Orientalism maimoona


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Orientalism maimoona

  1. 1. Orientalist structuring and Restructuring I Redrawn Frontiers, Redefined Issues, Secularized Religion Post-colonial theory owes a lot to works of two intellectuals i.e. Franz Fanon with hisWretched of the Earth and Edward Saids Orientalism. Although a lot of criticism has beendirected at Edward‟s nearly one-dimensional portrayal of the European Imperialism and itsdebated, but his feat really lies in successfully redefining the term Orientalism to meanmyriad of false assumptions constructed by West about the East. The book revolutionized theway Western scholars and critics viewed the representations of the non-Western subjects andcultures. Edward Said through example of Gustave Flauberts unfinished comic novel, comes tohighlight "discipline or type of knowledge changes from hope and power into disorder, ruinand sorrow". The Western mind of nineteenth century envisioned quite naively, a Europeregenerated by Asia, a sort of Romantic ideals, an utopist imagining of a reconstructive worldaccording to some scientific or secular religion. And roots of such reconstructive outlook canbe traced back to late eighteenth century romanticism which idealized the concept of deathand rebirth, of paradise lost and paradise regained in Christian beliefs, and sought to revivethem by reconstituting them in a secular light; that they be intellectually acceptable in thecontext of newly enlightened minds of Enlightenment period. Thus this idea of " regenerationof Europe by Asia" is essentially a Romantic ideal; which pervaded the mindset of earlyOrientalists hose hopes of rejuvenation of European Occidental culture, lied in studyingOrient; They believe it could defeat the materialism that plagued the culture by bringing backthe sense of "holy mission" they had now lost, basically bringing back their lost Christianidentity under the mask of secularized enlightenment. However, this idealism was flawed as both Flaubert and Edward point out by anunconscious arrogance for what mattered was not Asia, rather its "use to modern Europe",Europe defined itself in relation to Orient, just as it had created Orient. At the end of the day,
  2. 2. it was "our Europe" and "our Asia" which was to be pragmatically divided into smaller,manageable geographical units and ruled. What these visionaries failed to consider was thattheir utopian theories could not be reconciled with reality. For example, the power theirscientific advancement had bestowed upon them was not without vanity or ego. Europeconsidering itself superior was not about to deal with the primitive Orient as equals. As suchthere could be no regeneration of Europe by Asia. Said has been influenced by Foucaults notion of power and knowledge and Gramscisconcept of hegemony; which manifests itself in his Orientalism where he exposes howknowledge has been constructed, either wittingly or unwittingly, Orientalists have been a partof this Foucauldian discourse which has ascribed meaning to orient and defend the stereotypeassociated with it of being sensual, irrational, primitive, exotic, wild undisciplined andbackward. These stereotypes have been unchallenged in every succeeding generation ofso-called Orientalists who have only uncritically rephrased these discourses. They havenothing original to offer as their whole field of Oriental studies has from the very beginningbeen based on reconstructing and repetition of stereotypes. What this unvaryingly biasedstudy of orient managed was that complex with imperial power it was presented as absoluteknowledge imposing negative meaning upon the orient. It justified the imperialist expansionof the west and also worked to convince the natives of their backwardness, whilst the Westernculture represented the universal culture. Such was the general scope? of Orientalism till startof eighteenth century, when Orient was generally associate with Islamic Middle East andthese notions were passed down medieval and Renaissance period. However duringeighteenth century a newer and more modern view of orient came into being owing toexpansion of European exploration and colonies beyond Muslim lands, widening theirhorizon with exploration of India China, Japan etc which introduced them to Sumer,Buddhism, Sanskrit, Zoroastrian and Manu. Thus the Christianity or Judaism no longerformed a framework of European outlook. however, Europes ethnocentric perspective werefortified as colonies were created through companies like East India Company, for Europeremained in the privileged center as the main observe, "othering" the rest of the world. Thesecond Factor that helped form the modern oriental view was the fact that history was viewedthrough a perspective other then Judeo-Christian one, which was a shift towards objectivity,
