Orientalism (book)
Overview
 
Orientalism is a book published in 1978 by Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

 that has been highly influential and controversial in postcolonial studies
Postcolonialism
Post-colonialism is a specifically post-modern intellectual discourse that consists of reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism...

 and other fields. In the book, Said effectively redefined the term "Orientalism
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

" to mean a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 attitudes toward the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. This body of scholarship is marked by a "subtle and persistent Eurocentric
Eurocentrism
Eurocentrism is the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of European culture...

 prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture." He argued that a long tradition of romanticized images of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 in Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 had served as an implicit justification for Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an and American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 colonial and imperial ambitions.
Encyclopedia
Orientalism is a book published in 1978 by Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

 that has been highly influential and controversial in postcolonial studies
Postcolonialism
Post-colonialism is a specifically post-modern intellectual discourse that consists of reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism...

 and other fields. In the book, Said effectively redefined the term "Orientalism
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

" to mean a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 attitudes toward the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. This body of scholarship is marked by a "subtle and persistent Eurocentric
Eurocentrism
Eurocentrism is the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of European culture...

 prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture." He argued that a long tradition of romanticized images of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 in Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 had served as an implicit justification for Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an and American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 colonial and imperial ambitions. Just as fiercely, he denounced the practice of Arab elites who internalized
Internalization
Internalization has different definitions depending on the field that the term is used in. Internalization is the opposite of externalization.- General :...

 the US and British orientalists' ideas of Arabic culture
Arabic culture
Arab culture refers to the culture in Arab countries of West Asia and North Africa, from Morocco to the Persian Gulf. Language, literature, gastronomy, art, architecture, music, spirituality, philosophy, mysticism are all part of the cultural heritage of the pan-Arab world.-Language:The Arabic...

.

Overview

Said summarised his work in these terms:
My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness....As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge (Orientalism, p. 204).


Said also wrote:
My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence — in which I do not for a moment believe — but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting (p. 273).


Principally a study of 19th-century literary discourse and strongly influenced by the work of thinkers like Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

, Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

 and Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian writer, politician, political philosopher, and linguist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime...

, Said's work also engages contemporary realities and has clear political implications as well. Orientalism is often classed with postmodernist and postcolonial works that share various degrees of skepticism about representation itself (although a few months before he died, Said said he considers the book to be in the tradition of "humanistic critique" and the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

).

A central idea of Orientalism is that Western knowledge about the East is not generated from facts or reality, but from preconceived archetypes that envision all "Eastern" societies as fundamentally similar to one another, and fundamentally dissimilar to "Western" societies. This discourse establishes "the East" as antithetical to "the West". Such Eastern knowledge is constructed with literary texts and historical records that often are of limited understanding of the facts of life in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

.

Following the ideas of Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

, Said emphasized the relationship between power and knowledge in scholarly and popular thinking, in particular regarding European views of the Islamic Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 world. Said argued that Orient and Occident worked as oppositional terms, so that the "Orient" was constructed as a negative inversion of Western culture. The work of another thinker, Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian writer, politician, political philosopher, and linguist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime...

, was also important in shaping Edward Said's analysis in this area. In particular, Said can be seen to have been influenced by Gramsci's notion of hegemony
Hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

 in understanding the pervasiveness of Orientalist constructs and representations in Western scholarship and reporting, and their relation to the exercise of power over the "Orient".

Although Edward Said limited his discussion to academic study of Middle Eastern, African and Asian history and culture, he asserted that "Orientalism is, and does not merely represent, a significant dimension of modern political and intellectual culture." (p. 12) Said's discussion of academic Orientalism is almost entirely limited to late 19th and early 20th century scholarship. Most academic Area Studies
Area studies
Area studies are interdisciplinary fields of research and scholarship pertaining to particular geographical, national/federal, or cultural regions. The term exists primarily as a general description for what are, in the practice of scholarship, many heterogeneous fields of research, encompassing...

 departments had already abandoned an imperialist or colonialist paradigm of scholarship. He names the work of Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis, FBA is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University...

 as an example of the continued existence of this paradigm, but acknowledges that it was already somewhat of an exception by the time of his writing (1977).

