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Orientalism Paperback – October 12, 1979


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (October 12, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039474067X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394740676
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The theme is the way in which intellectual traditions are created and trans-mitted... Orientalism is the example Mr. Said uses, and by it he means something precise. The scholar who studies the Orient (and specifically the Muslim Orient), the imaginitive writer who takes it as his subject, and the institutions which have been concerned with teaching it, settling it, ruling it, all have a certain representation or idea of the Orient defined as being other than the Occident, mysterious, unchanging and ultimately inferior." --Albert Hourani, New York Review of Books

From the Inside Flap

The noted critic and a Palestinian now teaching at Columbia University,examines the way in which the West observes the Arabs.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

319 of 371 people found the following review helpful By AA on October 26, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book and Edward Said in general seem capable of generating such intense controversy. Many reviewers of this book seem to forget actually to review the work and focus on attacking Edward Said as a person, many others still forget to review the book and proceed to speak for Palestinian rights and the negative western attitudes of Islam. I will attempt to present an actual review of this book based on MY own reading of it.
In Orientalism, Said sets about dismantling the study of the "orient" in general with primary focus on the Islamic Near East. Said argues that concepts such as the Orient, Islam, the Arabs, etc. are too vast to be grouped together and presented as one coherent whole, encompassing all there is to know about the subject. Said bases his view on the shear width and breadth of the subject, the inherent bias of conflicting cultures and more recently the role of the Orientalism in colonialism. It is indeed difficult to attempt to represent a book that is so focused on anti essentialism.
Said's research of western / occidental discourse was very thorough indeed and he does illustrate through repeated examples how misinformation sufficiently repeated can become accepted academic work. Said also presents an analysis of the causes and motives and theorizes about his findings. A lengthy and a times tedious discussion of the origins of Orientalism is rather repetitive and hard to follow for a non specialist like me.
Edward Said however seem to have fallen in the same trap he attributes to Orientalism, he has not attempted to explore Arab writings of the periods he discussed nor has he attempted to present (possibly even read) work by Egyptian and Arab historians of the periods he was addressing save for work carried out in the west and within western universities.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Graham on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
When it was written, Orientalism administered a much-needed correction to the study of the Arab and Asian worlds. Any historian, social scientist or humanist working in related fields should own a copy.
The strength of Edward Said's Orientalism is its highlighting of the underlying assumptions of dominance and subjection in Orientalist scholarship. Said correctly points out that the British, French and United States have relied on the reduction of the Orient to an academic study backed by a mythical image of its inhabitants and cultures as more primitive, passionate, mystical and illogical. Complementing this has been a presumption of Western superiority that allows diagnosis of social ills and prescription of Western remedies for these ills.
Said also pointed out a secondary weakness in the Orientalist approach to its studies. If Westerners presume the Orient to be more passionate and mystical, they may assume that it provides absolute alternatives to the ills of Western culture and modernism. Thus the span of Western history scrutinized by Said has seen individuals and groups embracing ill-understood religions and cultural precepts. The anti-majoritan/left-leaning subcultures arising during the upheavals of the 1960's are particularly susceptible to this.
This leads naturally to Aijid Ahmad's primary criticism of Said. Orientalism doesn't consider the varied responses of the Orient/Third-World to its theories. In particular, Ahmad correctly points out that Orientalism over-focuses blames on the West and doesn't address the self-inflicted problems of "Oriental" societies. Based on this criticism, the proper approach is to balance the effects of Western Orientalism and the indigenous difficulties.
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41 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Jason Motlagh on December 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Compounded by debauched images like the one on the cover page of Orientalism, the collective Western sub-conscious in regards to Arab-Islamic culture has been undeniably clouded by a style of thought that harbors superiority. One need look no further than our most esteemed news sources. For this, according to Said, we have Orientalism to blame.
It is the contemporary backlash of Orientalist stereotypes turned prejudices that so disturb author Edward Said. In his view, the resulting legacy of fear and estrangement that characterize the socio-political status quo between the West and Arab nations (and Islam as an ethos) cannot be understated. The irony is that despite the fact that information is more accessible than ever, Oriental biases are being perpetuated more than ever, with shameless stereotypes of Islam being used as fodder on film and even mainstream news-media. This is exemplified by our modern coverage of foreign policy in the Middle East throughout the past century. Diplomatic hypocrisies are whitewashed by the media machine with latent, age-old stereotypes that surface when strategic interests are at risk. Following years of partnership (amidst ethnic-cleansing), the US media ?at the behest of the government ?suddenly saturated the public with the caricature of Iraq's Saddam Hussein as the crazed Arab. Though true, this was marketed at convenience (nevermind Halabja), with the inevitable cultural watershed going unquestioned in the long-term, reducing normal Arabs to "rag-heads?of the little value in the mainstream mind. Similarly in Iran, the US government's coup of the first-ever democratically elected government set the table for Khomeini's stringent Islamic regime years later. Anti-American images and rhetoric dominated our media while opposing motivations were never examined.
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