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orientalism

orientalism

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Orientalism
by:
Samir K. Dash
Edward Said's Orientalism can be summed up in three following points: first he talks of thedistinction between pure and political knowledge, shows the power relation of any text topolitical, cultural, intellectual and moral domain; secondly he shows how the methodologyused by the West to define and interpreting the Orient is just a part of the process thatOrientalises the Orient and how his methodology of "historical generalization" is different fromall these previous methodologies; and thirdly he clarifies his position by explaining his ethnicbackground, scholarly interests, and social circumstances he has experienced as an oriental.Following Derrida it can be assumed the concept of "Orientalism" or "orient' a part of a binaryoppositions pair, where the occidental forms the other side of this binary oppositional coin.Levis Strauss' Methodology , if applied to this binary opposition, we reach at the sameconclusion as Edward Said, that these two (i.e. the concepts of Orient and Occident; or Eastand West ) are the two 'entities' that 'support and to an extent reflect each other'(p.5). Tomake it more clear, 'Orient' has come to be a part of our consciousness due to the process of categorization by the 'West' – i.e. Westerners' view or presupposition about their identity,made the idea of 'Orient' possible. As in a binary pair, one's presence is defined in terms of theabsence of 'the other' (i.e. the opposition to it).In case of the Orientalism , (i.e. thediscipline that came to front after the completion of this process or the 'event', the sense inwhich Derrida had used the term in his essay Structure, Sign and play in the Discourse of Human sciences) the 'East' is defined in terms of the qualifications of the 'West'. In Said'swords:"European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orientas a sort of surrogate and even under grounded self".And this process of establishing theidentity of 'the other' by creating the identity of the self , ispart of the process which said termsin this particular case as being "Orientalized" whichmeans the moment one tries to understand which means the moment one tries to understandculture, history and ideas, one from that moment comes under their direct force. That meanswhen one expresses his interpretation, (which is essentially an work of art) can no longer beexternal as croce has remarked: 'A work of art is always internal; and what is called external isno longer a work of art' (quoted in Rene Wellek's essay The Fall of Literary history).That's why Said has avoided presenting any notion or definition of his subject in his book (i.e.Orientalism) rather he chooses a the path of indirectness, by placing in to the pages thevarious ideas related to the Orientalism that exist 'spatially and complexly interlinked' in hismind and are a part of his consciousness which ultimately he refers to as his subject i.e. the"Orientalism" – the "transdental signified". He is aware that this "transcendental signified" hasbeen a part of the "collective unconscious' of the west and has been growing since the verytime the west is conscious about the 'other sidedness' of his existence, on various levels –physical, as well as psychological. This has been since that time of its evolution, has beenexpressed in various manners making reference to different geographical cultural andideological difference that exist between the west and the east. To avoid complexity of our interpretation we can simply put this as the fact that due to the ethno-centric attitude of thewest there came the relative measurement of various dimensions in the different culturalvalues, belief systems and this ultimately formed the concept of the "Orient".Said also makes this point clear in his introduction : "The orient was Orientalised not onlybecause it was discovered to be oriental in all those ways considered common place by anaverage nineteenth century European, but also because it could be – that is submitted tobeing – made oriental".This indicates that the very process of distinguishing orient from the occident is itself a processof Orientalising the orient. Said's use of "historical generalizations" (p.4) – which he announcesin his introduction as a different 'methodological alternative' also could not able to escape frombeing taking part in the process of Orientalization.This haunts Said as in the last lines of the third chapter he confesses that the study of orientinvolves a continuous process of degredation in knowledge,"If the knowledge of theOrientalism has any meaning, it is in being a reminder of this seductive degradation of knowledge".And perhaps writing of Orientalism by Said can be seen as the very next addedpart of this process which he himself indicates in the following line:"Orientalism failed toidentify with human experience, failed also to see it as human experience […] if this book hasany future use it will be as a modest contribution to that challenge, […] that system of thoughtlike Orientalism , discourse of power , ideological fictions – mind-forg'd manacles – are tooeasily made, applied , and guarded". And to which he concludes that the accompanieddegradation to this is 'Now perhaps more than before' .That means he himself studies the process of which he is a part of . We need to understand
