Pride of Arabia

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  • Title: Pride of Arabia: A Discursive Analysis of Orientalism in Contemporary Package and Label Design
  • Author(s): Neela Imani
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Design in Society
  • Keywords: Orientalism, Racialized Packaging, Package and Label Design, Graphic Design, Media Justice
  • Volume: 18
  • Issue: 2
  • Date: June 21, 2024
  • ISSN: 2325-1328 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2325-1360 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Imani, Neela. 2024. "Pride of Arabia: A Discursive Analysis of Orientalism in Contemporary Package and Label Design." The International Journal of Design in Society 18 (2): 97-118. doi:10.18848/2325-1328/CGP/v18i02/97-118.
  • Extent: 22 pages

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Consumer packages inspired by Middle Eastern cultures prove questionable, with Western marketers and designers frequently resorting to ethnic and racial stereotypes. Arabian countries, in particular, are highly exotified, projecting the American fantasy of the Arabian Peninsula as the land of despotic—albeit handsome—sultans, lustful sheikhs who abduct white women, cosmopolitan oil tycoons, sorcerers atop flying carpets, and sensual belly dancers, to name a few. Of course, these imagined (re)constructions are anchored in racist attitudes, reifying essentialist ideologies that effectively homogenize Arab identity and deny intercultural diversity. But despite the prevalence of these pictorial tropes, Orientalism in package and label design remains largely unexplored within academic discourse. In a political climate where the Arab Other is increasingly dehumanized, analyzing the interplay between design and race(ism) becomes crucial to challenging colonial narratives. Perhaps a discursive investigation informed by cultural studies and postcolonial theory—of which Orientalism is a primary text—can offer a more nuanced and rigorous approach to examining this phenomenon, catalyzing further theorization and attracting increased scholarly attention. Through a comprehensive visual analysis of Pride of Arabia® Whole Bean Arabica Coffee, this paper demonstrates how visual and textual elements are juxtaposed and combined in consumer packaging to reproduce ethnocentric constructions of the Middle East.