Orientalism Questions and Answers
by Edward W. Said

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Explain the idea of "The Other."

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Edward Said's Orientalism defines the "Oriental" and the "Orient" as the "Other" against which the Western Europeans defined themselves for many centuries. The "Oriental," according to Europeans, is a mysterious, weak, non-rational, and feminized person. Because the Western nations defined a vast swathe of humanity in this way, they were able to justify dominating and colonizing the Asian world. According to this line of thinking, the Asian countries of the "Orient" needed the firm guidance of strong, rational Western thinkers.

As Said demonstrates, this Orientalized "Other" was nothing other than a fictional Western construct. The West found it convenient to lump together a vast number of different societies—stretching over thousands of miles and containing cultures as different as those of Saudi Arabia, Japan, and India—under one umbrella, calling them all "the Orient." Of course, as Said points out, there is no "Orient," but by grouping all these different cultures together as if they were the same, it was easier for the West to control them. The people in these cultures, despite their many differences, were also considered as one single mass, the inscrutable, non-Western Other.

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