Orientalism Questions and Answers
by Edward W. Said

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In his book Orientalism, what does Said mean when he says that for Europe, the Orient has been among the "deepest and most recurring images of the Other"? What does "Other" mean when used in this way?

To Said, the "Other" represents the Western view of the East as its binary opposite. It allowed Westerners to prop up their own cultural image while simultaneously degrading the cultures of the East and failing to truly understand them.

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In his seminal work Orientalism, Edward Said analyzes a common Western vision of the Orient to be deeply rooted in the idea of "the other." Said concludes that this view depicts the West and the East—the Orient— as being diametrically opposed. To them, the West represents what is good for a culture to have; it is the optimal expression of strength, maturity, and rationality. By being "the other", the Orient, on the other hand, is the opposite. In this view, it is weak, childish, and irrational. By othering the Orient, Westerners are able to define their identity as being superior. As a result of this attitude, Said contends that the cultural understanding of the Orient in the Western imagination has taken on a patronizing view. This view has taken hold in numerous literary and artistic representations of the Orient and even entered the world of geopolitics.

Said also points out how this depiction of the Orient as "the other" creates a fictitious image of it as a monolithic culture. Seeing the entire region as simply the opposite of one's own culture makes it appear to be one homogenous place. Othering causes one to overlook the myriad cultures and societies that exist throughout the Eastern world and paint them in broad and inaccurate brushstrokes.

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