Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Camel Jockey

Aside from the fetishized veil, the camel is perhaps the most over-used trope in representations of West Asia and North Africa.

Mind you, the first time i saw a real live camel was while i was visiting a zoo in a "western" country. Nonetheless, the camel and his accoutrements, most notably the camel jockey, persist as a metaphor for our supposed backwardness, our barrenness, and our stubborn resistance to change.

In Qatar and other Persian Gulf states, the've taken to using robots--which are light-weight and easy to control (unlike their human counterparts)--in Camel Races. So we have the Robot, the longstanding sign of the future and technological progress, sitting on top of a camel, this symbol of dust and stupor that is supposed to represent us so well to the western world.

What do you think images like the above do to the fossilized brains of neo-orientalists and culture-vultures? Perhaps the discordant juxtaposition of the signs robot=progress/"the West" and Camel=pre-modern/"the rest" will nudge in them something resembling a brain-wave.