The Orient & Occident

I found this excerpt from Said’s reading a terrific and all encompassing description of Orientalism and the point he is trying to formulate: “It is rather a distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philological texts; it is an elaboration not only of a basic geographical distinction (the world is made up of two unequal halves, Orient and Occident) but also of a whole series of “interests” which, by such means as scholarly discovery, philological reconstruction, psychological analysis, landscape and sociological description, it not only creates but also maintains; it is, rather than expresses, a certain will or intention to understand, in some cases to control, manipulate, even to incorporate, what is a manifestly different (or alternative and novel) world….”

In this excerpt, Said discusses how the Occident wishes to control and manipulate something manifestly alternative and unequal to their understanding. This idea of imperial control and European-Atlantic power over the Orient furthers a dichotomy in which a European or American studying the Orient, “comes up against the Orient as a European or American first, as an individual second.” With this dichotomy between individual and society in mind, I find it interesting that Said argues that America has dominated the Orient since World War II.  Holding this argument true, does the more powerful a nation becomes directly influence how manipulative they are towards something alternate to the majority?

I also think it is important to note that Said created this argument in 1976. I think the connection between the Orient and Occident has become increasingly interconnected with rising globalization. I was interested to see if people believe Said would change his argument at all today, or would he say that despite increased technological connectivity, there still exists inherent stereotypes regarding non-western cultures? In some ways, has increased global connectivity heightened negative Western ideas of the Orient?

2 thoughts on “The Orient & Occident

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