How to escape the classic and enduring, reinforced Orientalist trappings, the colonialist “other” that keeps resurfacing in reinforced, ingenious and more invigorated fashion. Is this part of the running of the gauntlet, the typical immigrant cycle as invoked by Canadian writer Rick Salutin or lawyer Julius Grey? Is it all part of a nurturing of white mainstream culture’s with new threats and fears rooted in the biological stirrings of the waters in the gene pool with a remotely foreign substance.
Time will prevail whether a short circuiting of the word of god direct to the prophet Muhammed’s ear has the force to be lasting or a reflection of Western frustration with Islam blocking the path to the Eastern faiths. The yids were badly outnumbered, it was never much of a contest something like Redford and Newman against the Mexican army, but Islam is likely to be a more protracted struggle. And it remains to be seen whether Islam will pass through a normative, Platonic phase and become embedded in what Harold Bloom calls “American religion” a few iterations removed from the archaic and sometimes erratic epoch on which Islam taps into.
Craig Thompson’s graphic novel in the comic genre avoids yet falls into the morass of populism, even counter-culture left leaning populism that permeates America. The reviewer nailed down the work at all levels showing Thompson’s work as reflective of an older tradition that invokes Francis Galton and his IQ tests as a pretext for discrimination and euthanasia and later shrink (wrapped) Henry Goddard using flimsy reasoning, pseudo-science to restrict immigration and enforce segregation by whipping sentiment up with assertions that not-white-enough arrivals were both violent, lazy and “feeble-minded.”…
part of a well written review ( see link)…The second thematic triumph of Habibi is the manner which Thompson explores Islam. This clearly and heavily researched portion of the text contains the most exciting and memorable sections of Habibi by far. Thompson has mentioned the influence of Joe Sacco during the book making process and it is clear this is where Sacco’s research and report approach has influenced Thompson the most. Just as Sacco’s work lives in the footnotes of Gaza, here we get the product of Thompson diving deep into Islamic Hadith (the reported statements and actions of the Prophet Muhammad during his life), specific suras (chapters) of the Qur’an, and pre-Qur’anic mysticism. The threads he pulls out of his research are fascinating on their own right. His act of discovery is shared with the reader and it is clear he was excited to make it….The question Thompson puts out there is: How can so many Christians and Jewish people be so against Islam when there are so many similarities between the faiths?…Read More:http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/10/can-the-subaltern-draw-the-spectre-of-orientalism-in-craig-thompsons-habibi/
…While this story is drawn with the same detail-attentive pen that Thompson uses at the service of calligraphy and geometric patterns, here it predominantly captures the vagueness of stereotypes. Thompson contributes to (instead of resisting) Orientalist discourse by overly sexualizing women, littering the text with an abundance of savage Arabs, and dually constructing the city of Wanatolia as modern and timeless….
One of the biggest missteps that Habibi makes is relying heavily on unrequited sex as a main narrative thrust. In John Acocella’s critique of Stieg Larsson’s popular Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series from earlier this year, he notes that some charge Larsson of “having his feminism and eating it too” based on the blunt manner in which he uses rape as a plot device. I think a similar charge can be laid against Thompson, who uses the repeated rape (and sometimes consensual sex by circumstance) of Dodola as an emotional tool that never feels wholly earned….Read More:http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/10/can-the-subaltern-draw-the-spectre-of-orientalism-in-craig-thompsons-habibi/
What Thompson appears to be doing, even more egregious if it unconscious, is to replay Sam Huntington and his Clash of Civilizations except in comic form of which the plasticisity to use Eisenstein’s term, make it even more violent. Its the heart of darkness and ultimately outright racism and you don’t have to read Edward said cover to cover to get the big picture. What else can you expect in an America
which conservative groups force Lowe’s to bounce off perfectly mild advertising targeting the Moslem male. In a sense the Arabo community is the new version of the us and them and are the new Jews as semitic whipping people of choice. In fact, it is possible that the antipathy to the Arabs is a convenient channel or conduit for anti-semitism in society.
The stereotypes and tropes are so blatant that it can even be considered hate literature in which at least since Beckworth’s Vahtek have used the Arab to project their own fantasies and rub in the muck of exoticism while denying it. Perhaps, as Veblen remarked, invidious comparison may be part of our DNA:
…the savagery of Orientals is imagined by European artists and portrayed for European audiences. What is reflected in these paintings is the White Man’s Burden: the felt need among those in the West to save Arab women from Arab men. By imitating the style of French Orientalist paintings as a vessel for his story, Thompson also transfers the message those paintings are loaded with. It is the same White Man’s Burden that drives readers to register Dodola as a damsel in distress (a position she inhabits for the majority of the book). She needs saving from the savage Arab men that over-populate the book. Read More:http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/10/can-the-subaltern-draw-the-spectre-of-orientalism-in-craig-thompsons-habibi/
…Furthermore, Thompson creates a world where Dodola’s chief asset is her sexed body. She sacrifices herself to men to feed Zam, gain a version of “freedom” with the Sultan, and save herself from jail. Thompson crafts a societal position for the main character of the book where she must always be exotic and sexualized….
and finally, from the review: In too many panels, Thompson conjures up familiar and lazy stereotypes of Arabs. From the greedy Sultan in his palace, to the Opium dazed harem, to the overly crowded streets of beggars, and the general status of women as property, Thompson layers the book with the hollow caricatures from other literature. These settings are easy to imagine because they have been passed down and recycled throughout much of Western media, so we immediately register these vague settings as natural…Read More:http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/10/can-the-subaltern-draw-the-spectre-of-orientalism-in-craig-thompsons-habibi/
New York Times:Thompson makes no pretension to realism. But the originals were fantasies too, and it’s often hard to tell whether Thompson is making fun of Orientalism or indulging in it. When, in “Habibi,” a slave trader lists for a prospective buyer all the hues for sale — “charcoal, cinnamon, shiny prune, chestnut” — and one of the slaves corrects him, “Actually, I’m closer to walnut,” the joke is jejune at best. (It also undermines any investment we might have had in the scene.)
In this sense, Thompson the illustrator is in the same situation as Zam: both are prisoners of their own fantasies, apparently unable to think of Dodola without disrobing her (she spends the book in various states of dishabille; by contrast, male nudity is rare). This similarity between creator and creation could have made for an interesting formal problem — we can imagine Zam looking outside the comic strip and asking, “Whose fantasies are these, anyway?” — though Thompson doesn’t take it up. Sickened by his libido, Zam punishes himself in extraordinary fashion. But Thompson never considers equivalent strictures for his art. If anything, he seems enamored of his own technique, and not only in depicting Dodola….Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/books/review/habibi-written-and-illustrated-by-craig-thompson-book-review.html?pagewanted=all