What Is Orientalism?Said made a clear analogy between orientalism and colonialism. They are both setwith the same binary opposition. white/ non whiteoccidental/ non occidentalIn a very detailed and structured study of the orient (behavior, habit,tradition . . . ) we document a large amount of fact and data.
All compile in ageneral study they produce the illusion of a well understood and objectivelyconstructed knowledge. These are, in fact, mere observations and purely subjective entities (seen onlywith the western eyes) which do not explain nor reflect the true nature of theobject. We then generalize from theses singles observations, set up categories andlabels. We are now able to answer questions very simply creating this illusionof knowledge.
We witness the realization of cliches; single sided beliefs that fuels themselves upon their own ignorance. SAID then explains how this technique empowers his creator. The rigorousdiscourse, the elaboration of thought and ideas, subjectively authenticateditself. The content is no longer address and leaves the victim of the discoursereduced to plain and pure denial. The content has become a set of prejudicialbelief (cliches). To remind you of the famous aphorism: “the pen is mightier than the sword”He writes:”Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the orientbecause the orient was weaker than the west.Order now
“Though injustice has already been served and the political establishment iscapitalizing on those cliches, it is interesting to notice that SAID himselfalready looks at the orient with orientalism (western eye). Was the orient really weaker than the west?Could it be simply that the orient was just farther? May be not interested? Hadno curiosity towards the western world?Could it be that the orient was to busy and was not much concern about thiswestern curiosity?Very clearly, Orientalism, a very subjective and erroneous ideology demonstrateits genuine power and how, like a rumor running wild, it is hard to remainobjective. I personally understand cliches like subversive negative myths which fashion theunderstanding and the knowledge of cultures, society and people. They create permanent damages, ingrain false ideas or concepts, instillignorance and are very difficult to revert or demystify.
When SAID examines the effects of western cliches, he describe the orient asorientalized. It is now a subjective notion. The orient became a western concept, orientalism a tool to control andmanipulate. This relationship (western/orient) though works both ways: the west becomes asmuch of a fiction as orient is. We can also look at the west with orientalperspective.In this relation of differences a new western set of representation emerges.Both cultures now understand each other through a web of cliches.We witness an ideology of mutual ignorance leading to far greater differences.What can we do? Is it too late?In another text, writing back or challenging the canon, SAID offers a literarysolution.It is the writer responsibility to objectively criticize his discourse and toprotect the reader from misleading literature.And as for what as been done, writing back is surely a way to restore truth,denounce myths, abolish cliches and reach out to a more objective literature.It will seems though quite impossible to erase what as been done, to remainobjective when even your own thoughts are guided by subjective values deeplyrooted in our mind.The effect are much irreversible and the best we can do is not to steer awayfrom subjectivity and remain focus and aware of the power of text.