Orientalism Questions and Answers
by Edward W. Said

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What are the main arguments involved in the Orientalism debate?

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"Orientalism" was a neutral term referring to the study of the Middle East and Asia by Western scholars, until Edward W. Said published his book, Orientalism, in 1978. This single work turned "Orientalism" into a pejorative word in academic circles, since Said argued that Western depictions of "the East" (his principal focus is on the Islamic Middle East) have typically been condescending, ignorant, and focused on a notion of "the exotic" and "the other," which defines Middle Eastern culture only in Western terms. This was true even of authors generally considered liberal or progressive, such as George Orwell, who produced work in which only Western characters were permitted to be complex, while those from the East were relegated to the status of comic sidekicks or pasteboard villains.

Said's book attracted great controversy as soon as it was released. Early critics included Bernard Lewis and Albert Hourani. Lewis accused Said of combing the work of serious scholars for a few discreditable...

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