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Orientalism by Edward Said

Edward Said and Orientalism

By Zia ullahPublished 2 months ago 4 min read


Orientalism by Edward Said, culture, politics, Palestine, Occident, West, imperialism, ReStructure, civilized, methodolgy, hegemony, strategic formation.

Edward Said

His full name is Edward Wadie Said. He was born on 1st November 1935- in Jerusalem. He died on 25th September 2003.

He was Palestinian American academic, political activist, and literary critic who examined literature in light of social and cultural politics.

He was also a proponent of the political rights of the Palestinian people and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.


Oriental: a study of East (North Africa, Indians, Negros, Asia, Middle East)

Occident: a study of West (white people)

Orientalism is a term or a book introduced by Edward Said in 1978.

So, in his book ‘Orientalism’ we can see that; “how West represented the history of the East according to their own point of view”. For instance, people observed only such things that the West has presented to them, which means it is like a lens. Thus, the West showed that the East is inferior, irrational, terrible, domestic etc. Therefore, this concept of the West about the East is called Orientalism. Moreover, he tells us how the West has shown people of the East to the rest of the world with the help of their literature. In short, Orientalism refers to the concept that how the West has introduced us according to their own lens especially in their culture, instead of showing how the West has suppressed and colonized the people of the East.

Furthermore, in his book he strongly connected or associated culture with imperialism and interdependence to each other. This means if there is culture then there must be imperialism and vice versa.

Orientalism is a style of thought made between the orient and the occident. It’s a discourse dealing with the orient.

He explains that the term ''Orientalism'' is used in three different ways. One use is an academic designation, wherein ''Orientalism'' is used to designate ''oriental studies'' or all research on the subject of the “Orient”. The other use is as a ''style of thought'' based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ''The Orient'' and (most of the time) “The Occident”. This would include a lot of poets, writers, philosophers, political theorists, economists, imperial administrators etc., whose works/arguments are based on this distinction. The third use of ''Orientalism'' is roughly described as ''the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient''- of describing, disciplining, controlling and representing the Orient.

''Orientalism'' functions as a discourse with internal logic and coherence; a discourse in which the production/structuration of knowledge is interlinked with the project of actual control.

In Said's view, Orientalism operates in the service of the West's hegemony over the East. The East is discursively produced as the West's inferior “other”. Consequently, the West constructs itself as superior in contrast. The distinguishing identities of the East and the West are essentialized through stereotypes. For instance, the East is characterized as voiceless, sensual, feminine, despotic, irrational, backward, liar, lazy and gullible. The West is characterized as masculine, democratic, rational, moral, dynamic, progressive, truthful, active, and logical. Such binary oppositions, as illustrated by Said, exist in wide fields of knowledge like literature, travel books, journalistic writings, political tracts, religious and philological studies etc. Said argues that Orientalism is almost always a European representation. It does not deal with the real orient, but because of its discursive impact, it has a reality of its own.

Parts of His Book

Edward Said’s book has three parts. i.e.

1. Scope of Orientalism

2. Orientalist structure and restructure

3. Orientalism now

1. Scope of Orientalism

It is a science of orientalism as they (white man) introduced as well as the concept of ‘our’ and ‘their’.

Characteristics – on the basis of which people of the East are passive, black, uncivilized, irrational, colonized, and unsophisticated. So, they called it, ‘their’. While they also introduced the term ‘our’, which means they are active, white, civilized, rational, colonizer, and sophisticated. In short, White men are born to rule.


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About the Creator

Zia ullah

Hi there, I am here to highlight my blog named as "Academic Blog".

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  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Very interesting! Good job!

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