The idea of an "Orient" is a crucial aspect of attempts to define "the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

". Thus, histories of the Greco–Persian Wars may contrast the monarchical government of the Persian Empire with the democratic tradition of Athens, as a way to make a more general comparison between the Greeks and the Persians, and between "the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

" and "the East
Eastern world
__FORCETOC__The term Eastern world refers very broadly to the various cultures or social structures and philosophical systems of Eastern Asia or geographically the Eastern Culture...

", or "Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

" and "Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

", but make no mention of the other Greek city states, most of which were not ruled democratically.

Taking a comparative and historical literary review of European, mainly British and French, scholars and writers looking at, thinking about, talking about, and writing about the peoples of the Middle East, Said sought to lay bare the relations of power between the colonizer and the colonized in those texts. Said's writings have had far-reaching implications beyond area studies in Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, to studies of imperialist Western attitudes to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and elsewhere. It was one of the foundational texts of postcolonial studies
Postcolonialism
Post-colonialism is a specifically post-modern intellectual discourse that consists of reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism...

. Said later developed and modified his ideas in his book Culture and Imperialism (1993).

Many scholars now use Said's work to attempt to overturn long-held, often taken-for-granted Western ideological biases regarding non-Westerners in scholarly thought. Some post-colonial scholars would even say that the West's idea of itself was constructed largely by saying what others were not. If "Europe" evolved out of "Christendom
Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

" as the "not-Byzantium", early modern Europe in the late 16th century (see Battle of Lepanto (1571)
Battle of Lepanto (1571)
The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire in five hours of fighting on the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece...

) defined itself as the "not-Turkey."

Said puts forward several definitions of "Orientalism" in the introduction to Orientalism. Some of these have been more widely quoted and influential than others:
  • "A way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient's special place in European Western experience." (p. 1)
  • "a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the Orient' and (most of the time) 'the Occident'." (p. 2)
  • "A Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient." (p. 3)
  • "...particularly valuable as a sign of European-Atlantic power over the Orient than it is as a veridic discourse about the Orient." (p. 6)
  • "A distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philological texts." (p. 12)


In his preface to the 2003 edition of Orientalism, Said also warned against the "falsely unifying rubrics that invent collective identities," citing such terms as "America", "The West", and "Islam", which were leading to what he felt was a manufactured "clash of civilisations."

The book by chapter

The book is divided into three chapters:
  • The Scope of Orientalism

  • Orientalist Structures and Restructures

  • Orientalism Now

Chapter 1: The Scope of Orientalism

In this section Said outlines his argument with several caveats as to how it may be flawed. He states that it fails to include Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n Orientalism and explicitly excludes German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Orientalism, which he suggests had "clean" pasts (Said 1978: 2&4), and could be promising future studies. Said also suggests that not all academic discourse in the West has to be Orientalist in its intent but much of it is. He also suggests that all cultures have a view of other cultures that may be exotic
Exotic
Exotic can mean:*In mathematics:**Exotic R4 - differentiable manifold homeomorphic but not diffeomorphic to the Euclidean space R4**Exotic sphere - differentiable manifold homeomorphic but not diffeomorphic to the ordinary sphere*In physics:...

 and harmless to some extent, but it is not this view that he argues against and when this view is taken by a militarily and economically dominant culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 against another it can lead to disastrous results.

Said draws on written and spoken historical commentary by such Western figures as Arthur James Balfour, Napoleon, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

, Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 and others who all portray the "East" as being both "other" and "inferior."

He also draws on several European studies of the region by Orientalists including the Bibliotheque Orientale by French author Barthélemy d'Herbelot de Molainville
Barthélemy d'Herbelot de Molainville
Barthélemy d'Herbelot de Molainville , French Orientalist, was born at Paris.He was educated at the University of Paris, and devoted himself to the study of oriental languages, going to Italy to perfect himself in them by converse with the orientals who frequented its seaports...

 to illustrate the depth of Orientalist discourse in European society and in their academic, literary and political interiors.

One apt representation Said gives is a poem by Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo was a Frenchpoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France....

 titled "Lui" written for Napoleon:



By the Nile I find him once again.

Egypt shines with the fires of his dawn;

His imperial orb rises in the Orient.

Victor, enthusiast, bursting with achievements,

Prodigious, he stunned the land of prodigies.

The old sheikhs venerated the young and prudent emir.

