Middle Eastern Culture: Orientalism Essay

Middle Eastern Culture: Orientalism Essay

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The term orientalism is descriptive of the portrayal of different characteristics of Middle Eastern cultures by writers from the West. While some of these writings show the Eastern cultures in a positive light, the majority of them are biased and emphasise on existing or imaginary negative aspects as perceived by strangers to the Eastern culture. There are Western based designers, writers and even artists who have, over the centuries, sought to depict different facets of the Eastern cultures. One famous scholar, Edward Said, actually addressed different facets of orientalism in his book on the subject (Said 1978). His discourse uses both artistic as well as academic trains of thought to define different qualities of Middle Eastern cultures as defined from the Western perspective. According to Ghazoul (2004), among other scholars, Edward Said’s observations are reminiscent of attitudes that extolled European imperialism in the days of colonialism.
According to Said (1978) the entire concept of ‘orientalism’ is compromised, in the eyes of most Arabic and Asian peoples because it appears to them to be filled with archaic prejudices against Eastern cultures. Moreover, the word ‘orientalism’ is also used to refer to the definitions of Middle Eastern cultures by scholars who hold more pro-Eastern attitudes. Another common complaint is that Western historians and scholars’ definitions of orientalism do not seek to make distinctions between the different tribes and cultures that make up the Middle East (Varisco 2013). Their definition of ‘orientalism’ is based on similar constructs to those in the West where, even though different nations may have different ethnic groups, they all embrace a progressive culture based on Judeo-Christian co...


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...Orientalism: clearing the way for cultural dialogue’, Religion, vol. 34, pp. 123-127.
Gunny, A. (2004) Perceptions of Islam in European writings, The Islamic Foundation, London.
Huggan, G. (2005) ‘(Not) reading Orientalism’, Research in African Literatures, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 124-136.
Irwin, R. (2006) Dangerous knowledge: Orientalism and its discontents, Overlook, Woodstock, NY.
Mellor, P.A. (2004) ‘Orientalism, representation, and religion: the reality behind the myth’, Religion, vol. 34, pp. 99-112.
Orrells, D. (2012) ‘Greek love, orientalism and race: intersections in Classical reception’, The Cambridge Classical Journal, vol. 58, pp. 194-230.
Said, E. (1978) Orientalism, postmodernism, and globalism, Routledge, New York.
Varisco, D.M. (2013) ‘Edward said and the culture behind Orientalism’, interdisciplinary studies in the Humanities, vol. 7, no 2, pp. 42-54.

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