact and thus finds realization or voice. In this way, Mohanty argues, there is "an epistemic status of cultural identity," i.e. a personal, social, and thoroughly experiential "truth" that animates the core of group and community identities


that are conceived within wider frameworks of social relations. 9 Constructed as a response to postmodernist theories of identity so pervasive amongst the academic left in the 1990s (and in particular French poststructuralist theory), Mohanty's post-positivist realist theory of identity bears a great deal of resemblance to the ideas contained in a brief, but remarkable essay written by Stuart Hall in 1996 entitled "Minimal Selves." Also conceived as a reply to the seemingly endless fracturing of identities enacted by postmodernism, Hall's piece is a deeply personal meditation on the construction of identity in Great Britain during an era in which he observes that the "centering of marginality" seems to have become "the representative postmodern experience." 10 Like Mohanty, Hall also seems to posit a moment of "fusion" between personal experience and social-cultural-political theory as crucial to identity formation"Identity is formed at the unstable point where the 'unspeakable' stories of subjectivity meet the narratives of history, of a culture." 11 Consequently, both Mohanty and Hall appear to agree that some form of "truth" lies at the heart of various forms of identitya truth that is "not forever, not totally universally true,"

In a reading of Toni Morrison's Beloved, Mohanty offers a reading of the text that demonstrates how the quest for moral meaning and cultural identity for two of the book's protagonists, Sethe and Paul D, is entirely dependent upon a "revisionary historiography" of Middle Passage and African chattel slavery that fundamentally reveals "a new understanding...of the role of motherhood in slavery" (54-5). Only with such an understanding of "the historical achievement of motherhood" can one accurately grapple with the act of infanticide that lies at the heart of the text's narrative, in the way this history enables us to "come to terms with the historical community (Sethe) claims as her own, and reexamine the moral theory we bring with us (to our reading of the novel)." This is not to say that one should simply accept all forms of identity politics as justified, or that any particular versions (e.g. "progressive") should be privileged. Rather, as should be the case with all forms of scholarly inquiry, Mohanty suggests that we must "examine the details of what is being claimed" and determine if these claims are "good" depending on "the cogency of the background theories they draw on, which often necessarily have deep moral and evaluative content." Thus, as in the fields of the philosophy of science and general scientific inquiry from which Mohanty derives his analysis, a postpositivist realist persepective of identity, while certainly subject to change, asserts that an epistemic "truth" of a particular identity can generally arise out of a wide consensus of moral and theoretical inquiry. 10 Stuart Hall, "Minimal Selves," in Black British Cultural Studies, ed. Houston A. Baker, Manthia Diawara, and Ruth H. Lindeborg (Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1996). "Ibid.


but one enables a person to claim that, "just now, this is what I mean; this is who I am,"12 thus articulating the sense of closure necessary to form sociopolitical affiliations of race, gender, culture, etc. "Such claims and feelings," Mohanty concludes, "embody alternative

and antihegemonic accounts of what is significant and in fact necessary for a more accurate understanding of the world we all share." With Mohanty and Hall's thoughts in mind, I want to first ask: how does scholarship on Muslim Americans account for the core "epistemic status" of members of a religious community who have come to be regarded through various forms of racialization due to the state-sanctioned and sponsored criminalization of Islam in the wake of 9/11? To cite Steven Salaita once more, in general "9/11 altered nearly all aspects of American life;" more specifically, however, it fundamentally changed the lives of every Muslim and Arab within the nation (as well as, arguably, beyond), overdetermining all things associated with "Islam," "Muslims," and "Arabs" with a surplus of meaning that simultaneously associated Islam with both "terror" and "tolerance," as a religion of "war" and "peace," and made Muslim Americans both "us" and "them."13 In the near decade since, Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. have been thrust into a cultural spotlight in which they have been continually required to account for all of their religion's supposed shortcomingsa position for which a
ibid. The conflation of the terms "Muslim" and "Arab" has been the subject of much deliberation, and in many cases, hand-wringing on my part. Steven Salaita, a scholar whose work I much admire, has argued for the advancement of the term "anti-Arab racism as a more accurate replacement for traditional descriptors Orientalism and Islamophobia in relation to the negative portrayal of Arabs in the United States." While I agree that "anti-Arab racism" is a far more accurate term to describe the misrepresentation of the Arab community in the U.S., which is largely Christian and includes many Jews, I also think at this moment in time, it is simply not feasible to merely focus on the racist discrimination that has been directed at Arabs without a constant acknowledgment that this discrimination also always effects the Muslim community as a whole, and vice versa. As such, I believe it is the responsibility of those working in the areas of Arab American and Muslim American studies to further tease out the intricacies and differences in the usage of these terms. For more, see Steven Salaita, "Beyond Orientalism and Islamophobia: 9/11, Anti-Arab Racism, and the Mythos of National Pride," CR: The New Centennial Review 6, no. 2 (2006).
13 12


great deal of the Muslim community in the U.S. was, and still is, vastly underprepared, while constantly being viewed through what Mahmood Mamdani has called the "Good MuslimBad Muslim" paradigm, in which Muslims are required to express an unabashed allegiance to Western ideals of liberal democracy in order to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the state.14 Furthermore, while 9/11 powerfully reinforced racialized and gendered archetypes of Islam as either brown-skinned Arab or South Asian male terrorists, or brown-skinned women in hijab, the taint of "Islam" also demonstrated an amazing ability to cross racial boundaries, just as easily vilifying and criminalizing white "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh,15 as Black American Washington sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad,16 or Chinese American U.S. Army Muslim chaplain James Yee,17 by simply associating them with the threat of "radical Islam." In a 2007 Pew Research Center study conducted on the demographics, attitudes, and opinions of American Muslims, both immigrant and nativeborn, stated that a majority of Muslim Americans (54%) believed "the government's antiterrorism efforts single out Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring."18 Among

Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Pantheon, 2004). 15 Lindh, a white convert to Islam from the Bay Area, became known as the "American Taliban" after he was captured as an enemy combatant during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. He is currently serving 20 years in prison. 16 Muhammad, along with accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo, carried out a series of sniper attacks in 2002, killing ten people. While there was no evidence to suggest Muhammad's actions were in any way related to terrorist ties or political ideology (a number of written diatribes by Malvo contained references to both Osama Bin Laden and the Matrix movies), many concluded that Muhammad and Malvo were Islamic Terrorist and that the sniper attacks were part of their efforts to wage jihad. Muhammad, who converted to Islam in 1987, is currently on death row in Maryland. 17 Yee was the Muslim chaplain at the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp until September 10, 2003, when he was arrested on charges of sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage, and failing to obey a general order. During his trial, he was kept in solitary confinement for almost three months and forced to undergo sensory deprivation treatments, which he documents in his 2005 autobiography For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire (New York: Public Affairs). All charges were later dropped or reduced to much more minor offences. 18 Report, "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream," (Washington D.C.: Pew Research Center, 2007), 36.


native-born Muslims, both Black and non-Black, this number was even higher, with 72% of Black American Muslims and 74% of non-Black Muslims saying Muslims were singled out by the state for extra surveillance.19 In other words, the racializing effects of post-9/11 Islamophobia in the U.S. constitute an uneasy " t r u t h " that epistemically binds the majority of Muslim Americans, creating a shared consciousness of the types of discrimination, prejudice, and misunderstanding that have been directed at both the religion of Islam and its wide range of followers. In addition, however, Muslim Americans remain a religious community with, as Ahmed Akbar writes in this chapter's second epigraph, a "defined code of behavior and traditions based on a holy book." As such, thinking about the "epistemic status" of Muslim American identity also fundamentally requires an observer to account for the "truth" of Islam, i.e. the fact that any claimant of a Muslim American identity premises their assertion in a certain level of belief (or for that matter, disbelief20) in Islam's most basic creed, known as the shahada: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God," and thus, has had to formulate some form of religious practice within the contexts of a contemporary, multicultural, and liberal-democratic American society. Thus, as a basic premise of this chapter, I want to suggest that these two "truths"that of the discriminatory effects of post-9/11 Islamophobia coupled with some form of relationship with the shahada and the formulation of religious practice within the U.S.represent a



In internal discussions within the Muslim American community, most notably during 2004 and 2005, when website emerged to advance the notion of "progressive Islam," it was often argued whether or not one could be a "secular" Muslim, one who was "culturally" connected to Islam but did not ascribe to the basic tenets of the faith. As one might imagine, the conversations ultimately ended in acrimony. As various activists and commentators within the community have argued, however, in the face of state-sponsored profiling and violence that does not discriminate between "secular" and "practicing" Muslims, such debates are ultimately unproductive.


rudimentary foundation from which we might begin to understand the construction of distinctly Muslim American subjectivities. The task then stands, to return to the ideas of Mohanty and Hall cited above, to track the points of fusion between such subjectivities and in Hall's words, "the narratives of history, of a culture," or in Mohanty's terms, "the right social and political theory" that might constitute the basis of a socially-enfranchised and politically-viable communal identity. This is a both exciting and tricky undertaking, due to how the two "truths" outlined above stand in a constant and dialectical relationship with various other affiliations of race, ethnicity, culture, and national citizenship that Muslim Americans might alternatively or simultaneously claim as primary forms of identification (e.g. "Black," "Syrian," "Persian," "Indonesian") which are also always refracted through the subjectivities of class, gender, sexuality, regional difference, etc. The incredible diversity of the Muslim American community has been touted often in recent years; hailing from at least 68 countries, Muslim Americans are a multiracial, multigenerational, and for many, a resolutely transnational community, as many immigrant Muslims retain close ties with their countries of origin and well as remaining in tight-knit communities with others members of their specific religiouscultural communities, while Black American Muslims might represent the fourth or fifth generation of Muslims in their respective communities. As such, I ask: what forms of scholarly, political, cultural, and/or theological discourse might contain "the right social and political theory" that speaks to Muslim American experiences? What historical and cultural narratives might serve to animate Muslim Americans as a collective while also acknowledging the capacious and sprawling histories and racial and ethnic divisions that fundamentally characterize their communities? And finally, what is at stakepolitically,


socially, and culturally, both for Muslim American communities and the nation itselfin pursuing richer and more nuanced understandings of a distinctly Muslim American identity? While none of these questions can be definitively answered here, I do want, at the very least, to attempt an analysis here that speaks to my own experiences as an ethnic and cultural studies scholar and convert to Islam, who has been investigating the racialization of Islam in the U.S. for most of the last decade. Prior to my research on Islam, my work centered around issues of Black-Asian intersection and comparative racialization, specifically in the realm of popular culture, a field of inquiry that led me directly into the study of Islam's development and influence in Black American communities in the later half of the 20th century. As my work moved into the study of American orientalism and Islam that became the focus of this dissertation, I was, for quite some time, deeply perplexed by the dearth of scholarly inquiry in the field of ethnic studies addressing Muslim or Arab American communities or representations of Islam in the U.S., as well as the elisions of Black American Islam (as discussed in the Introduction) in the pioneering work of Edward Said. At the same time, I felt a strong disconnect with various works written by American religious studies scholars on topics of Black American Islam and Islam's history in the U.S.,21 due to the manner in which these texts did not appear to address or acknowledge the many critical theories of race, ethnicity, and comparative racialization that in my perspective seemed so relevant for anyone engaged with the study of Muslims in the Americas. Furthermore, these analytical gaps have also made it difficult to find disciplinary homes
This was certainly not the case with all existing texts on the subject of Black American Islam and Black American Muslims, of which there are many wonderful and informative volumes that have been extremely valuable to me, including: Edward E. Curtis, Islam and Black America: Identity, Liberations, and Difference in African-American Islamic Thought (New York: State University of New York Press, 2002), C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, Ml: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), Aminah Beverly McCloud, African American Islam (New York: Routledge, 1995), Richard Brent Turner, Islam in the African American Experience (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997).

within institutions of higher learning for the study of Islam in the U.S. and Muslim American communities, i.e. what department should offer a course on Islam in America? What type of scholar should teach it? And what might be the central focus of such a course, e.g. Muslims in U.S. history, post-9/11 racialization, religious practice, culture, etc.?

