A Contact Threesome: Americans, Arabs, and Imperialists
Gorman, Henry Grey
This paper explores how encounters with European empire shaped American missionary and travel writing about the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I break with the way that scholars in the humanities, and historians of Americans in the Middle East in particular, talk about intercultural contact. Most just narrate exchanges between Americans and their Others, ignoring the context that made those interactions possible. Post-spatial turn scholars have contextualized cultural exchanges in spaces like Mary Louise Pratt's “contact zone.” However, they usually focus on “hetero” interactions within those zones-- those between the visitor and the “Other.” But American travelers visited places inhabited by people who they identified with-- like European imperialists-- as well as Others. The imperial power relationships within those places shaped Americans' experiences. I “queer” Pratt's contact zone and examine how “homo” interactions-- between visitors and people they identified with-- mediated contact. Imperial threesomes produced Americans' experiences in areas dominated by European empires. Exchanging a binary model of encounter for a triangular one, I explore the ways that imperial power relations shaped American Protestants' pilgrimages and missions in the Middle East.