  3. 3. something historical narratives of past lacked and history being solely subjective toimagination and biases of historians narrating it. Now however, Europe instead of educingthese oriental histories allowed them to speak for themselves. Arab history! As dealt with interms of their sources, Holy Quran commented upon by Islamic religious scholars. Thisdetachment where previously they had had antagonism was probably motivated by Europeanmans curiosity to "know himself better". He thus employed the overly simplistic technique ofcomparatism, which only served the marginalization of the other. The differences were onlyever taken to be abnormal, even in this newfound objectivity. On the other hand there was akind of selective identification with different cultures and with the common "spirit" whichbinds them all together. This sympathetic attitude in comparison, led to e possibility of seeingbeyond the limiting borders of doctrines or religions between West and Islam and establishinga kinship between West and Orient. Representation of Orient varied vivid images of luxuryand exoticism was still associated with orient. It was still mainly a region of "sensuality,promise, terror, sublimity, idyllic pleasure, intense energy". Thus "Oriental was referred to"chamelion-like quality. The pre-romantic notions of Orient still existed. The forth element which played a part in forming the modern Orientalist structure wasclassification of human beings further beyond the binary of Christian and non-Christian, (orgentile sacred nations vs. barbarians). The nations were classified on basis of race, color,origin, temperament and character. particular characteristics, both physical and moral, wereassociated with particular races e.g. the American is "red, choleric, erect" , an Asian is"yellow, melancholy, rigid" and the African is "black, phlegmatic, lax". By nineteenth centurythese classification gather power and authority as they became attached to genetic type. Thusan Oriental was genetically "primitive". Even as the view of Orient was modernized and somewhat secularized, old religiousdogmas still haunted the field of study. 18th century patterns of religious framework ofhistory werent discarded but reconstituted; it remained alive in the undercurrent of Orientaldiscourse, through structures of language and vocabulary it had created for Orient. Themodern Orientalist may congratulate himself for saving the Orient from so-called historicalobscurity and bringing to light the alienated and strange cultures but in fact this culturaldecoding at best managed to reconstruct the classical Orient. He was to become the authority
  4. 4. on Orient, speaking for the Orient, such are the ways power and knowledge operate: "it putinto cultural circulation a form of discursive currency by whose presence the Orienthenceforth would be spoken for". By the end of First World War, 85% of the world had beencolonized and Orientalism formed a major part of this encroachment. From intellectualaccumulation West went on to accumulate both human beings and territories of Orient. II Silvestre de Sacyand Ernest Renan: Rational Anthropology andPhilological Laboratory Modern Orientalism owes its initial credit to Silvestre de Sacy and Ernest Renan.Sacy‟s works are known for their „heroic effort‟ and „rational utility‟. As a master of Arabic,he had a good exposure of the orient. He laid the foundations of modern Orientalism bygiving it a systematic shape. His work based this institution on educational grounds andscholarly tradition. For the first time, the subject matter was taken from the Orient itself.Most of his works are not novel rather revised form of the earlier material. He wrote with adidactic purpose and with the intention of conveying the best for his students. He attemptedto bring into limelight the facts about the Orient which have remained hidden from Europe.By using „powerful‟ examples from the Orient, which have the ability to signify it, he hasdisplayed the Orient for his disciples. Sacy introduced a historical consciousness in the study of Orientalism. In thiscontinuum, he wrote the book Tableau historique de l’eruditionfrancaise, which brought theknowledge about the Orient within the range of the people. A great addition was done byNapoleon‟s expeditions of the Orient, which helped to enhance the modern geographicalknowledge. In addition to that, the relationship between an Orientalist and his „subject matter‟was explained as well. Sacy introduced a well-defined vocabulary in this field that was to layfoundations of modern Orientalism. As a result, formal methods were defined to study theOrient and such examples were quotes „that even Orientals didn‟t have‟. Designing theOrientalism as a field is on Sacy‟s credit. Sacy explained how the Arabic poetry needed to be transformed to suit the taste ofthe Europeans‟ and it was the job of the Orientalist to take this pain. He also believed that the
