Suddenly I find 'cowboys; in the least likely places



It's funny how sometimes once you take an interest in something, you suddenly start to notice that it is a range of contexts where you never anticipated to find it.

At least that's what happened to me since I started to look at illustrations of cowboys in Nigerian lorry decorations. Suddenly, cowboys spring at me from the pages of the least likely books and magazine.

Just the other day I finished a completely unrelated book, Elizabeth Warnock-Fernea's account of the time she and her husband, then a doctoral student on fieldwork, spent living in an Iraqi village between 1957 and 1958. I am currently on a quest to improve my writing after a friend had told me that my 'academese' was a chore to read. Warnock-Fernea-s book was recommended to me as an example of a well-written piece of anthropology. And, indeed, so it is. It also provides glimpses into the secluded lives of Shi'ite women in Iraq before the revolutions, counterrevolutions, invasions and insurgencies of the 20th and 21st century that are fascinating enough to merit a read.

Nevertheless, single minded as I am, what stayed with me is a sentence in the book's post script in which the author updated readers on developments in the village since she had left 8 years prior to its publication. There she writes

'Selma has had three children since I left, one a boy. Bob saw this little son of Selma's dressed up in an American cowboy suit Sheik Hamid had brought back from Lebanon.' (my emphasis)

So, dear reader, if you happen to know of any book or article that delves further into the histories and appropriations of 'the cowboy' in the Arab or other part s of the Muslim, do let me know. I'd like to add it to my background readings.

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