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The Middle East as Seen Through Foreign Eyes

Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

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Middle-School Social Studies Handout, North Chicago Suburbs, 1987

Middle-School Social Studies Handout, North Chicago Suburbs, 1987

During the 1980s a middle-school social studies teacher distributed this handout to his students. On a single page the handout presents a series of black-white binary oppositions which serve to explain why the Arab world is afflicted with “chaos and disunity” as compared to the modern West. The content is familiar. Not only is it an abbreviated index of the recurring stereotypes that Europeans and Americans have attributed to a Middle Eastern people for centuries, but it is also reminiscent of a program of demonization directed at any group perceived to be an enemy other. The context in which it was disseminated, a middle-school classroom in the suburban Midwest, shows how widespread the process of enemy-making vis-à-vis the Middle East had become in the late twentieth century.

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