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Elvis: Rewriting the World thru Multicultural Movies by Peter Nazareth

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When all the publicity about his class “Elvis as Anthology” began in 1992, Peter Nazareth faced a lot of jeering and prejudice. A radio interviewer from Chicago asked him, on air, whether his class was going to be in pharmaceuticals or cookery. He said it was going to be in literature: he was going to analyze the work as he did novels. There were three targets: (1) Elvis, as working class; (2) Iowans, as hicks; (3) Peter Nazareth, as foreigner. Comments Peter: “I discovered that when they do not understand, most Americans, including professional critics, mock and put down from a position of superiority.”

Peter Jennings had just interviewed a guy called Peter Nazareth on ABC’s World News Tonight. Peter Nazareth had just come out out of the bush, so to speak, out of Africa, and started teaching Elvis 101. The first university course on Elvis. I mean, many people idolized Elvis but to make him serious stuff in university, never mind it was a university in a third- world state like Iowa, was real way-out stuff. The media all went to see and talk to Nazareth until he mentioned the Cherokee thing, that Elvis’s great- great-great grandmother was Cherokee, and that his maternal grandmother was Jewish, that there was Scots-Irish blood too on the other side, that Elvis was a great champion for repressed peoples all over the world—Blacks, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Indians…Nazareth and his class started showing how Elvis was a great assimilator of Black culture, Cherokee culture, Indian culture, all sorts of cultures and how he paid them back in his songs, costumes and movies! The great white, red-necked god, The king of rock ‘n’ roll, a channel for world culture suddenly revealed in {“}a brown mantle”! He was tainted! Elvis the Pelvis was really Elvis the Cherokee! The Jew would come later!
The media quickly dropped him.
–Sasenarine Persaud, S.T. Writerji

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