American culture is ubiquitous across the globe. It travels to different social contexts and is consumed by international populations. But the relationship between American...

American culture is ubiquitous across the globe. It travels to different social contexts and is consumed by international populations. But the relationship between American culture and the meanings attached to the United States change over time. During the 20th century, the American Century, American culture generally aided in the positive global perception of U.S. policies and governance.

In After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East (Columbia University Press, 2016), Brian T. Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and Professor of English at Northwestern University, demonstrates how this relationship altered in recent decades. Technological innovation and the emergence of the digital age have drastically changed the nature of cultural circulation and production. Edwards explores the innovative play between global culture and local subjects in Egypt, Iran, and Morocco. He explores the exchange and interpretations between multiple publics that engage culture situated within various assumptions and social expectations. What he shows is that local cultural production often creates the ends of circulation, which are not always visible to an American audience. In our conversation we discussed the relationship between culture and politics, Egyptian fiction and graphic novels, Iranian directors Asghar Farhadi and Abbas Kiarostami, Shrek, digital piracy, Moroccan film controversies, the logics of film production, interpreting audiences, American Orientalism in television, literature, and Ben Affleck’s Argo.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kjpetersen@unomaha.edu.

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