As I was writing this book, those who were familiar with my
earlier work on nineteenth-century European travelers in the
Middle East sometimes wondered about the disciplinary jump I was
taking by writing about immigration and nationalism in the United
States. Some were curious about the reason behind what they per-
ceived to be a radical shift in my critical interest. Others expressed
reservations about my authority, if not ability, to write about such
complex and well-worn issues as immigration and national identity.
Still others warned that I was committing academic suicide by mov-
ing from a familiar field to an unknown territory, and quite possibly
perpetrating the crime of superficiality along the way. Disheartening
though these queries were in the beginning, they helped me better
understand what motivated my interest in the new topic and its con-
nection with what I had written before.
Above all, what compelled me to pursue this project in spite of all
the skepticism was something personal, the often disillusioning ex-
periences and traumatic memories of being an Iranian immigrant in
America. The topics of nineteenth-century European representations
of the Middle East and immigration in the United States may seem un-
related critically, but for me they both raise important questions about
identity, alterity, and culture. The writing of this book, like that of
my first one, Belated Travelers: Orientalism in the Age of Colonial Disso-
lution, was a personal journey to make sense of my own experiences of
immigration in the United States. While Belated Travelers was an at-
tempt to engage the orientalist discourse that had construed me both
as an exotic ‘‘oriental’’ and as a decadent ‘‘other,’’ this book is an at-
tempt to better grasp the immigrant history that has made me simul-
taneously a ‘‘model minority’’ and a threatening ‘‘alien’’ in America.
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