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Orientalism

Orientalism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Orientalism refers principally to the academic study during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries of the peoples, languages, and cultures of North Africa, the Middle East, and, to a lesser degree, South Asia. In art history, the term refers to a school of European painters of the nineteenth century who took the peoples of these regions as their primary subjects. Since the publication of Edward Saids (19352003) widely influential study titled simply Orientalism (1978), the term has become pejorative, suggesting a critical orientation or mode of representation that privileges the Western over the Eastern or idealizes the East in a manner that reflects European desires and political and economic interests.

What is called, after Said, orientalist discourse, developed during the era of most active European colonialism, from the early 1800s to World War I (19141918). Among the first important works accurately called orientalist were those produced by figures associated with colonialist endeavors in North Africa and the Middle East, including the massive, twenty-four-volume Description de lÉgypte, produced by approximately 160 scholars who accompanied Napoléon Bonaparte (17691821) on his ultimately failed expedition to conquer Egypt in 1798. The Description, completed in 1829, is typically orientalist in, on the one hand, the idealization of Egyptian people and places in its many beautifully rendered images, and, on the other, its overall concern with defining and classifying all the cultural and physical aspects of Egypt toward the ultimate objective of controlling its people and natural resources.

The nineteenth century can rightly be called the orientalist era in the arts, as works across the spectrum of literature and painting drew on the myth of the Orient that was being produced by the functionaries of colonialism and the scholars of philology. While French painters such as Eugène Delacroix (17981863) and Jean-Léon Gérôme (18241904) are widely regarded as the preeminent orientalists in the visual arts, the movement was widespread and included Frederick Arthur Bridgman (American, 18471928), Frederick Goodall (British, 18221904), Louis-Joseph Anthonissen (Belgian, 18491913), Ludwig Deutsch (German, 18551935), and Leopold Carl Müller (Austrian, 18341892). Orientalist literary artists include Rudyard Kipling (18651936), Edgar Allan Poe (18091849), Joseph Conrad (18571924), and Arthur Rimbaud (18541891), to list only a very few.

Muslim women were a particular focus of orientalist artists. The slave market, harem, and bath received seemingly endless treatments. Gérômes images characteristically give the impression of the voyeur who has lifted or pulled back the veil to reveal the hidden mystery of the Orient. Womens bodies are erotically on display, often, in fact, under examination by some Arab buyer or slave trader. The precise response of a European audience to such images is difficult to ascertain, but generally the erotic construction of an Arab other appealed to a patriarchal sense of superiority and interest in control.

The matters of the European sense of superiority and interest in control can also be seen in orientalist scholarship. Non-Western societies were described as backward and barbaric, fundamentally incapable of social, political, or technological modernization. An important point is that the works of orientalist scholars were often not intentionally or explicitly motivated toward the interests of Western power. The assumptions of superiority and control were embedded in the scholarship, often despite the fact that an individual scholar might regard his or her subject very sympathetically. However, it is certainly true that whatever the disposition of the orientalist scholar, his or her work was a critical part of the general body of knowledge that facilitated and justified the control and exploitation of colonized peoples.

The publication in 1978 of Saids study unleashed a fierce and continuing debate. The debate is wide ranging and contains multiple positions, though it can be roughly divided between two groups. Some believe Saids work has overly politicized the academic study of non-Western peoples and unfairly characterized the work of devoted scholars. Others, particularly the generation of scholars who pursued their graduate work in the later 1980s and 1990s, hold that Saids work is a particularly valuable contribution to the broad examination of the ideological assumptions and effects of intellectual works that purport to be disinterested.

Whatever the multiple positions in this rich debate, the influence of Saids volume has been tremendous. Orientalism has been translated into at least thirty-six languages, including Hebrew and Vietnamese, gone through multiple editions, and is certainly one of the most cited works in the humanities and social sciences since 1978. The critique of orientalist work is at the center of entire new disciplines, such as postcolonial studies, which is concerned with the struggle of non-Western peoples to meaningfully represent themselves and their social, political, and cultural concerns to both Western and non-Western audiences and institutions.

SEE ALSO Colonialism; Gaze, Colonial; Imperialism; Other, The; Postcolonialism; Racism; Representation in Postcolonial Analysis; Said, Edward

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Irwin, Robert. 2006. Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents. Woodstock, NY: Overlook.

Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage.

Turner, Bryan S. 1994. Orientalism, Postmodernism, and Globalism. New York: Routledge.

Stephen A. Germic

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Orientalism

ORIENTALISM

the study and exploration of the orient by occidentals.

The word orientalism derives from the Latin oriens, which means "east." The idea of a cultural division between East and West, between the Orient and the Occident (from the Latin occidens, which means "west"), goes back to Greco-Roman times, where in texts as diverse as Herodotus's Histories or Varro's On the Latin Language distinctions were made between Asia and Europe, which corresponded to Orient and Occident. Throughout the Middle Ages, there was a growing perception of a distinction between a civilization that was the heir of the Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman traditions (the West) and one that was the heir of the Indian and Chinese religious traditions (the East). The Islamic civilization of the Middle East fits uncomfortably into this polarity.

Even though the East and West, whatever cultural labels one may assign to them, were in contact through trade, exploration, and cultural and intellectual exchange and military activity from early Roman times, and even though they shared economic, cultural, intellectual, artistic, and religious influence, the idea of orientalism took root during the late Middle Ages, with the Portuguese voyages of discovery during the late fifteenth century, and developed through the nineteenth century. From that point on, Western explorers, scholars, writers, artists, and, ultimately, colonial administrators undertook to study, represent artistically, govern, and economically exploit the East. Traditional orientalism focused on the literary and scholarly results of that enterprise and included grammars, dictionaries, encyclopedias, texts, translations, travel accounts, novels, and paintings. The most important study of this process is that of Raymond Schwab. The artistic extension of orientalism is the school of orientalist painters, a group of nineteenth-century, mostly academic, painters, predominantly French, English, and German, who focused on real and imagined scenes of Middle Eastern exoticism in their work.

The field of orientalism changed radically with the 1978 publication of Orientalism, by Edward W. Said. Said, although focusing solely on the Islamic Middle East, exposed orientalism as a colonialist enterprise, "a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient" (p. 15). His work has exercised a vast influence over the field of cultural studies and has been applied by scholars in the other fields of traditional oriental-ist studies, including India, China, Japan and Southeast Asia.

see also nerval, gÉrard de; said, edward.

Bibliography


Benjamin, Roger, ed. Orientalism: Delacroix to Klee. Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York; London: Penguin, 1995.

Schwab, Raymond. The Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Rediscovery of India and the East, 16801880, translated by Gene Patterson-Black and Victor Reinking. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.

Williams, Patrick, ed. Edward Said, 4 volumes. Thousand Oaks, CA; London: Sage, 2001.

john m. lundquist

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Orientalism

Orientalism. Architecture and design drawing on Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, Ottoman and the Eastern styles, such as Chinoiserie or the Hindoo style.

Bibliography

Conner (1979);
Crinson (1996);
Honour (1961);
Impey (1977)

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"Orientalism." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Orientalism." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved October 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/orientalism

Orientalism

ORIENTALISM.

This entry includes two subentries:

Overview
African and Black Orientalism

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"Orientalism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Orientalism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Retrieved October 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/orientalism