WGST 59.3/THEA 10/AMES 25: Unveiling the Harem Dancer
Images of subjugated veiled women and seductive harem dancers are arguably the pivotal figures of Western Orientalism. Stereotypes of Arab and Muslim women continue to proliferate today's media, U.S. film industry, and even the visual and performing arts. Studying the genealogy of such images becomes ever more crucial, especially as the Middle Eastern woman and representations of her body take center stage in contemporary debate and conflict between religions, cultures, and values. Therefore, this course will focus on unpacking the histories, cultures, politics, and ideologies performed through and around the Orient, the Oriental woman and her dancing body. Through mapping the larger political economy of Oriental dance, its appropriation and circulation from the east to the west and the reverse, we will pay particular attention on the histories of race, sexuality, identity, class, nation, and gender formations that the dance tells. We will also focus on the ways in which Islam and Arab Eastern cultures have fostered their own responses and stereotypes towards female performers with a take on their rationalizations of morality, gender roles and sexuality. Topics such as self-exoticism and self-Orientalism in relation to identity and nation building politics will be discussed. Lastly, we will be asking whether and how dance, arts, and the humanities can shape, alter, and deconstruct such perceptions. Through examining and analyzing a number of theoretical texts, travelers' accounts, and cultural productions—such as photography, theater, concert dance, and cinema—this course will explore how and why archetypal representations of the Orient have been created and continue to shape western understandings of the Middle East and its women. Dist: INT; WCult: NW.