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American ArabesqueArabs and Islam in the Nineteenth Century Imaginary$
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Jacob Rama Berman

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814789506

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814789506.001.0001

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American Moors and the Barbaresque

American Moors and the Barbaresque

(p.138) 4 American Moors and the Barbaresque
American Arabesque

Jacob Rama Berman

NYU Press

This chapter explores the representation of Arabs, Islam, and Arabo-Islamic culture in early twentieth-century black uplift discourses. These representations are hardly consistent and often speak directly to differences in theories on self-representation, as well as to the aesthetic divides that these differences engender. The most prominent figure of black engagement with Arab and Islamic culture is the Moor. Indeed, the figure of the Moor was mobilized for both spiritual and secular discourses on black identity. Tracking its uses in the first decades of the twentieth century reveals how intraethnic class and religious reconciliation were often sacrificed in black uplift discourses to intraethnic racial reconciliation. The chapter also discusses the term barbaresque, which describes black intellectuals' aesthetic engagement with North Africa, as well as with the narratives of African American empowerment these engagements produced.

Keywords:   black uplift discourses, Arabo-Islamic culture, Moor, black identity, intraethnic racial reconciliation, barbaresque, African American empowerment

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