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After the American Century : The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East (Hardcover) (Brian T. Edwards)

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When Henry Luce announced in 1941 that we were living in an "American century," he believed the international popularity of American culture made a world favorable to U.S. interests. For decades, his claim seemed to hold. Now, in the digital twenty-first century, the "American century" has been superseded, as American movies, music, video games, and television shows are received, understood, and transformed in unexpected ways.

How do we make sense of this shift? Built on a decade of fieldwork in Cairo, Casablanca, and Tehran, Brian T. Edwards maps new routes of cultural exchange that are unpredictable, accelerated, and full of diversions. Shaped by the digital revolution, these paths are entwined with the growing fragility of American "soft" power. They indicate an era after the American century, in which popular American products and phenomena, such as comic books, teen romances, social networking sites, and American ways of expressing sexuality, are stripped of their American associations and creatively re-presented in very different terms. A film likeArgo or superhero comics is then imbued with new meanings.

Arguing against those in both scholarly and policy circles who talk about a world in which American culture is merely replicated or appropriated, Edwards focuses instead on creative moments of uptake, in which Arabs and Iranians make something unexpected. He argues that these products do more than extend the reach of the original. They reflect a world in which culture endlessly circulates and gathers new meanings.


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