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Said's critique, beyond identifying a body of literature as 'Orientalist', seeks to relate it to theories of discourse and power, especially through the. 8 See, among .
Table of contents
So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab—Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world.
What we have, instead, is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world, presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression. Orientalism proposes that much of the Western study of Islamic civilization was an exercise in political intellectualism ; a psychological exercise in the self-affirmation of " European identity "; not an objective exercise of intellectual enquiry and the academic study of Eastern cultures. Therefore, Orientalism was a method of practical and cultural discrimination that was applied to non-European societies and peoples in order to establish European imperial domination.
In justification of empire, the Orientalist claims to know more—essential and definitive knowledge—about the Orient than do the Orientals. That the history of European colonial rule and political domination of Eastern civilizations, distorts the intellectual objectivity of even the most knowledgeable, well-meaning, and culturally sympathetic Western Orientalist; thus did the term "Orientalism" become a pejorative word regarding non—Western peoples and cultures: I doubt if it is controversial, for example, to say that an Englishman in India, or Egypt, in the later nineteenth century, took an interest in those countries, which was never far from their status, in his mind, as British colonies.
To say this may seem quite different from saying that all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact—and yet that is what I am saying in this study of Orientalism. Towards the end of his life for instance, Said argued that while representations are essential for the function of human life and societies — as essential as language itself — what must cease are representations that are authoritatively repressive, because they do not provide any real possibilities for those being represented to intervene in this process.
Said said that the Western world sought to dominate the Eastern world for more than 2, years, since Classical antiquity 8th c. In the course of empire, after the physical-and-political conquest, there followed the intellectual conquest of a people, whereby Western scholars appropriated for themselves as European intellectual property the interpretation and translation of Oriental languages, and the critical study of the cultures and histories of the Oriental world.
Orientalism concluded that "Western knowledge of the Eastern world", i.
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Orientalism fictionally depicts the Orient as an irrational, psychologically weak, and feminized, non-European Other , which is negatively contrasted with the rational, psychologically strong, and masculine West. Such a binary relation, in a hierarchy of weakness and strength, derives from the European psychological need to create a difference of cultural inequality, between West and East, which inequality is attributable to "immutable cultural essences " inherent to Oriental peoples and things. The contemporary, historical impact of Orientalism was in explaining the How?
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The Western world had been surprised, by the pro-active and decisive actions of non-Western peoples, whom the ideology of Orientalism had defined as essentially weak societies and impotent countries. The geopolitical reality of their actions, of military and economic warfare, voided the fictional nature of Orientalist representations , attitudes, and opinions about the non-Western Other self.
Literature here is understood as a kind of carrier and distributor of ideology. The greatest intellectual impact of Orientalism was upon the fields of literary theory , cultural studies , and human geography , by way of which originated the field of Post-colonial studies.
As a work of cultural criticism, Orientalism is the foundation document of the field of Post-colonialism , because the thesis proved historically factual, true, and accurate for the periods studied; and for the How? Post-colonial theory studies the power and the continued dominance of Western ways of intellectual enquiry and the production of knowledge in the academic, intellectual, and cultural spheres of the de-colonised country.
Said's survey concentrated upon the British and the French varieties of Orientalism that supported the British Empire and the French Empire as commercial enterprises constructed from colonialism, and gave perfunctory coverage, discussion, and analyses of German Orientalist scholarship. In the fields of literary criticism and of cultural studies , the notable Indian scholars of post-colonialism were Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak In Other Worlds: A People Interrupted , Writing History and the West , Robert J.
Young reported Post-colonial explanations of the "How? In the late s, the survey range of Orientalism did not include the genre of Orientalist painting or any other visual arts, despite the book-cover featuring a detail-image of The Snake Charmer , a popular, 19th-century Orientalist painting—to which the writer Linda Nochlin applied Said's method of critical analysis "with uneven results". The historian Gyan Prakash said that Orientalism describes how "the hallowed image of the Orientalist, as an austere figure, unconcerned with the world and immersed in the mystery of foreign scripts and languages, has acquired a dark hue as the murky business of ruling other peoples , now forms the essential and enabling background of his or her scholarship" about the Orient; without colonial imperialism, there would be no Orientalism.
