112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Marketing the Middle Eastern Memoir: Escapee Narratives and the Politics of the Exotic

Atef Laouyene, California State University, Los Angeles

This paper argues that the popularity of narratives about Middle Eastern violence in the afterm of 9/11, especially the testimonial genre, cannot be fully understood unless read through the market-oriented exoticist paradigms of the metropolitan culture industry in which those narratives circulate. 

Proposal: 

In his book Orientalism, Edward Said describes the Orient as an “almost European invention […] a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences.” For Said, European perceptions of the Orient as essentially exotic are not always innocent; they often designate “a relationship of power [and] varying degrees of complex hegemony.” In the aftermath of 9/11, this Western cult of the exotic East may be said to have undergone a significant paradigm shift, one in which the scene of Middle Eastern violence has indeed become the predominant source for the experience of the exotic. This shift is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the increasing demand in metropolitan literary markets for Middle Eastern testimonial narratives, particularly those by women. More often than not, it is the kind of frisson, the seductive shiver, that such narratives trigger in mainstream audiences that turns the spectacle of violence in the Middle East into a source of exotic fascination, one that is immediately exploited by literary publishers. The succès de scandal of Jordanian-American Norma Khouri’s Honor Lost (2003), a fake memoir about honor killings in Jordan, is a salient example among many of the extent to which post/911 representations of Middle Eastern violence are implicated in the marketing technologies of the global (and especially Western) literary marketplace. What this paper argues, therefore, is that the popularity of narratives about Middle Eastern violence after 9/11, especially the testimonial genre, cannot be fully understood unless read through the market-oriented exoticist paradigms of the metropolitan culture industry in which those narratives circulate. 

Topic Area: