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Orientalism Critical Analysis

In defining and introducing the concept of Orientalism, Said sets forth the argument that the study itself is an admixture of biased theory and biased practice in which the Orient is first observed and then presented from a Western (European or American) standpoint that is in itself biased due to suppositions of cultural supremacy that are largely based on imperialist rather than intellectual tropes.

That is, Orientalism provides an ineffectual intellectual support-system for imperialism in which, for example, the Middle Eastern culture can be judged as inferior to the imperialist culture. Said makes it clear that Orientalism is not a threatened part of the imperialist culture, but rather that its main function is assumed as natural and rational by those disseminating its information into the general culture.

Said’s theories about Orientalism are grounded in a sense of outrage at this casual acceptance of the intellectualized excuse for imperialist and colonialist exploitation as it is formed by Orientalism as a whole, and as it seeks holism through often flimsy examples that seek to devaluate Eastern cultures and peoples from an often-transparent perspective of wanting to help or harmonize the cultures it has intentionally divided. As Said states in his thesis, the colonialist structure does not create objective knowledge, but instead “a set of structures inherited from the past, secularlized,

redisposed, and re-formed by such disciplines as philology, which in turn were naturalized, modernized, and laicized substitutes for Christian supernaturalism” (Said, p. 106). Said provides a comprehensive sense of Orientalism in the introduction, and then goes on to prove his points through looking at, for example, the Gordian knot of Western scholarship. REFERENCE Said, E. Orientalism: A Reader. Macfie, Alexander Lyon, ed. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

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