The Black-Immigrant "Debate" One area of inquiry that has received a considerable amount of scholarly interest concerns the social, economic, political, and cultural differences between Black and immigrant Muslims. The "Black-immigrant debate," as it is often called, is often constituted as perhaps the central challenge facing the notion of a unified Muslim American community in the 21 st century, and represents, I want to suggest, the clearest example of an issue that would be more effectively addressed in the critical juncture between the disciplines of ethnic studies, gender studies, and religious and Islamic studies. These Black-immigrant divisions were the focus of a lengthy article in the New York Times which ran in 2007, which described "a vast gulf" between Black American Muslims and South Asian and Arab Muslim immigrants, "marked by race and class, culture, and history."22 Deep and longstanding, the origins of the differences of that have marked these communitieswhich in large part, have developed independent of one anothermight be said to date back almost four hundred years, when Islam's presence was established in the Americas with the arrival of West African Muslim slaves, who, as mentioned in the Introduction, at one point made up almost

Andrea Elliott, "Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance," New York Times, March 11 2007.


a third of the nation's slave population.

And while a firm link is yet to be established

between the histories of Black American Muslim slaves and the strong resurgence of Islam in Black communities in the North following the Great Migration of the early twentieth century through "proto-lslamic" movements such as that led by Marcus Garvey, the Moorish Science Temple, and the Nation of Islam, one might certainly make a case that Islam is part and parcel of, to borrow a term from Avery Gordon, the "ghostly matter" of a Black American historical consciousness, not only a signifier of religious belief, but "a social figure," whose investigation "can lead to that dense site where history and subjectivity make social life."24 Thus until the mid-1960s, Islam's material presence in the U.S. was unambiguously grounded in Black American communities, and until then, stood as a symbol of resistance to antiblack racism for the larger Black American community. However, in the post-1965 era, due to the passage of the 1965 Hart-Crane Immigration Act and unstable political circumstances in South Asia and the Arab world, the nation witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of South Asians and Arabs living and working in the U.S., a demographic shift that irrevocably changed the composition of the Muslim American community, as well as the meaning of Islam in both the Black American and national imaginaries. According to the aforementioned Pew Center study, by 2007, 65% of U.S.

For more information on this, see Allan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum American: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles (New York: Routledge, 1997), Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 1998), Michael A. Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005). Furthermore, in regards to immigrant Muslims, it would be a worthy undertaking to consider how Blackness was configured in Asian and Arab countries under colonial rule, and how this has effected immigrant Muslim's perspectives on Blackness. 24 Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 8.

Muslims were first-generation immigrants, with a majority of these immigrants hailing from the Arab world (37%) and various regions of South Asia (27%).25 As a result, the Muslim American community came to embody two distinct, and in many cases, mutually opposed visions of Islam and the nation, one which viewed the faith as a means to counter the dehumanizing effects of white supremacy and national disenfranchisement, as was the case for Black American Muslims; and the other which saw Islam as a religious and cultural inheritance, while viewing America as a land of opportunity and prosperity, as could be said of the immigrant Muslim population. In the interaction between these two worldviews, questions of legitimacy and authenticity in regards to practices of Islam and the nature of citizenship have come to represent the central sources of tension between these groups, with immigrant Muslims, in particular native speakers of Arabic, questioning, and at times outright dismissing, the legitimacy of certain Black American practices of Islam which they consider haraam, or forbidden. Thus, more relaxed attitudes towards gender mixing, the incorporation of music and performance into spiritual practice, interaction with non-Muslims, and political assertions of one's racial identityall more prevalent in the Black American Muslim community, are often labeled by immigrant Muslims as bid'a, or reprehensible innovations, the introduction of which are seen as perverting and distorting an "authentic" practice of Islam.26 Such a view of the "illegitimacy" of Black American Muslims has led to various mainstream Muslim American organizations and large mosques, largely run by immigrants due to matters of economic



Pew Center Report, "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream." Muslims believe that the Quran, which they view as the indisputable word of God, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic, and thus all Muslims are enjoined to learn the language and eventually read the Quran in its original form. Thus, those who speak Arabic are often viewed as also the most advanced in their spiritual practice, though this is not often the case.


access, to exclude Black Americans from their leadership. Further, accusations of bid'a have continually been directed through a growing number of Islamic hip hop artists and musicians who advance explicitly Islamic themes in their music. On the other hand, Black American Muslims view immigrant Muslims as deeply ignorant of Islam's longstanding associations with the Black American community "unaware of the foundations upon which they are standing," as one Black imam put it27 and unwilling to see that the cultural and civic legitimacy of Islam in the U.S. rests in the hands of the Black American Muslim community, due to their unquestionable claims to citizenship and an indigenous anti-racist discourse. In addition, due to the fact that many Black Americans are converts to Islam, they feel that they are actually far more authentic in their practice than those immigrants or children of immigrants who have simply inherited a Muslim identity through custom or birth. A concrete manifestation of these differences arose in 2005, when two Black American Muslim men dressed in bow ties and dark suits broke entered a corner store in Oakland, CA and smashed bottles of liquor, wine, and beer with metal pipes, shattering refrigerator cases and leaving behind piles of broken glass. However they stole nothing, saying the simply wanted to deliver a message to the store's immigrant Muslim owners: stop selling liquor in poor, Black communities. In the following weeks, a number of protests by the local Muslim community ensued against Muslim-owned liquor stores across Oakland, with the protestors reiterating statements about Islam's prohibition of alcohol and its detrimental effect on communities of color, while store owners, mostly made up of Muslim immigrants from Yemen, asserted their right to pursue a livelihood in their newfound country. As one article put it, "In urban America, friction


From Elliott, "Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance."


between poor residents and the immigrant merchants who sell cigarettes, bread, and alcoholic nothing new. But the recent attack...has injected religion into the old debate."28 Furthermore, differences between Black and immigrant Muslims in the U.S. have also led to a striking shift in the nation's commonsense understandings of Islam, as well as critically affecting the ways in which gender dynamics are being negotiated and constructed in Muslim American communities. In regards to the latter, prior to 1965, Islam was viewed through the lens of Black nationalism, a "black supremacist" religion that was, as a nowinfamous 1963 Mike Wallace news documentary called it, "the hate that hate produced." However, even prior to 9/11, global events such as the 1973 oil crisis, the 1979 hostage crisis, and high-profile media coverage of airplane hijackings by Islamic Terrorists coupled with the increasing number of Arab and South Asian Muslim immigrants now living and working in the U.S. gradually led mainstream America to associate Islam and Muslims with nebulous orientalized notions of foreign oil sheiks, oppressed women in veils, and rabid religious fundamentalismstereotypes I have addressed more thoroughly in Chapter One. This misrepresentations led to a type of social, civic, and political invisibility for Black American Muslims throughout the 1970s and 80s, during which time their communities struggled to regroup and rethink their allegiances to leaders such as Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan, and eventually began transitioning en masse towards the more Islamically orthodox practices of Sunni Islam. In a way, this political invisibility provided Black American Muslim communities during the decades prior to 9/11 with a layer of protection and insulation that allowed then to develop and run their own mosques and institutions for

CBS5 News, "Oakland Liquor Store Attack Underscores Old Debate," http://cbs5.eom/local/2.439214. html (last accessed July 24, 2009)

some time. At the same time, their relative isolation and lack of political presence functioned to open up the discursive spaces for immigrant Muslims, many of whom were recent immigrants and had had little to no contact with Black American Muslims, to step into positions of authority in the eyes of the media or the state, and claim to speak for a larger community of Muslim Americans. Indeed, as the media called upon spokespeople from the Muslim American community to "represent" Islam following the 9/11 attacks, the voices of Black American Muslims were consistently ignored, elisions that have led to even deeper tensions between immigrant and Black Muslim communities. The question of gender in various Muslim American communities has also remained a constant focal point both in terms of external (mis-)representations of Islam and Muslims and divisive internal debates about authentic practices of Islam. While Chapter One of this dissertation demonstrated the way American orientalist discourse produced a racialized trope of the Poor Muslim Woman that Muslim American women must continually contend with in relationships external to their communities, culturally-influenced conceptions of proper" gender roles and the roles women should play within political and religious institutions are issues that constitute internal tensions that many confront on a daily basis within their familial and religious communities. While further study on the topic of gender in Muslim American communities is greatly needed,29 for the purposes of my work here, I want to simply comment on the way Black-immigrant difference has animated new
The corpus of scholarship on this subject is continually expanding. For current examples, see Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, ed., Living Islam out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005), Carolyn Moxley Rouse, Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, "Striving for Muslim Women's Rights-before and Beyond Beijing: An African American Perspective," in Windows of Faith: Muslim Women Scholar-Activists in Northe America, ed. Gisela Webb (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000), Ula Taylor, "As-Salaam Alaikum, My Sister, Peace Be Unto You: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Women Who Followed Him," Race and Society 1, no. 2 (1998), Karen Fraser Wyche, "African American Muslim Women: An Invisible Group," Sex Roles 51, no. 5/6 (2004).


configurations of gender politics and ethnoracial-religious/gendered identities which have arisen out of the differing social and political contexts that immigrant and Black American women view and practice Islam. In the most basic of terms, for Black American Muslim women, as within the larger Black community, Islam has long been viewed as source of empowerment, with its emphases on modesty, marriage, and a "clean" lifestyle (e.g. no alcohol, drugs, pork) seen as a means of reversing the devastating effects on Black women and the Black family enacted through the legacies of slavery; as one Black American Muslim character in Mohja Kahf s novel The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf says of her hijab, "Imagine being made to stand naked in front of a whole bunch of people...That's how it was for black women back in slavery times. Up on the auction block. Covering up is a strong thing."30 For many immigrant Muslim women, however, in particular the younger generation who might also be the second-generation children of immigrants, wearing hijab, praying in separate spaces from men, and Islam's emphasis on seemingly essentialist notions of women as mothers and wives might feel restrictive, especially in light of liberal American cultural values and norms. Such manifestations of ethnoracial-religious and gendered difference came to a head during another key controversy in the Muslim American community: the female-led jummah prayers which took place in Manhattan on March 18, 2005. For the first time, at least in a public setting, a womanBlack American Islamic studies scholar Amina Wadud led a mixed-gender Friday prayer service, an act that deliberately broke with Islamic tradition and which most Muslim jurists considered un-lslamic, and subsequently earned Wadud the ire of Muslims worldwide, many of whom viewed her as a heretic and in some

Mohja Kahf, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (New York: Carol & Graf Publishers, 2006).

cases, called for her death. However, while Wadud led the prayers, it was journalist Asra Nomani, an Indian American Muslim woman who had immigrated to the U.S. as a child, who was the prayer's central organizer and had urged Wadud's participation. Coincidentally timed to coincide with the release of Nomani's book, Standing Alone at Mecca: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam, the prayers were, according to Nomani, "a way to take back the identity of Islam from those who were trying to pervert it." 31 As with the topic of gender within the Muslim American community as a whole, the organization and media-representation of the female-led jummah services warrants much closer examination on its own terms, in large part for the manner in which it highlighted the issue of women's equity in American mosques, as well as forcing the global Islamic ummah to re-engage in sustained discussions around the topic of gender.32 However, for the purposes of my analysis here, I use the example of the jummah prayers merely to point out that while Wadud bore the brunt of the media scrutiny and criticisms of the immigrant Muslim community for leading the prayer services, despite being learned religious scholar who is fluent in Arabic, and long time community insider who has published a groundbreaking text on a female-centered reading of the Qur'an,33 Nomani was, for the large part, championed in the mainstream media as a feminist icon who was now attempting to "reform" Islam.34 While a number a overlapping circumstances contributed to the outcome of Wadud's demonization and Nomani's celebrity, I do think it is critical to
31 32

