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Lecture 3

History of the Modern Middle East - Lecture Three.docx

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Behnaz Mirzai

HIST 2P72 1 22 January 2013 History of the Modern Middle East: Lecture Three Orientalism – The Negative and Stereotypical Images of Muslims in the West Lecture Outline  What is orientalism?  The formation of orientalism  Edward Said’s views on orientalism  Literature, art, culture, colonialism What is orientalism?  Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researchers the orient is an orientalist  The study of societies and cultures of the East or the Islamic world by Western scholars Formation of Orientalism There are different stages of orientalism:  The first period is the Middle Ages  Orientalism is rooted in the European Middle Ages and started when Christian monks sought to better understand non-Christian religions  They learned non-Western languages and read their religious texts th  The second period is the 17 Century  Three factors contributed to the emergence of academic orientalism in the 17 century 1. A renewed interest in Islam 2. Major advances in travel and exploration (technological advancements) 3. The emergence of modern sciences and education  The third period is the 19 Century  Major study of oriental works dates to the 19 century when military and industrial societies emerged  Orientalists continued to learn the languages and texts and they placed Western/Oriental or modern/non-modern distinctions  Orientalism elaborated a set of fantasies and beliefs which mystery presented Western people and their culture  Some Westerners have pictured non-Western societies as followers of tradition  This notion forms stereotypic images, overlooks cultural attitudes as responses to economic and politic conditions, and expresses European ethnocentrism  One of the effects of Western ethnocentrism is to confuse progress with Westernization and to assume that the non-Westerners are backward  There was a time when Western civilization and much of Western culture came from the East  It was only in the 18 century that Europe surpassed the Middle East in technology and commercial power (this only happened in the modern times, gradually after the Industrial Revolution) Attack Against Orientalism  The non-Western culture that Europeans understood was a social construct by someone coming from a different culture  The validity of these constructs and concepts has come under attack because they do not fit the reality  They are based on European prejudices  The opponents believe that orientalism legitimized dominant power positions of Europe  Therefore, the attack against orientalism was an attack on scholarship and the political consequences of social science concepts Edward Said’s Orientalism  Published in 1978, which is about the politics of knowledge and the knowledge formed by politics  He argues that orientalism was a network of assumptions and misconceptions of the East produced by the West in the 19 and 20 centuries  He says that orient is man-made – an idea, a tradition of thought and imagery and vocabulary  Since its appearance, there has been a series of exchanges between Bernard Louis and Edward Said  Bernard Lewis is a Jewish scholar and Edward Said is a Palestinian  They debated each other and challenged each other’s opinions, literature and writings  Back and forth articles exchanging and opposing each other’s convictions  The concept of orientalism is spread to different geographical areas or disciplines  It has become a model that scholars use in order to formulate their debates and discussions  It is a global concept (inter-disciplinary)  Said identifies Lewis as an orientalist, distorting this Muslim world  Said argues that the Western notion of Islamic culture is one huge hostile entity threatening Europe  Said defines orientalism at three levels: 1. Refers to orientalism as an academic discipline which connotes the attitudes of the 19 th th and 20 centuries European colonialism 2. A style of thought which distinguishes the West and East and elaborates theories, social descriptions, and political accounts regarding the orient and its people 3. A corporate institution of Western style predominating, reconstructing, and having authority over the orient HIST 2P72 3 22 January 2013 Said – Literature and Orientalism  Travel accounts, anthropological descriptions, imaginative literature, tales of strange customs, and secret pleasures of Orientals contributed to orientalism  Said argues that orientalists were mostly philologists (studied languages) and criticized the Western scholarship, writers, painters, and travellers  In orientalist views, the Muslims were defined as the “others”  This contrasted the accident  Also, the orient was portrayed as mysterious, primitive, and inferior  Said claimed that orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine and that all academic knowledge about the Middle East is shaped by the political climate Said – Art and Orientalism  Many artists visited the East and produced artistic works  The Westerners cultivated a fantasy of the exotic oriental women, dangerous oriental men, and uncivilized barbarian ideas (this stereotype, unfortunately, persists to this day)  The artistic works represented categories such as seduction, entertainment, romance, haram (the kings’ sanctuary where
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