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The Idea of Orientalism by Edward Said


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Edward Said Definition

Edward Said redefined the term Orientalism in his book called Orientalism and said that Orientalism is the concept through which west see and define the nature of orients. It is the subjective view of Occident about orients and not the genuine description of orients. Edward Said is known as the founder or the one who originated the post-colonial studies and he belongs to the holy trinity of post-colonial studies along with Bhabha and Gayatri. He belonged to Palestine and spent his whole life trying to figure out the imaginary dividing line between East and West. The western people made this concept that the east and west are two distinctive entities and both cannot be joined together.


Edward Said redefines the term of Orientalism and calls it the partial and unfair view of western people about the people of east. He calls it a view which is based on stereotypical concepts related to the people of east and that is why in his views it is unfair or somehow a wrong view. For western people, orients are either barbaric or exotic, sensual people. They view east as something which is other, completely different from them, with east they cannot relate themselves and these views emerged from their perception of being racially superior to the other races and people. Said in his book explores the above mentioned mindset of western people and pinpoints how Orientalism as a concept has nothing to do with the people of east but rather it is a thought process in the minds of the western people. Orientalism is a system of education which west has deliberately taught to his people to create a certain impression of eastern peoples in the western mind.

Three definitions of Orientalism prevalent in the world:

Said argues that there are three forms in which Orientalism exists in today's world:

1: Orientalism as a discipline:

Most accepted form of Orientalism in today’s world is its existing as an academic discipline. Said says that whoever teaches, researches or explores the life of orients is orientalist and the process of exploration and teaching would be called Orientalism

2: Orientalism as a thought process:

Said’s second definition of Orientalism is as a thought process of western people about eastern people which is based on the biased view that east and west are different. This thought states that western do not see eastern as humans, who have their good and bad qualities just the way western people have but they consider them either bad or innocent beings.

3: A technique of west to Subjugate East:

Said also defines Orientalism as a western technique which they had used to colonized the world. He says that this thought process was deliberately created by the colonizers in the minds of western society to justify their act of colonialism. The basic idea behind imperialism was that the people of east are uncivilized and they cannot govern themselves and need white people to civilize them. westerns think of eastern specially middle eastern people in two ways, either as oi suppliers or terrorist and said because he also advocates for the colonization of Jews in Palestine he thinks that because of this concept that middle eastern are terrorist, Jews have colonized them. if this concept of otherness which is the basic point in the idea of Orientalism was not propagated by the westerners then the act of colonialism would become terrorism and to mask that colonizers created this biased definition of Eastern people.


Two types of Orientalism

There are two ways through which west stereotyped eastern people:

1: Latent Orientalism: This is the abstract form of Orientalism, a view point of west about the thought process of eastern people and about their intellect. In this type west perceived those qualities of orients in the biased and stereotyped way which is not apparently visible. This is a view in which Asians and orients in general are perceived as the people of Third world country who are not intellectually capable like west and that is why they are behind west in science and technology.

2: Manifest Orientalism: It is a thought process in which west see and stereotype the visible aspects of eastern culture like language, food, clothes, and norms to make a point that east and west are completely different and not equal.


The main idea behind this redefining of Orientalism by Said was that the western people often conceive eastern people the way western culture and norms are. They interpret east in a wrong way. They do not educate themselves about the true essence of eastern culture and values and just interpret those parts of the eastern world which somehow help them in their agendas. for example, the west call Muslims Muhammedeness because the followers of Christ are called Christine even though no Muslim call himself that and it is purely western term.

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