Quoted from Thomas Bartlett, "The Quiet Heretic," Chronicle of Higher Education 51, no. 49 (2005). For more on the jummah prayers, see Geneive Abdo, "When Islam Clashes with Women's Rights," Boston Globe, April 9 2005. 33 Amina Wadud, Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 34 See Vince Beiser, "A Muslim Woman's Fight to Pray," Mother Jones, January/February 2006, Andrea Useem, "Faith-to Pray Like a 'Full Citizen'," Washington Examiner, May 5 2005, Teresa Wiltz, "The Woman Who Went to the Front of the Mosque: Feminist Faces Ostracism-or Worse-for Praying among Men," The Washington Post, June 5 2005.

point out the manner in which Nomani, a relative outsider to the Muslim American community, who did not speak Arabic, had no religious training whatsoever, and was largely unknown to the general public prior to the prayers, met with little to no resistance in positioning herself as a spokesperson for the community. Nomani's ability to so easily promote herself as central voice of Muslim American "reform" demonstrates the varying, and racially and ethnically-determined, levels at which authenticity and legitimacy have been conferred upon immigrant and Black American Muslims by the mainstream media and American public. As stated earlier, the tensions and conflicts between Black and immigrant Muslims have been critical in determining trajectories of the Muslim American community in particular the way which they have sought political enfranchisement and social equity. For example, in recent years, the NY Times reported in 2007, "Black Muslims have begun advising immigrants on how to mount a civil rights campaign," while "foreign-born Muslims are giving African Americans roles of leadership in some of their mosques."35 In addition, the discussion about what constitutes a legitimate practice of Islam in American amongst these various racial and ethnic communities has led to substantive internal discussion about the role of culture within a unified Muslim American community, specifically, whether it is halal, or permissible, for observant Muslims to engage in mainstream cultural practices such as entertainment production and performance (such as the Islamic hip hop mentioned above) which would, in some way, require them to participate in what is largely viewed within the community, due to Islam's focus on modesty and humility and discouragement of ostentatious behavior, as a morally-corrupt industry. Would developing "Muslim American-


Elliott, "Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance."


ness" as a form of consumer culture, some in the community wonder, lead Muslim Americans to view Islam as some form of secular cultural identity, as has debatably come to be the case for many Jewish Americans?

Blackamerican Islam and the "Third Resurrection" In recent years, a number of essays and texts have documented or addressed the issue of Black-immigrant tensions in the American Muslim community, with most offering strong and cogent critiques of the prevalence of "immigrant hegemony."36 However, perhaps the most prominent of these critiques, and a text that has become a rallying cry for many Black American Muslims and second- and third-generation Muslims of immigrant backgrounds is Black American Arabic and Islamic Studies scholar Sherman Abdul-Hakim Jackson's Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection (London: Oxford University Press). The book, published in 2005, has not only made a decided impact in scholarly arenas, but is arguably reshaping the manner in which Black and immigrant Muslims, at least of the younger generation, are formulating relations with one another as well as how they are constructing their practices of Islam as a collective American ummah. First and foremost, Jackson's text operates as a stunning call-to-arms for Black American orthodox Sunni Muslims to enact what he calls "The Third Resurrection," in which
See Abdul-Ghafur, e<. Living Islam out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, Michelle D. Byng, "Mediating Discrimination: Resisting Oppression among African-American Muslim Women," Social Problems 45, no. 4 (1998), Jamillah Karim, "Between Immigrant Islam and Black Liberation: Young Muslims Inherit Global Muslims and African American Legacies," The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005), Jamillah A. Karim, "To Be Black, Female, and Muslim: A Candid Conversation About Race in the American Ummah," Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 26, no. 2 (2006), Karen Isaksen Leonard, "Introduction: Young American Muslim Identities," The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005), Aminah Beverly McCloud, Transnational Muslims in American Society (Gainesville, FL: Univeristy of Florida, 2006), Amina Wadud, "American Muslim Identity: Race and Ethnicity in Progressive Islam," in Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, ed. Omid Safi (Oxford: OneWorld, 2003), Wyche, "African American Muslim Women: An Invisible Group."


he extends a challenge to "Blackamerican" Muslims37 to develop "Blackamerican Muslim mastery and appropriation of the Sunni super-tradition" of Islam.38 By this, Jackson means that Black American Sunni Muslims must acquire their own competence of the established scholarly and spiritual practices of classical Sunni Islam through traditional Islamic methods such as engagement with the Qur'an, Sunna (normative practices and supplemental commentary of the Prophet Muhammad), and the Unanimous Consensus {ijma') of religious jurists which constitute what is known as usul al-fiqha "full-blown interpretive methodology" employed by Sunni Muslim scholars and jurists to determine Islamic law. Through mastery of these traditions, Jackson continues, "the structural features of classical Islam will confer upon Blackamerican Muslims both the right and the responsibility to develop their own body of concrete doctrine." In other words, Jackson urges Blackamerican Muslims to shake off the putative stronghold of an immigrant Islam that asserts Black American Muslim illegitimacy and inauthencity by aggressively pursuing an engagement with the classical foundations of Sunni Islamic theology and jurisprudence. At the same time however, Jackson firmly views practices of Blackamerican Islam as fundamentally rooted in the what he calls the cosmic "No" of the Black Religion, which extends to Black
Jackson explains his use of the neologism at the close of the text's introduction, writing, "...the explicitly American context of American Islam is alos what prompted me to vex my reader with the neologism, "Blackamerica," a term I picked up from the late C. Eric Lincoln but which, to my knowledge, he never explained. My use of the term is based on the following considerations. On the one hand, to speak simply of 'black Americans" as the counterparts of "white Americans" is to strengthen the hand of those who wish to deny or hide white privilege. On the other hand, to speak of African Americans is to give short shrift to the almost half a millennium of New World history, implying that Blackamericans are African in the same way that Italian Americans or Greek Americans are Italian or Greek. I emphatically recognize, wholly embrace, and celebrate the African origins of Blackamericans. But in my view, the force of American history has essentially transformed these erstwhile Africans into a new people. This is especially so with regard to their religious orientation. Of course, I could have opted for the hyphenated convention "Black-American." But...the whole point of the hyphenated America si that the right side of the hyphen assumes the responsibility of protecting the cultural, religious, and other idiosyncrasies of the leftside." (17) 38 Sherman A. Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 5.


American engagements with Christianity and Judaism, and has historically operated as "a pragmatic, folk-oriented, holy protest against anti-black racism."39 Thus, the 'Third Resurrection"with the period before the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975 constituting the "First Resurrection" of Blackamerican Islam and the period immediately afterward in which Blackamerican Muslims were under the divided leadership of Imam W.D. Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan as the "Second Resurrection"enjoins Black American Muslims in our contemporary era to embark on a deep and meaningful engagement with the classical traditions of Sunni Islam, while remaining firmly grounded in, and always mindful of, the racialized historical contexts out of which a uniquely Blackamerican Islam has arisen. As already stated, Jackson's polemic has had a remarkable effect beyond the bounds of scholarly discourse, and many contemporary Muslim American religious figures such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir of the Bay Area-based Zaytuna Institutearguably the most influential and well-respected institution of Islamic education in the U.S.have come out in support of the text's proposals. The book's ideas have often been cited and asserted at Friday khutbas (sermons) in predominately Black mosques across the country as a means of empowering Black American Muslim communities, while on the web and in the blogosphere, young Muslim Americans have taken up Jackson's neologism, "Blackamerican" in droves. For example, in the wake of the passing of Imam W.D. Muhammad in September 2008, Indian American Muslim comedian Azhar Usman, issued a widely-circulated essay on the internet entitled "An Apology," in which Usman apologized to his "Blackamerican brothers and sisters in Islam" for the "historical wrongdoing of so-called

Ibid., 4.


'immigrant Muslims'wrongdoings that have been so hurtful, and insulting, and degrading, and disrespectful, and dismissive, and marginalizing, and often downright dehumanizing," and closed with a heartfelt plea that directly referenced Jackson's text: "It is hoped that the passing of Imam WDM will also mark the end of chapter in our collective American Muslim history, and perhaps now, in earnest, we can all look together toward the Third Resurrection" (italics added).40 Thus, as the examples cited above indicate, for so many Muslim Americans, in particular from the Black American Muslim community, Jackson's text has struck a deeply personal chord which, for the latter group, speaks directly to their experiences of marginalization by the ideologies of Immigrant Islam. Furthermore, as a resolutely prescriptive text, Jackson's detailed directives on how Black American Muslims might enact the Third Resurrection provides the groundwork for a material course of action for developing "the social visions and agendas," to once again return to the words of Mohanty, of an indigenous Muslim American community. Indeed, as a Muslim American scholar working in ethnic studies, I find Islam and the Blackamerican an intensely moving and for all intents and purposes, vitally necessary text, one which unambiguously links the material history of the American ummah with that of Black America, and speaks passionately and purposefully to any and all Muslim Americans who also feel common cause with various communities of color in the U.S., identifications which might arise out of their particular ethnoracial-religious identity (as a Puerto Rican Muslim American, for example) or simply out of their post-9/11 racialization experiences. In the end, however, it is Jackson's emphasis away from what he calls the "false universal" of a tyrannical interpretation of an

Azhar Usman, "An Apology," Altmuslim, comment posted September 14, 2008, http://www.altmuslim.eom/a/a/a/2813/ (last accessed July 22, 2009)

"authentic" Islam that I find, perhaps, the most powerful take-way point of the text. As he so perceptively notes, a putatively "universalist" assertion of Islam advances the faith as a reified monolith in which terms like "Human," "Islam", and "justice," are all taken: to represent not particular understandings but ontological realities that are equally esteemed and apprehended by everyone, save the stupid, the primitive, or the morally depraved. From this vantage point, only those who subscribe to specific concretions of these ostensibly universal categories are justified in laying any claim to them. In this capacity, and precisely because it is so imperceptible, the false universal turns out to function as a powerful tool of domination.41 In other words, Jackson calls of the inherent weaknesses of, and dehumanizing effects that might arise out of the claims of, any one particular subset of the American ummah purporting to practice a "true" Islam, whose claims are simply substantiated through their allegedly "authentic" cultural associations/ties to the faith. As Umar Faruq Abd-Allah writes in another important essay on the an American Islam's development in to the urf of America culture which I will return to more substantively in a moment, "A successful Muslim American culture must provide psychological space for all constituents of our highly heterogeneous community, taking on a cosmopolitan cast from the outset...One size does not fit all."42

"So that you may come to know one another..." Through its passionate injunctions, Jackson's text attempts to resolve perhaps the most pressing internal issue confronting the Muslim American community todaythat of
41 42

Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection, 9. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, "Islam and the Cultural Imperative," Nawawi Foundation (2004).


the Black-immigrant divide, and thus currently stands as not only one of the most influential texts in the academic study of Black American Islam, but in determining the trajectory of the larger American ummah. It is for this reason, however, that I feel a humble obligation to supplement Jackson's important interventions and prescriptives with a few observations and interventions of my own directed from the field of ethnic studies, particularly in regards to his text's undertheorization of the particular racialized histories of South Asian and Arab immigrants in the U.S., and the complex relationships between "Third World" post-colonial emigres to the U.S. and the category of whiteness. While one might argue that these omissions have little impact on the larger impact of the text, that Jackson is speaking conceptually and at a high level of abstraction in regards to race, and that addressing such issues at length would have served as distractions away from the larger contentions of the text, which are ultimately of a religious nature, I want to suggest that a more thorough treatment of the racialized histories and racialization processes South Asian and Arab immigrants have undergone would render Jackson's arguments even more powerful in his desire reinstate Blackamerican Islam as "a source of inner strength, a builder of human character, and a bridge to salvation."43 As stated already, I advance this claim with a great deal of humility, due to the fact that I do not enter this discussion as a religious studies scholar, and acknowledge that Jackson's injunctions are consistently positioned upon and arrived at through his passionate engagement with the discursive frameworks of the classical Sunni Islamic tradition for which he so ardently argues. Further, a point I hope has come across throughout the course of this dissertation, and one I want to state once more, is that I firmly agree that any possibility of the social, economic, and political

Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection.

enfranchisement of the Muslim American community, and the only means by which to reverse the orientalizing process "Islam" has undergone over the course of the last 30 years, depends on a successful re-narration of Islam's indigenous presence in the Americas that is unequivocally linked to the histories of Black American Islam. That said, it is precisely because of Islam and the Blackamerican's importance in the task of the re-narration named above that I want to underscore a number of the text's limitations that ultimately inhibit its ability, to return to Mohanty's words from earlier on this chapter, to engender "a more accurate understanding of the world we all share." I propose that immigrant Muslims in the U.S. have a far more complex relationship to racial categories, and in particular, the trope of whiteness, than Jackson indicates, and briefly consider how a number of contemporary theories of race, class, and ethnicity might be employed as a means to further engage and contextualize some of the assertions in the text. By identifying the ways in which Jackson's analysis might be supplemented by various theories of comparative racialziation, I want to demonstrate that "the right social and political" theory for addressing the Black-immigrant debate would fundamentally interweave the language of spiritual and religious common cause with a firm grasp of the racialized histories of that have led Muslim Americans to conceive of Black-immigrant relations terms as a "problem," as opposed to a unique occasion for a deromanticized undertaking of interracial coalition or collaboration. The distinctiveness of the situation is grounded in faith; the Qu'ran unequivocally enjoins Muslims to build common cause through mutual respect and understanding in the well-known and oft-cited passage:


"Behold, We have created you all out of a male and female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another."44

"Real Whiteness" Throughout Islam and the Blackamerican, Jackson makes quite clear that his censure of Immigrant Islam does not translate into a blanket condemnation of immigrant Muslims themselves, saying: I should add that Immigrant Islam is not synonymous with immigrant Muslims, especially those of the second and third generation, many of who are actually opposed to its hegemony. Thus, while a successful Third Resurrection will not necessarily attack the false pretensions of immigrant Islam in general, this does not mean that it must target immigrant Muslims. The Third Resurrection is aimed at ideas, not at people.45 Consequently, in addition to clarifying that he is denouncing the ideology of Immigrant Islam as opposed to individual immigrant Muslims themselves, he also does acknowledge the colonial contexts out of which many South Asian and Arab Muslim immigrants have formed their conceptions of a "true" Islam, one shaped by the violence of the colonial encounter and directly linked to the inferior status with which they were conferred by conquerors in their native lands. Additionally, Jackson is consistently mindful of the omnipresence and deeply-etched historical legacies of white supremacy, and how these legacies have been instrumental in the ways Asian and Arab immigrant Muslims position


The Message of the Qur'an (English Version), Trans. Muhammad Asad. Gilbrator: Dar-AI-Andalus, 1980, 49:12. 45 Ibid., 13.

themselves, and are positioned by, national racial hierarchies, writing "American whiteness has always reigned as the most prized public asset a citizen could own...[immigrant and Blackamerican Muslims'] mutually conflicting relationship to American whiteness has contributed much to Blackamerican-immigrant Muslim relations."46 Yet, in regards to these "relationships to American whiteness," Jackson does little to problematize or further examine a discursive equivalence the text advances throughout: immigrant Muslims covet whiteness, Blackamericans stand opposed to it. Further he ascertains that immigrant Muslims have actually been conferred with the legal advantages of white citizenship in the post-civil rights era, stating early on in a section explaining the "American context" of the Black-immigrant question: By 1965, U.S. immigration law had rendered Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and Asia legally white. On this development, coming to America represented not simply a chance for a better material life but a chance to participate in whitenessreal whiteness, like that of the colonial masters, as opposed to the mere "light-skinnedness" the term connoted in the Muslim world. By this time, however, American whiteness had become a sanitized and undifferentiated category....But Muslim immigrants all understood (or soon learned to understand) the term "nigger." It was after 9/11, the text contends, that immigrant Muslims realized they could not longer partake in the advantages of their "legal whiteness," thus forcing them to finally confront the issue of race. It now remains to be seen, Jackson adds, if these newly-racialized subjects will, "join Blackamericans in a Third Resurrection that seeks to confront the problem of


Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection, 15.


white supremacy in America without degenerating into reverse racism and without hiding behind the empty platitudes of 'Islamic' utopianism."47 There a number of issues in Jackson's statements that require attention. First of all, due to a lack of footnote or additional context in relation to its claim that "By 1965, immigration law had rendered Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and Asia legally white," I can only surmise that Jackson must be referring to the manner in which those immigrant Arabs, mostly from Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan and largely Christian, who began immigrating to the U.S. at the turn of twentieth century were legally classified as "white" by the U.S. Census Bureau. As many Arab American scholars and commentators have noted however, this classification did not function to confer the legal advantages of whiteness upon Arab American immigrants; on the contrary, as scholars of Arab American racialization have argued, the "not-quite-white" status of Arab Americans actually functioned to render them the "most invisible of the invisibles," i.e. a minority without minority status.48 Thus,

Ibid., 16. See Suad Joseph, "Against the Grain of the Nation-the Arab," in Arabs in America: Building a New Future, ed. Michael W. Suleiman (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999), Lisa Suhair Majaj, "ArabAmerican Ethnicity: Locations, Coaltions, and Cultural Negotiations," in Arabs in America: Building a New Future, ed. Michael W. Suleiman (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999), Nadine Naber, "Muslim First, Arab Second: A Strategic Politics of Race and Gender," The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005), Salaita, "Beyond Orientalism and Islamophobia: 9/11, Anti-Arab Racism, and the Mythos of National Pride.", Helen Hatab Samhan, "Not Quite White: Race Classification and the Arab-American Experience," in Arabs in America: Building a New Future, ed. Michael W. Suleiman (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999). Joseph cites the citizenship case of Syrian immigrant George Dow in 1914 to highlight the complexities of Arab American claims to the nation; citing the Naturalization Act of 1790, the court first denied Dow's appeal of citizenship due to the fact that he was a "Syrian of Asiatic birth. However, the decision was later reversed on appeal, noting "The appellant, George Dow, a Syrian, was denied naturalization on the sole ground that a Syrian of Asiatic birth is not a free white person within the meaning of the naturalization statute. After the first decision of the matter a rehearing was granted at the instance of other Syrians interested. In his two opinions the District Judge reached the conclusion, which he supported with remarkable force and learning, that the 'free white persons' made eligible to naturalization by the statute included aliens of European nativity or descent, and not others." However, the George Dow appeal was eventually granted "on the basis of the argument that Syrians were of mixed Syrian, Arabian, and even Jewish blood, belonging to the Semitic branch of the Caucasian race and were to be considered white persons."



in many cases, Arab Americans themselves have actually led the push for their communities to acquire "minority" status in the eyes of the state, so they might receive the types of state services and resources allotted for communities of color. Additionally, determination of the racial status, and thus, the citizenship claims of those of South Asian descent have been equally tortuous. An examination of the history of racial classification on the U.S. Census between 1890-1990 reveals that immigrants from the South Asian subcontinent were named "Hindus" in the 1930 and 1940 censuses, "Whites" on the 1950 census, "Other" in 1960 and 1970, "Asian Indian" in 1980, and "Asian and Pacific Islander" in 1990. Yen Le Espiritu documents the many transformations of census classification for South Asian Americans in her essay, "Census Classification: The Politics of Ethnic Enumeration," explaining that in the 1970s census, "Asian Indians" were first counted as "Other," and then reclassified as "Whites" to return them to the 1950 definition. However, in 1974, the Indian American community began lobbying for South Asians to be characterized as "Asian American" so that they could "claim economic benefits as minorities."49 Furthermore, while the 1965 Hart-Cellar immigration law under the auspices of which so many immigrants from the professional classes of the regions of South Asia and the Middle East came to the U.S. abolished national-origins quotas that had been in place since the Immigration Act of 1924, nothing in its statutes rendered these newcomers "white" in any legal sense whatsoever. Thus, Jackson's description of the "legal whiteness " of Muslim immigrants from Asia and the Middle East obfuscates the far more complicated legal status of the groups in question. While it is certainly true that indoctrination into discourses of antiblackness is, as


Cited in Lavina Dhingra Shankar, "The Limits of (South Asian) Names and Labels: Postcolonial or Asian American," in A Part, yet Apart: South Asians in Asian America, ed. Lavina Shankar and Rajini Srikanth (Philadephia: Temple University Press, 1998).


many have argued, a seemingly fundamental prerequisite of American ideological citizenship, and a viewpoint that many of the immigrant Muslims Jackson discusses might have bought into wholesale, his assertion that these immigrant Muslims arrived in the U.S. with the expectation of adopting "real whiteness, like that of the colonial masters" does not correspond with the material realities of immigration policy concerning Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants entering the U.S. in the post-1965 era. Indeed, while immigrant Muslims might have, and continue to, desire the advantages of "whiteness as property," as Cheryl Harris has called it, within the domestic context of the U.S., at the expense of Black American Muslims with whom they are to comprise an American ummah, to generalize their constituencies as unproblematic beneficiaries of whiteness ignores the vast corpus of scholarship exploring the complexities of theorizing and historicizing the racialization of Asians and Arabs in the U.S., as well as work in whiteness studies that meticulously lays bare the "set of assumptions, privileges, and benefits that accompany the status of being white...[as] affirmed, legitimated, and protected by the law"50a status Asian and Arab Muslims immigrants, in spite of their putative privilege in relation to Black Americans, have never attained. Another key assertion that Jackson makes about the epistemological status of Immigrant Islam is the manner in which its ideology is steeped in the vision and sentiments of what Jackson calls "Post-Colonial Religion." "Like Black Religion," Jackson writes, "PostColonial Religion is not revealed but a product of history," a creation that arose out of the desire of colonized peoples to "reverse the sociocultural and psychological influences of the

Cheryl I. Harris, "Whiteness as Property," Harvard Law Review 106, no. 8 (1993).


Jackson writes that South Asian and Arab immigrants of higher classes attempted

to enact this reversal in the U.S. context by asserting that: (1) as Easterners their understanding of Islam was superior because it was less contaminated (and ideally uncontaminated) by the germ of Western civilization; and (2) the interpretive perspectives and presuppositions engendered by the history of the Muslim world were more legitimate than those generated by the history of Blackamericans. In other words, the history of the modern Muslim world was assumed to be more important, to be more Islamically probative, and to have a greater claim to be the proper object of Muslim religious thought and effort.52 In this way, upper-class immigrant Muslims, espousing the Post-Colonial Religion of a culturally-based ideology of Immigrant Islam attempted to eschew their colonial pasts by delegitimizing the non-"Eastern" practices of Islam in Blackamerican communities. Jackson points to the class particularities of immigrant Muslim American communities, who specifically, unlike the immigrant Muslim populations in parts of Europe and Australia, are comprised by a professional class of wealthy, educated elites. Much like the native bourgeoisie in Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, the immigrant Muslims described in Jackson's text seem to seek "to transfer into native hands (i.e. those of immigrant Muslim) those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period."53 Thus, like Fanon, Jackson delves into the psychological consciousness of immigrant Muslims, asserting that those in this group:

51 52

Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection, 77. Ibid., 78. 53 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1963), 152.

