Edwad said orientalism


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Edwad said orientalism

  2. 2. In the introduction of Edward Said‟s book of Orientalism, Saidtakes the initiative by describingOrient in order to expose the vital common Western misconception about the East. The termorient is a western invention. He says that this misconception dwells in the Western mind in sucha way as if it were irrelevant that the Orient itself was actually sociologically affected. Said usesthe phrase “Other” to describe the Western fascination with theOrient” as one can only find anidea of themselves through a contrast with an “Other.” This is a fitting comparison to Said‟stopic,considering the emphasis he puts on “the Orient‟s special place in the Westernexperience.”Said suggests that the Orient does not mean the same to American as it doesto the Europeancountries, which fits logically into the equation. This makes historical sense,since the Orient wasadjacent to Europe‟s earliest civilizations and the cultural exchangehas always existed.Said analyses orientalism in terms of academic interprettation. Herefers it to the field of work ofanyone who teaches, writes about, or researches theOrient. This definition is generally tooindistinct as compared to the introductorydesignation. Although it incorporates the multiplediscourses of knowledge, it fails todistinguish the Orient as existing comparatively instead of justbeing the subject ofexamination.The second definition draws attention to this distinction and clarifiesOrientalism, while alsoextending its breadth to all that is not considered west; TheMiddle East, India, Russia.Said then proposes a third definition of Orientalism, using an analysissubstantially moreapplicable in the historical context. Orientalism as the corporateinstitution for dealing with theOrient, as the Western authority has done. He professes tobe motivated here by Foucault‟s notionof a discourse. Michel Foucault‟s theories thathave come to bear on this discussion are his ideasof the critical relationship under whichthe ontology of subject and object come to be known andhow these associations maycome to constitute knowledge. According to Foucault, the problem isnot isolating anyempirical conditions that may bring about this subjectivity, but to determinewhat thesubject is and to what conditions it is subject. Said‟s application of this theory fitshisthird definition well, and provides a strong platform for the rest of his argument. TheOrienthas, for much of history, been the active object to the European missionary and scientistpositions.He then lists his findings about the recent history of the Orient‟s relationship withthe West. Saidsuggests that the balance of power from Franco-British involvement to alargely Americaninvolvement has not had so great an effect Orientalism as would beexpected. This is because theOrient is not nearly as sterile as effective Westerndomination would bring about; it is a thrivingentity just like those cultures that havepower over it. Additionally, his observations make sensein the scope of colonialism,since certain sections of the Orient have been excluded from thewhole at certain times; The Middle East or India.
  3. 3. In his qualifications for interpreting Orientalism, Said includes several points ofinterest andclarification. He agrees with Disraeli, in saying that the East is more than justan idea with nocorresponding reality. In fact, this is concurrent with the fact that manyWestern scholars havededicated their entire lives to studying the Orient.Secondly, Saidreinforces that it is irresponsible to discount the control that the West exercisedover thesesocieties. The study of Orientalism could not exist had the East not been the victimofWestern power and domination.Said differentiates between the types of society and how cultural influenceis derived. He citesAntonio Gramsci as distinguishing between civil and political society,and the differentconfigurations and responsibilities therein. According to Gramsci, apolitical society is one inwhich the citizen is directly dominated and imposed on by thestate, who create and maintain thesocial institutions. Civil society, however, is made upof citizens voluntarily affiliatingthemselves with certain social responsibilities. Onlyunder this type of society does the derivationof cultural enterprise instantiate itself.Gramsci‟s main argument as that in any form of societythat is not totalitarian, certaintypes of culture will thrive. It is this societal happening that he callshegemony, whichSaid explains is the phenomenon that necessitates interest in cultural„otherness‟ such asOrientalism.After listing the three aspects of his contemporary reality, Said discusses andattempts to addressthree realities that would bring the puzzle of Orientalism closer to asolution.In differentiating between pure and political knowledge, he mentions thedifficulty ofdistrusting political knowledge in the realm of a subject that is sointerconnected with politics andinternational awareness. It seems to come through in thewriting that Said is finding it hard toaddress a problem that is so deeply involved inimperialism, yet not trustworthy of politicalknowledge. This sharp paradoxproblematizes his attempt to understand Orientalism in it‟shistorical situation.The second step is the proposition of his methodological devices, which are inanswer to theevident absence of the “problematic” in this study.Said uses these devicesto examine theauthority that is descriptive of the West‟s relationship with the Orient. Thefirst device isstrategic location, which describes an author‟s position in his study withregard to the Orient.Every person who writes about the Orient must associate themselves with either the Orient or theWest (Their strategic location), therefore adding certainconnotations and themes to theirinterpretations.Strategic formation, the second device,incorporates the study of the Orient and the way inwhich different intellectualstandpoints gain acceptance and credibility. Just as everyone must be
