Ambassador Shrek: US Pop Culture Recast in the Middle East

Brian T. Edwards, Crown Professor and Director, Program in Middle East and North African Studies, Northwestern University

US Pop Culture Recast in Middle East by The Chicago Council

American pop culture has long been seen as beneficial to US soft power—as far back as Henry Luce’s call for an “American Century.” From Shrek dubbed into Farsi in Iran, to Western style hip-hop by Moroccan youth and Egyptian cyberpunk comics, people in the Middle East and North Africa consume American culture avidly, even when US foreign policy is unpopular. Yet what happens to American cultural products when they travel abroad? According to Brian T. Edwards, the ways in which these societies transform American cultural products to make them their own allows us a unique vantage on local sociopolitical conditions. How does pop culture in the Middle East tell us crucial things about politics we otherwise miss? What does the localization of pop culture in the digital age mean for American soft power? What does the period after the American century look like?

Brian Edwards’ most recent book After the American Century: The Ends of US Culture in the Middle East will be available for purchase and signing from The Book Cellar following the program.

Speaker Bio


5:30 p.m.            

6:00 p.m.            
Presentation and discussion

7:15 p.m.            
Adjournment and book signing