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Belly Dancing: Arab-Face, Orientalist Feminism, and U.S. Empire (PDF)

In light of Facebook’s suggestion that I like Bellydancing.com, I’m currently reading this paper 

Belly dancing has become a site for staging a New Age feminism and liberal Orientalist perspective on Arab and Muslim women, illustrating what Said called the “neo-Orientalism” of the present moment. Orientalism continues to be a deeply appealing, binary frame for imagining the “West” in opposition to the “Orient” or the “East”—a “Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient,” through the production of “an idea that has a history and tradition of thought, imagery, and vocabulary that has given it reality and presence in and for the West.”  The present moment of U.S. Orientalism builds on earlier imaginings of the “Orient,” and of the “Middle East” specifically, that have evolved in response to different encounters with, 

and fantasies of, “Arab culture” and “the Muslim world.” Orientalist forms of popular culture have a long history in the United States and are expressions of an American Orientalism that is multivocalic, evolving, and cumulative, building on the sediments of earlier representations of the “Orient,” and situated in the particular relationship of the United States to the “Orient,” as distinct from that of European colonial powers.





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