  4. 4. either associatedwith the West or the East, anyone who considers the Orient in their thoughtsmust createa basis for whatever argument or position they assume. The intellectual basis oftheirposition is composed of referential knowledge that relates to other works (Theirstrategicformation). At the end of this section, he reminds the reader that information thatispopularly disseminated by a culture is only a representation of truth, not reality itself. Heusesthis clarification to elucidate the use of language as being culturally, not universally,expressive.The final reality that must be addressed to bring a greater understanding ofOrientalism is whatSaid calls the personal dimension. He quotes Gramsci as saying “The starting point of criticalelaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, andknowing thyself.” This quote appliesdirectly to the subject matter at hand, and also toSaid‟sanalysis of it. He mentions his upbringing,the pertinence of which relates back tothe aforementioned methodological devices consideringhis particular background andprevious knowledge of those who are involved in the Orient. Someelements of hispersonal reflection on Orientalism are the long history of prejudice against peopleofArab and Islamic descent, the struggle between the Arabs and the Israelis, and its effectsonAmerican population. The one-sidedness of this struggle has to do mainly with thelargely liberalAmerican identification with Zionism and the reinforcement of stereotypesof the Orient in theelectronic and popular media.Said delves further into the reasoning behind the futility of a positive view of Arab life in theWest. His remaining comments include thathis experiences as a person of Arab descent are whatmotivated him to write aboutOrientalism in the first place. For someone who is so directly andnegatively affected byWestern perceptions of the Arab world and the Orient altogether, hisanalysis is a fairlyobjective and sophisticated view of Orientalism. Perhaps it is because of hisexperienceswith lifelong stereotypes and the apparent dichotomy of Western and Easternapproachesto the subject. His final comment is somewhat of a plea to the reader in the hopes thatif agreater understanding of the topic is derived from reading, then an unlearning of theprocessesof cultural domination can conceivably begin.Throughout Said is attempting to lay out the foundations of how the concept of Orientalism isunderstood through a historical analysis of Britain‟s relationship and experience of colonial ruleover Egypt. He reviews who is called “Oriental” and how we begin to label others. Said reviewshow knowledge and power creates the ability of one group to obtain authority over another groupand thus striping the autonomy away from “the other.” Moreover, Said continues by noting thatthis dominance allows for the group with power and knowledge to accept the superiority as thenorm and takes for granted their position of authority. For example, the West will take theirposition of dominance and analyze all beliefs and views, which differ from their own, asabnormal. As Western nations, became more powerful, we automatically begin assumingpositive qualities towards the dominating group and negative qualities towards the “weaker”group. Thus, all attributes, behaviors, and cultural norms are compared to the “western norm.”
  5. 5. This then allowed all Western thought to be rational and normal and all others thought patterns tobe irrational and strange. Said uses his first chapter to describe how the concept of the westerndominance over the east (Orient) created an ideological framework, which looks at the East asleast superior than West, this is what Said describes as Orientalism.Said outlines his argument with several limitations as he States that it fails to include RussianOrientalism and explicitly excludes German Orientalism, which he suggests had “clean “ pastsand could be promising future studies. Said also suggests that not all academic discourse in thewest has to be orient list in its intent but much of it. He also suggests that all cultures have a viewof other cultures that may be exotic and harmless to some extent, but it is not this view that heargues against and when this view is taken by a military and economically dominant cultureagainst another it can lead to disastrous results.Said starts by analyzing public speeches and writings of two British imperialists of the early 20thcentury about the Egypt, making an emphasis on how the stress that since the British imperialauthorities “know better” their country, they have a natural right to rule it:British knowledge of Egypt is Egypt for Balfour, and the burdens of knowledge make suchquestions as inferiority and superiority seem petty ones. Balfour nowhere denies Britishsuperiority and Egyptian inferiority; he takes them for granted as he describes the consequencesof knowledge.During his involvement in imperial affairs Belfour Serve a monarch who in 1876 had beendeclared Empress of India; he had been especially well placed in position of uncommoninfluence to follow the Afghan and Zulu wars, the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, the deathof General Gordon in the Sudan, the Russo- Japanese war.Two great themes dominate his remarks here and in what will follow: Knowledge and Power.As Balfour justifies the necessity for British occupation of Egypt, Supremacy in his mind isassociated with “our” knowledge of Egypt and not principally with military or economic power.Knowledge to Balfour means rising above immediacy, beyond self, into Foreign and distant. Theobject of such knowledge in inherently Vulnerable to scrutiny; this object is a “fact” which, itdevelops, changes or otherwise transforms itself in the way that civilizations frequently do,nevertheless is fundamentally, even ontologically stable.Balfour is of the view that; it is a good thing for these great nations and headmires their greatnessthat this absolute Government should be exercised by them. He think it is a good thing anexperience shows that they have got under it far better government that in the whole history ofthe world they ever had before, and which not only is a benefit to them, but it undoubtedly abenefit to the whole to the civilized west. Balfour states;“We are Egypt not merely for the sakeof the Egyptians/ though we are these for their sake; we are there also for the sake of Europe atlarge”.
