Annabelle Cone - Using Orientalist Fashion Theory to Find Historical Details in Three Francophone Comics
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Because they are so popular, comics set in a historical past contribute to the manner in which history is interpreted. In the case of the Middle East and North Africa, older comics set in those regions, like Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin, promote a generic reading of the past that justifies the “civilizing mission” undertaken by European colonialism. A generic space that tends to also be represented ahistorically, as geopolitics are elided so as not to complicate history for younger readers (Hergé), the Middle East and North Africa are spaces also associated with Orientalism. In my paper, I turn to fashion theory about Orientalism first as a means to actually look for historical details where they are otherwise difficult to find, i.e. in the fashions worn by the main characters, as in the aforementioned Adventures of Tintin. Secondly, fashion theory makes possible a “trans-Orientalist” reading of the Middle East, whereby cultures overlap and intersect (Geczy). The sartorial details included in The Rabbi’s Cat (Sfar) and A Game for Swallows (Abirached) will contextualize stories and events, assigning to those usually atemporal (Orientalist) spaces a more nuanced reading that bridges the tension between Euro-centric Orientalism (Said) and a more fluid reading (Gezcy, Lewis).