'The most important work on the topic since Edward Said's Orientalism, this excellent book substantially revises our understanding of Orientalism in general and its French version in particular. Dobie's detailing of the leftwing advocacy of colonialism in the nineteenth century is not the least of the bombshells she brings to the received understanding of orientalism. As regards the relation between gender and colonialism, she deftly demonstrates that the feminization of the Orient finds its corollary in the Orientalization of women in the gender politics of the period.' Georges Van Den Abbeele, University of California, Davis
From the Inside Flap
Building on the critical foundations established by Edward Said in Orientalism, Foreign Bodies examines the relationship between the Orientalist tradition in French art and literature and France’s colonial history. It focuses on a central dimension of this exchange: the prevalent figure of the “oriental woman,” and the interplay of race and gender in both domestic and colonial history. It also offers a genealogy of contemporary French attitudes to Islamic culture, in which beliefs about sexuality and gender relations continue to occupy a privileged place.
--This text refers to the
The author examines the extent to which the rhetorical status and political implications of Orientalism register the changing circumstances of French colonial activity, tracing the convergence, or divergence, of colonial practice and the literary record. She also argues against the tendency, in both historical and theoretical writing on colonialism, to divide center from margins, metropolitan from colonial. Instead, she shows how colonial products and ideas permeated the domestic culture and shaped its evolution.
Finally, the book proposes that the feminine figures of Orientalist texts are often interwoven with representations of language, and more specifically with representations of language as an alien and resistant code—something other than the transparent medium of ideas. It suggests that in promoting awareness that language is not simply the neutral medium of thought and experience, these veiled figures of language function as “foreign bodies,” creating disruptive effects within an economy orchestrated toward the production of knowledge of the other.
However, the book also argues against the view, espoused by certain critics, that the self-reflexivity of Orientalist writing fully counteracts its polarizing political effects, arguing instead for a process of “double reading” that acknowledges both the geopolitical power encoded within Orientalist representation and the ways in which specific texts resist this power.