Articles, Reviews, Volume 3

Arab American Drama, Film and Performance: A Critical Study, 1908 to the Present

Arab American Drama,Film and Performance:
A Critical Study, 1908 to the Present
By Michael Malek Najjar 
A Book Review By George Potter
Jefferson: McFarland, 2015
Arab StagesVolume 2, Number 1 (Fall 2015) 
©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Michael Malek Najjar begins his study of Arab American drama, film, and solo performance by recalling a conversation in which a colleague asked him, “Is there such a thing as Arab American drama?” (1). Such questions about Arab and Arab American performance traditions are not new, and, in fact, serve as the academic parallel to the American government’s request that Arabs consistently display their humanity and their American credentials. Najjar’s book is an important rejoinder to both kinds of questions, one that asks that Arab American work be accounted and studied seriously and that Arab Americans be allowed to tell their own stories and have their lived experiences also taken into account.

What is particularly remarkable about Najjar’s book is that it is not merely a schematic account of previous performances and films, as sometimes has been the case in early work on Arab theatre. Instead, the book is an attempt to balance a historical ledger against rigorous contextualization and theoretical examination. This balance stands as the great strength of the book, as it both provides the long missing historical depth behind the trendier post-9/11 Arab American performances, while also showing that these performances should and can be analyzed with the same rigor as any other performance tradition.

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