“Arab New York: Politics and Community in the Everyday Lives of Arab Americans” by Emily Regan Wills— Politics and Arabs in New York

Wills, Emily Regan. “Arab New York: Politics and Community in the Everyday Lives of Arab Americans”, NYU Press,  2019.

Politics and Arabs in New York

Amos Lassen 

Numerically, Arab Americans are a small proportion of the population of the United States yet they have been the target of political scrutiny.  What we seem to forget is that most non-Arab Americans know little about what life is actually like within Arab communities and in organizations run by and for the Arab community. There are  large political questions that are central to the Arab American experience and it is important to see how politics are integrated into Arab Americans’ everyday lives. 

 Author Emily Regan Willies does just that in  “Arab New York”, her new book.  She looks outside the traditional ideas of political engagement to see the importance of politics in Arab American communities in New York. She focuses on the spaces of public and communal life in the five boroughs of New York, where lives the third largest concentration of people of Arab descent in this country. “Many different ethnic and religious groups form the overarching Arab American identity, and their political engagement in the US is complex.” Regan Wills examines the way that daily practice and speech form the foundation of political action and meaning.  She does through interviews and participant observation with activist groups and community organizations.

We look at  the following main topics “such as Arab American identity for children, relationships with Arab and non-Arab Americans, young women as leaders in the Muslim and Arab American community, support and activism for Palestine, and revolutionary change in Egypt and Yemen.” We see that in order to understand Arab American political engagement and see how political action develops in Arab American contexts, it is necessary to understand Arab Americans in their own terms of political and public engagement. We find that they are profoundly engaged with everyday politics and political questions that are not conventional politics. 

Regan Wills expands the existing literature on Arab Americans to include more direct engagement with politics and discourse. The study is also  an appropriate introduction to Arab American communities, ethnic dynamics in New York City and elsewhere in urban America, and the concept of everyday politics.            

The book captures the politics underlying the everyday lives of Arab Americans and does so by focusing on the ways in which Arab Americans understand and assign meaning to their political roles in society.

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