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how Said has attempted to describe the process of 'Orientalising the orient' by men in the pastbefore him ( of which he becomes a part of , by writing his book , by doing explanations onOrientalism – which is now the aim of our experiment, to understand how the process of hisexplanation (on Orientalism) has the similarities to the this above mentioned process.Said uses a new kind of methodology to bring the whole matter related to Orientalism to light.He does so as explains that :'Orientalism is not an inert fact of nature'– i.e. it is not only related to geographicalreality .it would be [also] wrong to conclude that the orient was essentially an idea or acreation with no corresponding reality,He says so because he knows that the geographical sectors as orient and occident are manmade, but along with that there is 'a brute reality' which is exerted by the idea of orient if theyare at all any orient exists in ideas .The fact that Said's belief system when comes to front has a centre which alters its meaningand deconstructs it as no particular opposition of the binary pair 'idea / thing' or 'mentaldimension/ physical dimension is valid for more than an instance, so the moment he makes areference to idea associated with the orient he discards the physicality of the orient and viseversa. From such reason we can assume that when an expression on the orient is made iteither lies about orient or discard it it is because by 'lying' or creating myth about it, one cancontribute to its existence, and the moment some expression is made to explain it, it is nomore 'that' and hence it blows out its existence. Said points to this complexity in hisintroduction: "One ought never to assume that the structure of Orientalism is nothing morethan a structure of lies or myths which, were the truth about them to be told, or simply blowaway"!What Said has done to solve this problem is that he coined a new methodology whichhe termed as "representation".That means he stresses through his book Orientalism on the aspect of how than whatof Orientalism. He tries to explain how orient is created than what it really is .He through his historical generalization, moves from Flaubert to Sacy then to Renan and other Orientalists who build their own structures of Orientalism which forms a stack of structures,where no particular structure has while trying to understand the the 'what' aspects of Orientalism unconsciously created it .Thus what the West did in the past to learn on orient created orient. and thus orient becamean western invention.That means that we are , by following Said , in fact starting a process of unlearning about theOrientalism , in order to let orient exist as it is . but the moment we attempt to learn aboutorient we are in fact from that moment starts off another chain reaction of changes in itsexistence—which ultimately leads us to no truth as the moment he we understand it , our understanding itself becomes a part of the invention of the orient.He explains the epistemological aspect and historical aspect of the Orientalism which can besummarized in the following points:the first phase of Orientalists were those who saw the rise of the Muslims in the Asianregion as a threat to Christianity – during this period the Orient was defined as thegeographical regions that was under the control of the so called pagan , barbarousnon-Christian races , especially Muslims. They were considered as threats to the West, i.e. the Christian occupied European geography. This can be traced in Chaucer'swritings, Mendellive's stories.the next phase of the Orientalists were those who depending upon the first phasedescription began to explore these areas. During renaissance the spirit started and thiscontinued for centuries. During this phase many militaristic adventures were madeespecially by that of Napoleon who planned to conquer the Egypt on both military andcultural ground. This phase continued till the creation of Suez canal and Orientalistslike Renan, Sacy and Flaubert gave shape to the idea of Orientalism on the basis of their either experiences in the Orient or the views that they had possessed from their predecessors, which was shaped by the western attempt to define its supremacy over the concept that was termed as the Orient by the first phase definitions.the third or the latest phase was brought forward by the process of de-colonizationwhere the modern west men began to emphasize the differences of the Orient from theOccident; east from the West.After this categorization Said put forward the theory of the 'power relationship of knowladge'—how all these Orientalists of the three phase while defining the Orient have contributed to theprocess of the Orientalisation.This is the power relationship of knowledge in the context of the orient.The west tried to find his identity through an opposition to it and named it orient.The ethenocentricism of the west made the distinguistions of other cultures from it andlabeled all oppositional charactered cultures as oriental cultures.Different parts of the west thus had diffeent views on orient due to their different geographicallocations , which has created their own taste , own customs etc. thus "culectiveconciousness"of one part of the west saw its opposition in a manner , which was perhaps had subordinateplace in the list of oppositions made by another part of the west. Thus their own definition of the orient differs .This is exemplified by Said in the 4th section of the 2nd chapter tiltled as "Pilgrims andpilgrimages, British and French"Well one may arise the question that if the ethenic values shaped by geographical locations inthe west vary from each other , how can it be possible that they did not see each other as

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