Thursday, March 10, 2016

Edward Said's Orientalism And the Postcolonial Mind

Chanel Spring

In Said’s Orientalism, he discusses how Europeans began generalizing attributes they associated with Orientals, and their artificial portrayals began transcending into their very own Western world through; scientific reports, fashion trends, film, and many other sources of multimedia.

It is interesting to track our bizarre relationship with these Other cultures and countries, and notice how the West’s imperial mentality with Eastern cultures has so deeply invaded our very own culture and how it has transformed with modern times, into such a juxtaposed obsession.

On one hand you have the West’s obsession with the East, transfigured into this compulsive need to intrude Eastern countries with extreme and excessive militant visits. However turn around to the more glamorous side of the West, the fashion industry, and see just how much the West truly “idolizes” the East in such a glorifying manner.

For example, It’s sickening that they can’t go a season in the fashion industry, without some designer releasing a completely inappropriate Oriental collection; stock full of beaded flowy tunics, ornate headpieces, oh and don’t forget the baggy pants! No Oriental collection is complete without THE baggy pants!
No Oriental collection can go without the traditional baggy pants. Chanel designed them from translucent materials of black, beige and white color.
They continued,
Perhaps are not quite familiar clothing for residents of the metropolis, but for those who are going on vacation are real gems.
And Chanel is no dummy. They make sure to cover all of their bases. Are you feeling angry indifferent about this collection in respect of the “Oriental culture”? No need to feel like you're appropriating a culture’s attire! Because after all,
Despite the Oriental theme, the designer did not forget about those who are indifferent in respect of this culture. The combination of short tight-leg trousers with a loose tunic has long time ago become universal. It’s comfortable, actual, and most importantly – it is fashionable and elegant.
You go, Chanel!

Unfortunately there is still this Orientalist mindset today, it would be completely foolish to think otherwise. Many classmates have brought up Aladdin for example, and while this is a great example and definitely shows how the Western perceptions get filtered into the minds of the young--can we just talk about for a second that that movie came out 24 years ago! That is over two decades. That is insane!

Now I know that the infiltration of an Orientalist mindset into our mainstream media has not been diminished since then, so have we become more immune or..what? Has Orientalism really been able to slide on by, making frequent stops on runways, movie screens and tv, mouths of political candidates?

A Worldly Divide

Edward Said's critique on how people look at Orientalism has a lot to do with the dichotomy between the East and the West. Western opinion on Orientals is that they are exotic, strange and devious people. These negative words associated with Orientals cumulate into making them the Other. We see people from the East as exciting and different from us, which is problematic as it creates a sort of Us and Them/Other divide.

Reading this article made me think of a John Oliver video I watched recently on white-washing in Hollywood.

It talked about how there is no excuse for the extreme lack of people of color in movie, since even when there are roles perfect for non-white people, the part is still given to a white person. One of my favorite examples he brought up was the movie Prince of Persia. Persia, the former name for Iran, is a Middle Eastern country. Yet the movie has Jake Gyllenhaal, a white man, as the lead. With this movie, they had the chance to cast an Iranian actor, but instead they went with a well known white dude.

As a society, we are so focused on not letting in people unlike ourselves (look at any Republican presidential candidate's opinion on immigration) that we miss the fact we are all essentially the same. I don't mean to sound idealistic and disregard valid cultural differences and traditions, but when there exists concepts like Orientalism and clear divide between two cultures, I think its important to take a step back and realize that between cultures and continents we're really not all that different.

It´s an Orientalist Life

Edward Said suggests that orientalism is the perception of the East from the West perspectives. Said says that orientalism favors the West and that it makes the West seem to be superior to the East as it is the vantage point by which we as a society see the other culture. It seems to be a much more evolved to the uncivilized and disorganized East. These biases have become ingrained in societal perception of the East.

In consideration of the orientalist view s that exist right now, the perception that permeeates throughout American culture is the perception of the Middle East. It is seen as savagery and through political campaigning and media people believe that the Middle East is savage and brute. For example, the film Aladdin and Argo both depict the Middle East as a completely foreign and almost extra terrestrial land that is unlike that of the West.


Orientalism, based on Said's definition, is the political differences between the structure of the East and the West. The Europeans, who once dominated the Middle East and Asia, see the people from those lands as sly, impossible to trust, incapable of concrete practical organization, or rigorous, detail oriented analysis. In summary, simply strange people, and Westerners see themselves as "better" than them.

I believe that today, we still stereotype anybody who doesn't live and behave in the same way we are used to as strange. Whether it is that the Westerners see the Easterners dress, religion, and food as strange or vice versa. Even though we are all human and have more similarities in culture than differences we still use the media to determine how someone really lives. For instance movies like The WolverineThe Mummy 3, and The Karate Kid portray almost every Asian character as some sort of ninja or martial arts guru.

My 5th grade teachers were fascinated by Indian and Nepali culture, and traveled there every summer, so we spent most of the year studying their gods, culture, and history, which was one of the first times my mind was fully opened to another culture. We watched historical movies about famous Indian people like Gandhi and documentaries about Indian culture and how it would be like to live there. It really shattered the idea that they were different from us because they lived in a different place, for me. Ultimately, we all get up, go to work/ school, and go to sleep. Still, orientalism is still at large and in many forms. We are scared to let immigrants into our country and want to build walls (*cough cough Trump) to keep our country "safe".

