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Edward Said's Theory of Orientalism

In discussing Edward SaidÆs Orientalism and the creation of a different and competitive ôother,ö Windschuttle (p. 31) relates, ôThe construction of identity in every age and every society involves established opposites and æothers.Æ This happens because the development and maintenance of every culture require the existence of another different and competing alter ego.ö With respect to American dominant cultural identity, white have primarily established a construction of identity that narrowly defines race and remains superior to the construction of a different, i.e., ôother.ö With respect to the ôotherö in American society, the American identity is primarily identified as a ôWesternö identity in comparison to the alter ego of the ôEasternö identity. This analysis will discuss how SaidÆs theory of ôOrientalismö continues to permeate contemporary American culture.

SaidÆs theory of Orientalism theorizes that dominant mainstream cultures typically act in an imperialistic and ethnocentric manner in defining their own identity and that of the ôotherÆs.ö In Orientalism, Said discusses the era of Vietnam and the Kissinger-style of diplomacy orchestrated by the Nixon administration. In this work, Said outlines the basic nature of these two identities and underscores the superiority of one reflected by the inferiority of the ôother.ö As Said (p.47-48) writes, ôBoth the traditional Orientalist and Kissinger conceive of the difference between cultures, first, as creating a battlefront that separates them, and second, as inviting the West to control, contain, and otherwise govern (through superior knowledge and accommodating power) the Other.ö

With respect to the above definitions of Orientalism, we see that the East continues to be portrayed as the ôother,ö as defined above, in American society and culture. The Eastern ôotherö is primarily portrayed in three ways. Either the murderous enemy whose val...

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Edward Said's Theory of Orientalism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:42, February 23, 2017, from