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Can I have a summary of the main ideas in Edward Said's Orientalism?

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timenei | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 31, 2009 at 3:14 PM via web

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Can I have a summary of the main ideas in Edward Said's Orientalism?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 31, 2009 at 11:31 PM (Answer #1)

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This work by Edward Said has been crucial to postcolonial studies and criticism. I will give you a brief summary of the main ideas and how it contributes to postcolonialism, but obviously, there is no substitute for reading the book yourself!

Said identifies a series of assumptions that are made by the West about the Orient. Said himself is Palestinian, and he identifies a series of assumptions that the West makes about Arabs: they are irrational, anti-Western, menacing and dishonest. He explores how these assumptions are constructed in opposition to what the West thinks about themselves, and therefore defines this projected image of "Arabs" in the mind of Westerners as the other - we define the other by what we are not. The danger is that these assumptions come to be treated as truth and therefore impact our relations and our ideologies.

Said therefore calls for a new treatment of "the Orient" - allowing for self-representation of authors belonging to the Orient rather than depending on second hand representation. He also objects to half the globe being labelled "the Orient" - you can hardly make generalisations that will apply equally to Eqyptians as you can to the Chinese, for example. Tell any British person that they are just part of the United States of America, and you will probably receive a black eye!

Above all, Said helps us explore the processes of constructing binary opposites and uncovering the values that cause these opposites to come into being. By doing so, he calls for an erasure between these boundaries and lines that we construct and a more moderate way of thinking. If you want some examples of these binary opposites and how they are applied to the West and to "the Orient", think about these oppositions and how they are used: civilised / uncivilised, democracy / despotism, developed / undeveloped, liberated / repressed, educated / ignorant. You might want to look back at American foreign policy and judge how many decisions have been made from the standpoint of "us" having the answers and making decisions on the part of "them" who are ignorant and therefore do not know what is best for them.

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waleedhalawa | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:57 AM (Answer #2)

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  • 1 - Edward Said  has focused on what he called «The literary Orientalism » in his analysis and monitoring of his data and ideas, and what can be considered as a subset of the heritage of Orientalism, which can not be confined to literature only, He in many places exceeded the literary outputs to the historical ones.

    2 - The author's language was literary and romantic influenced by the texts of the books that he  tried  to criticize and investigate. A language  that might not be commensurate with the rational scientific method in criticizing and analyzing of the efforts and productions of Orientalism from a non-literary perspective that is  interested in the study of  how to form the ideas and images about Arabs and Muslims.

    3 - An author was trapped in an impressive admiration  of some Orientalists (Irving) and American Orientalism in general, considering it as a different model, or better shape, at least, than his European counterpart, although he confessed many times the existence the European compact on the American orientalism.

    4 -  The author is characterized by his high analytical ability and his critique was objective to a large extent, although the reader will note  his emotionality, in some topics, in the defense of Arabs and Muslims.

    5 - The book is suffering, in some of its chapters , from repetition and elaborating that the author would be able to overcome if he had another division to the book's chapters  than the historical one.
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    The book remains an important knowledgeable effort that has a great deal of objectivity and criticism. The author tried in this book to explain the mechanisms of the image of Arabs and Muslims in the Western mind and the American in particular.
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anayah1101 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 6, 2012 at 9:09 PM (Answer #3)

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he talked about the gap b/w east and the wast

white man's burden

seeing the east as uncivilized and as un organized

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ra001 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted April 19, 2013 at 3:40 PM (Answer #5)

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Erward Said explains how the West views the Oriental and Oriental culture and literature as irrational, depraved, and often they are mispresented.

He argues that the West’s view of Oriental cultural affirmed by Western institutions and they are expressing their point of view from their aspect which degrades the Non western people, cultures.Said shows his resistence to the hegimony of Western ideas.

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bimaldahal | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 8, 2009 at 10:56 AM (Answer #4)

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Read the book once.

Moreover it is from post colonial prospective.

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