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Writing a Critique on Edward Said's 'Orientalism' and its contemporary relevance - Essay Example

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Writing a Critique on Edward Said's 'Orientalism' and its contemporary relevance

The assumptions made by Said brought a controversial debate that remains relevant even today. The Orientalism is a critique of the academic field of Oriental studies. This field has been a scholarly quest in a majority of the European universities for a number of centuries. Oriental Studies are a combination of scholarships consisting of ethnology, linguistics, philosophy, and decoding of culture via the detection, recovery, collection, and translation of Oriental texts. Said was categorical that his intentions were not to cover the whole area of Oriental studies, but to concentrate on how American, English, and French scholars view the Arab societies living in Middle East and North Africa (Trefflich 2011, p. 2). Said’s main concerns on Orientalism In the Orientalism, Said makes three main claims. The first claim is that, despite orientalist claiming to be an objective, non-interested, and an esoteric field, the truth is that it worked to serve political ends. In relation to this claim, Orientalist scholarship offered means that would help Europeans take over Oriental lands. Said further notes that, towards the final part of the twentieth century, Orientalism played a critical role in preserving American power in the Middle East and further defended the invasion and colonization of Palestine. However, in the contemporary world, there is less interest in the conventional fields of literature and philology. One fact that is worth mentioning is that American academic centers that offer Middle Eastern studies have immense concern in giving advice on public policy to the government (Said 1979, p. 31). In the second claim, Said argues that Orientalism assisted in defining Europe’s self-image. In relation to this claim, Said was of the opinion that creating an identity in every society and age entails establishing others and opposites. This is so because creating and maintaining each culture calls for the existence of a different and competing culture. Through Orientalism, the West began to perceive the Islamic culture as static in reference to time and place. In addition, the West also perceived the Islamic culture as uniform, foreign, and without the ability to define itself. In doing so, the West gained a sense of superiority in its culture and intellectual capacity (Said 1979, p. 36). As a result of this, the West perceived itself as innovative, dynamic, growing culture, and as an observer, a jury, and a judge of every Oriental behavior. Today, this claim becomes relevant since it offers an explanation for the Western imperialism, which could have been described by the West as an effort to redeem the degenerate world (Said 1979, p. 38). In the third claim, Said is of the opinion that Orientalism has created a false analysis of Islamic and Arab cultures. This is mainly due to the essentialist nature of the venture, which is the belief that there are possibilities of defining the essential characteristics of the Islamic culture and Arabic natives. The defined characteristics were viewed as uniformly negative. The definition brought out a perspective of a place in isolation from the mainstream of human development in arts, commerce, and sciences. This definition provides an inadequate perspective of Arabs and the Islamic culture, which by large influences the way the contemporary society views Arabs and Islam (Said 1979, p. 44). Orientalism further goes wrong in making an assumption that Islam has acquired a unity dating back from the seventh century and it is evident through the Koran and the contemporary Algerian, or Egyptian society. Therefore, the idea that Islamic culture suffers from static development is false and further overlooks the impacts of imperialism, colonialism, and ...Show more
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Summary

Over thirty, years have passed since Edward Said published his influential book, Orientalism, whereby he changed the vision of the Orient, which was been propagated across the Western knowledge. …
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