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This assignment requires two tasks: Composing your own short piece of travel writing. Once the above narrative is complete, writing a short essay analyzing it with Said’s concerns in mind.


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Author Said, Edward W
Title Orientalism / Edward W. Said Imprint New York : Vintage Books,
NOTICE: This material may be protected by
Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code)
Vintage Books Edition, October 1979
Copyright © 1978 by Edward W. Said Afterword copyright © 1994 by Edward
W. Said All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States of America by Random
House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited,
Toronto Originally published by Pantheon Books, A Division of
Random House, Inc., in November 1978. Library of Congress Cataloging in
Publication Data
Said, Edward W.
Orientalism. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Asia—Foreign
opinion, Occidental. 2. Near East-Foreign opinion, Occidental. 3. Asia-Study
and teaching. 4. Near East–Study and teaching. 5. Imperialism. 6. East and
West. I. Title. DS12.524 1979 950′.07’2 79-10497
ISBN 0-394-74067-X Manufactured in the United States of America
3579C864 Cover: Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Snake Charmer (detail),
courtesy of the Sterling and Francine Clark
Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.
– Edward W. Said
Since this copyright page cannot accommodate all the permissions
acknowledgments, they are to be found
on the following two pages.
DS 12.
524 1994
Vintage Books A Division of Random House
New York
On a visit to Beirut during the terrible civil war of 1975-1976 a French journalist
wrote regretfully of the gutted downtown area that “it had once seemed to
belong to … the Orient of Chateau briand and Nerval.” He was right about the
place, of course, especially so far as a European was concerned. The Orient was
almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance,
exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, re markable experiences. Now
it was disappearing; in a sense it had happened, its time was over. Perhaps it
seemed irrelevant that Orientals themselves had something at stake in the process,
that even in the time of Chateaubriand and Nerval Orientals had lived there, and
that now it was they who were suffering; the main thing for the European visitor
was a European representation of the Orient and its contemporary fate, both of
which had a privileged communal significance for the journalist and his French
Americans will not feel quite the same about the Orient, which for them is
much more likely to be associated very differently with the Far East (China and
Japan, mainly). Unlike the Americans, the French and the British–less so the
Germans, Russians, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, and Swiss have had a long
tradition of what I shall be calling Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with
the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western
experience. The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of
Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its
civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and
most recurring_imagesof_the(Other. Y In addition, the Orient has helped to
define Europe (or the West)
as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience. Yet none of 7 this Orient
is merely imaginative. The Orient is an integral part of
European material civilization and culture. Orientalism expresses and
represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a mode of discourse
with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even
colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles. In contrast, the American
understanding of the Orient will seem considerably less dense, although our
recent Japanese, Korean, and Indochinese adventures ought now to be creating
a more sober, more realistic “Oriental” awareness. Moreover, the vastly
expanded American political and economic role in the Near East (the Middle
East) makes great claims on our understanding of that Orient.
It will be clear to the reader (and will become clearer still throughout the many
pages that follow) that by Orientalism I mean several things, all of them, in my
opinion, interdependent. (The most readily accepted designation for
Orientalism is an academic one, and indeed the label still serves in a number of
academic institutions. Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the
Orient—and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist,
historian, or philologist-either in its specific or its gen eral aspects, is an
Orientalist, and what he or she does is Orien talism. Compared with Oriental
studies or area studies, it is true that the term Orientalism is less preferred by
specialists today, both because it is too vague and general and because it
conpotesthe high-handed executive attitude of nineteenth-century and early
twentieth-century European colonialism. Nevertheless books are written and
congresses held with the Orient” as their main focus, with the Orientalist in his
new or old guise as their main authority. The point is that even if it does not
survive as it once did, Orien talism lives on academically through its doctrines
and theses about the Orient and the Oriental.
Related to this academic tradition, whose fortunes, transmigra tions,
specializations, and transmissions are in part the subject of – this study, is a
more general meaning for Orientalism. Orientalism
is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction
made between “the Orient” and (most of the time) “the Occident.”, Thus a very
large mass of writers, among whom are poets, novelists, philosophers, political
theorists, economists, and im perial administrators, have accepted the basic
distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories,
epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the
Orient, its people, customs, “mind,” destiny, and so on. This Orien talism can
accommodate Aeschylus, say, and Victor Hugo, Dante and Karl Marx. A little
later in this introduction I shall deal with the methodological problems one
encounters in so broadly con strued a “field” as this.