Orientalism in Action

According to Edward Said, orientalism creates a relationship between the West and the East. Because there is no actual connections made between the two areas of the world, the relationship is full of lies and false information. The West has more power over the East in this relationship. Simultaneously the West views the East as "sly and obsequious" in certain situations. This creates a relationship full of false views and opinions based on lies. This orientalism has created an opinion that many westerners have of easterners that they are untrustworthy, exotic and strange. Said also asks, "but where is this sly, devious, despotic, mystical Oriental? Has anyone ever met anyone who meets this description in all particulars?" Truly, there are very few who actually meet these standards, further proving the bias that has become so prevalent that it is difficult to look beyond.

Overall this orientialism is very well alive today. Take Donald Trump for example. Constantly in his arguments he talks about the "dangers" of Muslims This is a prejudice that it seems will never leave the United States ever since 9/11. Muslims or people that even just look Muslim are considered dangerous by many, when in fact the person is most likely just a regular citizen. It is hard to form an unbiased opinion of people of eastern descent, especially when people in the United States are constantly saying these people are bad and that they're terrorists. Reading The God of Small Things has helped for this idea to come full circle and for readers to view the other side of things rather than seeing the citizens of the United States's perspective. It is quite enlightening as to the effect westerners have over easterners through the eyes of people in the east. Overall, the west has this strong opinion of westerners that has been implemented by the government, ultimately, that will never fully disintegrate.

Said Says

Edward Said says that Orientalism is the way the Western culture perceives the Eastern cultures. According to him, Orientalism puts a difference between us(the West), and them(the East). He argues that this difference arose from imperialism, which started a power binary between the colonizing and the colonized. When a territory was taken by a foreign power, especially when the territory was populated with a race that was different from the foreign power, a feeling of us vs. them was sure to arise. An example of this is when the European nations vied for colonies in Africa after the Berlin Conference in 1884.

Views like this are almost always disputed, especially in the dominated territory. Orientalism is similar to this binary. I agree with Said on its existence. The binary was hardened when artists brought their depictions of the East to the West, creating a further gap between the two cultures. The pictures they made solidified the position of power the West had by depicting the Eastern person as vastly different from the Western Person. Said's argument seems to be valid.


Orientalism, by Edward Said, is a critique of the study of the Orient and its ideology. By examining the historical, cultural, and political views of the East that are held by the West, Said was able to traces the various views and perceptions back to the colonial period of British and European domination in the Middle East. He discovered that the early studies of Orientalism revolved around languages and the eventual translations of them. The colonial rulers could not rule properly, it was believed, without some knowledge of the people they ruled. They thought they could acquire this knowledge from translating various works from the native language into their own. In their minds, the Orient was made to be dominated. But through Said's work, he was able to point out the errors in the ways of these early Orientalists. He maintained that the Orient should be viewed for itself and its own cultures and societies and not viewed in the concept of Western perspective. Said's perspective basically led to a difference in the way the Orient was approached in studies, which led the field into a more modern approach. 
Unfortunately, Orientalism is still prevalent in today's society. From the start of the 21st century, our greatest and most feared enemies are considered to be in the Middle East. We have waged multiple wars on the inhabitants of those countries, mostly fueled by the tragedy of 911. For American and Middle Easterners alike, there is a deep rooted fear and spite towards the other. Most of the time, the prejudice is unjustified. But I think the idea of Orientalism is what drives a great deal of this conflict. It is the need for power and control that makes countries crumble and international relationships fail. 

Orient Our Point of View

Edward Said lays out Orientalism as the view held by the West, "us", of the East or Orient, "them". His postcolonial theory explains that the western view of this Orient wildly exaggerates between the two cultures. According to said, Orientalism favors the West, making it seem superior to the uncivilized and disorganized West. These biases have become ingrained in society throughout history and is still recognizable today.

The customs of those from the Orient are unfamiliar to a West perspective and have been construed as uncivilized because, in our society today, something unfamiliar is strange and unsophisticated. In The God of Small Things, this fear of unusual customs was found in the interactions between Sophie Mol and the members who belong to Rahel and Estha's family. When Sophie Mol and Margaret Kochamma first arrive, Margaret questions the way the family and cook goes about greeting them in an attempt to understand it. Because of Margaret's questions, Ammu becomes upset and storms out saying they are being examined like "natives" under scientific study. The rituals which are a part of everyday life to Ammu are unfamiliar, or even off-putting, to Margaret and Sophie. This emphasizes the Orientalism, because they have not experienced the culture before, Margaret and Sophie assume that the ordinary behavior of their lives is what is supposedly right while anything else is wrong and primitive. I believe many people from western cultures might have behaved in the same way, this fact emphasizes that Orientalism is still present in our current society.

Orientalism and Fetishisation of Asian Cultures

According to Edward Said, orientalism is a construct that sets up the binary between Western and Eastern culture. Because of orientalism, people from Western countries see people from the East as sly, mystical, and untrustworthy. The idea of orientalism was born when imperialistic European countries began to take hold of Asian countries. Because of orientalism, Westerners now see themselves as superior than the Other People from Eastern countries.

Orientalism is definitely still present today, one of the most prominent examples is Islamophobia and prejudice against people from the Middle East. Many Americans have unfounded fear and anger towards Muslims after 9/11.

But orientalism is not always easy to see. Orientalism today is present in the fetishisation and appropriation of Asian culture, especially Japanese culture. The people we call weeaboos have an over-exaggerated view of Japan and they see Japanese people as images to be put on a pedestal or in a picture frame, rather than actual human beings. This mindset can lead to the sexualisation of young girls from any Asian country that Westerners view as Other. This is obviously incredibly harmful and predatory, and it all stems from the sense of removal Westerners have from Eastern countries, because to the people who are fetishizing them, those girls aren't really people, they're just some entertainment from a faraway place.

