Orientalism Questions and Answers
by Edward W. Said

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What are the criticisms of Said's Orientalism?

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One criticism of Orientalism is that it treats the "West" as a unified whole, not accounting for differences between cultures within the West. In a sense, though the power relationships are different, Said does the same thing to Europe that he argues Europeans did to the so-called "Orient": he paints the "West" as a monolith. Others have charged that he selectively read the evidence to emphasize negative portrayals of the Islamic world, ignoring more positive portrayals even by the same authors he cited. However, given that Said is arguing primarily that Western writers and artists essentialized the so-called "Orient," this criticism is less powerful—even portrayals of the region and its peoples in supposedly positive terms are part of the same process he describes.

Another criticism is that Said portrays the relationship between the West and the "Orient" as one-way—he does not allow for the possibility that the peoples of the region exercised agency in shaping the discourse that he...

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