- What's Queer About Tangier
Brian Edwards's Morocco Bound examines American representations of the Maghreb produced between 1942 and 1973, ranging from cookbooks and travel guides to lesser-known literary texts and State Department policy documents. Embarking from Edward Said's notion of orientalism in order to develop the notion of a distinct American variant, Edwards attempts to "trace the global flow of Orientalist discourse" as it circulates through these diverse textual sites (2). Edwards's argument hinges on the twin assertions that American orientalism operates according to "a logic that collapses domestic frames of reference and representations of the foreign" (9) and implies a "global racial time" underwritten by the "American Century" model of globalization, which understood Maghrebis (and, by orientalist extension, African Americans) as "on a different place in the evolutionary scale and . . . not ready for rights and responsibilities" (3). Both assertions demonstrate the extent to which Edwards's American orientalism deftly accounts for the shifting international relations of the 1940s and 1950s. Edwards contextualizes American involvement in the Maghreb within an account of the rise of the United States as a global power, offering an insightful consideration of the transnational economies that conditioned midcentury American foreign policy. Such an analysis serves as a timely reminder of the pre-histories of contemporary globalization and current U.S. involvement in Africa and the Middle East.
Edwards investigates the operation of American orientalism in three temporal contexts: World War II, the early Cold War, and the hippie movement of the 1960s. Beginning with the 1942 North African campaign, part 1, "Taking Casablanca," analyzes the American tendency to use domestic referents to understand the sociopolitical and geographic terrains of the Maghreb. This "domestication" included Maghrebis: soldiers, journalists, and Hollywood frequently represented [End Page 583] North Africans using homegrown racist stereotypes of American Indians and African Americans. The marginalization and containment accomplished by this mapping accompany a foreclosure of the possibility of political alliances between African Americans and North Africans, as Edwards demonstrates in his reading of Sam in Casablanca. Preventing critical attention to French colonization of North Africa from circulating in the American press impeded any substantive affiliation around intersecting struggles for rights and quietly facilitated U.S. support of the French government despite colonization.
The foreclosure of alliance reappears in part 3, "Marrakech Express," as a predominant effect of American orientalism in the 1960s: American hippies and anthropologists alike turned away from the political struggles of Morocco's urban youth, pointing to rural, "traditional" communities as the sites of the "real" Morocco and ignoring the commonalities of Moroccan and American political movements. The focus on "traditional" communities reproduced the temporal lag of global racial time, once again envisioning the Maghreb as a retrograde site of escape and fetishized otherness. Edwards aptly remarks that this orientalist "(dis)figuration" of Morocco was conditioned by American involvement in Vietnam, where violence significantly altered the potential for "exotic escape" (249).
Part 2, "Queer Tangier," argues that American orientalism during the early Cold War manifests as hypernationalist American anxiety about the "queer excess" of Tangier. Edwards argues that American media representations attempted to contain Tangier's supranationalism and "unproductive" financial excess by describing the city as "queer." The ascription of queerness rendered Tangier abject and threatening in the popular imagination. This section also introduces the provocative notion of an "anal economy" to theorize the simultaneous threat and resistance posed by Tangier's queerness. Understood as the "radical incorporation of all waste" (165), Edwards's anal economy, in concert with his subtle negotiation of the vagaries of queerness in Tangier, offers a pleasantly "backdoor" deployment of an oft-rehearsed argument about queerness and abjection.
The chapters that comprise "Queer Tangier" also advance Edwards's analysis of literary "interruptions" into American hypernationalism. Using Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Jane Bowles, and Mohammed Mrabet, Edwards suggests reading practices appropriate to al-adab at-Tanji, or Tangerian literature, which is characterized by the refusal to "produce a seamless American translation of the Maghreb" (95). Edwards argues that Burroughs's...