Orientalism the Work of Edward Said and Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :


The work of Edward Said and Thomas Mitchell provides a unified insight into the way that the Occidental mind has succeeded in 'othering' and marginalizing the reality of the Orient. Orientalism, as suggested by Said is a form of representation that interprets and re-presents the other in a way that distorts and liminalizes the meaning of the Orient, creating a false mystique rather than reality.

In his work Orientalism Said points to the way that the rich and varied texture of cultures, countries and the wealth of diversity of these regions are radically condensed and distorted into the stereotypes of Western commentators and scholars. This refers to the view that from an Orientalist or Western perspective the Orient is often simplified and reduced to series of myths and stereotypes that serve to distort the cultura richness and reality of the East. "The depiction of this single 'Orient' which can be studied as a cohesive whole is one of the most powerful accomplishments of Orientalist scholars. " (Orientalism) This leads Said to understand the structure of orientalism to mean the creation of biased and skewed prototypical image of the oriental; which is of a & #8230;biological inferior that is culturally backward, peculiar, and unchanging… depicted in dominating and sexual terms." (Orientalism)

This deconstructive perception is extended and enhanced in the work of Thomas Mitchell. In his article entitled "Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order" Mitchell summarizes the intention of Said's Orientalism. He concludes that;

Orientalism, it follows, is not just a nineteenth-century instance of some general historical problem of how one culture portrays another, nor just an aspect of colonial domination, but part of a method of order and truth essential to the peculiar nature of the modern world."

(Mitchell 313/314)

In other words, the views of Said are taken a step further by Mitchell to suggest that the very process of Western representation creates a nexus of illusion which distorts and re-interprets the Orient in relation to and in service of Western occidental prerogatives and assumptions. These distortions of the "truth" or reality are, as Said and Mitchell suggest, indicators of the manner in which Western modes of binary representation divorce us from reality and force us into a continual recurrence of illusion. From this perspective the Western form of representation tends, in Mitchell's terms, to reduce all to an exhibition or an objectification that is characteristic of dualism and logocentric thought. This is further examined and related to social, political and cultural perceptions that engender bias and distortion.

These views of Orientalism and the deconstruction of Western perceptions, as well as the dissection of the process of othering and marginalization, point to the very nature of representation. The following proposal is based on these fundamental insights and the mechanisms by which the Occident has created or constructed the other. These theoretical insights are applied to a modern city space, namely modern London. This space or Occidental environment is examined and analyzed in order to discern the traces that bear witness to the re-presentation of the Orient in modern and postmodern consciousness.

2. Central thesis statement

Taking into account the central trajectory of Orientalism and the substratum of the various interlinked theoretical aspects discussed above, the following proposal is suggested. The central thesis that will be explored is that the creation of a post 9/11 London is to a great extent coterminous with and the result of various biases and stereotypes relating to Orientalism and the marginalization and misinterpretation of the East. This is examined especially with regard to security aspects and the consciousness of incipient threat from the other. It will be suggested that the creation of the security and terror awareness in modern London can be deconstructed and analyzed in terms of the prior and present affects of the habitual Western representation of the other. This central thesis will be divided into a number of related sections that are intended to complement one another and to provide a clear and consistent basis for the discourse.

In the first instance it will be suggested the city space of London can be deconstructed as an example of the process of othering and marginalization in much the same way that Mitchell examines the concept of the exhibition in his article Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order. Mitchell implies is this analysis is that the exhibit-as-reality is a central facet of the Western objectification of reality. He states that, "What reduced the world to a system of objects was the way their careful organization enabled them to evoke some larger meaning, such as History or Empire or Progress. ( Mitchell 295)

An analysis of this space or environment will show close links to the tendency in Orientalism towards a stereotyping and marginalization of the other. This is particularly evident in the ostensible reasons given for the increased security and the threat of "terror" from the other. In this regard, the social predecessors and the origins of this tendency towards Orientalism will be examined in relation to the reality of London prior to the events of 9/11. This will include theories and views that indicate the emergence of this Orientalist perception during this period. This will also take into account the rationale and justification leading to extreme security measures.

Secondly, the suggestion will also be examined that this process of othering is strongly related to another concomitant and even more subversive aspect of the modern Western tendency to distort realty. This refers to the aspect of social control and coercive centralization by government and authority structures. In other words, the contention will be examined that to a certain extent the illusion of a city space under threat by the other is a way of obtaining social compliance and control. This can in turn be related to Jeremy Benthall's panopticon and the underlying justification for "big brother"; where our actions and body language are so closely monitored that to some extent physical responses are controlled. This will be also extended by an examination of hybrid spaces that occur in areas of Western and Eastern conjunction.

Leading on from this analysis is a related area of research which is intended to bolster and further define the views suggested in the previous sections. This refers to the way in which the re-presentation of the Orient has been socialized and has become habituated in terms of the social and cultural context. This will be examined in a thorough and extensive analysis of the applicable literature and in terms of the way that literature has tended to both perpetuate these stereotypes and myths and the way in which various works of art and literature have questioned Orientalism and the simplistic representation of the East.

In this regard various genres and periods of literature will be examined. This will include Gothic fiction and art as well as later works such as Salman Rushdie's, "The Satanic Verses: and The "Courter." The reaction to these works will also be taken into account as an indicator of public awareness of Orientalism. Other works will be examined in an analysis of the complex interaction between East and West and their areas of distortion. In this regard the following works, among others, will be referred to: Homi Bahbha's "Signs Taken For Wonders," John Clement Ball's "Satire and the Postcolonial Novel" and "The Rubbish, The Remnant, Etcetera" by Couze Venn. "Endangered/Endangering: Schematic Racism and White Paranoia" by Judith Butler will be examined against a very brief description of racial theory extracted from Jared Diamond's work "Guns, Germs, and Steel," where it will be suggested that the creation of the other is not completely an act of difference, subjugation or paranoia but an act of human instinct, an act of defence.

To summarize, a central focus of this thesis will be on the theoretical perspectives that enable…

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