In a Land Far, Far Away...

Edward Said describes Orientalism as a myth that has been so intricately spun over hundreds of years that it has become "knowledge." The culture that makes this possible is one of superiority over the East. Western power and its commitment to defining the Eastern people as Orientals, makes the myth strong. Although this colonial attitude was developed years earlier during times of Imperialism, it is still alive today. Westerners know that they are not too different from Easterners in terms of experience and that Orientals have a place in their culture. Defining the East as a place of strange behavior with people that can't be trusted, helps Westerners define themselves by contrast.

I think that we are definitely still disconnected from the East and although we know more truth about that part of our world today than we used to, it still seems like a far away place with people completely different than us. Different can often feel scary. This is obvious in the common American fear of Middle Easterners, specifically Muslims. We have come to assume that "all" Muslims and Middle Easterners are terrorists because of the actions of some of their people. By labeling them as evil, we simultaneously define ourselves as "good" and as the victims, when in reality, they are the victims of our closed-mindedness.

Orientalism: A Web Thicker Than We Thought

Said´s postcolonial theory of Orientalism is complex. He writes that Orientalism is the political mindset that emphasizes differences between the West and East. Further, that people of the ¨Orient" are the ultimate ¨other" because they are engrossed in religion and are incapable of rationality. The myth of Orientalism has been solidified into fact in Western cultures, as is evident in studies of eastern cultures. Said attributes this action to European political dominance in the Middle East. As one of my classmates brought up earlier this week, ¨The winners write history¨. That phrase applies well to this part of Said´s ideas.

Said´s postcolonial theory also brings a fresh perspective to Western culture. First, he highlights the fact that modern imperialism is even more dangerous than ancient imperialism because conquerors want to impose ideology. Also, he writes that Western cultures sort of depend on the Orient as a model for various parts of society. In other words, we define our society as not that. Overall, he believes Orientalism is still prevalent in the Western mindset.

I thought Said´s ideas were interesting and provocative. I didn´t fully realize how much this ¨web¨ ideas and attitudes about another part of the world affects life right at home. I see it in movies such as Aladdin and even recognize a bit of it in my freshman year World History class. The unit we did on eastern cultures such as India or countries in the Middle East focused on religion and societal differences. The focus wasn´t necessarily bad, but I can see where my classmate is coming from with the phrase, ¨The winners write history¨.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

That Land Across The Sea

Edward Said describes Orientalism as the way in which culture makes the east and the west seem like very different areas. To better understand what Said means, he references Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, by likening his idea of imperialism with the idea of Orientalism. In Conrad's story, Imperialism is a process that makes another part of the world seem frightening and full of mystery, which is very similar to the idea of Orientalism.

Today, I feel that our society is still in many ways disconnected from eastern culture, and where we are disconnected from that culture, the Orientalist mindset begins to creep into our heads as to what we think the east is like. Although recently with the new rise of technology we are now easily connecting with all parts of the world and I believe that this increased connectivity will end Orientalist thinking.

Orientalism Is...

According to Edward Said, Orientalism is a political view that encourages the binary between the familiar West and the unfamiliar East. People from the East, or "Orientals," are stereotypically sly, mystical, and untrustworthy. These "Orientals" are also completely contrived by the West- they are characters created to make the East seem more other, to make western cultures feel knowledgeable about the East, and to strengthen the binary between them. Basically, the West created Orientalism to make it seem like they knew their stuff when it came to non-western countries, when, in fact, they did not.

So, is Orientalism still present in modern western cultures? Yes! It's alive, well, and presenting itself in new and terrible ways. For example, America has created a binary between itself and the Middle East specifically. There are offensive stereotypes about Middle Eastern people (they're terrorists, everyone wears a turban and rides a camel and has twenty wives) that Americans use to pretend to understand what their culture is like while also maintaining dominance in the binary by imposing those negative stereotypes. Islamophobia seems to be the modern Orientalism.

Said's Orientalism

Said's orientalism is another case of the West versus the East, but in this case mostly culturally. It's a story of the West's domination of its Other, the East or the "Orient." It's a method of distancing oneself from the Other by generalizing the Orient as a completely contrasting, mysterious, and less-developed culture.

Orientalism is still present today. With immigration as a hot topic at political debates these days, there have been some infamous and terrible stereotypes and generalizations made about Mexicans as well as Muslims. Another prevalent issue today is the cultural appropriation that occurs all too often. It's another practice of generalizing a culture and exploiting an aspect of it for personal use. This is another form of domination by stripping a culture of a significant detail and westernizing it for no real reason.

I hope to one day see a world where orientalism is no longer and issue, but I must admit, that world is hard to imagine.

Can East Meet West?

Orientalism, according to Said, was the way that the West negatively viewed the East (non western cultures). This view supported and encouraged the political dominance of imperialism. Westerners accepted and internalized this view to allow them to rationalize their imperialistic beliefs and actions towards other cultures. This was epitomized by Westerns view of Eastern as "sly, devious, despotic, mystical". By applying these stereotypes to Easterners, Westerners were able to separate themselves and make themselves seem superior and really believe they were.

