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Exhibits: A is for Arab

About the Exhibit

On display March 18 - 31, 2013

"Powerful, accessible and compelling, 'A is for Arab,' which features images from The Jack G. Shaheen Archive at New York University (NYU), reveals and critiques the stereotypical portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in U.S. popular culture. Providing historical context about these images which range from film stills to comic books to editorial cartoons, this traveling exhibition aims to educate and stimulate discussion about the impact of stereotypes on both individual perceptions and national policy."

(Text quoted with permission from the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI.)

About the Author

Dr. Jack G. Shaheen

World’s Foremost Authority on Arab Stereotypes to Speak at USCB
March 25, 2013 – 5:30 p.m. LIBR 237
Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, considered the world’s foremost authority on Arab stereotypes in Hollywood films, television shows and popular culture, will offer insights into his lifelong struggle to correct negative stereotypes in an address March 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

Dr. Shaheen’s presentation, in Library 237 on the university’s Gateway to Hilton Head campus, is the high point of an exhibit entitled “A is for Arabs, Archiving Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture.” Described as “powerful, accessible and compelling,” the exhibit offers a wide range of negative depictions of Arabs in the media presented through a series of images from the Jack G. Shaheen Archive at New York University. USCB is hosting the exhibit from March 18 through March 31 in the library on the Gateway to Hilton Head campus.

In the course of his work, Dr. Shaheen has connected the negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims with similar portrayals of other marginalized groups, including Jews, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and African Americans. He has analyzed the origins of these visual caricatures to reveal their very real ramifications for innocent people; he then presents solutions to counter their effects.

The exhibit provides the historical context of the images conveyed in film stills, comic books, editorial cartoons and more. The intent of the exhibit is to stimulate discussion about the impact of stereotypes on both individual perceptions and national policy.

“Arab bashing has been with us long before 9/11 and the Iraq wars,” Dr. Shaheen says. “For more than a century, generations of movie-goers have witnessed reel Arabs as brute murderers, religious fanatics, oil-rich potentates, and silent harem maidens. Nevertheless, I ask you to keep the faith; in time, prejudices will dissipate. Young image-makers will lead the way with fresh stories that illustrate that regardless of color, creed or culture—we are all bound together.”

Dr. Shaheen launched the campaign to correct Arab and Muslim stereotypes after experiencing what he considered dehumanizing representations of Arabs in the books, cartoons and toys his children were playing with in the 1970s. His research led to four books: Nuclear War Films; Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture; The TV Arab; and the award-winning book and film, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.

In the course of his research, he amassed a collection of 3,000 Hollywood films along with television programs, cartoons, games, toys, books, magazines, editorial cartoons and more. They are contained in the Jack G. Shaheen Archives, which is open to researchers and scholars, as a testament to the long-held presence of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim images in U.S. popular culture.

A former CBS News consultant on Middle East affairs, Dr. Shaheen was Professor Emeritus of Mass Communications at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He holds degrees from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Missouri. He is the recipient of two Fulbright teaching awards. He has served as an Oxford Research Scholar and as a consultant for the Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and New York City’s Commission on Civil Rights. In addition, he was formerly the Distinguished Visiting Scholar at New York University’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute and the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies.

Dr. Shaheen will be available to sign the book associated with the exhibit.

Selected Bibliography

Read More About It

Who are the Arabs?

The Arabs are not and never have been a single nationality or a single people. This is not to say that they have not had, in their ancient history as well as in the modern day, a nationhood and nations. Indeed, there are today twenty-two Arab nations, stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco to the Persian Gulf, from the Mediterranean to the middle of the Sahara and the Upper Nile. The Arab World crosses the continents of Africa and Asia to the tip of Europe and numbers at least one hundred thirty million of the earth's people.

What then is “Arab” if it is not a single nationality?

The Arab identity, like that of the Jews, is a cultural identity, linking the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa through language, tradition, history, and religion.

The Arab World

We might consider those states which are associated with the League of Arab States to be what is recognized as the Arab World. These are organized into four zones, different in geographic and demographic characteristics, but alike in the language and heritage which binds them.

One zone is the Arab East, called Al-Mashraq, which means, simply, “East, where the sun rises.” This section embraces Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Palestine.

A second zone contains the countries of the Nile—Egypt and Sudan.

The Arab West, Al-Maghreb, “land of the sunset,” can be considered the third zone. This section includes Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauretania.

The fourth zone, the Gulf States, is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Bahrein, Quatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

from The Cleveland Memory Project – “Who are the Arabs?” Arab-Americans & Their Communities of Cleveland by Mary Haddad Macron -