|Arab Culture and Civilization: A collaborative web project created by NITLE and sponsored by MEPC|
|Main Menu Introduction Readings Audio/Video Links Bibliography|
In a program on Arab culture designed for a consortium of American colleges and universities, it seems appropriate to deal with the history and current status of Arab immigrants to the United States. Given the backlash experienced by members of the Arab-American community in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, however, it has probably become an imperative.
As our module on history in this site shows, interactions between the United States and the Arab World date back to the origins of this country, and it is certain that there have been Arabs residing in the United States since these earliest days, but the first “wave” of immigrants began arriving in the 19th century. This began a long and rich history that we hope to introduce in this unit. Material by Michael Suleiman and Helen Samhan gives a sense of the diversity and accomplishments of this community throughout its history.
While the accomplishments of Americans of Arab descent are many, their lives in this country have not been without difficulty. Like many other groups, Arabs have often found themselves subjects of stereotyping and discrimination. As the article by Michael Suleiman documents, this is not a new phenomenon, but one that dates back to the 1800s. Arab-Americans have too often suffered from invisibility or outright discrimination. Of course the problem has become much more pronounced since September 11, a fact that is extensively discussed in all the interviews found in this unit.
While most materials in this module deal with the Arab American experience on a national scale, other materials are much more focused, such as May Seikaly’s study of the Palestinian community of Detroit, Nadine Naber’s discussion of the Arab-American community in the Bay Area of California, or the short film "New York Neighborhoods,” which is simply a walk through two neighborhoods with large Arab populations in New York and New Jersey. On the other hand, an article on the dynamics of Islamic identity in the United States by Yvonne Haddad expands the focus of the unit to consider the Muslim community in the US as a whole. The gallery of this unit explores the contributions of Arab Americans to children's health at St. Jude Children's Hospital. Also included in this unit are video clips from three comedians who explore the Arab American experience through humor.
Those interested in learning more about the Arab-American experience will certainly want to explore the sources grouped together here along with the examples of and articles about Arab-American literature that we have included in the module on literature and philosophy.
While this unit is intended to give an overview of the history of communities of Arab descent in this country, much more needs to be said. To borrow from the title of a remarkable short film we feature in this unit, we can only hope to provide some idea of "the complexity of living as an Arab in America."