Performing Transnational Arab American womanhood: Rosemary Hakim, US Orientalism and Cold War Diplomacy

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Rosemary Hakim won the first Miss Lebanon-America beauty pageant in 1954. While the pageant celebrated the Lebanese American community in the US, Hakim’s strategic use of her new representative status allowed her to go beyond the organizer’s intentions. She contacted the Lebanese government and secured an invitation to Beirut, which propelled her into the middle of US Cold War politics and cultural diplomacy. After an eventful summer she returned to the US and documented her experiences abroad in an unpublished memoir, entitled “Arabian Antipodes.” This 1955 account reveals a rich transnational history in Hakim’s personal and intimate observations and sheds light on a hitherto unexplored moment in Arab American women’s self-representation. This essay looks at Hakim’s adaptive agency and the ways she performs her own Arab American womanhood transnationally. Hakim’s ambivalent self-representation draws on varying notions of “womanhood” to negotiate both Lebanese and US nationalisms, Orientalisms, and her own sense of self. I contextualize her narrative performance within the histories of US Orientalism and the emerging Cold War to provide a better understanding of specific 1950s hegemonic discourses that framed and enabled her adaptive agency. My analysis then draws out how Hakim herself strategically adapts these discourses to claim her own subject position as an Arab and American woman in the 1950s.
Sidor (från-till)1-25
Antal sidor25
TidskriftJournal of Transnational American Studies
StatusPublished - 2016
Externt publiceradJa

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