One of the fundamental stereotypes of twentieth century orientalism is that easterners are religious fanatic and incapable of practical beliefs. This attitude persist to this day. You can observe this by the way westerners fear Muslims. They believe all Muslims are radical Islamic who want to impose their fanatical beliefs on Westerners at any cost. Including Jihad. Certain republican presidential candidates are capitalizing on this stereotype and making people fearful to gain a political advantage. However, I remain optimistic that cooler heads prevail among my peers.


Edward Said's theory of orientalism talks about how the Western world, and Western society, regard and portray the Eastern part of the world. Often when the Eastern world is portrayed in Western novels, films, ect, it is shown as very exotic, showcasing stereotypes that have been forced upon the cultures that live there for many years. Many times, this takes the form of showing cultures as more primitive than Western cultures, which adds to a "mysterious" sense to cultures other than the prevalent Western ones.

This issue is still very alive in today's world. When many people think of cultures and people other than Western ones, or their own culture in other cases, the thoughts may be mysterious, exotic, mystical, ect because of what media and society has conditioned us to think about them. It works very much like racism, and is helping Western culture to dominate and oppress other cultures that may not be seen as equal to theirs. Especially in America, many people have learned to fear a lot of countries, people, and cultures in the Middle East because of terrorism. This fear then is loosely applied to anyone who may remotely fit the stereotypical image of a "terrorist," and can then be applied to many different cultures that may have nothing to do with the terrorism that is feared in the US.


According to Edward Said, Orientalism can be seen as the way that Westerners view, exaggerate, and distort differences between the Western culture and that of the Orient, being comprised of the Middle East and the rest of Asia.  In Said's book Orientalism, he references Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness.  Although the main events of Conrad's story occur in Africa, Said attempted to compare the idea of Orientalism to that of Imperialism, which is referenced numerous times in Heart of Darkness.  Instead of criticizing the author's depiction of the savage culture found in the Congo, Said saw that Conrad recognized the idea of imperialism as false mental construct of the Europeans, similar to what he believed to be true about the notion of Orientalism.

I would have to agree with Said's argument on the existence of Orientalism.  In most of the depictions of people in "the Orient" that we see in art created by Europeans in the 19th century, we see the artist's intention to show the exotic and mysterious aspects of those people.  As these depictions were brought to Europe, the mindset toward people of the Orient was changed, aiding the Europeans in their drive to colonize the mysterious and unknown parts of the world.

Orientalism and Iron Fist

Orientalism is an example of unconsidered racism that is used to make the western world feel superior to the east. Like imperialist views of Africa and Africans, Orientalism views Eastern peoples as primitive, mystical, and ultimately inferior. It is so deeply ingrained in today's culture that many people don't realize how biased and in many cases racist their learned beliefs of Eastern culture are.

An example of how orientalism is still present in today's society is the recent drama surrounding Netflix's upcoming series Iron Fist. Iron Fist is a superhero who originally appeared in Marvel Comics in 1974. He was an American boy who went to the East and was taught mystical powers and martial arts by a mystical Asian man, before killing a dragon to become the Iron Fist. Just based on that it is easy to see the effects of orientalism in a story where a white man goes to the East and learns mystical things and karate. Last week Iron Fist was thrust into the headlines when a white British actor, Finn Jones, was cast in the role. Many felt it should have gone to an Asian actor and the fact it didn't was an example of continued Hollywood white washing. But perhaps they are wrong. While it is true that more major roles are needed for Asian actors, why is it this role that is generating the uproar? It seems people hear "mystical Kung-Fu master" and assume "Asian". While the people complaining likely have good intentions, this example shows how deeply ingrained, racist Orientalism is still alive and well in today's culture.

Stick to the Stuff You Know

Orientalism is the Western way of regarding the East. It views the different cultures of the East as exotic, foreign, and at times primitive. Orientalism exalts Western society while dehumanizing people from the East. Said in his Theory of Orientalism asserts that these ideas extended beyond imperialism. Orientalist ideologies have been expressed in works of literature such as "Heart of Darkness", poems, songs, and paintings. These ideas result in exploitation of the East.

I believe that we still have an Orientalist mindset. In "The God of Small Things" when Sophie Mol's hands were getting sniffed by the cook and Margaret was asking about it, Ammu suddenly gets upset at her treating them as if they are some kind of natives for her to gawk at. That scene made me take pause because I feel like witnessing the same thing I would act like Margaret Kochamma. This scene really made Orientalism resonate with me. It's the arrogant assumption that we as Westerners do everything the "right" and "normal" way. I really appreciate the moments in the book like these that force me to really stop and think and encourage myself to self evaluate.

The Fear of Distortion and Inaccuracy

Orientalism is basically another way of saying how the dominant West makes generalizations about large areas of the world that they do not fully understand, that area being the East. The West, or the Occident, views the East, or the "Orient" as strange and mysterious. The Orient does not simply refer to an area of land. It refers to the culture, the vocabulary, the doctrines, and the values of the East. Orientalism has also become a western mode for dealing with the Orient. It is a way to teach, describe, settle, and rule over the East in a way that makes it appear that the West understands, even when that seems impossible.

Edward Said wraps up his introduction by revealing his two biggest fears when it comes to talking about the topic of Orientalism. Distortion and inaccuracy. I think that fear is the embodiment of this entire topic. Everyone's view is going to be warped by their "own contemporary reality." I think that makes it difficult to get an unbiased view because one would either come from the "East" or the "West." But even that being said, I believe that Orientalism still exists in the world. The biggest example probably being the westerner's view of the Middle East. The common feeling of people in the West is one of superiority but also puzzlement. The values and ways of life are so fundamentally different in many ways that it makes it easy to view them as the mysterious East.

