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Free «The Significance of Edward Said’s Orientalism for Developmental Studies» Essay Sample

Edward Said (1935-2003) was an English and Comparative Literature professor of at Columbia University and certainly one of the major and highly explicit supporters of the Palestinian independence. He is best-recognized for his epochal research "Orientalism" (1978), which appears to have been a key player in rendering post-colonial studies into a quickly developing discipline found in the liberal studies. This book is a review of the scholarly scope of Oriental Studies, which continue to be a an academic  interest at the majority of the esteemed  educational institutions for a number of generations. "Orientalism" by E. Said is a canonical work of developmental and cultural studies wherein he questions the notion of orientalism or the distinction between west and east. He claims that with the beginning of European colonization, people from Europe approached the less developed Eastern nations and considered their world as well as lifestyle very unusual. Thus, they set up the discipline of orientalism, which tended to be the research of the orientals or the individuals from those types of unusual civilizations.

Said claims that the Europeans split our planet into two segments: the west and the east, the orient and the occident, and the uncultured and the cultured.

“The boundary notion of East and West, the varying degrees of projected inferiority and strength, the range of work done, the kinds of characteristic features ascribed to the Orient: all these testify to a willed imaginative and geographic division made between East and West, and lived through during many centuries”. (Said, 1979, p.202)

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This appeared to be completely a man-made borderline, and it was put down on the groundwork of the idea of "us and them" or "ours and theirs". The Eurpean people utilized orientalism to identify themselves. A number of specific characteristics were related to the orientals, and everything the orientals were not, the occidents, on the other hand, were. The Eurpean people identified themselves as the top-notch human species in comparison with the orientals, and they rationalized their colonizing aspirations by this notion. They stated that it seemed to be their responsibility before the world to bring civilization to  the uncultured world. The principal issue, though, came about when the European people began generalizing the characteristics they connected with the orientals, and commenced representing these man-made qualities affiliated with orientals in their traditional western society by means of their scholarly reviews, fictional pieces, and various other mass media means.

“Another dogma is that abstractions about the Orient, particularly those based on texts representing a "classical" Oriental civilization, are always preferable to direct that the Orient is eternal, uniform, and incapable of defining itself; therefore it is assumed that a highly generalized and systematic vocabulary for describing the Orient from a Western standpoint is inevitable and even scientifically "objective."”( Said, 1979, p.301)

What occurred was that it produced a particular impression about the orientals in the Western imagination and in accomplishing that implanted a prejudice in the Western approach when it comes to the orientals. This bias was likewise discovered in the orientalists (researchers focusing on the orientals), and all their scholarly studies and reviews were under the impact of this. The stereotyped characteristics connected with the orientals could be observed quite possibly these days in that, for instance, the Arabs are described as uncultured individuals, and Islam is viewed as terrorist religious philosophy.

Oriental Studies is an amalgamated subject of studies including linguistic and ethnographic studies, the comprehension of society by means of the detection, restoration, collection, and interpretation of Oriental texts. Edward Said tends to make it transparent that he is not trying to deal with the entire realm. His emphasis is on how American, French and British researchers have conceptualized the Arab communities of the Middle East as well as North Africa. He has very little on additional aspects that typically make up the discipline including, Persian, Hebrew, Indian, Turkish,  as well as Far Eastern civilizations. Said does not talk about the perceptions of Orientalists from other European countries. The interval he handles is more constrained than the academic scope, lasting solely from the late 18th century to the modern day. Inside his time period, though, Said expands his assessment beyond the research of acknowledged Orientalist researchers to include literary works, social media, traveling guides along with spiritual studies to generate an extensively anthropological and historical conception.

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What does Edward Said imply by the word "orientalism"? In accordance with him, Western  population on the whole, and the colonial nations such as France and Britain specifically, evolved during the the 19th century a selection of discussions - scholarly, fictional, political, and so on - on the Arab and the Orient world in general. Considering that the same regulatory conventions, viewpoints, and ideological dispositions took over all these works, they arrived at making up what Said refers to as a structure of representation. The term "orientalism" thus describes that tightly knit net of concepts, academic as well as cultural development, and its affiliated establishments.

“Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between "the Orient" and (most of the time) "the Occident." Thus a very large mass of writers, among whom are poet, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and imperial administrators, have accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, "mind," destiny, and so on ... the phenomenon of Orientalism as I study it here deals principally, not with a correspondence between Orientalism and Orient, but with the internal consistency of Orientalism and its ideas about the Orient . . despite or beyond any correspondence, or lack thereof, with a "real" Orient” (Said, 1979, pp. 2-3).

