The imagination of the Orient, as a separate, distinct civilisation, has been marked by the West’s own Auseinandersetzung with the concept.
The traits that are deemed marks of the civilised man are excluded from the Oriental races: The Oriental’s reasoning is “of the most slipshod description”, his mind “just like the picturesque streets” of the Orient, is “emminently wanting in symmetry” (Said 1979, p. In this description, it is because the concept of civilisation in Western philosophy has been so indispensibly associated with the development of human rationality, that this quality is deprived from his Oriental counterpart, who presumably lives on the other side of civilisation.
Orientalist knowledge belongs to the category of political knowledge that is infiltrated by mechanisms of power.
Power, here, is be understood in its Foucauldian definition: Power “is everywhere” and “comes from everywhere”, it is “neither structure nor agency” but a kind of ‘regime of truth’ that penetrates society (Foucault 1998, p. The resilience of the Orientalist enterprise could be explained by the power of culture hegemony: In the end, “it is hegemony, or rather the result of cultural hegemony at work, that gives Orientalism the durability and the strength I have been speaking about so far” (Said 1979, p. The third theme in Orientalism is to do with civilisation.
The Balfour Declaration of 1947 was motivated by two key agendas in British politics: first is the settlement of a large number of stateless Jews in on a territory that does not interfere with mainland Europe, and the second the existence of a regime that is sympathetic to Western Europe in the Middle Eastern space.
This way, rather parodoxically, Zionism, which is an argument situated in Jewish history came from an entirely British political motivation.But the Orient is not only part of aesthetic fantasy but subject to the relations of power and dominance.Said emphasises the political nature of such an act: “One ought never to assume that the structure of Orientalism is nothing more than a structure of lies or myths which were the truth about them to be told, would simply blow away” (Said 1979, p. In other words, Orientalism is more than a system of representation clouded by epistemic misjudgments, but a self-conscious enterprise with remarkable consistency and durability.This means that “Orientalism” also concerns itself with the exposition of a theory of “Orientalisation”, which is the approach that has crafted the phenomenon.There are some key charateristics that define the Orientalist approach: The Orient is first of all conceived as a passive construct.In this process of mutation, a different form of power came to buttress the Orientalist narrative, and more moral and political paradigms come into play.This essay is structured in three parts: The first part introduces and explains the main claims of Said’s original theory of Orientalism.This content was written by a student and assessed as part of a university degree.E-IR publishes student essays & dissertations to allow our readers to broaden their understanding of what is possible when answering similar questions in their own studies.This passiveness is not only a property on the “Oriental”, but manifests in the way it is known to the external world. This property recurs in Marx’s remarks in “the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”: “Sie können sich nicht vertreten, sie müssen vertreten werden” (Said 1979, p. The representation of the Oriental is therefore always premised on “exterioty”, its content observed from an external point of view, laid bare by an external narrative which perpetually usurpes that of its own.The Oriental object always displays a kind of “inertia”, which is an inability of self-representation: Flaubert’s Egyption courtesan “never spoke of herself, she never represented her emotions, presence, or history”, and instead, “He spoke for and represented her. The other side of this passivity there is the ultimately self-regarding nature of Orientalist narrative: “Orientalism responded more to the culture that produced it than to its putative object” (Said 1979, p. The act of “Orientalisation” is essentially an act of “othering”, an act of metaphysical segragation that constructs intellectual and moral differences between the peoples of the “Orient” and the “Occident”.