...labor under a relentless urge to identify with the conqueror rather than with the conquered. He is unable to see any positive meaning or value in a consciousness of the oppressed. Rather to his mind, such a move could only endorse the superiority of the oppressor and his right to oppress. Thus his greatest ambition remains not in toppling or even challenging white supremacy but in joining or replacing it. For only then can he quit the company of the dominated and joinor rejointhe ranks of the dominant.54 The passage above comes at a moment in the text when Jackson is lamenting the inability of immigrant Muslims to understand the dangers of subscribing to white supremacist ideologies, and that it is this failure on their parts that prevents immigrant and Black American Muslims from coming together to constitute "the corrective conscience of the West," that might ultimately buck the "false universals of white supremacy."55 However, in pathologizing the behavior of immigrant Muslims in such a fashion, Jackson inadvertently replicates the very type of homogenizing orientalist discourse his text seeks to reverse in regards to Islam. This pathologization takes place, in part, through the text's underacknowledgment of the class diversity of immigrant Muslim communities. As with every immigrant group, there is a wide-range of income and educational disparities amongst the immigrant Muslim American population; the same Pew Center Study I cited earlier states that while immigrant Muslims indeed seem happier with their finances than native-born Muslims (47% of immigrants said their finances were "excellent/good" compared to 37% among native-born), there was a wide disparity between Muslims of Pakistani and Arab descent, with 68% of Pakistani Muslims rating their situation as "excellent or good,"

Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection, 95.

compared to only 42% of Arabs. In recent years, influxes of immigrant Muslims have arrived from a myriad of locales such as Indonesia, Somalia, and Fiji, as well as a steady number of refugees from the war-torn nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, one wonders how to register the cultural and ideological heterogeneity of these immigrant Muslims in the homogenizing discourse of Jackson's portrayals. Furthermore, despite the text's acknowledgment that the hegemonic practices of Immigrant Islam are directly linked to the colonial violence that has produced the desire among formerly colonized people to renounce Western influences in their faith practices, one also wonders how the transnational dimensions of this ideological renunciation accrue meaning upon the shifting racial terrains of post-9/11 U.S. To put it another way, how have immigrant Muslim Americans re-narrated their own positions as both post-colonial subjects and now racialized subjects in post-9/11 America? The intensity of tone in Jackson's passage cited above in regards to immigrant Muslims' "relentless need to identify with the conqueror" is reiterated throughout the text. As a resolutely polemical text, it certainly makes sense Islam and the Blackamerican might employ such forceful language in order to incite the necessary anger and passion needed to incite the Third Resurrection, and might account for why Jackson does not attempt a more historically complex portrait of the Black-immigrant relations in question, eschewing discussion of official discourses and debates over racial categorization for the abstracted terms of a more fluid discourse of racial imaginaries. Whether this is the case or not, I want to close my discussion of Jackson's text by considering the value of contextualizing the proposals contained in Islam and the Blackamerican, as well as the whole of the Blackimmigrant debate itself, through the lens of a number of theories of comparative


racialization addressing Black-Asian relations within the U.S. In particular, I want to suggest that Claire Jean Kim's notion of "racial triangulation" and Susan Koshy's theorization of Asian American agency as formed through both its complicity and resistance to whiteness provide a means for us to view Black-immigrant relations within the Muslim American community as clearly influenced by historically-situated systems of racial meanings that have long prompted antagonistic relationships between non-white, and in this case, Black, Asian, and Arab communities. I view Kim's and Koshy's works as scholarly endeavors which arose out of their authors' desire to formulate theoretical bases for what critical race scholar Eric Yamamoto calls "race praxis"the work of "infusing antiracism practice with aspects of critical inquiry and pragmatism and then recasting theory in light of practical experience."56 Both composed in the decade following the 1992 urban uprisings in Los Angeles, these inquiries reflect the level of frustration felt by many throughout the 1990s as the national debate on race continually reverted to an obsolete paradigm of Black-White race relations which was fundamentally unable to account for the diverse realities of a multicultural nation, a racial paradigm discussed at length in the previous chapter. Tensions between Black and Asian communities in various urban centers across the nation constituted a prime example of conflict between non-white minority communities, conflicts necessitating theoretical paradigms which could account for the "intermediary" racial status of Asian Americans,57

Eric K. Yamamoto, Interracial Justice: Conflict and Reconciliation in Post-Civil Rights America (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 129. 57 See Jeff Chang, "Sitting on the Fence: Asian American Cultural Politics in a Black Nationalist Moment" (paper presented at the Public Displays of Asian-ness, New York University, 1998), Pawan H. Dhingra, "Being American between Black and White: Second-Generation Asian American Professionals' Racial Identities," Journal of Asian American Studies 6, no. 2 (2003), Robert Gooding-Williams, ed., Reading Rodney King, Reading Urban Uprising (New York: Routledge, 1993), Elaine Kim, '"At Least You're Not


while also, as Koshy writes, "foreground the need for developing conceptions of agency that account for complicity and resistance" in regards to Asian American communities.58 For Kim, a political scientist, this meant constructing a dynamic approach to Asian American racialization that demonstrated how Asian Americans had historically endured both "civic ostracism" and "relative valorization" in terms of their involvement with the American polity. Advancing the notion of a "field of racial positions" in which "Asian Americans specifically have been 'racially triangulated' vis-a-vis Whites and Blacks" over the course of the last century and a half, Kim's findings tracked how Asian immigrants since the 1850s had been simultaneously or alternately racialized through White valorization processes that posited the superiority of Asians over Blacks as a means to ultimately subordinate both groups, or through processes of civic ostracism that rendered Asians "immutably foreign and unassimilable with Whites on cultural an/or racial grounds."59 As Colleen Lye has observed, Kim's theory has become perhaps "the most justifiably influential example of a comparative thesis of Asian American racialization to date,"60 and advances a number of claims that would surely be useful in approaching the topic of Black-immigrant relations in the Muslim American community. In particular, Kim's theory is helpful in the discussion at hand for the manner in which it forces us to see how Asian Americansor as the case might be, immigrant Muslims in the partly deriving their identities in a dynamic field of racial positions in which they can, either all at once or in turn, be enfolded within or placed beyond the pale of normative citizenship. An understanding of this

Black': Asian Americans in U.S. Race Relations," Social Justice 25, no. 3 (1998), George Yancey, Who Is White: Latinos, Asians, and the New Black/Nonblack Divide (Boulder, CO: L Rienner, 2003). 58 Susan Koshy, "Morphing Race into Ethnicity: Asian Americans and Critical Transformations of Whiteness," boundary 2 28, no. 1 (2001): 155. 59 Claire Jean Kim, "The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans," Politics and Society 27, no. 1 (1999). 60 Colleen Lye, "The Afro-Asian Analogy," PMLA 123, no. 5 (2008).


fluctuating racial status is critical to achieving a more accurate conception of an immigrant Muslim American community that, premised upon the particular sociopolitical discursive contours of the imagined nation at a given historical moment, will always be subject to racialized civic ostracisma fact that preceded 9/11 but, of course, became stunningly clear after that day. A similar set of concerns animates Koshy's 2001 essay, "Morphing Race into Ethnicity: Asian Americans and Critical Transformations of Whiteness," in which the literary and cultural studies scholar considers how "Asian American produced, and were in turn produced by, whiteness frameworks of the U.S. legal system," in many cases, at the expense of the Black Americans.61 Looking at early Asian American claims to citizenship, the case of Chinese living in the Mississippi Delta in the early 20th century, and the push amongst the South Asian American community for minority status during the 1970s, Koshy demonstrates how Asian American "agency" must be theorized in a complex matrix of meaning which "can register the complicity of various Asian American groups in associating themselves with the forms and claims of whiteness, while stressing that these affiliations were produced by a dominant group with the power to frame life conditions and chances in terms of racial choices."62 However, while this might seem analogous to Kim's theorization of relative valorization/civic ostracism within a field of racial positions, Koshy problematizes Kim's assertions that Asian American have merely desired to be "considered White (and to be granted the myriad privileges bundled with Whiteness)."63 Instead, Koshy argues that while whiteness certainly continues to be "a dynamic constitutive category of national belonging,"

61 62

Koshy, "Morphing Race into Ethnicity: Asian Americans and Critical Transformations of Whiteness." Ibid.: 156. 63 Kim, "The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans," 112.


white privilege itself "has been under attack, forcing a renegotiation of its forms in order to buttress its hegemony."64 In other words, the assault on white privilege by the "multiculturalists" during the culture wars of the 1980s and 90s led to a shift in how white privilege might be maintained. In this reconfigured paradigm, the language of race became subsumed by that of ethnicitye.g. "morphing race into ethnicity"a discursive reconfiguration in which the language of ethnic, as opposed to racial, group identification formed in a transnational context worked to "obscure the operations of race and class."65 Koshy's essay enacts a successful c/e-reification of whiteness as the unquestioned object of desire for Asian immigrants that I want to pose as a critical intervention to Jackson's constant equivalences between immigrant Muslims and their putative aspirations for whiteness. Without wavering from its indictment of white supremacy nor excusing Asian Americans for their complicity in practices of anti-blackness, Koshy presents a dialectical analysis of the role of Asian Americans that forces us to confront a "transformed field of political struggles in the post-civil rights era"a field that is conspicuously absent throughout Islam and the Blackamerican, as well as in the larger public conversation around Black-immigrant relations that has arisen in recent years in response to the controversies over halal and haram cultural practices, Muslim-owned liquor stores, the female-led jummah prayers, etc. To view immigrant Muslims as "nouveau whites...ardently promoting and defending the false universals of white supremacy" fails to account for the reconfigured terrains of the post-civil rights era,66 upon which white privilege operates not as the object

Koshy, "Morphing Race into Ethnicity: Asian Americans and Critical Transformations of Whiteness." Ibid. Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection, 81.

of desire, but as mediating force that encourages ethnic particularism among immigrant groups towards the ultimate ends of maintaining racial hegemony. As Koshy explains: ...while many middle-class immigrants may disidentify with whiteness as culture and adopt an ethnic particularist position, they might simultaneously identify with whiteness as power through their class aspirations. However, whereas assimilationism has frequently been lambasted for its obvious identification with whiteness, ethnic particularism often escapes scrutiny, since it displaces identification with whiteness from the level of culture to the level of power. Thus what has now emerged is a seemingly more congenial dispensation that allows for cultural difference even as it facilitates political affiliations between whites and nonwhites on certain critical issues...(author's italics)67 Indeed, the majority of immigrant Muslims in the contemporary era are not interested in "passing" as whites nor assimilating wholesale into Western American cultural norms; it is precisely their desire to maintain close ties with their particular ethno-religious community (not whites), and their belief in the legitimacy of their own cultural-religious norms (not those of whites) that has led to those communities to, in many cases so callously, shun Black American participation in mosques and other religious endeavors. Thus, it is not assimilationism, but ethnic particularism that should be the object of Jackson's critique in regards to Immigrant Islam, a discursive shift that would then require a more precise historical contextualization of the "Black-immigrant" debate that accounts for the material realities of class and positions the discussion in relation to considerations of how whiteness and white privilege have also evolved in the decade following the culture wars, and the


Koshy, "Morphing Race into Ethnicity: Asian Americans and Critical Transformations of Whiteness," 186.


shifting patterns of transnational migration which in many cases have engendered new diasporic identities that supersede the nation.68 Focusing on ethnic particularism would not absolve immigrant Muslim communities from complicity from whiteness. Rather, it would instigate far more effective discussions in terms of building "common cause" amongst the larger Muslim American community. Such discussions might, for example, replace statements charging immigrant Muslims of imitating "colonial masters" with conversations highlighting how practices of ethnic and racial differentiation inadvertently buttress the racial power structures that have so demonized Islam and Muslims in the contemporary age, leaving the entirety of the Muslim American communityand particularly immigrant communitiesmore vulnerable to civic ostracism and racist attacks.

