Sunday, September 24, 2017

Summary: Orientalism / Chapter 3 : Orientalism Now

The third and final chapter on Edward Said's "Orinetalism" is devoted to exploring the most recent (for Said's time) developments in Orientalism and the manner in which the Orient was perceived and treated by the Occident.

Said opens chapter 3 of "Orientalism" by describing how European colonialism was the geographical basis of Orientalism, both in geo-political and cultural aspects. Orientalism and colonialism were both driven by a quest for knowledge and power and their results and products were knowledge and power (see Foucault on knowledge and power).

Said then moves on to talk about 20th century politics and change in the relationship between East and West. One of the main differences in the 20th century is that Orientalists became much more involved in the everyday lives of Orientals, unlike their predecessors who were uninvolved observers. People studying non-Western cultures attempted to live with them and integrate with them (like Lawrence of Arabia for example). This was not driven by a wish to resemble the Orients but rather by a wish to gain more knowledge about them and to rule them better.

Like in chapter 2 of "Orientalism", Said explores works by important Orientalists (like Massignon and Gibb) that now take on a more liberal position, but without losing their bias and prejudice. The main attempt was to portray Islam as a weak and inferior religion.   

Said holds the center of Orientalism shifted from Europe to the US following World War 1. Orientalsim in the US was related to social sciences (unlike linguistics in Europe). Orientalism as a field of study was aimed to assist the government in finding ways to control non-Western societies. Decolonization processes following World War 2 did not mean the end of Orientalism which was made implicit instead of explicit. Even in the age of globalization and higher interaction between East and West Arabs are all terrorists while all Japanese know Karate.
Said concludes "Orientalism" by arguing that Orientals should get a less passive position in the construction of their own image. He also warns about the practice of making generalizations in human sciences.   

Previous summary: Chapter 2: Orientalist Structures and Restructures

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