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'I said no camels!': Indiana Jones and the Catalogue of Orientalism

Version 2 2024-06-03, 17:54
Version 1 2020-04-28, 14:49
chapter
posted on 2024-06-03, 17:54 authored by Matthew Hardy
This chapter examines the representation of Middle Eastern cultures and geography in the Indiana Jones film franchise. With the first and third films set largely in Middle Eastern locations and being concerned with biblical MacGuffins, the importance of these backdrops cannot be overstated in any examination of the series. Through the theoretical framework of Edward Said's Orientalism (1978), the chapter shows how the films are the product of centuries of Western imagining of the East. Inheriting the literary tradition of Burton's Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885), the cultural outlook of Indiana Jones can be traced through the adventures of H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain, John Buchan's Richard Hannay and the Biggles series of Captain W.E. Johns. The treatment of the Middle East in the Indiana Jones films aligns very closely with this inheritance. The people and cultures of the locations are there merely as an exotic backdrop for the Western characters to progress across. With the exception of the bumbling and cowardly Sallah, Arabs and Turks serve only as spies, cannon fodder, labourers or foot chase impediments. With the plots rooted in ancient history, the contemporary culture of the region is disregarded: Judaism and Christianity are significant but Islam is overlooked. Despite this historical basis though, the narrative presented is a fictitious melange based upon real-world events and locations. The chapter places the films in the pantheon of Western adventure in the Orient and describes how, in their nostalgic use of a gentleman adventurer, the franchise perpetuates a yearning for a similarly by-gone era of Orientalist comfort; a world of clear distinction between Western superiority and inconsequential Eastern others.

History

Chapter number

5

Pagination

64-75

ISBN-13

9781476639727

ISBN-10

1476639728

Language

eng

Publication classification

B1 Book chapter

Extent

15

Editor/Contributor(s)

Laist R

Publisher

McFarland & Company

Place of publication

Jefferson, N.C.

Title of book

Excavating Indiana Jones : essays on the films and franchise

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