Essay on An Analysis of Orientalism by Edward Said

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Pages: 9

Critical Thought Paper 1: Orientalism

In Orientalism, Edward Said discusses the many aspects of the term “Orientalism,” including its origins, the primary ideas and arguments behind Orientalism, and the impact that Orientalism has had on the relationship between the West and the East. He quotes Joseph Conrad for the proposition that conquering people who are different from us is “not a pretty thing.” It needs an “idea” to “redeem” it. Said’s concept of Orientalism helps define the “idea” that provides a political, economic, moral, and socio-cultural justifications for imperialist actions by more dominant countries such as the United States. In Iraq, this “idea” is that the United States is a more advanced, civilized, and productive
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intervention in Iraq is justified and non-imperialistic because we are coming to the aid of “backward” people who are controlled by a strict theocracy and we want to “help” with our superior democratic government process. The stereotyping involved in racist attitudes toward Eastern people makes it more difficult for Western people to understand the complexity of the societies they are dealing with or to “persuade” them with anything but force. There is] still a tendency by Western countries to group everyone in the East into one inferior category, rather than attempting to understand and delineate between their different tribes, religious sects, cultures, and histories. Said writes when referring to the White Man that “the color of their skins gave them superior ontological status plus great power over much of the inhabited world” (226). It was “a form of authority before which nonwhites…were expected to bend” (227). Thus, for the most part, the White Man was not concerned with differentiating between different groups of people in the East because they were all inferior and expected to “bend” for the White Man anyway. This same attitude has been a main source as to why the United States has had so little success in Iraq. The United States underestimated the multitude of layers within Iraqi society and did not correctly predict the impact that the presence of competing factions in Iraq would have on the war. Thus, the “Orientalist” sentiments that