The people dreaded his unprecedented arms;

Sublime, he appeared to the dazzled tribes

Like a Mahomet of the Occident. (Orientalism pg. 83)


Chapter 2: Orientalist Structures and Restructures

In this chapter Said outlines how Orientalist discourse was transferred from country to country and from political leader to author. He suggests that this discourse was set up as a foundation for all (or most all) further study and discourse of the Orient by the Occident.

He states that: "The four elements I have described - expansion, historical confrontation, sympathy, classification - are the currents in eighteenth-century thought on whose presence the specific intellectual and institutional structures of modern Orientalism depend” (120).

Drawing heavily on 19th century European exploration by such historical figures as Sir Richard Francis Burton and Chateaubriand, Said suggests that this new discourse about the Orient was situated within the old one. Authors and scholars such as Edward William Lane
Edward William Lane
Edward William Lane was a British Orientalist, translator and lexicographer....

, who spent only two to three years in Egypt but came back with an entire book about them (Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians) which was widely circulated in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

.

Further travelers and academics of the East depended on this discourse for their own education, and so the Orientalist discourse of the West over the East was passed down through European writers and politicians (and therefore through all Europe).

Chapter 3: Orientalism Now

This chapter outlines where Orientalism has gone since the historical framework Said outlined in previous chapters. The book was written in 1978 and so only covers historical occurrences that happened up to that date.

It is in this chapter that Said makes his overall statement about cultural discourse: "How does one represent other cultures? What is another culture? Is the notion of a distinct culture (or race, or religion, or civilization) a useful one, or does it always get involved either in self-congratulation (when one discusses one's own) or hostility and aggression (when one discusses the 'other')?" (325).

While there is much criticism centered on Said's book, the author himself repeatedly admits his study's shortcomings in this chapter, chapter 1 and in his introduction

Influence

Orientalism is considered to be Edward Said's most influential work and has been translated into at least 36 languages. It has been the focus of any number of controversies and polemics, notably with Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis, FBA is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University...

, whose work is critiqued in the book's final section, entitled "Orientalism Now: The Latest Phase." In October 2003, one month after Said died, a commentator wrote in a Lebanese
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 newspaper that through Orientalism "Said's critics agree with his admirers that he has single-handedly effected a revolution in Middle Eastern studies in the U.S." He cited a critic who claimed since the publication of Orientalism "U.S. Middle Eastern Studies were taken over by Edward Said's postcolonial studies paradigm
Paradigm
The word paradigm has been used in science to describe distinct concepts. It comes from Greek "παράδειγμα" , "pattern, example, sample" from the verb "παραδείκνυμι" , "exhibit, represent, expose" and that from "παρά" , "beside, beyond" + "δείκνυμι" , "to show, to point out".The original Greek...

" (Daily Star
Daily Star (Lebanon)
The Daily Star is a pan-Middle East English language newspaper edited in Beirut. It was founded in 1952 by Kamel Mrowa, the publisher of the Arabic daily Al-Hayat to serve the growing number of expatriates brought by the oil industry...

, October 20, 2003). Even those who contest its conclusions and criticize its scholarship, like George P. Landow
George Landow (professor)
George Landow is Professor of English and Art History at Brown University. He is one of the leading authorities on Victorian literature, art, and culture, as well as a pioneer in criticism and theory of Electronic literature, hypertext and hypermedia...

 of Brown University
Brown University
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

, call it "a major work." The Belgian-born American literary critic Paul De Man
Paul de Man
Paul de Man was a Belgian-born deconstructionist literary critic and theorist.He began teaching at Bard College. Later, he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in the late 1950s...

 supported Said's criticism of such modern scholars, as he stated in his article on semiotic rhetoric: "Said took a step further than any other modern scholar of his time, something I dare not do. I remain in the safety of rhetorical analysis where criticism is the second best thing I do."

However, Orientalism was not the first to produce of Western knowledge of the Orient and of Western scholarship: "Abd-al-Rahman al Jabarti, the Egyptian chronicler and a witness to Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, for example, had no doubt that the expedition was as much an epistemological as military conquest." Even in recent times (1963, 1969 & 1987) the writings and research of V. G. Kiernan
Victor Kiernan
Professor Victor Gordon Kiernan was a British Marxist historian and a former member of the Communist Party Historians Group with a particular focus on the history of imperialism ..Kiernan was born in Ashton upon Mersey, Sale to Congregationalist lower-middle class parents...

