How do the writings of Heinämaa and Said highlight the ways in which the “other” is a construction of larger social institutions?

Edward W. Said and Sara Heinämaa both explore the ways in which racially exclusive, patriarchal institutions have characterized Asians, Middle Eastern people, and women as “the other” to subjugate them and deny them access to power.

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In Orientalism, one of the founding texts in the discipline of postcolonial studies, Edward W. Said explores the way in which the West has viewed and represented the East with a mass of negative stereotypes. Although he cites many major writers and artists as contributing to the overall picture of an exotic, decadent, bloodthirsty "Orient," Said emphasizes that this depiction was not an accident, or the endeavor of a few individuals. The idea of Asia and the Middle East as "the other" was a construction of such institutions as the great public schools and universities, the church and, above all, diplomacy and government. These institutions used the idea of the other as an excuse for colonialism, by portraying Arabs, Asians, and other races as, in the words of Kipling, "half-devil and half-child," lesser races in need of civilization.

In recent years, the rise of intersectionality in academic writing has led to arguments about one minority or oppressed group often being applied to another. Sara Heinämaa has applied Said's ideas of the other to her work on feminism and the phenomenology of sexual difference. Just as social institutions have protected their racial and national identity by constructing foreigners as the other, so they have shielded the patriarchy by constructing women in the same way. Said's work touches on this point when he says that Asians have generally been viewed in Orientalist Western culture as effeminate, and that this has been used as an excuse for infantalizing them and keeping them away from institutional power. Like Orientalism, patriarchy is not an individual project, but the defensive construction of large institutions which are masculine in origin.

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