Edward Said begins describes Orient in order to express the major common Westernmisconception about the East. This misconception exists in the Western mind, according to Said,as if it were irrelevant that the Orient itself was actually sociologically affected. Said uses thephrase “Other” to describe the Western fascination with the Orient” as one only finds an idea ofthemselves through a contrast with an “Other.” It is in this circumstance that our desires andexpectations of being complete are projected onto this entity. This is a fitting comparison toSaid‟s topic, 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 does to theEuropean countries, which fits logically into the equation. This makes historical sense, since theOrient was adjacent to Europe‟s earliest civilizations and the cultural exchange has alwaysexisted.The first designation Said uses for the topic is the academic interpretation. He lends this to thefield of work of anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient. This definition isgenerally too indistinct as compared to the introductory designation. Although it incorporates themultiple discourses of knowledge, it fails to distinguish the Orient as existing comparativelyinstead of just being the subject of examination.The second definition draws attention to this distinction and clarifies Orientalism, while alsoextending its breadth to all that is not considered west; The Middle East, India, Russia.Said then proposes a third definition of Orientalism, using an analysis substantially moreapplicable in the historical context. Orientalism as the corporate institution for dealing with theOrient, as the Western authority has done. He professes to be motivated here by Foucault‟snotion of a discourse. Michel Foucault‟s theories that have come to bear on this discussion arehis ideas of the critical relationship under which the ontology of subject and object come to beknown and how these associations may come to constitute knowledge. According to Foucault,the problem is not isolating any empirical conditions that may bring about this subjectivity, butto determine what the subject is and to what conditions it is subject. Said‟s application of thistheory fits his third definition well, and provides a strong platform for the rest of his argument.The Orient has, for much of history, been the active object to the European missionary andscientist positions.He then lists his findings about the recent history of the Orient‟s relationship with the West. Saidsuggests that the balance of power from Franco-British involvement to a largely Americaninvolvement has not had so great an effect Orientalism as would be expected. This is because theOrient is not nearly as sterile as effective Western domination would bring about; it is a thrivingentity just like those cultures that have power 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.
In his qualifications for interpreting Orientalism, Said includes several points of interest andclarification. He agrees with Disraeli, in saying that the East is more than just an idea with nocorresponding reality. In fact, this is concurrent with the fact that many Western scholars havededicated their entire lives to studying the Orient. Secondly, Said reinforces that it isirresponsible to discount the control that the West exercised over these societies. The study ofOrientalism could not exist had the East not been the victim of Western power and domination.Next, Said differentiates between the types of society and how cultural influence is derived. Hecites Antonio Gramsci as distinguishing between civil and political society, and the differentconfigurations and responsibilities therein. According to Gramsci, a political society is one inwhich the citizen is directly dominated and imposed on by the state, who create and maintain thesocial institutions. Civil society, however, is made up of citizens voluntarily affiliatingthemselves with certain social responsibilities. Only under this type of society does thederivation of cultural enterprise instantiate itself. Gramsci‟s main argument as that in any form ofsociety that is not totalitarian, certain types of culture will thrive. It is this societal happening thathe calls hegemony, which Said explains is the phenomenon that necessitates interest in cultural„otherness‟ such as Orientalism. After listing the three aspects of his contemporary reality, Said discusses and attempts to addressthree realities that would bring the puzzle of Orientalism closer to a solution. In differentiatingbetween pure and political knowledge, he mentions the difficulty of distrusting politicalknowledge in the realm of a subject that is so interconnected with politics and internationalawareness. It seems to come through in the writing that Said is finding it hard to address aproblem that is so deeply involved in imperialism, yet not trustworthy of political knowledge.This sharp paradox problematizes his attempt to understand Orientalism in it‟s historicalsituation. The second step is the proposition of his methodological devices, which are in answerto the evident absence of the “problematic” in this study. Said uses these devices to examine the authority that is descriptive of the West‟s relationshipwith the Orient. The first device is strategic