The interchange between the academic and the more or less imaginative
meanings of Orientalism is a constant one, and since the late eighteenth century
there has been a considerable, quite disciplined—perhaps even regulated-traffic
between the two. Here I come to the third meaning of Orientalism, which is
something more historically and materially defined than either of the other *
two. Taking the late eighteenth century as a very roughly defined
starting point Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate
institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements
about it, authorizing views of it, describing :: it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling
over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring,
and having au- ! thority over the Orient. I have found it useful here to employ
Michel Foucault’s notion of a discourse, as described by him in ;
The Archaeology of Knowledge and in Discipline and Punish, to identify
Orientalism. My contention is that without examining Orientalism as a
discourse one cannot possibly understand the enormously systematic discipline
by which European culture was able to manage—and even produce—the
Orient politically, socio logically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically, and
imaginatively during the post-Enlightenment period. Moreover, so authoritative
a position did Orientalism have that I believe no one writing, think ing, or
acting on the Orient could do so without taking account of the limitations on
thought and action imposed by Orientalism. In brief, because of Orientalism
the Orient was not (and is not) a free subject of thought or action. This is not to
say that Orientalism unilaterally determines what can be said about the Orient,
but that it is the whole network of interests inevitably brought to bear on (and
therefore always involved in) any occasion when that peculiar entity “the
Orient” is in question. How this happens is what this book tries to demonstrate.
It also tries to show that European
culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as
a sort of surrogate and even underground self.
Historically and culturally there is a quantitative as well as a qualitative
difference between the Franco-British involvement in the Orient and until the
period of American ascendancy after
World War II—the involvement of every other European and At lantic power.
To speak of Orientalism therefore is to speak mainly, although not exclusively,
of a British and French cultural enter prise, a project whose dimensions take in
such disparate realms as the imagination itself, the whole of India and the
Levant, the Biblical texts and the Biblical lands, the spice trade, colonial armies
and a long tradition of colonial administrators, a formidable schol arly corpus,
innumerable Oriental “experts” and “hands,” an Orien tal professorate, a
complex array of “Oriental” ideas (Oriental despotism, Oriental splendor,
cruelty, sensuality), many Eastern sects, philosophies, and wisdoms
domesticated for local European use—the list can be extended more or less
indefinitely. My point is that Orientalism derives from a particular closeness
experienced between Britain and France and the Orient, which until the early
nineteenth century had really meant only India and the Bible lands. From the
beginning of the nineteenth century until the end of World War II France and
Britain dominated the Orient and Orientalism; since World War II America
has dominated the Orient, and approaches it as France and Britain once did.
Out of that closeness, whose dynamic is enormously productive even if it
always demonstrates the comparatively greater strength of the Occi dent
(British, French, or American), comes the large body of texts I call Orientalist.
It should be said at once that even with the generous number of books and
authors that I examine, there is a much larger number that I simply have had to
leave out. My argument, however, de pends neither upon an exhaustive
catalogue of texts dealing with the Orient nor upon a clearly delimited set of
texts, authors, and ideas that together make up the Orientalist canon. I have
depended instead upon a different methodological alternative—whose back
bone in a sense is the set of historical generalizations I have so far been making
in this Introduction—and it is these I want now to discuss in more analytical
vation that men make their own history, that what they can know is what they
have made, and extend it to geography: as both geo graphical and cultural
entities—to say nothing of historical entities
—such locales, regions, geographical sectors as “Orient” and “Occi dent” are
man-made. Therefore as much as the West itself, the Orient is an idea that has a
history and a tradition of thought, imagery, and vocabulary that have given it
reality and presence in and for the West. The two geographical entities thus
support and to an extent reflect each other.j. Orant hwrition made h im .
Having said that, one must go on to state a number of reasonable :
qualifications. In the first place, it would be wrong to conclude that the Orient
was essentially an idea, or a creation with no cor responding reality. When
Disraeli said in his novel Tancred that the East was a career, he meant that to
be interested in the East was something bright young Westerners would find to
be an all consuming passion; he should not be interpreted as saying that the
East was only a career for Westerners. There were and are cultures and
nations whose location is in the East, and their lives, histories, and customs
have a brute reality obviously greater than anything that could be said about
them in the West. About that fact this study of Orientalism has very little to
contribute, except to acknowledge it tacitly. But the phenomenon of
Orientalism as I study it here deals principally, not with a correspondence
between Orientalism and Orient, but with the internal consistency of Orien
talism and its ideas about the Orient (the East as career) despite or beyond any
correspondence, or lack thereof, with a “real” Orient. My point is that
Disraeli’s statement about the East refers mainly to that created consistency,
that regular constellation of ideas as the pre-eminent thing about the Orient,
and not to its mere being, as Wallace Stevens’s phrase has it.
(A second qualification is that ideas, cultures, and histories cannot comes
seriously be understood or studied without their force, or more vaste precisely
their configurations of power, also being studied. To be lieve that the Orient
was created—or, as I call it, “Orientalized”
n zin
weste —and to believe that such things happen simply as a necessity of the
imagination, is to be disingenuous. The relationship between Occident and
Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a
complex hegemony, and is quite accurately indicated in the title of K. M.
