Cowboys and Injuns, Wild West, and the Middle East as the New, Good Old Frontier

America has never stopped repeating stories about cowboys and Indians, even when the frontier is somewhere else

[… In a sense, the expansion of the frontier into the deserts of the Middle East were foreshadowed even during Geronimo’s own time, when “Wild Arabs” or “Bedouins” were incorporated into displays of trained horsemen at entertainment venues like the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Some have argued that these “Wild Arabs” were viewed as Eastern “Rough Riders” which is apparently an old cowboy term for those who ride the most resistant horses. In this case, the adjective “wild” in “Wild Arabs” would simply invoke the idea of the Wild West and therefore serve to relate the skilled Arab horseman to the iconic cowboy figure.

The relationship between cowboys and Middle Eastern horsemen would not have been so jarring at the turn of the 20th century, since the Middle East was mainly imagined through the lens of the Holy Land. While Geronimo was put on display at the 1904 St. Louis world’s fair, one of its other main attractions was a replica of the Holy Land. Geronimo was reportedly courted by a “Wild West” entrepreneur to participate in the same shows as  the “Wild Arabs.” These intersections are not accidental. They demonstrate a long-embedded link between popular understandings of both the frontier and the desert as land to be conquered and people to be turned into dioramas….]

Read the full article hjere: Wild, Wild East | THE NEW INQUIRY



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