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The Chastain-Johnston Middle Eastern Studies Lecture Series, the Department of History, and the Peace, Justice, & Human Rights (PJHR) Initiative present

"Oil-Gotten Gains: Petrodollars, ABSCAM, and Arab American Activism, 1973-1981"

by Salim Yaqub, Ph.D., University of California Santa Barbara

4:00-5:30 p.m. on Monday, October 25, 2021

Zoom - free virtual event


In the 1970s, soaring oil prices provided huge revenues to oil producing Arab countries, which - together with private Arab companies and individuals - invested billions of dollars in the U.S. economy. The influx of Arab petrodollars drew mixed reactions from Americans. Some feared that wealthy Arabs were "buying up America" and gaining control over the nation's political, economic, educational, and cultural institutions. Others welcomed Arab investment as a boon to the U.S. economy and to global stability. Petrodollars also played a key role in Arab American history. Demeaning portrayals of oil-rich Arabs in media and government discourse - reaching a crescendo in the FBI's "Abscam" sting operations of 1978-1980 - goaded Arab Americans to adopt more organized methods of combating anti-Arab stereotypes. Salim Yaqub draws on his book, Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s, to explore the complex legacy of Arab petrodollars in American life.

Salim Yaqub, Ph.D. is Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Director of UCSB's Center for Cold War Studies and International History. He is the author of Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East and Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s. Yaqub is now writing a post-1945 history of the United States for Cambridge University Press.

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