  5. 5. Orient was too crude to appreciate the high interests and taste of the Europe. He introducedhis theory of fragmentation which stated that since Orient could not be presented as a whole,only fragments should be picked up that are appropriate for the interest of the Europeanaudience. Hence a new genre, namely „chrestomathy‟, was introduced. His anthologiesexpertly cover the censorship carried by the Orientalists and give an impression ofnaturalness despite being a collection of the fragments. Thus the reader only takes in thereconstructed image of the Orient as portrayed by the Orientalist. The thin distinctionbetween the original Orient and that of the Orientalist becomes indistinguishable. Sacy‟sworks „canonized the Orient‟. Pioneer of this field though he was, however, he was soonreplaced by the newer versions of the Orientalists after many texts from the Orient weretranslated. Philology has been defined by Renan as "science of humanity" whereas Nietzscheconsidered himself a philologist. Words and the history of the impressions and indentations inmeanings they have gone through, for him conveyed an adventure. Philology provided theinsight into language where history of words have both aesthetic and historical power. Renanwas interested in the scientific historical narration philology offered as opposed toconstructed history propagated by Catholic Church (Renan once considered clergy as acareer). He saw philology and modern culture intertwined stating "the founders of modernminds are philologists". Philology offered "rationalism, criticism, liberalism" and as acomparative discipline it clearly sees through supernaturalism (of religion) to reality ofscientific developments. And Above all else it offers a powerful position to philologists whothrough "judging, comparing, combining, inducing" arrive at the system of things. Philologystudies evolution of language, when language itself is a symbol of power, forming the verystructures through which power operates , indirectly it is a study of evolution of power. In thisview, Renans contribution to Orientalism is significant, for Orientalism was developed onscientific and rational basis. The claim of divine origin of language was discardedphilologically, and Sanskrit was found to out-date Hebrew. Renan studied Orientphilologically and infused into the field a scientific attitude. Orientalism owes much of itstechnical terminology and vocabulary to him Up till now, India and China was considered to constitute the Orient but now Renin
  6. 6. opted to devise another form, which came to be known as Semitic Orient. He aimed to bringthe previously unknown „inferior‟ languages of the Semitic into limelight and study them as ascience. He was of the view that Semite and Semitic were the „creation‟ of philosophy.Creation was taken in the sense that these languages were taken out of their hidden places andgiven voice. They were also made available for comparison by devising a system forclassifying languages into Indo-European and Semitic. To study about the origins ofChristianity and Semitics was his field of specialization. Semitic, considered to be a crude phenomenon held the central position as a branch ofthe Orient. It was placed in the inverse relation to the „normal languages‟. In this discourse,Renan achieved expertise through extensive reading along with observation. However, Renantreats everything related to the Orient or the Semitic to be below the standards. The Semiticwas, therefore, he declares to be inferior to human race in every course of life. At the sametime, he reminds his readers that his depictions are merely on „prototypes‟ rather thananything from real life. Hence, the tenants of Semitic are reduced to laboratory „specimens‟instead of being regarded living creatures. In his book Histoire generaleetsysteme compare des languages semitiques, Renan drawsan analogy between anatomy and linguistics. Like anatomy discovers the internalarrangement of things which is mostly hypothetical, linguistics constructs the paradigm ofproto-Sematic and Proto-Indo-European. They are the products of laboratory available in theexaggerated form for the public. The Orientalists take out only those examples of the Orientwhich depict their inferiority and then use it as a base to give their verdict on it. Sincelinguistics does not have the ability to classify like anatomy, it uses the binary structure ofcomparative nature for this purpose. This makes the Indo-European and the Semitic stand incontrast to each other where the former is more live; in fact, „organic‟ while the latter,„inorganic‟. In Renan‟s view, Semitic is all about comparing the infant phenomenon with moredeveloped languages of rest of the world. Ironically, on one hand he preaches that alllanguages belong to the people of the nature, while on the other, he completely discards theSemitic as a „live language‟ or Semites as „live creatures‟. The Orientalist scientist, thus,„constructs‟ a vision that keeps these polar phenomenon at one place. This authority to define