, Bernard S. Cohn
Bernard Cohn (anthropologist)
Bernard S. Cohn was an anthropologist and scholar of British colonialism in India, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Cohn received a B.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1949 and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Cornell University...

 and Anwar Abdel Malek traced the relations between European rule and representations.

Nevertheless, Orientalism is cited as a detailed and influential work within the study of Orientalism. Anthropologist Talal Asad
Talal Asad
Talal Asad is an anthropologist at the City University of New York.Asad has made important theoretical contributions to post-colonialism, Christianity, Islam, and ritual studies and has recently called for, and initiated, an anthropology of secularism...

 argued that Orientalism is “not only a catalogue of Western prejudices about and misrepresentations of Arabs and Muslims”, but more so an investigation and analysis of the "authoritative structure of Orientalist discourse – the closed, self-evident, self-confirming character of that distinctive discourse which is reproduced again and again through scholarly texts, travelogues, literary works of imagination, and the obiter dicta of public men [and women] of affairs." Indeed, the book describes how "the hallowed image of the Orientalist as an austere figure unconcerned with the world and immersed in the mystery of foreign scripts and languages has acquired a dark hue as the murky business of ruling other peoples now forms the essential and enabling background of his or her scholarship."

Said does not include Orientalist painting or other visual art in his survey, despite the example on the book's cover, but other writers, notably Linda Nochlin
Linda Nochlin
Linda Nochlin is an American art historian, university professor and writer. She is considered to be a leader in feminist art history studies. She is best known as a proponent of the question "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?"...

, have extended his analysis to cover it, "with uneven results".

Criticism

Critics of Said's theory, such as the historian Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis, FBA is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University...

, argue that Said's account contains many factual, methodological and conceptual errors. Said ignores many genuine contributions to the study of Eastern cultures made by Westerners during the Enlightenment and Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

s. Said's theory does not explain why the French and English pursued the study of Islam in the 16th and 17th centuries, long before they had any control or hope of control in the Middle East. Critics have argued that Said ignored the contributions of Italian, Dutch, and particularly the massive contribution of German scholars (Said himself addressed and acknowledged the deficit of German academic scholarship in the book's introduction). Lewis claims that the scholarship of these nations was more important to European Orientalism than the French or British, but the countries in question either had no colonial projects in the Mideast (Dutch and Germans), or no connection between their Orientalist research and their colonialism (Italians). Said's theory also does not explain why much of Orientalist study did nothing to advance the cause of imperialism.

As Lewis asks,
Lewis argued that Orientalism arose from humanism
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, which was distinct from Imperialist ideology, and sometimes in opposition to it. Orientalist study of Islam arose from the rejection of religious dogma, and was an important spur to discovery of alternative cultures. Lewis criticised as "intellectual protectionism" the argument that only those within a culture could usefully discuss it.

In his rebuttal to Lewis, Said stated that Lewis's negative rejoinder must be placed into its proper context. Since one of Said's principal arguments is that Orientalism was used (wittingly or unwittingly) as an instrument of empire, he contends that Lewis' critique of this thesis could hardly be judged in the disinterested, scholarly light that Lewis would like to present himself, but must be understood in the proper knowledge of what Said claimed was Lewis' own (often masked) neo-imperialist proclivities, as displayed by the latter's political or quasi-political appointments and pronouncements.

Bryan Turner critiques Said’s work saying there were a multiplicity of forms and traditions of Orientalism. He is therefore critical of Said’s attempt to try to place them all under the framework of the orientalist tradition. Other critics of Said have argued that while many distortions and fantasies certainly existed, the notion of "the Orient" as a negative mirror image of the West cannot be wholly true because attitudes to distinct cultures diverged significantly.

According to Naji Oueijan, Orientalism manifested in two movements: a genuine one prompted by scholars like Sir William Jones
William Jones (philologist)
Sir William Jones was an English philologist and scholar of ancient India, particularly known for his proposition of the existence of a relationship among Indo-European languages...

 and literary figures such as Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

, William Beckford
William Thomas Beckford
William Thomas Beckford , usually known as William Beckford, was an English novelist, a profligate and consummately knowledgeable art collector and patron of works of decorative art, a critic, travel writer and sometime politician, reputed to be the richest commoner in England...

