Orientalism

In his ground-breaking book, Orientalism, Edward Said not only put forward a thorough-going critique of the discipline of Oriental Studies, but he opened up the question of the production of knowledge from a global perspective. While he was not the first to address such a question, his positioning of it in the context of interrogating the Orient / Occident divide was novel. He unsettled the terrain of any argument concerned with the ‘universal’ by demonstrating how the idea of the universal was based both on an analytic bifurcation of the world and an elision of that bifurcation. In so doing, it also naturalised and justified the West’s material domination of the ‘other’ and in this way suggested the complicity between Orientalism as scholarly discourse and as imperial institution. It was no accident then, as Said suggests, that the movements for decolonisation from the early twentieth century onwards should provoke a fundamental crisis within Orientalist thought; a crisis that fractured the complacent rendering of the ‘other’ as passive and docile and which challenged the assumptive conceptual framework underpinning such depictions.

 

Essential Reading:

Said, Edward W. 1995 [1978]. Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient with a new afterword. London: Penguin.

 

Further Readings:

Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2014. ‘Postcolonial and Decolonial Reconstructions’ in Connected Sociologies. Bloomsbury Academic.

Said, Edward W. 1994. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus.

 

Video:

Watch Edward Said talking about Orientalism

 

Questions:

To what extent does Edward Said’s Orientalism maintain the division between East and West that is otherwise being criticised?

Does Orientalism require an understanding of ‘Occidentalism’? Why? Why not?

Is Orientalism the same as Eurocentrism?

What are the key challenges posed by Said to standard social theory?

 

 

Submitted by Gurminder K Bhambra 

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One thought on “Transnationalism”

  • As a recent recipient of the graduate school certificate in African studies at ASU, my final drew from or focused in part on the settler narrative movement of the antebellum era. Despite the discovery of over 100 burials from this era that came to light recently, it was all treated in a quite troubing manner. Settler Colonial mentality was pervasive. It is clear, the slave labor narrative must be preserved at all cost. Local professional organizations and offices were disrespected and ignored as if the descended community did not exist. People wear the continuance of mixed relationships from this history and it is only now that they are finding their voice and their heritage in some cases. Global social theory is spot on.

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