Panikkar’s classic Asia and Western Dominance.? The Orient was Orientalized
not only because it was discovered to be “Oriental” in all those ways
considered common
Darm wat
I have begun with the assumption that the Orient is not an inert fact of nature. It
is not merely there, just as the Occident itself is not just there either. We must
take seriously Vico’s great obser
Gimial SnGa as the. It enesis
place by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be
that is, submitted to being made Oriental. There is very little consent to be
found, for example, in the fact tKat Flau bert’s encounter with an Egyptian
courtesan produced a widely in fluential model of the Oriental woman; she
never spoke of herself, she never represented her emotions, presence, or
history. He spoke for and represented her. He was foreign, comparatively
wealthy, male, and these were historical facts of domination that allowed him
not only to possess Kuchuk Hanem physically but to speak for her and tell his
readers in what way she was “typically Oriental.” My argument is that
Flaubert’s situation of strength in relation to Kuchuk Hanem was not an
isolated instance. It fairly stands for the pattern of relative strength between
East and West, and the discourse about the Orient that it enabled.
This brings us to a third qualification. One ought never to assume that the
structure of Orientalism is nothing more than a structure of lies or of myths
which, were the truth about them to be told, would simply blow away. I myself
believe that Orientalism is more particularly valuable as a sign of EuropeanAtlantic power over the Orient than it is as a veridic discourse about the Orient
(which is what, in its academic or scholarly form, it claims to be). Never
theless, what we must respect and try to grasp is the sheer knitted together
strength of Orientalist discourse, its very close ties to the enabling socioeconomic and political institutions, and its redoubt able durability. After all,
any system of ideas that can remain unchanged as teachable wisdom (in
academies, books, congresses, universities, foreign-service institutes) from the
period of Ernest Renan in the late 1840s until the present in the United States
must be something more formidable than a mere collection of lies.
(Orientalism, therefore, is not an airy European fantasy about the Orient, but a
created body of theory and practice in which, for many generations, there has
been a considerable material invest ment. Continued investment made
Orientalism, as a system of knowledge about the Orient, an accepted grid for
filtering through the Orient into Western consciousness, just as that same
investment multiplied-indeed, made truly productive—the statements prolif
erating out from Orientalism into the general culture.)
(Gramsci has made the useful analytic distinction between civil and political
society in which the former is made up of voluntary (or at least rational and
noncoercive) affiliations like schools,
families, and unions, the latter of state institutions (the army, the police, the
central bureaucracy) whose role in the polity is direct domination. Culture, of
course, is to be found operating within civil society, where the influence of ideas,
of institutions, and of other persons works not through domination but by what
Gramsci calls consent. In any society not totalitarian, then, certain cultural forms
predominate over others, just as certain ideas are more in fluential than others;
the form of this cultural leadership is what Gramsci has identified as hegemony,
an indispensable concept for any understanding of cultural life in the industrial
West. It is hegemony, or rather the result of cultural hegemony at work, that
gives Orientalism the durability and the strength I have been speak ing about so
far. Orientalism is never far from what Denys Hay has called the idea of Europe,
a collective notion identifying “us” Europeans as against all “those” nonEuropeans, and indeed it can be argued that the major component in European
culture is pre cisely what made that culture hegemonic both in and outside Eu
rope: the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the
non-European peoples and cultures. There is in addi tion the hegemony of
European ideas about the Orient, themselves reiterating European superiority
over Oriental backwardness, usu ally overriding the possibility that a more
independent, or more skeptical, thinker might have had different views on the
‘In a quite constant way, Orientalism depends for its strategy on this flexible
positional superiority, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible
relationships with the Orient without ever losing him the relative upper hand.
And why should it have been otherwise, especially during the period of
extraordinary European ascendancy from the late Renaissance to the present?
The scientist, the scholar, the missionary, the trader, or the soldier was in, or
thought about, the Orient because he could be there, or could think about it,
with very little resistance on the Orient’s part. Under the general heading of
knowledge of the Orient, and within the um brella of Western hegemony over
the Orient during the period from the end of the eighteenth century, there
emerged a complex Orient suitable for study in the academy, for display in the
museum, for reconstruction in the colonial office, for theoretical illustration in
anthropological, biological, linguistic, racial, and historical theses about
mankind and the universe, for instances of economic and sociological theories
of development, revolution, cultural person
lines of force informing the field, giving it its special cogency. How then to
recognize individuality and to reconcile it with its in telligent, and by no means
passive or merely dictatorial, general and hegemonic context?
ality, national or religious character. Additionally, the imaginative examination
of things Oriental was based more or less exclusively upon a sovereign Western
consciousness out of whose unchallenged centrality an Oriental world emerged,
first according to general ideas about who or what was an Oriental, then
according to a detailed logic governed not simply by empirical reality but by a
battery of desires, repressions, investments, and projections. If we can point to
great Orientalist works of genuine scholarship like Silvestre de Sacy’s
Chrestomathie arabe or Edward William Lane’s Account of the Manners and
Customs of the Modern Egyptians, we need also to note that Renan’s and
Gobineau’s racial ideas came out of the same impulse, as did a great many
Victorian pornographic novels (see the analysis …
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