Based on the reading “Orientalism” by Edward Said (1979), there are three main points that he had expressed which I find thought-provoking. Thus, I would like to discuss and elaborate those points further in this blog.
First, Said (1979) stated Disraeli’s notion of East was a career for young Westerners. This statement made me question what exactly was defined as career in the latter’s perspective. Did Disraeli mean it as the Westerners’ duty to upgrade the East to be as similar as them or is it a vocation for the Westerners or blatantly objectifying the East in a certain role? It was quite startling to read this quote, in which the East was expressed as merely objects. Maybe I could be biased thinking as well, however to define a certain group of people as a career is simply revolting. Therefore, I certainly agree with Said, similar to what he mentioned in the journal article; the East is also a group of humans, who live a life rich of their own distinctive customs and cultures. This could be due to difference of context and time, but contemporary I believe we have become more educated and as we are exposed to other parts of the world, we learn that everyone is the same and deserve equal rights and treatments.
Image: Purple Press
The second point revealed by Said (1979) is that the East was always being represented by the Orientalists. He asserted Flaubert’s labelling the East like a woman, who is weak, cannot speak for herself or express her emotions freely. This can be associated back during the ancient times when the Eastern countries were colonized mainly by the West. Holding tightly with the historical ideal “White Man’s Burden”, the Westerners presumed they have the responsibility to represent the non-white people. This is one of the reasons that leads to today’s circumstances of the binary opposition happening around the world.
Lastly, he mentioned that the media representation has reinforced the stereotypes of how the Orients are viewed, precisely the East is often “signified as threat or danger”. As the media continuously shapes and influences the minds of society, the information given gradually may turn into an intrinsic fact. Such inadequate fabrication done will lead to more conflicts such as prejudicism and racism.
On a nutshell, Said (1979) concluded orientalism was actually an idea or an imagination depicted by the Westerners to set apart themselves from the rest to be in a higher status quo. In this era of modernized world, the structuralism of the West being the more superior to the East is no longer that evident. It is important to recognize that there are people who come from different cultures are different in variety ways.
Said, E (1979) Orientalism New York, Vintage.