The Orientalism by Said Edward is a canonical draft of cultural studies in which he challenges the orientalism. According to him, that entirely focuses on the blatant differences between west and east ‘worlds.’ He points out that the Europeans visited many less developed nations at the start of their colonization of the eastern world. They discovered that their culture and civilization were very exotic, thereby establishing the Orientalism science. Here, Said depicts Orientalism as the study of the natives (Orientals) of those ‘exotic’ civilizations. This article unfolds his key arguments in the Orientalism.
The Key Components
Said argued that the Europeans formed two divisions of the world – the west and east. He also described them as the orient and occident as well as the uncivilized and civilized. These divisions were formed by an artificial boundary, which was laid in line with the concept of ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ or ‘us’ and ‘them.’ An intensive analysis of Said’s argument reveals that the Europeans designed Orientalism for defining themselves (Said, 1994).
This logic borders on the fact that certain attributes that were exclusively associated with the Orientals, and whatever they were, the accident was different. The Europeans depicted themselves as the superior of the two races and the justification for their colonization strategies focused on that concept. They believed that bringing civilization from their ‘world’ to the uncivilized part of the entire world would improve (Brown, 2010). The key problem, however, surfaced when the Europeans began generalizing the ‘qualities’ they attributed to the less civilized.
Additionally, they also started portraying those characteristics associated with their civilized world through certain scientific files, other sources of media, and literary works. Those activities created a certain perception of the Orientals in the European minds. As a result, it infused biases in the European overall attitudes towards the ‘easterners’. It is this prejudice that was later transferred to the scientific study of the Orientals (orientalists). In fact, all the European scientific research and reports were influenced by this concept (Mamdani, 2002).
Whilst those generalizations took part in Said’s, they can still experience in the modern world. Those European attributes associated with the under-civilized have stuck and a commonplace in most parts of the world. For example, the world still believes that the Arabians are still uncivilized, and Islam, as a religion, is the mastermind of terrorism.
Orientalism vs. Politics of Regionalism
Regionalism as the name denotes is a concept dealing with a particular place (region) such as country. Therefore, the politics of regionalism would loosely refer to the political activities unique to a region. This concept is widely apparent to the critiques of Orientalism, and several comparisons can be drawn from these two concepts.
Many scholars view Said argument as a monolithic assertion of the Western world’s villainy that mainly borrows ideas from a theoretical framework that he must have derived from the French philosopher, Foucault Michel. According to Foucault, the primary idea was “discourse,” which he defined as a set of thought that underlines anything that can be “known.” That system was inextricably related to the powers of all its forms (Mamdani, 2002). It is that idea that Foucault used in formulating his famous “knowledge /power.” For the two parties, Said and Foucault, it was a premature illusion to accept that knowledge is separable from power.
According to them, nobody can escape Orientalism because it is a discourse. As such, this phenomenon is trans-subjective. However, Said was not in total agreement with Foucault’s perception because his theory did not share the same concept as that of the French philosopher. The other geniuses to whom Said borrowed the ideas from, the theorist from Italy, Gramsci, Antonio, had a different concept, “hegemony.” That theory gave room for the possibility of resisting any inviolable discourse. The main Said’s argument in this book provoked furious controversies that still intrigue the world today. With the United States tied in wrangles with Iraq, and the Middle East on the brink of a civil crisis, the debates about “Orientalism” surpasses the academic boundaries (Mitchell, 2005). It is this fraught historical encounter that became the inspiration in Irwin Robert’s latest book, “Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents,” in which he launched a remarkable attack on Said’s argument.
Given his credentials in authorship and experience in teaching, Irwin is seen a renowned writer whose arguments are valid. His book is an ideal hybrid, incorporating both historical aspects of the academic grounds of Orientalism and a full-fledged assault on Said’s argument in his most famous book. Irwin holds that the thesis outlined in Said’s work is false, and the arguments propagated by him distorted, weak and dishonest, while his theoretical notion evasive and blatantly self-contradictory.
Irwin charges that Said’s work was an engagement of a counter-factual re-publishing of history, assaulting figures from ancient eras because they failed to do what Said wished they should have done. According to him, the entire project of Said was a malignant charlatanry work in which the author, Said Edward, mixed honest findings with mistakes, making it hard for the readers to make proper interpretations.
It is this concept that is shared with the politics of regionalism. As Irwin puts it, the concepts of Irwin’s arguments were limited to the Arab world and problems that surfaced that era. Therefore, the same findings cannot be used in solving the problems of the modern world. The above argument marks the similarity between the critiques of Said’s arguments and regionalism politics.
- Brown, W. (2010). Waning Sovereignty, Walled Democracy, in Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. New York: Zone Books, pages 7-42.
- Mamdani, M. (2002). Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: A Political Perspective on Culture and Terrorism. AmericanAnthropologist, Volume 104, Issue 3, pages 766-775.
- Mitchell, D. (2005). The End of Public Space? People’s Park, Definitions of the Public, and Democracy. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Volume 85. Issue no. 1, pages 108-133.
- Said, E. (1994). Introduction to Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.