Orientalism From Both Sides

Orientalism is the way Western people view the East, based on how Eastern countries and people are represented in history and in the media. The Orientalist mindset supports a warped view of the East as an exotic, mysterious place full of "sly, devious, despotic, mystical" people. The concept implies Western superiority over Eastern countries. Although he did not invent the term, Edward Said is an important figure for Orientalism, and a credible source of knowledge about the way it works and the way it came to be.

Through her novel "The God of Small Things," Arundhati Roy embodies Said's critiques of Orientalism in a way that could touch anyone. Roy's perspective is valuable to the critique of Orientalism since she uses her upbringing to incorporate insights from both the East and the West. The God of Small Things offers commentary on Orientalism from an Eastern perspective, which is important to understanding Orientalism as a two sided affair. Through references to Western media and her description of the relationship between Estha and Rahel's family with Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol, Roy suggests a learned inferiority complex from the East regarding the West. The novel never explicitly comments on the way the West views the East, but is stacked with commentary on the blind approval of everything Western from members of Estha and Rahel's family, specifically the older members. The God of Small Things turns the idea of Orientalism into a full bodied concept, instead of one that is viewed from just one side.

Said's Orientalism

Said's Orientalism can be defined by the idea of the West promoting a sense of difference between our society and that of the Middle to Far East. By thinking this way, the West had and has the means to dominate the region in a political, social, and economic sense. The Middle East and other regions that create the area that Said talks about are seen as being at a sort of lower and less developed level of civilization than the European countries and the United States. To him, the West sees the region as simply being incapable on all ends in comparison to Western society. The idea of Orientalism came about when European countries began to take control of the "Oriental" region with both political and economic goals. Since then, the West has continued to use and, in a sense, abuse this region with constant exploitation. Now, with so-called postcolonialism, the West is trying to detach itself from the idea of imperialism. People have recognized this idea of Orientalism and have criticized it on its ill-treatment of the region that seemingly makes up a large portion of the world.

I still think that we have an Orientalist mindset today, and to me, this is definitely not good. However, I don't think that it stems from the region itself and what it "lacks" in comparison to the West. I think that the main reason for today's Orientalism (which, don't get me wrong, can still be tied back to the original sense) is a sense of Western hunger for supremacy rather than looking more at the Middle East and Far East's "flaws". Donald Trump comes to mind. Why do we need to make America "great" again? Why can't we just be America. Also, there is a lot of emphasis on idea that America is the perfect country. Our rampant patriotism is becoming a flaw that singles us out and only points at our need for supremacy over others.


Edward Said defines orientalism simply as the idea expressed by us (the U.S., Europe...) about our superiority over the orient (the east, India...). He describes this idea in a few ways, including our view of the east as mystic and strange in comparison to our world. Said contributes some of blame for this outlook to the west's imperialistic actions toward the east. This is not most certainly not the first time this has happened.

This seems to be a recurring outcome in history. An imperialistic nation come across a less developed group and soon after, new ideas get embedded in the minds of the entire nation. Is patriotism and believing one's nation to be superior a bad thing? not always. Is believing other nations to be less human or somehow less deserving a bad thing? absolutely. It bugs me that ideas such as orientalism are able to persist for so long, affecting nations full of people.

The Study of "Them"

Orientalism derives it's meaning from the most simple of conflicts: Us vs Them. Familiar vs Strange. East vs West. Two cultures running parallel to the other. Defined by their differences. These differences that don't make them equal however. In fact, the West is in total domination, wholly controlling reputation of the East. His post-colonial theory shows how so much of the Wests perceived strength is drawn from it's setting when juxtaposed with the East.

Orientalism, just like racism, is still alive and well today. Just like African Americans, Muslims are routinely used as the scapegoat for the world's problems, and the conservative media has made them representatives of their hemisphere. It creates a strong sense of East vs West, and with people like Trump dominating the Republican primaries, I don't think its going away anytime soon.

Orientalism Today

In Edward Said's Orientalism, Said creates a new definition of orientalism. He defines it as the West heavily trying to influence and imperialize the west. His view forces people to see the East in a new way because it makes it seem as if the East is inferior to the West. This has been an ongoing thing in society; the West has always had some kind of power of the East and how they are viewed by the rest of the world. All of the power lies in the West, while the East is being over-powered by the East. Orientalism has an interesting effect on the way Western culture is viewed. It makes it seem as if the culture and norms of Western culture is the best to have in any society, and gives the West the power to enforce those powers.

In today's society, I think that there is still a lot of orientalism, though it may not be super obvious because it seems to be something that society is used to. I think that the constant fear of Muslims that Western culture has enforced is a big part of modern day orientalism. It has forced people to look at any Muslim as someone who's a terrorist, even if they are nothing close to that. The West has really forced a strong feeling of fear of the East onto people, proving their power.

I don't want to speak for everyone in Western culture, but I do think that orientalism has effected all of our lives, especially today with the amount of Islamaphobia imprinted into our minds. I think that it is something we think is normal because it's something we've heard almost all of our lives, but in reality it is all an effect of orientalism.

The West's Quest For Superiority

In Edward Said's article "Orientalism", Said defines Orientalism is three ways. He states that anyone who studies the Orient is doing what he would call Orientalism. He also defines Orientalism as the distinction between the Orient and the Occident (East vs. West). Finally, Said defines Orientalism as the way that the West derives power from domination of the East's culture. The West created an image of the East as a mysterious and scary place that is unsophisticated in comparison to the West. Ultimately, it is the way that the West preys on the East's culture in an attempt to gain power and superiority over the East.

