The global circulation of Donald Trump’s political rhetoric during the presidential campaign of 2015-16 produced international dismay, bewilderment, and apprehension, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It also affected a rupture of the crucial divide between American popular culture and US politics—a distinction that allowed American cultural products, massively popular in the Middle East and elsewhere, to proliferate in places where U.S. politics were unpopular or rejected. During the Bush II and Obama administrations, a new generation in the MENA region differentiated between the cultural products and political system of the U.S. and creatively recorded, incorporated, and localized a global American culture. The breach of the divide between American popular and political culture, or its blurring, portends the winter of the American empire and the postscript to the “American Century,” an influential formation which held that the popularity and attractiveness of American culture had positive political benefits for the United States. In the age of Trump and Twitter, the American political system itself has become a horrible form of global entertainment. How devastating the effects will remain to be seen.
Brian T. Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and Professor of English, Comparative Literary Studies and American Studies, Northwestern University
NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
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