Regularly, colleagues of mine from the Middle East will lament over representations they see of themselves throughout the American media and entertainment industries. Consider, if you will, those ideas and beliefs about the Middle East that are often taken for granted and seem to be deeply imbedded within the collective American psyche yet serve to malign and misdiagnose a host of behaviors and cultural institutions along with the individuals creating them.
“In a region as complex as the Middle East, with its overlapping linguistic, ethnic, national, kin, gender and class distinctions,”comments Anthropologist Dale F. Eickelman, ‘the problems of how personal and collective identities are asserted and what they mean in differing historical and political contexts are especially crucial.”
The Atlanta Middle Eastern Culture Examiner will engage readers in learning and discussion about the Middle East and the questions that have developed within popular and scholarly forums over religion, society, culture and economics. It is my hope that these articles will plant with each of you a sense of discovery and curiosity about the Middle East the cultures originating there, along with those in the diaspora.
Atlanta and the Middle East
Approaching 6 million people within the metro-Atlanta area, Atlantan’s enjoy an impressive range of human diversity. We can boast somebody from just about everywhere in the world – including a large Middle Eastern community that has been here since the last decades of the nineteenth century. At this time, most came mainly from the areas of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and were often Christian, working-class, merchants and skilled tradesmen. These early immigrants helped to build Atlanta and today family names like Maloof, Shaheen and Saleeby remain a testament to this era.
Growing tremendously in that past four decades, post 1960s Atlanta saw a rise in immigrants from other areas of the Arab World like Egypt and Iraq but also from different cultural spheres such as Iran and Turkey. A predominately well-educated and affluent Islamic group, these newcomers would offer a very different perspective to the Atlanta landscape as would later migrations of Kurdish immigrants from areas of Iraq, Iran And Turkey…
To Be Continued in Part 2 of “Atlanta and the Middle East”
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