, and Lord Byron; and a false one motivated by religious and political literary propagandists. Another view holds that other cultures are necessarily identified by their "otherness", since otherwise their distinctive characteristics would be invisible, and thus the most striking differences are emphasized in the eyes, and literature, of the outsider. John MacKenzie notes that the Western "dominance" critiqued by Said has often been challenged and answered, for instance in the ‘Subaltern Studies
Subaltern Studies
The Subaltern Studies Group or Subaltern Studies Collective are a group of South Asian scholars interested in the postcolonial and post-imperial societies of South Asia in particular and the developing world in general. The term Subaltern Studies is sometimes also applied more broadly to others...

’ body of literature, which strives to give voice to marginalized peoples. Further criticism includes the observation that the criticisms levied by Said at Orientalist scholars of being essentialist can in turn be levied at him for the way in which he writes of the West as a hegemonic mass, stereotyping its characteristics.

Robert Irwin

In his book For Lust of Knowing
For Lust of Knowing
For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies, published in the United States under the title Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents, is a 2006 non-fiction book by British historian Robert Graham Irwin. The book is both a history of the academic discipline of Orientalism...

, British historian Robert Irwin
Robert Graham Irwin
Robert Graham Irwin is a British historian, novelist, and writer on Arabic literature.He read modern history at the University of Oxford, and did graduate research at SOAS. From 1972 he was a lecturer in Medieval History at the University of St. Andrews. He gave up academic life in 1977 in order...

 criticizes what he claims to be Said's thesis that throughout Europe’s history, “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” Irwin points out that long before notions like third-worldism and post-colonialism entered academia, many Orientalists were committed advocates for Arab and Islamic political causes.

Goldziher backed the Urabi revolt against foreign control of Egypt. The Cambridge Iranologist Edward Granville Browne became a one-man lobby for Persian liberty during Iran’s constitutional revolution in the early 20th century. Prince Leone Caetani, an Italian Islamicist, opposed his country’s occupation of Libya, for which he was denounced as a “Turk.” And Louis Massignon
Louis Massignon
Louis Massignon was a French scholar of Islam and its history. Although a Catholic himself, he tried to understand Islam from within and thus had a great influence on the way Islam was seen in the West; among other things, he paved the way for a greater openness inside the Catholic Church towards...

 may have been the first Frenchman to take up the Palestinian Arab cause.

George P. Landow

While acknowledging the great influence of Orientalism on postcolonial theory since its publication in 1978, George P. Landow
George Landow (professor)
George Landow is Professor of English and Art History at Brown University. He is one of the leading authorities on Victorian literature, art, and culture, as well as a pioneer in criticism and theory of Electronic literature, hypertext and hypermedia...

 - a professor of English and Art History at Brown University in the United States - finds Said's scholarship lacking. He chides Said for ignoring the non-Arab Asian countries, non-Western imperialism, the occidentalist ideas that abound in East towards the Western, and gender issues. Orientalism assumes that Western imperialism, Western psychological projection, "and its harmful political consequences are something that only the West does to the East rather than something all societies do to one another." Landow also finds Orientalisms political focus harmful to students of literature since it has led to the political study of literature at the expense of philological
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

, literary, and rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

al issues (see also the article Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

.)

Landow points out that Said completely ignores China, Japan, and South East Asia, in talking of "the East," but then goes on to criticise the West’s homogenisation of the East. Furthermore, Landow states that Said failed to capture the essence of the Middle East, not least by overlooking important works by Egyptian and Arabic scholars.

In addition to poor knowledge about the history of European and non-European imperialism, another of Landow’s criticisms is that Said sees only the influence of the West on the East in colonialism. Landow argues that these influences were not simply one-way, but cross-cultural, and that Said fails to take into account other societies or factors within the East.

He also criticises Said’s "dramatic assertion that no European or American scholar could `know` the Orient." However, in his view what they have actually done constitutes acts of oppression. Moreover, one of the principal claims made by Landow is that Said did not allow the views of other scholars to feature in his analysis; therefore, he committed “the greatest single scholarly sin” in Orientalism.

Bernard Lewis

Orientalism included much criticism of historian Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis, FBA is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University...

, which Lewis in turn answered. Said contended that Lewis treats Islam as a monolithic entity without the nuance of its plurality, internal dynamics, and historical complexities, and accused him of "demagogy and downright ignorance." Said quoted Lewis' assertion that "the Western doctrine of the right to resist bad government is alien to Islamic thought". Lewis continued,

In the Arabic-speaking countries a different word was used for [revolution] thawra. The root th-w-r in classical Arabic meant to rise up (e.g. of a camel), to be stirred or excited, and hence, especially in Maghribi usage, to rebel.


