Orientalism by Edward Said

Orientalism by Edward Said was written in 1978 and it became a classic. Said’s work is very interesting, based on Foucault’s Concept of power&knowledge (which makes me think I should read Foucault too, as in cover-to-cover). Said points out that the Oriental or Arab is presented from a western perspective, with biases and a colonial view. In the book he gives lots of examples from 19th century fiction to 20th century historical accounts of the history of the Middle East. It’s, unfortunately, still relevant today, as this idea of the west-who-knows-best is applied to the Middle East and not only.

Orientalism by Edward Said

In the West, there is a lack of trying to understand peoples from further afield, as it was made so clear with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Scores of “experts” said “nobody” imagined this will happen, although experts from Eastern Europe talked about this possibility and warned this might happen. It was a case of westplaining to the peoples of Eastern Europe that they are just not knowledgeable enough to understand the bigger picture. Exactly about this attitude talked Said in 1978, but in relation with the Arab world.

There are many interesting themes in the book and poignant examples. As my example shows, a more humble approach in which the culture, religion, and traditions of another country is understood and engaged with would have helped not only 5-6 decades ago, but today too, as there are still many problems in the Middle East.

I highly recommend this book. The only downside to it is that the style is leaning towards academic, so a bit harder to read, especially when it comes to philosophy. It is worth the effort though.

Orientalism by Edward Said

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 4/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Penguin Modern Classics
Year it was published: 2020 (first published in 1978)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Philosophy
Pages: 432

About the author: Edward Wadie Said was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies. A Palestinian American born in Mandatory Palestine, he was a citizen of the United States by way of his father, a U.S. Army veteran.
Educated in British and American schools, Said applied his education and bi-cultural perspective to illuminating the gaps of cultural and political understanding between the Western world and the Eastern world, especially about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East.
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4 thoughts on “Orientalism by Edward Said”

  • I think it’s a bit too late for we Brits to begin trying to understand other people’s cultures, religions etc. We would have been much better advised to have done that decades ago, before we made arbitrary decisions about carving up countries and re-allocating homelands for the people. without consultation. We do have an awful lot of the World’s problems to answer for and I think all our troubles could be about to “come home to roost” 🙂

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