That overcoming such intellectual malaise requires that area scholars choose to break their "mind-forg'd manacles" and deeply reflect upon the basic cultural assumptions of their area-studies scholarship. Orientalism proved intellectually, professionally, and personally controversial.
In a review of a book by Ibn Warraq , American classicist Bruce Thornton dismissed Orientalism as an "incoherent amalgam of dubious postmodern theory, sentimental Third Worldism, glaring historical errors, and Western guilt". In the book-review article "Enough Said" , about Dangerous Knowledge , by Robert Irwin , in the preface paragraphs, Martin Kramer recapitulates the professional trials and tribulations of and repercussions to Orientalists caused by Orientalism In Dangerous Knowledge , Irwin relates that the 19th-century English Arabist Edward William Lane , compiler of the great Arabic-English Lexicon , "used to complain that he had become so used to the cursive calligraphy of his Arabic manuscripts that he found Western print a great strain on his eyes.
Orientalism, in its heyday, was a branch of knowledge as demanding and rigorous as its near cousin, Egyptology. The first International Congress of Orientalists met in ; its name was not changed until a full century later. But there are no self-declared Orientalists today. The reason is that the late Edward Said turned the word into a pejorative. In his book Orientalism , the Palestinian-born Said, a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, claimed that an endemic Western prejudice against the East had congealed into a modern ideology of racist supremacy—a kind of anti-Semitism directed against Arabs and Muslims.
Throughout Europe's history, announced Said, "every European, in that he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric. In a semantic sleight of hand, Said appropriated the term "Orientalism", as a label for the ideological prejudice he described, thereby, neatly implicating the scholars who called themselves Orientalists. At best, charged Said, the work of these scholars was biased, so as to confirm the inferiority of Islam.
What are the criticisms of Said's Orientalism?
At worst, Orientalists had directly served European empires, showing proconsuls how best to conquer and control Muslims. To substantiate his indictment, Said cherry-picked evidence, ignored whatever contradicted his thesis, and filled the gaps with conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, the literary critic Paul De Man said that, as a literary critic, "Said took a step further than any other modern scholar of his time, something I dare not do. I remain in the safety of rhetorical analysis, where criticism is the second-best thing I do.
In the book review, "The Mightier Pen? In "Disraeli as an Orientalist: The Polemical Errors of Edward Said" , Mark Proudman noted incorrect 19th-century history in Orientalism , that the geographic extent of the British Empire was not from Egypt to India in the s, because the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire in that time intervened between those poles of empire. In For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies , Robert Irwin said that Said's concentrating the scope of Orientalism to the Middle East, especially Palestine and Egypt, was a mistake, because the Mandate of Palestine — and British Egypt — only were under direct European control for a short time, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; thus are poor examples for Said's theory of Western cultural imperialism.
That Orientalism should have concentrated upon good examples of imperialism and cultural hegemony , such as the British Raj of India — and Russia's dominions in Asia — , but he did not, because, as a public intellectual , Edward Said was more interested in making political points about the politics of the Middle East, in general, and of Palestine, in particular. In the article "Said's Splash" , Martin Kramer said that, fifteen years after publication of Orientalism , the UCLA historian Nikki Keddie whom Said praised in Covering Islam , who originally had praised Orientalism as an 'important, and, in many ways, positive' book, had changed her mind.
In Approaches to the History of the Middle East , Keddie criticised Said's work on Orientalism, for the unfortunate consequences upon her profession as an historian:. I think that there has been a tendency in the Middle East field to adopt the word "orientalism" as a generalized swear-word, essentially referring to people who take the "wrong" position on the Arab—Israeli dispute , or to people who are judged too "conservative". It has nothing to do with whether they are good or not good in their disciplines. So, "orientalism", for many people, is a word that substitutes for thought and enables people to dismiss certain scholars and their works.
I think that is too bad. Some critics of the book, particularly Ibn Warraq in A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism argue that Said placed an excessive amount of blame on the West without giving credit for its virtues. Finally, critics argued that Said's text failed to differentiate between different types of Orientalism, presenting western perceptions of the East as monolithic and failing to explore a variety of perspectives, or point out the difference between individuals making racist statements and large-scale colonialism.
Said's book was central to the development of post-colonial studies as a discipline, but in the decades since its publication many have criticized its methods. What are the criticisms of Said's Orientalism?