Sophie Najm

Viziers, Thieves, and Princesses: The History and Impact of Western Screen Adaptations of Arabian Nights

Mentor: Michelle Grue

Written in the city of Baghdad under the Abbasid Caliphate (750 – 1258 CE), A Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) is a collection of stories originating from across the Middle East. To Western audiences, familiar characters from this collection might include Aladdin, Sinbad, or Ali Baba β€” each with a multitude of TV and film adaptations. The history of Western screen adaptations of Arabian Nights dates back to 1917, and accompanying it is a history of racism, Hellenization, orientalism, cultural and religious erasure, and an imposition of Western ideology. β€œGenies, Thieves, and Princesses: The History and Impact of Western Screen Adaptations of Arabian Nights” is a research paper that analyzes these entwined histories by looking at various Arabian Nights adaptations β€” in comparison to their original stories β€” to uncover subconscious bias toward the Middle East. By asking questions such as, Which adaptations were successful and why? How is the Middle East portrayed? or How have Western adaptations reflected or impacted public perceptions of the Middle East?, this project calls on Western audiences to be more critical of racist and cultural misrepresentations of Middle Easterners in popular culture and encourage an inclusive media landscape.