location, which describes an author‟s position in hisstudy with regard to the Orient. Every person who writes about the Orient must associatethemselves with either the Orient or the West (Their strategic location), therefore adding certainconnotations and themes to their interpretations.Strategic formation, the second device, incorporates the study of the Orient and the way inwhich different intellectual standpoints gain acceptance and credibility. Just as everyone must beeither associated with the West or the East, anyone who considers the Orient in their thoughtsmust create a basis for whatever argument or position they assume. The intellectual basis of theirposition is composed of referential knowledge that relates to other works (Their strategicformation). At the end of this section, he reminds the reader that information that is popularly
disseminated by a culture is only a representation of truth, not reality itself. He uses thisclarification to elucidate the use of language as being culturally, not universally, expressive.The final reality that must be addressed to bring a greater understanding of Orientalism is whatSaid calls the personal dimension. He quotes Gramsci as saying “The starting point of criticalelaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and knowing thyself.” This quote appliesdirectly to the subject matter at hand, and also to Said‟s analysis of it. He mentions hisupbringing, the pertinence of which relates back to the aforementioned methodological devicesconsidering his particular background and previous knowledge of those who are involved in theOrient. Some elements of his personal reflection on Orientalism are the long history of prejudiceagainst people of Arab and Islamic descent, the struggle between the Arabs and the Israelis, andits effects on American population. The one-sidedness of this struggle has to do mainly with thelargely liberal American identification with Zionism and the reinforcement of stereotypes of theOrient in the electronic and popular media.In his concluding remarks, Said delves further into the reasoning behind the futility of a positiveview of Arab life in the West. His remaining comments include that his experiences as a personof Arab descent are what motivated him to write about Orientalism in the first place. Forsomeone who is so directly and negatively affected by Western perceptions of the Arab worldand the Orient altogether, his analysis is a fairly objective and sophisticated view of Orientalism.Perhaps it is because of his experiences with lifelong stereotypes and the apparent dichotomy ofWestern and Eastern approaches to the subject. His final comment is somewhat of a plea to thereader in the hopes that if a greater understanding of the topic is derived from reading, then anunlearning of the processes of cultural domination can conceivably begin.In the first chapter of Orientalism, Said is attempting to lay out the foundations of how theconcept of Orientalism is understood through a historical analysis of Britain‟s relationship andexperience of colonial rule over Egypt. He reviews who is called “Oriental” and how we begin tolabel others. Said reviews how knowledge and power creates the ability of one group to obtainauthority over another group and thus striping the autonomy away from “the other.” Moreover,Said continues by noting that this dominance allows for the group with power and knowledge toaccept the superiority as the norm and takes for granted their position of authority. For example,the West will take their position of dominance and analyze all beliefs and views, which differfrom their own, as abnormal. As Western nations, became more powerful, we automaticallybegin assuming positive qualities towards the dominating group and negative qualities towardsthe “weaker” group. Thus, all attributes, behaviors, and cultural norms are compared to the“western norm.” This then allowed all Western thought to be rational and normal and all othersthought patterns to be irrational and strange. Said uses his first chapter to describe how theconcept of the western dominance over the east (Orient) created an ideological framework,which looks at the East as least superior than West, this is what Said describes as Orientalism.
The Scope of OrientalismSaid 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.Knowing the OrientalSaid 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 he admires theirgreatness that this absolute Government should be exercised by them. He think it is a good thingan experience 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”.
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 exportsto Egypt equaled those to the whole of Africa; that century indicated a sort of financialprosperity, 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 and Orient.The Oriental is irrational, depraved (fallen), childlike, “different”; declaring that the European isrational, virtuous, mature and different. In Cromer‟s and Balfour‟s language the oriental isdepicted as something one judges (as in a Court of law), something one studies depicts as adiscipline 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.
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 argument was 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.