Orientalism continues to be a integral part of the West's mindset today. Specifically in America, we are still taught to fear the East as it is wildly unpredictable. For example, we are taught to fear the East because it is where the people who want to destroy America because of our superior culture. This creates the idea that the East is hostile to America because of our superiority. It is the way that America is still able to establish dominance over the East. 

Oreintalism; Another One

The key to sucessful imperialism is to seperate the subject and opressor completely. Seperation lays the foundation for superiority. Orientalism was yet another binary established by the Western word (coined the Occident by Said) to establish their superiority. Orientalism is a mindset of false admiration by making the Orient (Eastern Asia) unwordly and different from the Occident. It makes out Orients to be mystical, illogical, and reduces complicated social structures to strange fanatacisms. Orientalism was used as one way in Western cuture to seperate the Occident from the Oriental through their dehumanization.

Today, I'd like to believe that oreintalism has decreased significantly. With old physical proximities breached by interent conections, I think we (as a Western majority) are able to understand others and learn that humanities traits and beliefs extend beyond the Occident. Though the Western world has a significant amount of generalizations to over come, such as the sterotypes perpetrated against Musims, I believe that we still have come a long way from the mystification of Eastern cultures present in our past.

Us vs. Them

Edward Said defines Orientalism as a pattern of making certain generalization about the part of the world known as the East. He specifically states, “Orientalism was ultimately a political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (Europe, West, “us”) and the strange (the Orient, the East, “them”)” (3). He continues on to say that Orientalism is a theory to most people, but it needs to start be looked at as reality. The stereotypes that follow it prove that the theory are real today. The idea of Orientalism creates an inverse relationship between the East and West. The East is portrayed as unorganized and chaotic and the West is analyzed as superior and great.

The stereotypes and suggestive differences are evident in the present-day Western culture. Due to Orientalism, the East will never be equal to the West. A typical stereotype is that laborers are paid less in the East than in the West. I think not only is this stereotype true, but the West utilizes their cheap labor to improve their own economy. The West clearly embraces the stereotype and even takes advantage of it. Also, in pop culture, it is evident that there is clear division between the East and West. The way that movies portray the East is mostly violent and the government there is unorganized. Meanwhile, the West is displayed as cheerful and well established. I think that today people have an Orientalist mindset even if they claim that they have put previous judgments behind them.

Edward Said's Theory of Orientalism

According to Edward Said, Orientalism is a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient's special place in European culture. A summary of the Orientalist mindset would be that the East and West's ways of life follow two separate paths that will never meet. Orientalism helps define Western Culture based on its contrasting characteristics. Additionally, it is a Western style of dominating, reconstructing, and having power over the Orient.

Edward Said's book, Orientalism, aims to break down the myth that Orientals are strange and untrustworthy people. He was not a fan of Western enlightenment traditions and colonialism. For example, many people thought Joseph Conrad was a racist white man, but Edward Said praised Conrad for his images of the Congo in his book, Heart of Darkness. Edward Said's postcolonial theory forces us to see that Western Culture's strength and identity derives from setting itself off against the Orient as a substitute.

I think the Orientalist mindset has definitely decreased among our Western Culture, but their are still issues. For example, the way that some people view Muslims in our culture is very much still an issue. There is a large population of Muslims in the Middle East. I remember watching an episode of the show 30 Days. In the episode I was watching, a white catholic man went to go live with a Muslim family for 30 days. During the show they asked pedestrians to say the first word that came to mind when they heard the word, Muslim. Almost all said "terrorist", "9/11", and "Al Qaeda". I think this is a good example that shows the stereotypes that follow Muslims everyday and the issues they have to face in today's Western's Culture.


Edward Said describes Orientalism as promoting the difference between the East and the West. He explains how Orientalism developed only shortly after Europeans met people of the East. Orientalism is  a way for the West to establish dominance and authority over the East. Orientalism is a way for Westerners to make negative generalizations or stereotypes about the East. In Said´s article he says Eastern people can be described as sly and mischievous. Because of Orientalism, people in the East are primarily viewed as inferior to Westerners.

I do believe Orientalism still manifests in Western, especially American culture today. Especially after September 11, 2001, the East is viewed by many Americans as a scary, foreign place where terrorists live. Donald Trump also carries out the theory of Orientalism by openly preaching about his hatred for Muslims, a religion practiced by many in the East, and making others in America also fear them. These are just a couple of the many examples of the Western world establishing dominance over the East. 

History House

Orientalism is the distinction between the East and West pertaining to depictions of the Orient. Said describes that Western culture thrives off of its portrayal of the the East as inferior, and as a place that is in need of rescue and perhaps Western intervention. The West describes the East as "an ideal and unchanging abstraction," which represents not only their distortion and inaccuracy of reality, but the failure to mutually recognize these "different" people as fully human. The Occident has no full context or appropriate perspective to theorize and romanticize the East in this way. Orientalist imagery is reinforced throughout Western culture as a way to further otherize, exotify, and dehumanize Eastern culture.
I see the manifestation of Orientalism in most of our American culture, especially in our acceptance of Eastern culture as everything except for fully humanized. In The God of Small Things, Roy uses Chacko's, History House to describe the connection between Orientalism and the Orient. The Orient is locked out of their own culture because the Occident controls and owns the creation of Eastern culture itself. The Easterner is pushed outside of their own history because its ownership lies in the hands of the Westerner. Roy writes, "Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away. He explained that history was like an old house at night. With all the lamps lit. And ancestors whispering inside" (90). 

