The Discourses Of Orientalism To Current Debates About National Identity Essay, Research Paper
The word nation has been in use since the 13th century and was attributed more to a race group than a political formation. As there is an obvious merger of the two there is difficulty in showing where the modern sense of the political meaning came into play. The confusion of the two has continued with a difference between nation-state and the arguments surrounding nationalists and nationalism. From the early 17th century the adjective nation wa sused in a complimentary and united sense. Opponents of nationalism would say that it has racial trends running through it. It is now quite safe to say it is in the national interest to nationalize. Establishing these meanings is important when discussing a national identity because myths arise from meanings. To arrive at a point where national identity and Orientalism mix and affect each other it is also important to establish what Orientalism was and is now.Raymond Williams describes the East as the Orient by saying that ” Western and Eastern ( or oriental ) worlds are thus defined from the 16th and 17th century “. He goes on to describe teh west as ” free enterprising or capitalist societies “. Orientalism has taken on many forms however since it was possible to travel and tell stories of strange lands of the orient. Edward Siad states that ” for the orient idioms became frequent and these idioms took firm hold in European discourse “. Siad has first hand knowledge of the peculiar nature of these idioms as he feels that he is both Eastern and Western. These idioms do lead to myths of the orient, myths that manifest themselves in European institutions, universities and governments. Orientalism has taken on a corporate identity. We assume that with learning and the accumulation of knowledge, that scholars improve on past scholars. However the ideas of orientalism are brought about by the forces that gave the orient to western learning. Fashioned by the oriental experiences of many European scholars.
Edward Siad seeks to break down these mythologies with his own fresh eyes. He states that ” exile isn’t necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary exile means that you can see things with more than one pair of eyes “. This is a reference to his life growing up in Jerusalem then moving to America. Although Siad analyses a lot of writers, his examinations have strong ramifications in other areas of study. He regards a lot of Western writers as arrogant and in contempt when they write about the orient. His position is reinforced when films like alladdin are considered or the Indianna Jones set of films. Here are two examples of Western Hollywood films depicting the orient as a place of snake charmers and magic. With busy market places and monkeys entertaining the uncivilised folk. ” the west, the east, the orient, the occident, the european mind the african mind, the asian spirit, the japanese mind, islam, christianity, there is some truth to these labels but most of them are ideological pictures, their contraints, they are fictional identities, the weapons of cultural war “. The west has a field of study of orientalism which the orient does not have. Books dealing with the orient between 1800 and 1950 equalled around 60,000 and there were nowhere near that amount about the west. Siad felt that all western studies of teh orient were bound by ” aggressive judgements “. It is as if they are dipicting the east or the orient as having a female penetrability which was in need of the forward thinking of the west. The orient whether intentionally or not was depicted as backward and in need of highter understanding. These ideas of backwardness and savagery were fuelled by the Darwinist theories of the difference of races such as ” European and Oriental African “. By 1918 the west held 85 % of the earth as colonies and commonwealths. The basic idea behind this was that europeans should rule and non europeans be ruled. Nowhere was this shown with more outward arrogance than in the British Empire Exhibition of 1903 where the savage and the oriental were paraded in front of vast audiences, as a spectacular show of our wealth and superiority as opposed to the childlike and inferior oriental.
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