What is orientalism?

Essay by Dominique SCHMITZUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 1997

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Said made a clear analogy between orientalism and colonialism.

They are both set with the same binary opposition.

white/ non white

occidental/ non occidental

In a very detailed and structured study of the orient (behavior, habit,

tradition ...) we document a large amount of fact and data. All compile in

a general study they produce the illusion of a well understood and

objectively constructed knowledge.

These are, in fact, mere observations and purely subjective entities (seen

only with the western eyes) which do not explain nor reflect the true nature

of the object.

We then generalize from theses singles observations, set up categories and

labels. We are now able to answer questions very simply creating this illusion

of knowledge.

We witness the realization of cliches; single sided beliefs

that fuels themselves upon their own ignorance.

SAID then explains how this technique empowers his creator. The rigorous

discourse, the elaboration of thought and ideas, subjectively authenticated

itself. The content is no longer address and leaves the victim of the

discourse reduced to plain and pure denial. The content has become a set

of prejudicial belief (cliches).

To remind you of the famous aphorism: 'the pen is mightier than the sword'

He writes:

'Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the orient

because the orient was weaker than the west.'

Though injustice has already been served and the political establishment

is capitalizing on those cliches, it is interesting to notice that SAID

himself already looks at the orient with orientalism (western eye).

Was the orient really weaker than the west?

Could it be simply that the orient was just farther? May be not

interested? Had no curiosity towards the western world?

Could it be that the orient was to busy and was not much concern

about this western curiosity?...