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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 399–412 | Cite as

Propaganda for empire: Barbary captivity literature in the US

  • Moulay Ali BouânaniEmail author
Article

Abstract

The origins of American demonisation of Islam and the Arabic World has roots in seventeenth century Puritanism and the nascent imperialist attitude of the new settlers. The objectivisation of the Muslim Arab in what the Europeans called ‘Barbary’, and the Native American occurred in tandem and underscored the supposed superiority of English and Puritan values and culture. This article explains how racial and religious biases in the New World worked in tandem with politics and expressed themselves in literature which was used for propagandistic purposes.

Keywords

Barbary States Moors Muslims Christians captivity American imperalism American Orientalism Early American literature 

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Notes

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    This was still the characterisation as recently as the twentieth century. See, for instance, Howard Swiggett, War out of Niagara: Walter Butler and the Tory Rangers, Empire State Historical Publication, no. 20 (Port Washington, NY: Ira J. Friedman, Inc., 1963 [1933]), 272.Google Scholar
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    Lambert, The Barbary Wars, 52. The Sultan at the time was Sidi Mohammed III.Google Scholar
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    See Baepler, ‘The Barbary Captivity Narrative in Early America’, 106. See also, Abdullah Jamal Eddine, Al Muslimun al munassarun aw al murisqiyyun al andalusiyyun (Cairo: Dar as Sahwa, 1991).Google Scholar
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    Jack B. Moore, ‘Introduction’, in Royall Tyler, The Algerine Captive; or, The Life and Adventures of Doctor Updike Underhill, Six Years a Prisoner among the Algerines (1802 ed.) ed. Jack B. Moore (Gainsville, FL: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, 1967 [1797]), xvi.Google Scholar
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    L.H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, and Mary-Jo Kline, The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762–1784 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), 121–123.Google Scholar
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  57. 57.
    For the classic slave narrative exposing concubinage, see Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990 [1861]).Google Scholar
  58. 57a.
    Many texts have examined the Jefferson-Hemings relationship, but the classic work that started all modern inquiry was Fawn Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974).Google Scholar
  59. 58.
    See a summary discussion of the historical genesis of American racism in Barbara Alice Mann, Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds (New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2003), 19–26.Google Scholar
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    See also Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  61. 59.
    Jessica Lynch’s captivity in Iraq was steered by the administration and the media in the same manner earlier captivity narratives were. But Lynch couldn’t help but correct people who made her captivity in Iraq reach proportions of unequalled absurdity and sickness. For example, the writer of her book claims that she was raped anally! She was immediately dismissed when she began telling anyone who asks that she is no hero: ‘That wasn’t me. I’m not about to take credit for something I didn’t do … I’m just a survivor.’ More recently, in March 2007, the British administration and media tried to utilise the only woman among the captive sailors in Iran in the same manner. The tabloids were already cashing on her alleged ‘rape’ when the scandal about their selling their stories to the media rose.Google Scholar
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    Moore, ‘Introduction’, Algerine Captive, xxi.Google Scholar
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    Schueller, 61.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Africana StudiesBinghamton University — SUNYUSA

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