Al-Rahman Al-Rahim: "Restorative Justice" In order to instigate conversations such as the one named above, it will also be critical that Black American Muslims continue to air their grievances against the insensitive, and oftentimes racist behaviors of immigrant Muslims with whom they share the American ummah in order to instigate a process of what Yamamoto calls "restorative justice": the kind of recognition and redress of deep grievances that sparks a joint transformation in consciousness, diminishes enmities, and forges new relational bonds. Restorative justice. Because interracial justice is about reestablishing relationships, about reconstituting a type of community, it requires something

See Aihwa Ong, Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999).

special from racial group memberstheir commitment both to act in their group's self-interest and to transcend it.69 The grievances of Black American Muslims are indeed deep, and for many the "hegemony" of Immigrant Islam has severely tested their ability to draw upon Islam as a source of strength and safety from the daily ravages of antiblack racism. Thus, the responsibility of acknowledging and respecting these grievances appears to lie squarely on the shoulders of the immigrant Muslim community. Yet, as Yamamoto points out, the tenor of this discussion must accurately reflect the sociopolitical landscape upon which it takes place in order to reestablish and reconstruct the community in a transformative fashion which "forges new relational bonds." For Black American Muslims, this entails seeing immigrant Muslims as part of racialized communities whose identity formation has also been profoundly shaped by the state governing practices of race and citizenship, who are not merely "proxy whites," but who themselves engage in complex and contradictory relationships with whiteness. For all of these reasons, I believe that the incorporation of comparative racialization theory and historical discourses of racial formation is vital to the conversations taking place within Muslim American communities, so that those in this community might fully engage the "narratives of history, of a culture" that give voice to the once-"unspeakable" stories of Muslims in America. Concurrently, it is also imperative that scholars of race, gender, ethnicity, and culture broaden their conceptual and contextual frameworks to construct the discursive space needed to approach and discuss a religious community that has been so violently racialized over the course of the last decade. How, for instance, might one enact a

Yamamoto, InterracialJustice: Conflict and Reconciliation in Post-Civil Rights America, 11-12.

comparative study between the competing claims of Native-indigenous Hawaiians and Chinese and Japanese settler-colonials, or Blacks and Koreans during the LA. uprisings, with the conflicts between Black American, Arab, and South Asian Muslims that I have discussed in this chapter? How do feminist scholars contribute to the growing corpus of work that is only now beginning to acknowledge Islam's role in empowering various women of color communities in the U.S.? How could scholars thinking through the critical junctures of race, nation, and culture incorporate discussions of the growing prevalence of Muslim American hip hop artists (as well as those in other genres of popular music) who are gaining widespread recognition not just as artists and musicians, but as ambassadors of Daw'oh, e.g. "preachers" of Islam? And what approaches might literary scholars take in examining the burgeoning field of Muslim American literature, a corpus which joins the The Autobiography of Malcolm X, with the poetry of Palestinian American poets Naomi Shihad Nye and Suheir Hammad, to white convert Michael Muhammad Knight's underground punk Muslim novel The Taqwacores? I will address how we might begin to respond to some of these questions in the conclusion that follows. In closing this chapter, however, it bears mentioning that the New York City Council's resolution to institute Eid Prayers in the city's public schools was ultimately rejected by conservative mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who had the final say to designate the days off. Thus, no clear-cut "victory" emerged out of the "common cause" of the racially and ethnically-diverse coalition of Muslim Americans who came together to lobby for the addition of Muslim holy days to the school calendar. Nevertheless, the coalition did come together, though it remains to be seen whether they will remain unified or return to being, to return to the words of the initial article "hamstrung by schisms of


competing groups." The former outcome is, of course, preferable. In looking towards this end, I want to emphasize how important it is once more that the development of a Muslim American community presents a unique situation for the consideration of interracial and interethnic conflict and resolution. This is due not only to this community's shared awareness of a responsibility towards the larger ummah, but also how concepts of forgiveness and mercy comprise central tenets of the faith. In the clearest example of this, one need only note that the most oft-repeated of the 99 Divine Names of Allah in the Qur'an are that of "Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim" The Most Merciful and Compassionate.70 Muslims are enjoined to emulate the attributes of God and the Prophet Muhammad in their everyday lives as a means of striving towards the divine, and are reminded throughout the Qur'an and the hadith to show mercy and compassion. Indeed, the notion of "restorative justice" is continually reiterated throughout Islam's holy book, as in this passage from the forty-second surah of the Qu'ran, Ash-Shura, a chapter which places a particular emphasis on the notion of unity: "If one is patient in adversity and forgivesthis, behold, is indeed something to set one's heart upon!" 71


The 99 Names of Allah indicate the attributes through which Muslims regard God. There is a hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad) that asserts there are no more and no less than 99 names. 71 The Message of the Qu'ran,, 42:43.

CONCLUSION New Muslim Cool

On June 23, 2009, director/producer Jennifer Maytorena Taylor's documentary New Muslim Cool premiered as the season opener of the National Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) acclaimed documentary series, POV. The film features the story of Jason Hamza Perez, a Puerto Rican American convert to Islam, who is seen in the opening shots of the film walking through the streets of Pittsburgh, dressed in Islamic thobe (long robe) and blue and white keffiyah-sty\e scarf wrapped loosely around his neck and head. He tells the audience in voiceover: "I would always have two consistent dreams my whole life. One that I was going to experience death at 21, and the other one, that I was going to be in jail. And then, both of them came true." We quickly learn that once a drug dealer, Hamza experienced a spiritual "death" and "rebirth" following a chance encounter with an "old sheikh" during his twenty-first year which led him to convert to Islam. Later, he finds work as a teacher and counselor at the Allegheny County Jail, teaching classes in the prison's faith-based programs and serving as adviser to the prison's Muslim inmates. In the course of the film, we witness Hamza's spiritual journey during the span of three incredible years in which he remarries, moves with his new family (his new wife, her daughter, and his own son and daughter from a previous marriage) to Pittsburgh from Massachusetts to start an Muslim community of mostly Latino and African American converts, where he is subsequently subjected to an FBI raid on his mosque, and experiences the birth of a second son. Throughout, we also see and hear Hamza's work with Islamic hip hop duo M-Team, in which he performs with his brother Suliman.


In many ways, New Muslim Cool is the most "American" of storiesabout overcoming the odds in the face of adversity, taking responsibility of one's destiny, and coming to understand the humanity that binds "us" both as a nation a part of global community. Indeed, the film's response has been overwhelmingly favorable, with viewers and critics continually remarking upon Hamza's "humanity" and their ability to "connect" with him, despite their own identities as Christians, Jews, atheists, etc. Comments such as this one from a poster named Lisa abounded on PBS message boards: I am a born again Christian. Therefore I cannot see eye to eye with Hamza or I would be a hypocrite. I do however commend his courage and the way he handled his situations. Funny you would think the two of us would have nothing in common, and then when you really listen, you see how much we, as humans, actually do have more in common with each other than we have differences! And this one from a viewer named Crystal: "I loved New Muslim Cool and the opportunity afforded me to watch Hamza grow as a spiritual man, husband, father, and activist. What a humble man, and a true example of redemption." Through comments such as these, one might argue Hamza's story enables a similar liberal humanistic "sense of touch" as the one this dissertation critiques in Chapter Two, allowing mainstream American audiences to gain a sense of intimacy with Hamza that ultimately enables their own redemption by letting them "off the hook" for the any racist and orientalist attitudes they might hold towards Islam and Muslims. Yetand this is a very strong "yet"it is clear to me, in this race-d articulation of Islam in America, that this is simply not the case. On the contrary, Taylor's film is all the more remarkable for the manner in which it enables such a "humanistic" response without


watering down, distorting, or removing any of the complexities out of the multiple intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion that cut across and construct Hamza's everyday life. For this reason, Muslims themselvesboth within the United States and globallyhave responded equally, if not more favorably, to Hamza's story, with Taylor's film recently receiving top honors at the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival in Doha, Qatar, while mosque boards and Muslim student and community associations across the U.S. have organized private screenings and discussions of the film in almost every major city across the nation. I believe that New Muslim Cool's ability to enable a non-exploitative "a sense of touch" between Hamza Perez and the legions of audiences who have appreciated his story arises directly out of the manner in which the film grounds its narrative in a depiction of Islam in America that deprivileges and destabilizes the distorted myths used to dehumanize the faith over the course of three decades covered in this dissertation. In other words, the film does nothing to refute or deny the racial orientalist logics undergirding tropes of Islamic Terror and the Poor Muslim Woman because simply, it doesn't have to. In the film's depiction of Hamza's community in Pittsbugh, men and women pray in separate areas, women wear hijab, and worshippers strongly and passionately follow the teachings of Islam as the "true" and "correct" way they have chosen to live their lives. There are no apologies in the film, no excuses for what "Western eyes" might perceive as gender injustice or inequality, and no response to those orientalist refrains routinely decrying Islam as "stuck in the dark ages," or incompatible with Western, and in this case, American democracy. Instead, we are presented with a story in which Hamza's "humanity" arises not out of his investments in a sentimentalized narrative of an exceptional, unified, "post-racial" nation,


but through his sincere and fervent engagement with Islam, which, in turn, enables him to engage in affirmative acts of civic participation as a Muslim, a Puerto Rican American, and a man of color in the post-9/11 U.S; i.e. the "transformation" Hamza undergoes in the course of the film does not, as with Farhad in Crash, entail any outside intervention. Finally, the film's depiction of Hamza's story unearths a new set of social, political, and cultural conditions leading Americans to convert to Islam at the start of the millennium that are inexorably tied to domestic and transnational affiliations of race, ethnicity, class, and nation. While Black Americans in the early to mid-twentieth century found the teachings of Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhmmad, and Ahmadi missionaries in their transition to the North following the Great Migration as means to reverse decades of dehumanization engendered through the institution of slavery, Hamza's story reflects how narratives of Latino migration to the U.S., the colonial history of Puerto Rico, legacies of the War on Drugs, the gutting of resources in the inner city, hip hop culture, and the "social death" experienced by poor immigrant and Black American families over the course of the last three decades are now an integral part of the backstory and future of Islam in America. New Muslim Cool represents just one example of the way "Islam" is being articulated upon the decidedly non-"post-racial" cultural terrains of twenty-first century America. As gestured toward in the previous chapter, equally intriguing developments expressing the always-syncretic cultural formations of Islam in the U.S. are emerging from a wide range of arenas. In the field of literature, Syrian American author and scholar Mohja Kahf has recently proposed the inauguration of a field of "Muslim American literature" which would begin with writings emerging out of the Black Arts movement of the 1960s by authors such as Marvin X and Sonia Sanchez, and go on to include "American Sufi writing,


secular ethnic novels, writing by immigrant and second-generation Muslims, and religious American Muslim literature."1 Playwright Wajahat Ali's stage play The Domestic Crusaders, which documents a day in the life of Pakistani American family in the wake of 9/11, premieres off-Broadway in Fall 2009, and has been described as "to Muslim American theater what A Raisin in the Sun is to African American theater."2 And Muslim American hip hop is gaining wider and wider audiences, as musical collectives such as Bay Area-based Remarkable Current (which features a wide range of artists, including Hamza Perez's MTeam) employ grass-roots social networks on the internet and on the ground to build their listening audiences, while the popularity of the genre has also spurned heated discussions amongst Muslims themselves; on the tails of the New Muslim Cool is the documentary Deen Tight, set for release at the start of 2010, which takes on the debate concerning the "halaal" and "haram" of hip hop in the context of orthodox Islam.

