Edward said on colonialism and othering
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Edward Said on Colonialism and ‘Othering’. Who Was Edward Said? - very influential writer on colonialism. - a scholar in the humanities who grew up in Egypt and Palestine, but whose entire education was Western author of over 20 books, including:

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Edward Said on Colonialism and ‘Othering’

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Edward said on colonialism and othering

Edward Said on Colonialism and ‘Othering’

  • Who Was Edward Said?

  • - very influential writer on colonialism.

  • - a scholar in the humanities who grew up in Egypt and Palestine, but whose entire education was Western

  • author of over 20 books, including:

  • Orientalism (1978); Culture and Imperialism; Blaming the Victims; and

  • The Politics of Dispossession

  • - died in 2003 at age 67

Purpose and value of said s book orientalism

Purpose and Value of Said’s book Orientalism

  • Purpose

    to advance our understanding of the way cultural domination of oppressed people has operated.

  • Value

    - offers insights about colonialism from the perspective of one who has been colonized.

    We can often generalize what he says about “The Orient” and “Orientalism” to the relationship of Indigenous peoples with colonizers elsewhere in the world.

    - forms the basis of many Indig intellectuals’ challenges to cultural colonialism

Some questions raised by said

Some Questions Raised by Said

  • How did/do different academic disciplines come to the service of Orientalism’s broadly imperialist view of the world?

  • How does Orientalism transmit or reproduce itself from one epoch to another?

  • How does authority operate – what ideas does it dignify as true? What perceptions and judgements does it reproduce and transmit? Who are the pioneers whose texts became authoritative and get cited frequently in the academic literature?

  • How do the colonizers’ depictions of the colonized society reflect the strong ideas, doctrines, and trends of the colonizers’ own society?

    – e.g. Darwin’s influence, Freud’s influence, racist authors’ (e.g., de Gobineau) influence?

  • Can one divide human reality into such clearly distinct categories – “we” and “they” – and survive the consequences humanly? (i.e., avoid creating hostility)

Said s approach in orientalism

Said’s Approach in Orientalism

Analyzed the writings (“texts”) of others, especially how they present colonized societies to their readers in:

  • political tracts,

  • journalistic stories,

  • travel books,

  • religious books,

  • scholarly works,

  • poetry, and

  • novels.

    (Said calls this an analysis of the text’s surface or exteriority, as opposed to an analysis of what lies hidden in the text. )

    Looked at style, figures of speech, setting, & narrative devices (e.g., binary opposites).

Said s different and overlapping uses of the term orientalism

Said’s Different (and Overlapping) Uses of the Term ‘Orientalism’

  • A Mode of Discourse for Representing ‘the Other’- with supporting images, vocab, etc.

    2. A Style of Thought - based on a distinction between “East” & “West” (Orient & Occident)

    - The essence of this style of thought is “the ineradicable distinction between Western superiority and Oriental inferiority”. - That belief in a radical difference between the two creates an on-going state of tension in the relationship between the two.

    3. A Corporate Institution and Network of Vested Interestse.g., congresses, universities, foreign-service institutes

What is the orient to said

What is ‘The Orient’ to Said?

  • at one time referred mainly to the lands of the Bible (the Middle East) and to India. Only later was it extended to include China, Japan, etc.

  • So, Said uses the term “the Orient” to refer to Arabs and Islam, which, as he points out, “for almost a thousand years together stood for the Orient”.Britain and France dominated the eastern Mediterranean region from the late 1600s on and American imperial influence has been prominent since the end of World War II.

  • a contrast conception for Europe (see next slide)

The importance of the orient to europe s self definition

The Importance of ‘The Orient’to Europe’s Self-Definition

  • CONTRAST CONCEPTION: - is the source of one of Europe’s deepest and most recurring images of ‘the Other’ - has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience.

    “European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itselfoff against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self.”

  • SUPERIORITY / INFERIORITY:- Those in the West saw themselves not just as different, but as superior in comparison to all non-European peoples and cultures.

    That became hegemonic (dominant and accepted by consent as conventional wisdom or common sense) in Europe. (A. Gramsci)

The colonized as object to the colonizer

The Colonized as ‘Object’ to the Colonizer

  • To Said the colonized people are “something one judges (as in a court of law), something one studies and depicts (as in curriculum), something one disciplines (as in a school or prison), something one illustrates (as in a zoological manual.”

    “The point is that in each of these cases, the Oriental is contained and represented by dominating frameworks.”

  • Mere Object of Study:“The Orient and Orientals are considered by Orientalism as an ‘object’ of study, stamped with an otherness…. –- passive, non-participating, … above all, non-active, non-autonomous, non-sovereign with regard to itself….Thus one ends with a typology…which makes of the studied ‘object’ another being with regard to whom the studying subject is transcendent.”

Nature and use of the colonizer s knowledge about the colonized drawing from foucault

Nature and Use of the Colonizer’s ‘Knowledge’ About the Colonized (drawing from Foucault)

  • Knowledge = Power/DominationFor the colonial regime to have knowledge about a colonized people is to dominate it, to have authority over it.

  • ‘Knowledge’ As Stable (Unchanging Orthodoxy)

  • Lack of Objectivity of the OrientalistThe Orientalist does not stand back and view the Orient and its people objectively, even though (s)he might think (s)he does.

    Instead, his so-called detachment is weighted heavily with all the attitudes, perspectives, and moods [e.g., fear] of Orientalism.

  • Uses of the Orientalist’s Knowledge- Orientalist’s loyalties lie with the West- Orientalist’s knowledge of the colonized gets put to use in ways that are inherently political

Orientalism as an academic discipline

Orientalism as an Academic Discipline

  • ExpansionismOrientalism (c.f. Native Studies) increases in geographic and disciplinary scope/ inclusiveness /eclecticism, rather than moving to greater selectivity. e.g., takes in history, archaeology, economics, literary studies, sociology, etc.

  • Blind Spots- often the contemporary.

  • Involves Two Kinds of ‘Knowledge’ – empirical and ‘imaginative’. That is, the Western imagination is involved in characterizing the colonized people.

  • Over-GeneralizationThe Orientalist, Said says, makes a generalization out of every observable detail and out of every generalization he makes an “immutable law” about the Oriental nature, temperament, mentality, custom, or type. The imaginative ‘knowledge’, which is often highly romanticized, takes on a life of its own (myth) and some who think those myths are truths are very disappointed when they actually encounter the Orient first-hand and have it de-mystified.

The orientalist s vision

The Orientalist’s Vision

  • Rigidly HierarchicalPlace and position are important.

  • Includes Grand Projectse.g., Napoleon’s encyclopaedia of Egypt; James Bay “project of the century”

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