Orientalism? More like NOrientalism!

Edward Said defines the classic European idea of the Oriental as mysterious, conniving, and religiously fanatic. Orientalism is the fascination with an inaccurate stereotype that Westerners have created concerning Easterners. The stereotypes involved reduce complicated societies to "heathen worshipers," strange magicians, and exotic simplifications of Eastern cultures.

I think that in some ways we still do have an Orientalist mindset, although I think it looks pretty different now. In the late 1800s, several European countries (particularly England) started becoming obsessed with Japanese "culture," even though their version of Japanese culture was highly westernized. They wore kimonos and held Japanese fans and hung their walls with Japanese-styled art. Today, a lot of people in America do the same thing, except that now we have a name for it: Weeaboos. American and English people who watch lots of anime and say "konichiwa" a lot without actually knowing any real Japanese. It might not be exactly the same thing, but the central problem is still there: the romanticization of a culture we view to be "different" from our own.

East and West

Orientalism is essentially the set of ideas used to establish authority over and control the Orient/East by the Occident/West. People think of the "Orient" and the "Occident" of just being geographical locations and logical designations. However, they are more a reflection of ideas about the regions/cultures, and as a rule these ideas tend to be those that favor the West and negatively portray the East. These basically reflect the difference in power between the East and West.

I'd say that Orientalism is... a thing that exists. I think you can pretty easily find things like negative stereotypes and portrayals of the "Orient" (although if anyone's still calling it that you're probably ten times more likely to be in for racism and stereotypes.) I can't say I think all that much has changed, really, except to add a lot more fear and Islamophobia to the mix. Other than that I don't really feel qualified to say anything on the matter, especially without having a more detailed understanding of what Said is arguing in the first place.

Analyzing Orientalism

According to Edward Said, Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between "the Orient" and (most of the time) "the Occident." He also claimed a large mass of writers, among whom are poets, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and imperial administrators, have accepted the basic distinction between the East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, "mind," destiny, and so on. Additionally, Said stated anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient--and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist--either in its specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she does is Orientalism. Orientalism is Westerners dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient (Asia/Middle East). According to Said, Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which "the West" constructed "the East" as inferior and outsiders. They claimed these non Western Cultured people needed help from them/Western intervention. Edward Said is very critical of Orientalism and the Westerner's dominance. He doesn't believe it is right in a situation where one country needs assistance. He believes there are consequences to this colonialism and Orientalism.

I personally feel Edward Said's argument is valid. Unfortunately, I feel we live in a world where there is Orientalism. I don't feel like our American culture has a strong relationship with the Eastern most parts of the world like the Middle East and Asia. The world isn't perfect, but instead of dividing it, we should ositively intervene and help each other. We have a lot of issues ourselves, and I feel we should fix those before trying to make the Orient arts of the world inferior to us. Because of the actions we take and how we perceive them, I feel America and Europe both have Orientalist mindsets. The stereotypes present in society clearly paint this Orientalist picture. Someone is always trying to dominate in this world or make others below them.


A lack of mutual recognition

According to Edward Said, the idea of Orientalism inevitably lives on through the works of writers and theorists. The idea of Orientalism began as a way to distinguish East and West, and it was used as a basis for novels, poetry, historical accounts, etc. The concept of Orientalism was a systematic process by which the English were able to form the idea of the Orient “politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically, imaginitively.” Said claims that the idea was able to emerge due to a closeness between France and Britain and the Orient. The close relationship consistently resulted in a demonstration of the greater power of the “Occident” (France, Britain, or America), which resulted in a large body of texts referred to as Orientalist.

The relationship between the “Occident” and the “Orient” depends on positional superiority. The Orientalist foundations were created so systematically that they restrict free thought or action of the Orient. Essentially, individuals in the East are perpetually viewed as socially, and even biologically inferior due to the spread of Orientalist ideas. Harmful ideologies such as this restrict free thought on both sides of the binary. The oppressed are faced with mental and social restrictions while the privileged group is unable to mutually recognized the Easterners. Orientalist ideologies prevail today, and this is evident in American culture. The East is still viewed as exotic and foreign, which prevents understanding of Eastern cultures or people. Due to a prejudiced basis of understanding, American films, books, etc. often misrepresent Eastern culture and don’t allow us to see the individuals as individuals. Once again, the Orientalist ideologies continue to restrict freedom of identity while perpetuating the Western position of power.

Returning to the Heart of Darkness

Orientalism is making generalizations or stereotypes of the East. Said argued that some of these stereotypes include being politically power hungry and devious. Easterners are sly and cannot be trusted. Their men are seen as ¨sexually incontinent¨ and their women are seen as sexually subservient. I think Said showed the West´s dependence on the East really well through his connection to Heart of Darkness. Orientalism can be maintained because the West is politically dominant. I think this factors into the generalizations of Eastern governments especially, because Western governments are democratic and honest, while Eastern governments are stereotyped as despotic and deceptive. In Heart of Darkness, most imperialists had no hesitation going to Congo because they operated under the assumption that they were helping Congo modernize and making the Congolese more civil. They could subordinate the Congolese for labor because they were ultimately ¨improving¨ the country, and just happened to economically benefit from it.