In recent years, numerous scholars and critics have cited Jewish German literary critic Walter Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History, which he composed in the eve of the Holocaust, in order to illustrate the urgency of historical material approaches to criticism and cultural production in our neo-imperial age. In particular, many have quoted Benjamin's assertions that, "to articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it the way it really was," but to "seize hold of a memory as it flashes up in a moment of

Mohja Kahf, "Islam: Portability and Exportability" (paper presented at the UCLA Center For Near Eastern Studies, 2007). 2 Quote from Mitch Berman, cited from Zahed Amanullah, "Join a Domestic Crusade," http://www.altmuslim.eom/a/a/d/3150/.


danger."3 The wide-ranging implications of Benjamin's words are apparent; we live in an age in which the present is a seemingly unending moment of danger: a permanent state of emergency. One might argue that holds particularly true for an American ummah, borne out of the twinned histories of race and orientalism over the course of the last century. In this regards, I find Benjamin's thoughts particularly pertinent in describing the underlying urgency accompanying the project of race-ing Islam in our current moment of danger, a moment in which "Muslim Americans" have gone from being, as Moustafa Bayoumi writes, "virtually unknown to most Americans prior to 2001" to now holding "the dubious distinction of being the first new communities of suspicion after the hard-won victories of the civil rights era."4 In this historic transition from Muslim American invisibility to scrutiny, the examination of Islam's significance upon the racialized terrains of the contemporary U.S. affords us the unprecedented opportunity to seize hold of the religion's historically-elided memory in the U.S. in order to theorize it in all its thematic contradictions, regional particularities, gendered incarnations, racial and ethnic varieties, and historical specificities. Equipped with the hindsight of the culture wars, and the desire to avoid empty multiculturalist discourse, this dissertation has looked towards political and pedagogical goals that extend beyond the mere desire for historical recuperation, or a decontextualized politics of "resistance." Instead, I hope it has instead advanced an approach to understanding Islam's race-d presence in the U.S. that is premised, more than anything, upon an unromanticized polyculturalism, a theoretical stance that, in its very first instance, recognizes the multifaceted significance of "Islam" as conceived in a complex matrix of

Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (1955)). 4 Moustafa Bayoumi, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America (New York: Penguin Press, 2008).


racial, ethnic, gender, national, cultural, transnational, transcultural, and religious histories. As both the image of Lil' Kim in bikini and burqa and the story of Hamza Perez indicate, the cultural significances of Islam in America are at once rooted in the nation's racial pasts and the undeniably global realities of the present and futurerealities that, like "Islam" itself, are always shifting, always in flux.

WORKS CITED Abd-Allah, Umar Faruq. "Islam and the Cultural Imperative." Nawawi Foundation (2004). Abdo, Geneive. "When Islam Clashes with Women's Rights." Boston Globe, April 9 2005. Abdul-Ghafur, Saleemah, ed. Living Islam out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005. Ahmad, Aijaz. "Orientalism and After." In Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, edited by Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, 162-71. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Ahmed, Akbar S. Postmodernism and Islam: Predicament and Promise. London: Routledge, 1992. Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992. Aidi, Hisham D. "Let Us Be Moors: Islam, Race, and 'Connected Histories'." Souls 7, no. 1 (2005):

. "Ole to Allah." Islam For Today. Alam, M. Shahid. Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on the 'War against Islam'. North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2006. AN, Tariq. The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads, and Modernity. London & New York: Verso, 2002. Alsultany, Evelyn. "Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11." American Quarterly 59, no. 3 (2007): 593-622. Appiah, K. Anthony. "'No Bad Nigger': Blacks as the Ethnical Principle in the Movies." In Media Spectacles, edited by Marjorie Garber, Jann Matlock and Rebecca L. Walkowitz. New York & London: Routledge, 1993. Apple Jr., R.W. "Iran: The Heart of the Matter." The New York Times Magazine, March 111979. Asadullah, Ali. "Rap Music Mogul Disrespects Muslims with Magazine Cover" Palestine Chronicle, 2002 [cited. Available from Austin, Allan D. African Muslims in Antebellum American: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles. New York: Routledge, 1997. Baker, Susan Gonzalez. "The 'Amnesty' Aftermath: Current Policy Issues Stemming from the Legalization Programs of the 1986 Immigration Control Act." International Migration Review 3 1 , no. 1 (1997): 5-27. Bartlett, Thomas. "The Quiet Heretic." Chronicle of Higher Education 51, no. 49 (2005). Bayoumi, Moustafa. How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. . "Our Work Is of This World." Amerasia 31, no. 1 (2005): 1-4. Bazian, Hatem. "Virtual Internment: Arabs, Muslims, Asians and the War on Terrorism." Journal of Islamic Law and Culture 9 (2004). Beiser, Vince. "A Muslim Woman's Fight to Pray." Mother Jones, January/February 2006. Bender, Marilyn. "Some Call Her the 'Karl Marx' of New Feminism." The New York Times, July 20 1970. Benjamin, Walter. "Theses on the Philosophy of History." In Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (1955). Berlant, Lauren. "Poor Eliza." American Literature 70, no. 3 (1998): 635-68. . The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship. 2nd ed. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002 (1997).


Betteridge, Anne H. "To Veil or Not to Veil: A Matter of Protest or Policy." In Women and Revolution in Iran, edited by Guity Nashat. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983. Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. Fourth Edition ed. New York: Continuum, 2001 [1973]. Borstelmann, Thomas. The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. Brodkin, Karen. How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998. Brooks, Geraldine. Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Byng, Michelle D. "Mediating Discrimination: Resisting Oppression among African-American Muslim Women." Social Problems 45, no. 4 (1998): 473-87. Carby, Hazel. "Encoding White Resentment: Grand Canyon-a Narrative for Our Times." In Race, Identity, and Representation in Education, edited by Cameron McCarthy and Warren Crichlow. New York & London: Routledge, 1993. Carlin, Diana B., Dan Schill, David G. Levasseur, and Anthony S. King. "The Post-9/11 Public Sphere: Citizen Talk About the 2004 Presidential Debates." Rhetoric and Public Affairs 8, no. 4 (2005): 617-38. Carr, Jay. "Trying to Film Decency in 'a War Zone'." Boston Globe, January 5 1992, B29. Chang, Jeff. "Sitting on the Fence: Asian American Cultural Politics in a Black Nationalist Moment." Paper presented at the Public Displays of Asian-ness, New York University 1998. Chicago Tribune Editor. "Who Will Follow the Chador?" Chicago Tribune, March 19 1979. Clifford, James. "Orientalism (Review)." History and Theory 19, no. 2 (1980): 204-23. Combahee River Collective. "A Black Feminist Statement." In Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Social Feminism, edited by Zillah Eisensteian et. al. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978. Cornwell, Rupert. "Professor Samuel Huntington: Political Scientist Who Wrote 'the Clash of Civilizations'." The Independent, January 2 2009. Cummings, Judith. "Demonstrators in City Back Iranian Women's Rights." New York Times, March 16 1979. Curiel, Jonathan. "Maverick Muslim Women Rip Veil Off Religion's Traditional Gender Roles"." San Francisco Chronicle, August 28 2005, Fl. Curtis, Edward E. Islam and Black America: Identity, Liberations, and Difference in AfricanAmerican Islamic Thought. New York: State University of New York Press, 2002. Daulatzai, Sohail. "Protect Ya Neck: Muslims and the Carceral Imagination Inthe Age of Guantanamo." Souls 9, no. 2 (2007). . Return of the Mecca: Race, Muslim Diasporats, and the Cultures of Black Radicalism, Forthcoming (manuscript in progress). Dembosky, April. "Mohammed Was a Feminist: Asra Nomani Takes Her Reform Message Beyond the United States." Mother Jones, December 19 2005. Dhingra, Pawan H. "Being American between Black and White: Second-Generation Asian American Professionals' Racial Identities." Journal of Asian American Studies 6, no. 2 (2003): 117-47. Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York: New York University Press, 1998.


Dirlik, Arif. "Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism." History and Theory 35, no. 4 (1996): 96-118. Dorman, William A., and Mansour Farhang. The U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Jounrnalism of Difference. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987. Dudziak, Mary L. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000. Eichler-Levine, Jodi, and Rosemary R. Hicks. "As Americans against Genocide: The Crisis in Darfur and Interreligious Political Activism." American Quarterly 59, no. 3 (2007): 711-35. Elliott, Andrea. "Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance." New York Times, March 11 2007. Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983. Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Constance Farrington. New York: Grove Press, 1963. Fischer, Michael M.J. "Orientalizing America: Beginnings and Middle Passages." Middle East Report 178, no. Sep.-Oct. (1992): 32-37. Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History." In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, edited by D.F. Bouchard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977. Gage, Nicholas. "Iran: The Making of a Revolution." New York Times, December 17 1978. Giroux, Henry A. "Living Dangerously: Identity Politics and the New Cultural Racism: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Representation." Cultural Studies 1, no. 1 (1993): 127. Goldschimdt, Henry, and Elizabeth McAlister. Race, Nation, and Religion in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Gomez, Michael A. Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Gooding-Williams, Robert, ed. Reading Rodney King, Reading Urban Uprising. New York: Routledge, 1993. Goodwin, Jan. Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World. New York: Plume, 1994. Gordon, Avery. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Gordon, Leonard, ed. A City in Racial Crisis: The Cast of Detroit Pre- and Post- the 1967 Riot. Dubuque, IA: Brown, 1971. Guerrero, Ed. Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993. Haggis, Paul. On the Origins of Crash 2005 [cited. Available from Hall, Stuart. "Minimal Selves." In Black British Cultural Studies, edited by Houston A. Baker, Manthia Diawara and Ruth H. Lindeborg, 114-19. Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1996. Harris, Cheryl I. "Whiteness as Property." Harvard Law Review 106, no. 8 (1993): 1709-91. "Hassled, Heckled Kate Millett Not Leaving Iran, Yet." Los Angeles Times, March 16 1979, A2. Hirschkind, Charles, and Saba Mahmood. "Feminism, the Taliban, and Politics of CounterInsurgency." Anthropological Quarterly 75, no. 2 (2002): 339-54. Hoffman, Paul. "However Slight, an Opposition Does Exist in Iran." New York Times, April 2 1978.


Hoodfar, Homa. "The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women." In The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, edited by Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 1997. Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the New World Order. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. . Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004. Ibrahim, Youssef M. "Iran's 'New' Women Rebel at Returning to the Veil." New York Times, March 111979. Iweala, Uzodinma. "Racism in 'Post-Racial' America." Los Angeles Times, January 23 2008. Jackson, Sherman A. Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Jacoby, Susan. "Traveling Alone, Women Often Feel...Alone." New York Times, February 18 2001. Jaynes, Gregory. "Iran Women March against Restraints on Dress and Rights." New York Times, March 111979, A l . . "Iranian Women: Looking Beyond the Chador." New York Times Magazine, April 22 1979. Jordan, June. "To Be Black and Female." New York Times Book Review, March 18 1979,15. Joseph, Suad. "Against the Grain of the Nation-the Arab." In Arabs in America: Building a New Future, edited by Michael W. Suleiman, 257-71. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. Kahf, Mohja. The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf. New York: Carol & Graf Publishers, 2006. ."Islam: Portability and Exportability." Paper presented at the UCLA Center For Near Eastern Studies 2007. . Western Representations of Muslim Women: From Termagant to Odalisque. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1999. Karim, Jamillah A. American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender within the Ummah. New York: New York University Press, 2009. . "Between Immigrant Islam and Black Liberation: Young Muslims Inherit Global Muslims and African American Legacies." The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005): 497-513. . "To Be Black, Female, and Muslim: A Candid Conversation About Race in the American Ummah." Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 26, no. 2 (2006): 225-33. Kelber, Mim. "Iran: Five Days in March." Ms. Magazine, June 1979,90-96. Kelley, Robin D.G., and Betsy Esch. "Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution." Souls 1, no. 4 (1999): 6-41. Kempley, Rita. "Grand Canyon." Washington Post, January 10 1992. Kifner, John. "Iran's Women Fought, Won, and Dispersed." New York Times, March 16 1979. Kim, Claire Jean. "The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans." Politics and Society 27, no. 1 (1999): 105-38. Kim, Elaine, '"at Least You're Not Black': Asian Americans in U.S. Race Relations." Social Justice 25, no. 3 (1998). Klein, Christina. Cold War Orientalism: Asian in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. Koshy, Susan. "Morphing Race into Ethnicity: Asian Americans and Critical Transformations of Whiteness." boundary 2 28, no. 1 (2001): 153-94.