  7. 7. the world reflects the imperial power Europe enjoys and the philological laboratories are thepowerhouse of generating ethnocentrism. Renan‟s genius, however, lies in the fact that hegives life to the artificially fabricated image of the Orient so much so that it seems real.Appearing in textual form, such images have a glimpse of live cultures. Philology changed in its nature from being the „study of words‟ to a more complex arenaof knowledge and philosophy. Renan believed in the power of words as they shackled theotherwise „free Man‟ into the chains of morality and other forms of awareness. It was the labof this philology, which declared the culture to be a constructed phenomenon, hence denyingthe Orient any right to generate itself on its own. It was the philological laboratory that Renanintroduced new aspects of culture and society but added to the lucidity in the subject matterof the Orient and gave it a scholarly shape. However, this lab failed to maintain an objectiveview in the presence of its sense of superiority. III Oriental Residenceand Scholarship: The Requirements ofLexicography and ImaginationRenan‟s views of Oriental Semite belong, less to prejudice and common anti-Semitism andmore too scientific Oriental philology. Both Renan and Saucy‟s works observe the waycultural generalization had begun to acquire a new phase of scientific statement andcorrective study. Modern Orientalism defines its subject matter in a viselike grip which held apower to sustain everything. Thus a new vocabulary and its function developed and placedOrient in a comparative frame work which is rarely descriptive and more evaluative andexplanatory. Renan comparing involve analogies of Indo- European families as „what a pencilsketch is to painting, it lacks that variety, that amplitude, that abundance of life which is thecondition of perfectibility‟. Renan view Indo-Europeans as an incomplete race which hasnever been able to achieve height of sensibility and maturity attained by Indo-Germanic races.Renan and Saucy reduce the Orient to a kind of human flatness by removing from it itshumanity, which easily expose its characteristics to scrutiny. Renan took his concepts fromphilology, in which ideological beliefs encourage the reduction of language to its roots andconnect these linguistics roots to race, mind, and temperament. In Renan works there are
  8. 8. many anti-Semitic strictures. His works attack on the sensitive issues like Islam as in one ofhis work he says that “the sword of Muhammad and the Kor‟an, are the most stubbornenemies of Civilization, Liberty, and the Truth which the world has yet known”. Theprofessional Orientalist job is to piece together a portrait of the Orient, their work is onlyconfine to supply the material, but the narrative shape, continuity and figures are constructedby the scholars. Their scholarship consists of avoiding the unruly (un-Occidental) nonhistoryof the Orient with orderly chronicles, portraits and plots. Many of the earliest amateurOrientals began by welcoming the Orient as a beneficial „derangement‟ of their Europeanhabits of mind and spirit. The Orient was misinterpreted for its pantheism, its spirituality, itsstability, its longevity, its primitivity, and so forth. Orientalism as a profession grew out ofcompensation, and correction based on inequalityCaussin de Perceval‟s EssaisurPhistoire des ArabesavantPlslamise, pendant de Mahomet, isone such example which is wholly professional in nature. The information present in thebook depends for its sources on documents made available internally to the field by otherOrientalists or documents like ibn-Khaldun. Caussin‟s thesis is that the Arabs were made apeople by Mohammed, Islam being essentially a political instrument, not by any means aspiritual one. The consequences that merge out of the study of Islam are quite literally onedimensional portrait of Mohammed. A nonprofessional correspondent to Caussin‟sMohammad is Carlyle‟s, a Mohammed. In a quite different light he overlooked all thehistorical and cultural circumstances. His essay argues on some general ideas like sincerity,heroism, and prophet hood.Within the comparative field that Orientalism became after philological revolution of theearly nineteenth century, the Orient in itself was subordinated intellectually to the West. TheOrient acquired all the marks of an inherent weakness, and became a subject to varioustheories. Many orientalists used Oriental Islam justifying the British intrusion in the CrimeanWar. The Orient was usefully employed as conversation in the various salons of Paris. Whatthe early Orientalist achieve, what the non-Orientalist in the West exploited, was the reducedmodel of Orient suitable for the prevalent dominant culture. Karl Marx identified the notionof an Asiatic economic system in his 1853 analysis of British rule in India and beside that thehuman plunder introduce into this system by English colonial outright cruelty and