I think portions of this mindset are still visible today, most visibly in Western consumerism. I´m sure large companies still think they are helping the Eastern countries they build factories in because they are providing jobs and possibly improving local economies. However, the standards for labor are much lower than they are in the West, and the companies knowingly benefit from it and continue the trend. Despite the spotlight that gets placed on companies like Nike whenever a new story breaks about poor labor conditions in their factories, I rarely stop to question where my clothes come from or how they were produced. I think we have all looked at the tags on our shirts in a class and had a short discussion on the surprising distant locations they were manufactured in, but I know I never took the time to research the specifics of how the clothes were made. Most likely, I wouldn´t have been comfortable with what I found.

East is East and West is Best

In this excerpt from his book Orientalism, Edward Said explains the theory of Orientalism. Prior to reading the actual passage, I was anticipating that Said would promote the theory of Orientalism; however, Said merely explained the theory, which was in fact constructed by eighteenth and nineteenth century European colonizers. Said goes so far as to describe Orientalism as a "corporate institution" (3). Orientalism was a way of dealing with and establishing authority over the East. Although Orientalism is a theory, Said stresses that it is not only a theory, but there is in fact a reality. The theory has had a significant effect on the geographic area the theory explains. Essentially Orientalism creates a binary between the East and West, effectively asserting that East is East and West is Best.

Through this assertion, the West positions itself as superior to the East. Said's analysis of the theory of Orientalism is logical and sensible. He maintains an impressive impartial and calm tone throughout his essay. As the West strove to gain control of the East, the emergence of the theory of Orientalism is understandable. In the quest the gain and maintain power, it is easiest to justify this power by claiming to be better than the people losing power. This theory still manifests in "pop culture" today, such as the propagation of American films like the Sound of Music in God of Small Things.

The Other: Said's Orientalism

From my understanding, Edward Said's theory of Orientalism is that the East (Middle East, Asia, etc) will never truly be able to be part of Europe. According to Said, Eastern people are described as the "sly, devious, mystical Oriental," by Europeans. Said also claims that because of Europe's lack of cultural understanding, the East is frequently romanticized into something it isn't and even goes as far to dehumanize Eastern people. In the eyes of the West, the East is a very primitive and barbaric place. In essence, Orientalism is a way for Europeans to practice cultural discrimination against the East.

I think Orientalism is simply a way for Western culture to create unfair stereotypes about the Eastern culture and its people. I'm not sure if it purely racism, but it feels pretty close to it. I believe that we still do have an Orientalist mindset. One example of Orientalism can be seen in Disney's 1992 hit Aladdin (especially in the song where Aladdin is trying to escape from the guards in the marketplace and at the start of Arabian Nights at the beginning of the movie). In modern pop culture, the East is constantly portrayed as the exotic, foreign, bad guy. I believe that Orientalism is a very strong part of Western culture because while there is this admiration for Eastern culture (and a capitalization on it), it will always be "the other."

I found this article/talk on NPR about Orientalism in Eat, Pray, Love, if anyone is interested:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Orientalism Post

Edward Said defines Orientalism in multiple ways. Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient is an Orientalist, and what they do is Orientalism. Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between "the Orient" and (most of the time) "the Occident" (the East and the West). Orientalism is a Western style for dominating, reconstructing, and having authority over the Orient. His theory makes it easy to see European/Western culture as vampiric (the major component of European culture, the idea of European identity as superior in comparison with all others, is cultural hegemony at work, sucking the validity and life from other cultures, in this case resulting in Orientalism).

Looking at America's cultural relationship to the world, I would say that we do have an Orientalist mindset. I am basing this assumption partly on the rhetoric that is constantly thrown around when people discuss America, which is mostly along the lines of how beautiful a nation we have, or how lucky we are to live in America and not somewhere else. It's this kind of thought, this assumption that America is as good as it gets, that sort of points to a superiority complex in American culture. The prevailing thought that nothing about America can be improved, or that we are far superior to even other Western cultures shows this. We think of other cultures in whatever ways we want, because the only one that really matters is the superior one: America's.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Orientalism by Edward W. Said is a critique of the study of the Orient and its ideology. Said examines the historical, cultural, and political views of the East that are held by the West, and examines how they developed and where they came from. He traces the various views and perceptions back to the colonial period of British and European domination in the Middle East. The views and perceptions that came into being were the result of the British and the French. The British had colonies in the East at this time; the French did not but were trying to create some. The colonial rulers could not rule properly, it was believed, without some knowledge of the people they ruled. They thought they could acquire this knowledge from implementing various works from the native language into their own. The "Orient" existed to be studied by Westerners who believed themselves to be superior to the "others", which is how the East was described. They were the opposite of the East and considered to the active while the Orient was considered to be passive. The Orient existed to be ruled and dominated. The term "Oriental" was used to describe the Middle, Near, and Far East. All the different cultures were rounded up just to be studies by the Europeans. The reason for the studying them was for political reasons also. Also the misrepresentations of the Orient and the various aspects of the Orient led to confusion and misinterpretation by the scholars and politicians studying them. 

In the present day, America still has an orientalism mindset just like there was in the past.Today orientalism is still seen in the movies that we watch on the silver screen. Such the movies God of Egypt(2016), Cleopatra(1963), and Aladdin(1992). The characters in God of Egypt and Cleopatra contained an all white cast even though the movie was in Egypt which makes an all white cast inaccurate for the time period set for the films. Also in the film Aladdin the protagonist characters have American Accents while the antagonist had extremely stereotypical Arabian accents. Through the portrayal of these characters it could teach children to treat others with foreign accents as bad and hostile. With orientalism still thriving in today's society it goes to show what Said was writing is still around today.