Said states that Orientalism has developed a wrong explanation of Arabs as well as Islamic tradition. This occurred mainly due to the essentialist character of the entity -which is, the perception that it seemed to be feasible to determine the critical characteristics of Arab nation along with Islamic society. These kinds of characteristics were viewed in consistently unfavorable description. The Orient was identified as an area separated from the general human advancement in the sciences, creative arts, and business. He claims:

"One of the important developments in nineteenth-century Oriental-ism was the distillation of essential ideas about the Orient-its sensuality, its tendency to despotism, its aberrant mentality, its habits of inaccuracy, its backwardness-into a separate and un-challenged coherence; thus for a writer to use the word Oriental was a reference for the reader sufficient to identify a specific body of information about the Orient. This information seemed to be morally neutral and objectively valid; it seemed to have an epistemological status equal to that of historical chronology or geographical location."(Said, 1978, p. 206)

Where this particular strategy initially becomes mistaken,  is in its perception that there might be such an element as an Islamic culture, an Arab intellect, an Oriental soul. Nobody nowadays would be brave enough to discuss Afro-Americans or Jews utilizing such essentialist truisms. Where Orientalism moves even more down the wrong path, Said claims, can be its anachronistic presumption that Islam has possessed a unanimity since the 7th century, which could be learnt, by means of the Koran, in each aspect of, for example, contemporary  Algerian or Egyptian society. The belief that Muslims go through such a type of imprisoned advancement not only is untrue, Said maintains, yet likewise neglects more modern and essential effects like the practical experience of imperialism, colonialism and, quite possibly, typical governmental policies.

 
 
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Another allegation is that Orientalism assisted to determine Europe's self-appearance. "It has less to do with the Orient than it does with 'our' world."(Said, 1978, p.13) The development of individuality in every century and any culture, Said believes, consists of creating opposites as well as "other people." This occurs for the reason that "the development and maintenance of every culture require the existence of another different and competing alter ego"( p. 333). Orientalism brought the rest of the world to view Islamic civilization as permanent in equally time frame and location, as "eternal, uniform, and incapable of defining itself"(p.302). This provided Europe with a feeling of its unique societal and perceptive brilliance. The West therefore experienced itself as an energetic, revolutionary, growing civilization, in addition to "the spectator, the judge and jury of every facet of Oriental behavior"(p. 110). This evolved into its imperial arrogance. In 1810, the French writer Chateaubriand asked Europe to instruct the Orient in the interpretation of liberty that he, and everybody following him, considered the Orientals understood practically nothing about.

“To so preciously constituted a figure as Chateaubriand, the Orient was a decrepit canvas awaiting his restorative efforts. The Oriental Arab was "civilized man fallen again into a savage state": no wonder, then, that as he watched Arabs trying to speak French, Chateaubriand felt like Robinson Crusoe thrilled by hearing his parrot speak for the first time.”(Said, 1978, p.173)

Said claims that he in so doing offered the reason for the European imperialism, which may be identified by its perpetrators not as a type of invasion, yet as the salvation of an underdeveloped world.

A particular case of how Said influenced developmental studies in context of the above mentioned discussion can be taken from a work by Andreasson (2005) on African development. According to Andreasson (2005), modern Africa is typically represented as a fiasco. Advancement has stayed away from the continent all the way through the 20th century, and in spite of new approaches associated with considering  the grounds for malfunction and prospects for accomplishment, allusions to the so-called genuine frailty and inability of Africans and their social facts continue to be apparent in hypothetical and political discussion on development in the African continent. The procedure of ‘reductive repetition’, as determined by Edward Said (p.297), has been brought in into  the development studies on Africa via Orientalist academic efforts. Reductive repetition decreases the multiplicity of African historical activities, cultural contexts as well as political circumstances into a collection of primary inadequacies for which outwardly produced ‘solutions’ must be developed.

Said's most important work, Orientalism (1978), is recognized for aiding the transformation of a number of disciplines by revealing an unholy connection involving colonialism and enlightenment. Being a humanist with a completely secular perspective, his review of the history of the traditional western enlightenment appeared to quite a few to be self-contradictory, using a humanistic argument to conduct an attack at the high social heritage of humanism, providing consolation to fundamentalists who considered any critique of their lifestyle or books as impermissible, whilst bringing into discussion the credibility of critical analysis within socially delicate aspects similar to Islam. However, it could be suggested that all what Said was trying to do was to draw a line between empirical data and conclusions that were taken from them by claiming that traditional methods of research and analysis may not be fitting for such a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon as the Orient. His must have felt his mission to be show to the whole world of science, and particularly, to the developmental studies, that what is treated as the “other” should not be stereotyped as inferior, degenerate or second sort, but owning a prominent spot in the world history with appreciable basis of cultural and social developments having been built by many centuries. His significance for the developmental studies can be suggested to reach multiple spheres of knowledge, ranging from literature to business, all pointing both to a specific arrangement of life and to peculiar individualism that must not be overlooked or stereotyped.   

“Studying the historical dynamics of this set of experiences is more demanding than sliding back into stereotypes like "the conflict of East and West." That is one reason why Orientalism is mistakenly read as a surreptitiously anti-Western work and, by an act of unwarranted and even wilful retrospective endowment, this reading (like all readings based on a supposedly stable binary opposition) elevates the image of an innocent and aggrieved Islam.” (Said, 1978, p.335)

His anti-essentialist arguments about the nature of development are important to take into account and provide an exemplary approach on how to deal with studies of a nation or culture different from the one of the researcher. 

   

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