Orientalism by Edward Said

I have received Orientalism and this book has been key in developing my knowledge in politics and Post-Colonial studies. In terms of cultural appropriation, this book addresses the literary and cultural studies scholars depiction or imitate by addressing aspects of Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures by writers, designers and artists from the West.

These are my notes from the book:

The fiction of Honore Balzac, Baudelaire and Lautreamont, explored how they were influenced and how they helped shape the societal fantasy of European racial superiority. These post-colonial writers deal with colonial discourse by modifying or subverting ideals.

Karl Marx stated “They cannot represent themselves; the must be represented

Said states that “as much as the west itself,, the orient is an idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, imagery and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West. The two geographical entities thus support and to an extent reflect each other”

“So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have, instead, is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.”

Said argues that orientalists have created a false dichotomy between the “East” and the “West” in order to show why imperialism is acceptable.  Orientalists do this by positing that there is a fundamental difference between the East and the West.  They say that all that is good is Western and all that is bad is Eastern.  They see the East as having a culture that lacks the sort of energy and drive that has made the West great. When the East is defined in this way, imperialism becomes acceptable.  It is okay for the West to conquer and dominate because it has a superior culture. So Orientalism as a scholarly outlook is a means, Said says, of justifying imperialism.

“My idea in Orientalism is to use humanistic critique to open up the fields of struggle, to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us in labels and antagonistic debate whose goal is a belligerent collective identity rather than understanding and intellectual exchange.”

“The worldwide protests before the war began in Iraq would not have been possible were it not for the existence of alternative communities across the globe, informed by alternative news sources, and keenly aware of the environmental, human rights, and libertarian impulses that bind us together in this tiny planet. The human, and humanistic, desire or enlightenment and emancipation is not easily deferred, despite the incredible strength of the opposition to it that comes from the Rumsfelds, Bin Ladens, Sharons, and Buses of this world.”

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