Matt Mira
Aaron Harberts

Orientalism and the “Others”

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  • Topic: Orientalism, Western world, Oriental studies
  • Pages : 6 (1619 words )
  • Download(s) : 67
  • Published : August 30, 2013
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Part A
Orientalism and the “others”
This review examines the critique of Orientalism and how Orientalism affected the representation of various societies and its subjects during the Colonial encounters and in the historical present. In the case of my study, how Orientalism produced and are still producing the representations of minority non-Hans in China. This review explores Orientalism as a methodology of analysis that produced a certain biased views and representations of the Others, be they former colonial subjects, indigenous populations to contemporary immigrants, and so on, including, in the case of China, minority populations. In other words, Orientalism as an epistemology of power held by dominant authorities that shaped people’s identities and their thoughts. To begin the review of the critique of Orientalism, I will start with Edward Said. His book Orientalism (1978) is a seminal text that opens up a critique of colonial imperial discourses that produced and reproduced a set of bifurcated East-West relations in the field of culture, art, economy, as well as civilization. In short, as an elaborate system, Orientalism contains thoughts and practices that produced and reproduced an inferiority complex among the wide varieties of “Others”. As a discourse, Orientalism affected not only the running of colonial administration but also produced an ethnocentric bias in academia that included anthropology, religious studies, linguistics, comparative literature, history, geography, political science, and area studies of peoples and cultures in the non-Western world. According to Said, Orientalism is not only about the power to represent, it is also about “a distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philogical text” (Said 1978:12). As Said puts it, Orientalism “expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles”(Said 1977:2). In other words, texts about the “Others” are not represented and written by the Others but are produced by Orientalists. In this discourse, the Others are rendered passive, if not docile, incapable to speak for themselves.

As an "imagined geography", development of Orientalism has produced the language and imagination (or a lack of it) to the study of ancient civilizations like Egypt, the Middle East, India, and China, and through it, it has reified in a most unDarwinian evolutionary paradigm the production of a Western-centric world system. As “a style of thought”, Orientalism establishes the binary of the Orient and the Occident (1977:3). Accordingly, it portrays the West as a rational, developed, and civilized and the East as irrational, backward, barbaric, inferior. In other words, dominant thinking pattern shows a continuous progressive West and backward or traditional East, a universal West and a particular East, and so on. Many Western poets, novelists, philosophers, political scientists, economists, historians, anthropologists and administrative officials have accepted the distinction between East and West and took it as a starting point in constructing their theories on the customs, psychology and the fate of non-Western countries and their people. Oriental Studies are not only a style of thought, but they also constitute systematic regimes. As Said points out, “as a discourse one cannot possibly understand the enormously systematic discipline by which European culture was able to manage - and even produce - the Orient politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically and imaginatively during the post-Enlightenment period” (1977:3). In this sense, “Orientalism [is] Western style for dominating, reconstructing, and having authority over the Orient” (1977:4). Orientalism do not only refer to the field of academic research, it also positions the...