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4.0 

Orientalism

By Edward W. Said
Orientalism by Edward W. Said digital book - Fable

Publisher Description

A groundbreaking critique of the West's historical, cultural, and political perceptions of the East that is—three decades after its first publication—one of the most important books written about our divided world. 

"Intellectual history on a high order ... and very exciting." —The New York Times

In this wide-ranging, intellectually vigorous study, Said traces the origins of "orientalism" to the centuries-long period during which Europe dominated the Middle and Near East and, from its position of power, defined "the orient" simply as "other than" the occident. This entrenched view continues to dominate western ideas and, because it does not allow the East to represent itself, prevents true understanding.

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62 Reviews

4.0
“The life of an Arab Palestinian in the West, particularly in America, is disheartening. There exists here an almost unanimous consensus that politically he does not exist, and when it is allowed that he does, it is either as a nuisance or as an oriental. The web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanising ideology holding the Arab or the Muslim is very strong indeed, and it is this web which every Palestinian has come to feel as his uniquely punishing destiny. First published in 1978, it's hard to believe that Orientalism is still more relevant than ever. (Well, actually I can believe that.) Orientalism was one of the seminal texts that was taught to me during my undergrad when I did my BA. I remember thinking it was absolutely englightening. But my understanding didn't feel complete, and in light of what's happening in the world at the moment, I thought picking up the book would be apt. So what is Orientalism about? In a nutshell, it's about the ideological and geopolitical division between the East and the West. Essentially, during the 18th/19th century, Western scholars (Orientalists) sought to "understand" the East through Orientalism. Said suggests that this academic field ultimately helped 'define' Europe, however, this was never an innocent endeavor to begin with. He argues that it was through this act of defining that created a divison in our reality and a fear of "the other" - them vs. us/East vs. West/Oriental vs. Occidental. Said further argues that the creation of these binaries allowed for Europe to gain its power. If the West is superior, then the East is inferior, primitive, violent and in need of saving (white man's burden, anyone?). This ideology was further perpetuated and used to justify Western imperialism and colonization, racism over time. Thus, Orientalism became a larger set of instituionalised ideas that have permeated the fabric of our society. Essentially what started as Western scholarship grew into a powerful European ideology and a powerful political instrument. Interestingly, Said also argues that the conceptualisation of the East is consistently misrepresented time and time again - sexualised, romanticized and fetishized, and nowhere near the truth. So if the East is misrepresented time and time again, Said asks: "How does one represent other cultures? What is another culture? Is the notion of a distinct culture (or race, or religion, or civilization) a useful one, or does it always get involved either in self-congratulation (when one discusses one's own) or hostility and aggression (when one discusses the "other)? Throughout the book Said analyzes Orientalism through critical discussion using fascinating examples from history, language, literature and some theoretical lenses which I really enjoyed reading about. At the end of the day, Said was a lifelong humanist and believed that it was humanism that would lead people to freedom. And lastly, most important, humanism is the only, and, I would go as far as saying, the final, resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure history. Orientalism is, of course, a work not without criticism. Some have called it "anti-Western"... which is kind of baffling to me. Although I found some of his points very repetitive, and at times limited, I still personally consider Orientalism a must-read. If this book isn't something you'd normally read, I'd still highly recommend reading the preface, the introduction and the afterword, which is where Said really highlights most of his key points. (Or just read the SparkNotes version or Wikipedia page if you can't be bothered! Seriously.)”

About Edward W. Said

Edward W. Said was born in 1935 in Jerusalem, raised in Jerusalem and Cairo, and educated in the United States, where he attended Princeton (B.A. 1957) and Harvard (M.A. 1960; Ph.D. 1964). In 1963, he began teaching at Columbia University, where he was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature. He died in 2003 in New York City.

He is the author of twenty-two books which have been translated into 35 languages, including Orientalism (1978); The Question of Palestine (1979); Covering Islam (1980); The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983); Culture and Imperialism (1993); Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine and the Middle East Peace Process (1996); and Out of Place: A Memoir (1999). Besides his academic work, he wrote a twice-monthly column for Al-Hayat and Al-Ahram; was a regular contributor to newspapers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; and was the music critic for The Nation.

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