  6. 6. Balfour produces no evidence that Egyptians and “the races with whom we deal.” Appreciate oreven understand the good that is being done them by Colonial occupation. It does not occur toBalfour , however, to let the Egyptian speak for himself , since presumably any Egyptian whowould speak out is more likely to be “ the agitator (Who) wishes to raise difficulties” than thegood native who overlooks the “difficulties” of foreign domination.England knows that Egypt cannot have self-government; and England confirms that byoccupying Egypt, and now governs; foreign occupation therefore become” the very basic” ofContemporary Egyptian civilization ; Egypt requires, indeed insist upon, British occupation. Butis the special intimacy, between governor and governed in Egypt in disturbed by parliament‟sdoubts at home, then “the authority of what… is the dominant race and as I think ought to remainthe dominant race – has been undermined.” Not only does English prestige suffer;“ It is vain fora handful of British officials, endow them how you like, give them all the qualities of characterthe genius you can imagine , it is impossible for them to carry out the great task which in Egypt,not we only, but the civilized world have imposed upon them.”Balfour was of the view that Cromer made Egypt, as he states; “Everything he has touched hehas succeeded in … during the past quarter of a century have raised Egypt …. Stands amongoriental nation I believe, absolutely alone in its prosperity, financial and moral.”British exports toEgypt equaled those to the whole of Africa; that century indicated a sort of financial prosperity,for both; Egypt and England.Free native institutions, the absence of foreign occupation, self-sustaining nation sovereignty arethe demands rejected by Comer, who asserted; “that the real future of Egypt lies not in thedirection of a narrow nationalism, which will only embrace native Egyptians but rather in that ofan enlarged Cosmopolitanisms”.Arabs (Orientals) are shown to be “devoid of energy and initiative,” intrigue, cunning, andunkindness to animals; Orientals are inveterate liars, they are “lethargic and suspicious,” and ineverything oppose the clarity, directness, and nobility of the Anglo-Saxon race.Balfour and Comer used many terms to explain the relation between the Orientals andOrient.The Oriental is irrational, depraved (fallen), childlike, “different”; declaring that theEuropean is rational, virtuous, mature and different. In Cromer‟s and Balfour‟s language theoriental is depicted as something one judges (as in a Court of law), something one studies depictsas a discipline as in a school or prison and something one illustrates as in a Zoological manual.In short, Orientalism is a set of constraints upon and limitations of thought than it is simply as apositive doctrine. If the essence of Orientalism is the ineradicable distinction between Westernsuperiority and Oriental inferiority, then we must be prepared to note how in its development andsubsequent history Orientalism deepened and even hardened the distinction.
  7. 7. Orientalist ideas took a number of forms during the nineteenth and twentieth century‟s. As inEurope there was a vast literature about the Orient inherited from the European past.Orientalismcan also express the strength of the West and the Orient‟s weakness as seen by West. Suchstrength and such weakness are intrinsic to Orientalism because they are the view that divides theworld into two.Kissinger is not value-free and he used words as “prophetic,” “accuracy,” “internal,” “empiricalreality,” and “order” throughout his description, and they characterize either attractive, familiar,desirable virtues or menacing, peculiar, disorderly defects. Both the traditional Orientalist, asKissinger conceive of the difference between cultures, first, as creating a battlefront thatseparates them, and second, as inviting the West to control, contain, and otherwise govern(through superior knowledge and accommodating power) the Other.Another critic, Glidden states: “It is a notable fact that while the Arab value system demandsabsolute solidarity within the group, it at the same time encourages among its members a kind ofrivalry that is destructive of that very solidarity.” The purpose of this learned disquisition ismerely to show how on the western and Oriental scale of values,as the relative position of theelements is quite different.The argumentwas that, there are Westerners, and there are Orientals. The former dominate; thelatter must be dominated, which usually means having their land occupied, their internal affairsrigidly controlled, their blood and treasure put at the disposal of one or another Western power.Political domination had to be justified, therefore, in the course of the nineteenth century, abunch of theories turn up which persisted into the twentieth century and which constructed thecolonial subject as inferior to Europeans; in logic, culture, moral, etc. Many resources wereinvented in this vision of Oriental people, as it justified and legitimized domination. The Orientwas viewed as if framed by the classroom, the criminal court, the prison, the illustrated manual.The reason why this domination emerged was that at that time Britain and France, two leadingcolonial powers, divide between them (and other powers) the whole world, but only betweenthem Middle East. In a way, they cooperated to secure cultural domination over these lands, Andshare they (Britain and France) did, in ways that we shall investigate presently. In a senseOrientalism was a library or archive of information, commonly and, in some of its aspects,unanimously held.The crux of it is that the West has created a dichotomy, between the reality of the East and theromantic notion of the "Orient. The Middle East and Asia are viewed with prejudice and racism.They are backward and unaware of their own history and culture. To fill this void, the West hascreated a culture, history, and future promise for them. On this framework rests not only thestudy of the Orient, but also the political imperialism of Europe in the East.