Said suggests that this particular passage is "full of condescension and bad faith", that the example of a camel is selected deliberately to debase Arab revolutionary ambitions: "[I]t is this kind of essentialized description that is natural for students and policymakers of the Middle East." Lewis' writings, according to Said, are often "polemical, not scholarly"; Said asserts that Lewis has striven to depict Islam as "an anti-Semitic ideology, not merely a religion".

[Lewis] goes on to proclaim that Islam is an irrational herd or mass phenomenon, ruling Muslims by passions, instincts, and unreflecting hatreds. The whole point of this exposition is to frighten his audience, to make it never yield an inch to Islam. According to Lewis, Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they merely are, and they are to be watched, on account of that pure essence of theirs (according to Lewis), which happens to include a long-standing hatred of Christians and Jews. Lewis everywhere refrains himself from making such inflammatory statements flat out; he always takes care to say that of course the Muslims are not anti-Semitic the way the Nazis were, but their religion can too easily accommodate itself to anti-Semitism and has done so. Similarly with regard to Islam and racism, slavery, and other more or less "Western" evils. The core of Lewis's ideology about Islam is that it never changes, and his whole mission is now to inform conservative segments of the Jewish reading public, and anyone else who cares to listen, that any political, historical, and scholarly account of Muslims must begin and end with the fact that Muslims are Muslims.


Rejecting the view that western scholarship was biased against the Middle East, Lewis responded that Orientalism developed as a facet of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an humanism
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, independently of the past European imperial expansion. He noted the French and English pursued the study of Islam in the 16th and 17th centuries, yet not in an organized way, but long before they had any control or hope of control in the Middle East; and that much of Orientalist study did nothing to advance the cause of imperialism. "What imperial purpose was served by deciphering the ancient Egyptian language, for example, and then restoring to the Egyptians knowledge of and pride in their forgotten, ancient past?"

Daniel Martin Varisco

Another recent critical assessment of "Orientalism" and its reception across disciplines is provided by anthropologist and historian Daniel Martin Varisco
Daniel Martin Varisco
Daniel Martin Varisco , anthropologist and historian, is Professor of Anthropology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. He has published on the history of Orientalism, the anthropology of Islam, the history of Islamic agronomy and astronomy, agriculture and water rights in Yemen,...

 in his "Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid" (University of Washington Press, 2007). Using judicious satirical criticism to defuse what has become an acrimonious debate, Varisco surveys the extensive criticism of Said's methodology, including criticism of his use of Foucault and Gramsci, and argues that the politics of polemics needs to be superseded to move academic discussion of real cultures in the region once imagined as an "Orient" beyond the binary blame game. He concludes (p. 304)

The notion of Oriental homogeneity will exist as long as prejudice serves political ends, but to blame the sins of its current use on hegemonic intellectualism mires ongoing mitigation of bad and biased scholarship in an unresolvable polemic of blame. It is time to read beyond "Orientalism."

Ibn Warraq

In his criticism of Orientalism, author Ibn Warraq
Ibn Warraq
Ibn Warraq is the pen name of a polemical author of Pakistani origin who is critical of Islam, and who founded the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society . He is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry focusing on Qur'anic criticism...

 complains Said's belief that all truth was relative undermined his credibility.
In response to critics who over the years have pointed to errors of fact and detail so mountainous as to destroy his thesis, [Said] finally admitted that he had "no interest in, much less capacity for, showing what the true Orient and Islam really are."

See also

  • Postcolonialism
    Postcolonialism
    Post-colonialism is a specifically post-modern intellectual discourse that consists of reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism...

  • Saidism
  • Subaltern
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is an Indian literary critic, theorist and a University Professor at Columbia University. She is best known for the essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?", considered a founding text of postcolonialism, and for her translation of Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology. She...

  • Occidentalism
    Occidentalism
    The term Occidentalism is used in one of two main ways: a) stereotyped and sometimes dehumanizing views on the Western world, including Europe and the English-speaking world; and b), ideologies or visions of the West developed in either the West or non-West. The former definition stresses negative...