  9. 9. interference. His articles pose conviction to the idea that even after destroying Asia, Britainwas making possible there a real social revolution. Marx style focuses on the difficulty ofreconciling our natural hatred as fellow creatures to the suffering of Orientals while theirsocieties are transformed violently by the historical necessities. “Oriental despotism hasrestrained the human mind with in the smallest compass making it the unresisting tool ofsuperstition enslaving it beneath the traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur andhistorical energies […] England was the conscious tool of history in bringing about therevolution”. In the end Marx conception about the Orient had Romantic or messianic sources.Even though Marx had sympathy for human misery but his analysis were perfectly fitted forthe Orientalist lens advocating Romantic Orientalist views. “England has to fulfill a doublemission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating __the annihilation of the Asiaticsociety and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia”. The idea ofregenerating fundamentally lifeless India is purely a Romantic Orientalism. The reason whyMarx left his sympathy and dispatched himself to Goethe as a source of wisdom on the Orientwas the individual mind was overpowered with precollective and preofficial individuality inAsia.In nineteenth century a modern professional terminology and practice were created whoseexistence dominated discourse about the Orients, whether by Orientalist or non-Orientalist.An arduous mechanism was created specifically for Orient which consists of omnicompetentdefinitions based solely on personal human experiences. There is another tradition thatclaimed its lawfulness from the peculiarly compelling fact of residence in actual existentialcontact with Orient. The Napoleonic expedition defines the tradition‟s earlier contours whichinfluence all Orientalist residence later on. To reside in the Orient is to live the privileged life,not of an ordinary citizen, but of representative European whose empire (French or British)contains the Orient in its military, economic, and above all, cultural arms Oriental residence.These scholarly fruits fed into the bookish tradition of the textual attitudes found in Renanand Sacy. These personal events and testimony gets converted into official codes ofOrientalist science.To be a European in the Orient always involves being a consciousness set apart from, andunequal with, its surroundings and the main thing is to note the intention of this
  10. 10. consciousness. There are small number of intentional categories which proposed themselvessystematically. One: the writer who intend to use his residence for a specific task of providingprofessional Orientalism with specific material, taking his residence as a form of scientificobservation. Two: the writer who intends the same purpose but is less willing to sacrifice theeccentricity and style of his individual consciousness to impersonal Oriental definitions.Three: the writer for whom a real or metaphorical trip to the Orient is the fulfillment of somedeeply felt and urgent project. His text is therefore built on personal aesthetic, fed andinformed by the project. These three categories are not so separate from each other as theyrely upon the sheer egoistic powers of the Europeans at their center. The vision of Orient isseen as a place of pilgrimage, or as a spectacle.Lane‟s book on the Egyptians was influential as it established its author‟s reputation as aneminent figure in Orientalism scholarship. He is quoted as a source ok knowledge aboutEgypt or Arabia. The function of author in his book Modern Egyptians is less strong as hiswork was disseminated into profession and institutionalized. Lane was able to submergehimself among the natives to live as they did to conform their habits, and “to escape exciting,in strangers any suspicion of… being a person who had no right to intrude among them”. Helives among them as a native and wrote about them for the Europeans observing their rituals,festivals, customs, adulthood and burial. As a narrator Lane is working on both scale he isexhibiting and exhibitor, winning both confidences at once: the Oriental one for engagingcompanionship and the Western one for authoritative useful knowledge.On the one hand Orientalism acquired Orient as literally and as widely as possible; on theother hand, it domesticated the knowledge of Orient to the West for the West. Thus the Orientwas converted from the personal testimony of valiant voyager and residents into impersonaldefinitions of scientific workers. By the middle of the nineteenth century the Orient hadbecome, as Disreali said, a career, one in which one could remake and restore not only theOrient but also oneself.