Summary of Orientalism by Edward Said


The reexamination of the terms under which colonial history came to configure the land under occupation brought about an interesting and insightful discipline into the field of literary studies, this is now known as Postcolonialism.

Among the major thinkers in Postcolonial Studies, Edward Said was a one who focussed on a sustained reading of the colonial mind and its operations, and he also studied the impact of this experience as a whole.

Although Said went on to expand his discussion on the Western approach to the rest of the world, it was in Orientalism that he presented his most cogent views on the subject.

The point Edward Said makes in this pathbreaking book is about perceptions that have informed the Western understanding of the world, and as he looks at the cultural consolidation of ideas and visions have come to situate what we identify as the Orient, there is also a recognition of the fact that for certain structures to operate there are accompanying conditions that facilitate them.


Orientalism recognizes the presence of these cultural practices and in the course of the book Said goes on to examine how minds have been shaped into engaging with certain operations that have come to occupy us as givens.

The many responses to the argument of Orientalism, the most critical as well as the commendatory ones, have surfaced through undertakings that consider the process of historical evaluation Said engages in, but the consensus is that the point made in the book is one that cannot be overwhelmed by either sophistry or a counter-logic.

In an intellectually invigorating engagement as the one that Said undertook in Orientalism, there is bound to besides for people to position themselves in, yet no overthrow of his basic argumentative frame has as yet been attempted.

The seminal status of the book stems from the force of the argument discussing a practice of cultural structuring that is not only historically substantiated, but considered in terms of the multiple trajectories that have converged to make the idea of the Orient what it is.

Considerations of the Orient as a Western experience, and the reading of its impact on the European imagination, for Said, constitute parallel expressions of a clearly identifiable design, that which concerns the Other.

In order to bring these twin currents into sharp focus, Said emphasizes the importance of seeing the academic and the imaginative connotations as crisscrossing engagements interpenetrating each other. Said opens up the terms of the debate by situating the subject as a condition associated with the process of self-formation in the West.

The argument, then, is to suggest that for an adequate understanding of the European mind's response to the question knowledge, it is necessary to see how the other, Orient, in this case, came to be constructed in to be constructed in culture.

The different processes through which the features of Orientalism emerge in critical and popular discourses are part of an academic label.

That is one part of a many-sided story. A designatory mechanism of this kind involves not just individual interest in the subject, but also institutional support and consolidation: "The most readily accepted designation for Orientalism is an academic one, and indeed the label still serves in a number of academic institutions.

Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient-and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist-either in its specific or general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she does is Orientalism."
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