Dec
04

The Jet Set Frontier in the Middle East: Hijackings, Petrodollars, and the Fragility of American Travel Networks before 9/11

5 - 6:30 p.m.
Stephens Hall 340, Sultan Conference Room

Prof. Waleed Hazbun, Department of Political Studies and Political Administration, American University of Beirut

Center for Middle Eastern Studies

The Middle East served as the first frontier for early postwar efforts to develop global travel networks expanding east from non-communist Europe. As part of this effort, in the 1950s and 1960s cities such as Istanbul and Beirut developed as international destinations for a new breed of American "jet-set" tourists located on major American airline routes and marked with modernist-style American brand hotels. By the 1960s, however, the Cold War and regional conflicts inhibited the Middle East from serving as a crossroads for global air travel and the region faded from American travel itineraries. The rise of international air piracy and attacks on American aircraft and travelers led by Arab and Islamist movements such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and others would by the 1980s challenge the notion of the US as a global hegemon. An examination of US government policies, testimony from congressional hearings, popular culture texts, and industry trade publications surrounding the hijacking of TWA flight 847 to Beirut in 1985 demonstrates how dominant American notions of “international terrorism,” the sorts of threat it poses, and strategies of counterterrorism were critically shaped during this era of disruption to postwar travel patterns and how they challenged the viability of American exceptionalist notions embedded in the concept of the American Century.

cmes@berkeley.edu, 510-642-8208