Edward Said: Orientalism

Orientalsim is a term used to describe the Western perception of the Middle East. Edward Said notes its difficult to understand true Orientalism due to principles of the production of knowledge. the first principle being, that it is difficult to distinguish pure knowledge from political knowledge. The political significance in literature and discussions alters the understanding of a discourse. Said defines modern Orientalism as a product of European imperialism. European culture and their view of the other produced the notion of the Orient politically, sociologically, ideologically, imaginatively. Said used Foucault’s idea of discourse as the production of knowledge based on authority and power relations. “Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” (Pg 3) Said was influenced by Gramsci’s idea of hegemony as a form of cultural leadership in the production of ideas, thus giving the Orientalism the ability to exist today.

Said asks why do we have a preconceived notion of people in the middle east, despite maybe never having been there? The image we have of the Middle East today stems from Orientalism.¬†Said argues that white west uses orientalism to view the middle east, which skews our perception of the people who live in this region, and their culture. These false conditions of reality are reinforced through the various Ideological State Apparatuses. Althusser’s ISA’s consist of the following, religion, education, political, cultural, family, communication. An example of legal reinforcement of Orientalism would be how the French Government has outlawed the wearing of Burqa. Another example that has influenced our group personally is Aladdin and its portrayal of the Middle East.¬†

Our group really enjoyed this discussion because we thought it was something we all found interesting and could relate too!

Andrew, Grace, Natalie, Anna, Beau



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