  • Ornamentalism
    Ornamentalism
    Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire is a book by David Cannadine about British perceptions of the British Empire. Cannadine argues that class, rank and status were more important to the British Empire than race The title of the work Ornamentalism is a direct reference to Edward Said's...


Further reading

  • Balagangadhara, S. N. "The Future of the Present: Thinking Through Orientalism", Cultural Dynamics, Vol. 10, No. 2, (1998), pp. 101–23. ISSN 0921-3740.
  • Benjamin, Roger Orientalist Aethetics, Art, Colonialism and French North Africa: 1880-1930, U. of California Press, 2003
  • Biddick, Kathleen. "Coming Out of Exile: Dante on the Orient(alism) Express", The American Historical Review, Vol. 105, No. 4. (Oct., 2000), pp. 1234–1249.
  • Fleming, K.E. "Orientalism, the Balkans, and Balkan Historiography", The American Historical Review, Vol. 105, No. 4. (Oct., 2000), pp. 1218–1233.
  • Halliday, Fred. "'Orientalism' and Its Critics", British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2. (1993), pp. 145–163.
  • Irwin, Robert. For lust of knowing: The Orientalists and their enemies. London: Penguin/Allen Lane, 2006 (ISBN 0-7139-9415-0)
  • Kabbani, Rana. Imperial Fictions: Europe's Myths of Orient. London: Pandora Press, 1994 (ISBN 0-04-440911-7).
  • Kalmar, Ivan Davidson & Derek Penslar
    Derek Penslar
    Derek Jonathan Penslar is a Canadian historian. He was raised in Los Angeles, attended Stanford University for his first degree, and then took his graduate degrees at the University of California at Berkeley, where his advisors were Richard Webster, Amos Funkenstein and Gerald Feldman...

    . Orientalism and the Jews Brandeis 2005
  • Klein, Christina. Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945–1961. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003 (ISBN 0-520-22469-8; paperback, ISBN 0-520-23230-5).
  • Knight, Nathaniel. "Grigor'ev in Orenburg, 1851–1862: Russian Orientalism in the Service of Empire?", Slavic Review
    Slavic Review
    Slavic Review is a leading international peer-reviewed academic journal publishing scholarly studies and book reviews in all disciplines concerned with Russia, Central Eurasia, and Eastern and Central Europe...

    , Vol. 59, No. 1. (Spring, 2000), pp. 74–100.
  • Kontje, Todd. German Orientalisms. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004 (ISBN 0-472-11392-5).
  • Little, Douglas. American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945. (2nd ed. 2002 ISBN 1-86064-889-4).
  • Lowe, Lisa. Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992 (ISBN 978-0-8014-8195-6).
  • Macfie, Alexander Lyon. Orientalism. White Plains, NY: Longman, 2002 (ISBN 0-582-42386-4).
  • MacKenzie, John. Orientalism: History, theory and the arts. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995 (ISBN 0-7190-4578-9).
  • Murti, Kamakshi P. India: The Seductive and Seduced "Other" of German Orientalism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001 (ISBN 0-313-30857-8).
  • Noble dreams, wicked pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870–1930 by Holly Edwards (Editor). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000 (ISBN 0-691-05004-X).
  • Orientalism and the Jews, edited by Ivan Davidson Kalmar and Derek Penslar. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2004 (ISBN 1-58465-411-2).
  • Oueijan, Naji. The Progress of an Image: The east in English Literature. New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 1996.
  • Peltre, Christine. Orientalism in Art. New York: Abbeville Publishing Group (Abbeville Press, Inc.)
    Abbeville Publishing Group (Abbeville Press, Inc.)
    Abbeville Publishing Group is an independent book publishing company specializing in fine art and illustrated books. Based in New York City, Abbeville publishes approximately 40 titles each year and has an active backlist of over 700 titles on a wide range of subjects, including art, architecture,...

    , 1998 (ISBN 0-7892-0459-2).
  • Prakash, Gyan. "Orientalism Now", History and Theory, Vol. 34, No. 3. (Oct., 1995), pp. 199–212.
  • Rotter, Andrew J. "Saidism without Said: Orientalism and U.S. Diplomatic History", The American Historical Review, Vol. 105, No. 4. (Oct., 2000), pp. 1205–1217.
  • Varisco, Daniel Martin. "Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid." Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007. (ISBN 978-0-295-98752-1).

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