Latifa. My Forbidden Face: Growing up under the Taliban - a Young Woman's Story. New York: Hyperion, 2003. Lee, Anthony W. Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Fraincisco. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2001. Lee, Robert G. Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. Leonard, Karen Isaksen. "Introduction: Young American Muslim Identities." The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005): 473-77. "The Liberation of Kate Millett." Time, August 311970. Lincoln, C. Eric. The Black Muslims in America. Third ed. Grand Rapids, Ml: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994. Lipsitz, George. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998. Little, Douglas. American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapel Hill, NC: Univerisity of North Carolina Press, 2002. Lowe, Lisa. Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991. Luttwak, Edward N. "President Apostate." New York Times, May 12 2008. Lye, Colleen. "The Afro-Asian Analogy." PMLA 123, no. 5 (2008): 1732-36. . America's Asia: Racial Form and American Literature. 1893-1945. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005. . "Introduction: In Dialogue with Asian American Studies." Representations 99 (2007): 112. Ma, Sheng-mei. The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Mahmoody, Betty. Not without My Daughter. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987. Maira, Sunaina. Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009. Maira, Sunaina, and Magid Shihade. "Meeting Asian/Arab American Studies: Thinking Race, Empire, and Zionism in the U.S." Journal of Asian American Studies 9, no. 2 (2006): 11740. Majaj, Lisa Suhair. "Arab-American Ethnicity: Locations, Coaltions, and Cultural Negotiations." In Arabs in America: Building a New Future, edited by Michael W. Suleiman, 320-36. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. Mamdani, Mahmood. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Pantheon, 2004. Marable, Manning. Beyond Black and White: Transforming African American Politics. London & New York: Verso, 1995. Marchetti, Gina. "America's Asia: Hollywood's Contruction, Deconstruction, and Reconstruction of the 'Orient'." Paper presented at the Out of the Shadows: Asians in American Cinema/54th Locarno International Film Festival, Lausanne 2001. McAlister, Melani. Epic Encounters: Culture Media, and U.S. Interest in the Middle East, 19452000. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. McCloud, Aminah Beverly. African American Islam. New York: Routledge, 1995. . Transnational Muslims in American Society. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida, 2006. McNulty, Timothy J. "What Exactly Is 'Post-Racial'?" Chicago Tribune, June 6 2008.


Medved, Michael. "Hollywood Finally Moves Beyond Racial Obsession." USA Today, June 10 2003,13A. Millett, Kate. Going to Iran. New York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, 1982. Mirel, Jeffrey. "After the Fall: Continuity and Change in Detroit, 1981-1995." History of Education Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1998): 237-67. Moallem, Minoo. Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Politics of Patriarchy in Iran. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005. Mohanty, Satya P. "The Epistemic Status of Cultural Identity: On Beloved and the Postcolonial Condition." In Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernisn, edited by Michael R. Hames-Garcia, 29-66. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. Morrison, Toni. "Toni Morrison on Cinderella's Stepsisters." Ms., September 1979,41-42. . Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage Books, 1992. Muhammad, Askia. "Blacks and Arabs: The Missing Links." Washington Post, August 26 1979, D2. Mullen, Bill V. Afro Orientalism. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. Naber, Nadine. "Muslim First, Arab Second: A Strategic Politics of Race and Gender." The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005): 479-95. Nashat, Guity, ed. Women and Revolution in Iran. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983. Ohnuma, Keiko. "'Aloha Spirit' and the Cultural Politics of Sentiment as National Belonging." The Contemporary Pacific 20, no. 2 (2008): 365-94. Ong, Aihwa. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. Orr, Heather Catherine. "Tehrangeles: La., the Iranian Expatriate Capital Abroad." Persian Journal, August 19 2004. Pabst, Naomi. "Iran Expulsion Terrifying, Says Kate Millett." Los Angeles Times, March 19 1979, A2. Pew Report. "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream." Washington D.C.: Pew Research Center, 2007. Porter, Dennis. "Orientalism and Its Problems." In Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, edited by Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, 150-61. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Powers, Charles T. "Veiled Warning: Modern Iran Women Cool to Holy Edicts." The Los Angeles Times, March 9 1979,1. Prashad, Vijay. The Karma of Brown Folk. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Prial, Frank J. "Feminist Philosopher: Katherine Murray Millett." New York Times, August 27 1970. Putnam, Robert D. "Bowling Together: The United States of America." American Prospect, February 11 2002. Rana, Junaid. "Tracing the Muslim Body: Race, Us Deportation, and Pakistani Return Migration." In The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in the Circuits of Us Power, edited by Vivek Bald, Miabi Chatterji, Sujani Reddy and Manu Vimalassary. New York: New York University Press, 2009 (forthcoming). Randal, Jonathan C. "Militant Women Demonstrators Attack Khomeini Aide Who Heads Iran Radio." The Washington Post, March 12 1979, A10.


. "Sexual Politics in Iran: Kate Millett Finds Tehran's Feminists Are Not United." Washington Post, March 12 1979, B l . . "Women Protest in Iran, Shout 'Down with Khomeini'." The Washington Post, March 9 1979, A l . Reston, James. "Counterrevolutions." New York Times, November 19 1978. Reuters. "U.S. Feminist Calls Khomeini 'Chauvinist'." San Francisco Chronicle, March 12 1979, A8. Rice, Condoleezza. "Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest." Foreign Affairs (2000). Rivera, Nancy. "Feminist Fears for Iran Women Leaders." Los Angeles Times, April 10 1979, C8. Rodriguez, Dylan. Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2004. Rouse, Carolyn Moxley. Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Said, Edward. Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. . Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1978. Salaita, Steven. "Beyond Orientalism and Islamophobia: 9/11, Anti-Arab Racism, and the Mythos of National Pride." CR: The New Centennial Review 6, no. 2 (2006): 245-66. Samhan, Helen Hatab. "Not Quite White: Race Classification and the Arab-American Experience." In Arabs in America: Building a New Future, edited by Michael W. San Francisco Chronicle, Editorial. "Iran's Women Talk Back." The San Francisco Chronicle, March 9 1979,44. Sasson, Jean. Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman's Survival under Saddam Hussein. New York: Penguin-New American Library, 2004. . Princess Sultana's Daughters. New York: Windsor-Brooke Books, 2001. . Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992. Schueller, Malini Johar. U.S. Orientalisms: Race, Nation, and Gender in Literature 1790-1890. Ann Arbor, Ml: University of Michigan Press, 2001. Semple, Kirk. "Council Votes for Two Muslim School Holidays." New York Times, July 1 2009. Shankar, Lavina Dhingra. "The Limits of (South Asian) Names and Labels: Postcolonial or Asian American." In A Part, yet Apart: South Asians in Asian America, edited by Lavina Shankar and Rajini Srikanth, 49-66. Philadephia: Temple University Press, 1998. Simmons, Gwendolyn Zoharah. "Striving for Muslim Women's Rights-before and Beyond Beijing: An African American Perspective." In Windows of Faith: Muslim Women ScholarActivists in Northe America, edited by Gisela Webb, 197-225. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000. Simons, Margaret A. "Racism and Feminism: A Schism in the Sisterhood." Feminist Studies 5, no. 2 (1979): 384-401. Singh, Nikhil Pal. Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Small, Melvin. At the Water's Edge: American Politics and the Vietnam War. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005. Smith, Barbara. "Racism and Women's Studies." Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies, National Women's Studies Association Selected Conference Proceedings, 1979 5, no. 1 (1980): 48-49. Smith, Terence. "Carter Deplores Agitation from Outside." New York Times, December 13 1978.


Souad. Burned Alive: A Victim of the Law of Men. New York: Warner Books, 2004. Spiegel, Claire. "Postscript: Verdict of Jurist in Muslim Case: Judges Have Lost Independence." Los Angeles Times, August 27 1979, CI. Spiegel, Lynn. "Entertainment Wars: Television Culture after 9/11." American Quarterly 56, no. 2 (2004): 235-70. Stein, Ruthe. "Looking Back at 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'." San Francisco Chronicle, February 28 2008. Steinem, Gloria. "The Way We Were-and Will Be." Ms., December 1979, 60-94. Stoler, Ann Laura. "Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American History and (Post) Colonial Studies." Journal of American History 88, no. 3 (2001): 829-65. Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of Racial Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998. Tabari, Azar. "The Enigma of Veiled Iranian Women." Feminist Review 5 (1980): 19-31. . "The Women's Movement in Iran: A Hopeful Prognosis." Feminist Studies 12, no. 2 (1986): 342-60. Tammeus, Bill. "A Call to Muslims for Reform." Kansas City Star, May 1 2006. Taylor, Ula. "As-Salaam Alaikum, My Sister, Peace Be Unto You: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Women Who Followed Him." Race and Society 1, no. 2 (1998): 17796. Tchen, John Kuo Wei. New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture 1776-1882. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. Turner, Richard Brent. Islam in the African American Experience. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997. Ursic, Greg. "Crashing with Paul Haggis: An Interview with Hollywood's New Go-to Drama Guy." (2005). Useem, Andrea. "Faith-to Pray Like a 'Full Citizen'." Washington Examiner, May 5 2005. Von Eschen, Penny M. Race and Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997. Wadud, Amina. "American Muslim Identity: Race and Ethnicity in Progressive Islam." In Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, edited by Omid Safi, 270-85. Oxford: OneWorld, 2003. . Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Walker, Rob. "Whassup, Barbie? Marketers Are Embracing the Idea of a 'Post-Racial' America. Goodbye, Niche Marketing." The Boston Globe, January 12 2003, D l . Walker, Alice. "One Child of One's Own-an Essay on Creativity." Ms., August 1979, 47-50, 72-75. Weber, Terry. "Haggis 'Dumbfounded' by Crash Oscar Win." Globe and Mail, March 6 2006. Weinbaum, Alys Eve. "Racial Aura: Walter Benjamin and the Work of Art in a Biotechnological Age." Literature and Medicine 26, no. 1 (2008): 207-39. "Who's Come a Long Way Baby?" Time, August 311970,16-21. Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Wiltz, Teresa. "The Woman Who Went to the Front of the Mosque: Feminist Faces Ostracism-or Worse-for Praying among Men." The Washington Post, June 5 2005. Wong, Sau-Ling C. "Diverted Mothering: Representations of Caregivers of Color in the Age of 'Multiculturalism'." In Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency, edited by Evelyn


Nakano Glenn, Grace Chang and Linda Rennie Forcey, 67-91. New York: Routledge, 1994. Wyche, Karen Fraser. "African American Muslim Women: An Invisible Group." Sex Roles 51, no. 5/6 (2004): 319-28. X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Yamamoto, Eric K. InterracialJustice: Conflict and Reconciliation in Post-Civil Rights America. New York: New York University Press, 1999. Yancey, George. Who Is White: Latinos, Asians, and the New Black/Nonblack Divide. Boulder, CO: L Rienner, 2003. "Young Praises Islam as 'Vibrant' and Calls the Ayatollah 'a Saint'." New York Times, February 8 1979. Yoshihara, Mari. Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Yuenger, James. "New Revolt in Iran: Feminism." The Chicago Tribune, March 111979. Zinn, Maxine Baca, and Bonnie Thornton Dill. "Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism." Feminist Studies 22, no. 2 (1996): 321-31.