Edward Said
Orientalism
Edward Said and his sister,
Rosemarie in 1940
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Edward Said (1935-2003)
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Orientalism
 A way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the
Orient’s special place in European Western experience.
 The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of
Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of
its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of
its deepest and most recurring images of the Other.
 The Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its
contrasting image, idea, personality, experience.
Orientalism’s relationship to
Postmodernism and Poststructuralism
 Said challenges the metanarrative of
Orientalism (Lyotard)
 Said analyzes the relationship between
Occidental power and the Orientalism
discourse (Foucault)
 Said deconstructs the Orientalist discourse
and demonstrates how it relegates the Orient
to a marginalized position of Other. (Derrida)
Orientalism as Discourse
 “One ought never to assume that the structure
of Orientalism is nothing more than a structure
of lies or of myths which were, the truth about
them to be told, would simply blow away. I
myself believe that Orientalism is more
particularly valuable as a sign of European
Atlantic power over the Orient than it is a
veridic discourse about the Orient: (6)
Orientalism Today: Images of the
Arab in Contemporary Culture
Anti-Zionist
Greedy Oil Supplier
Potential Terrorist?
Fundamentalist Muslim?
Criticism of Said’s Orientalism
 Criticism from academic Orientalists of Eastern
background
 Failure to distinguish between Orientalists who
actually visited and lived in the Middle East and those
who had only brief encounters
 Many Orientalists were concerned with establishing
kinship rather than emphasizing difference
 Popular Orientalist images vs. Scholarly Orientalism
Victor Hugo’s poem, “Liu” to 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)
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Edward Said - Lim-Midyett WT2 KCAI