Edward W. Said – ‘Orientalism’ : Introduction

One of the key things to do within my Symposium is to not only provide context in terms of Japanese culture, but also in regards to where I stand. I cannot assume to know everything about Japanese culture, as a Westerner I have a very limited view. Something which Edward W.Said explores in his book ‘Orientalism’ Due to time frames I cannot read the whole book. So I have read an online summary of each chapter and chosen the appropriate areas to read.

1. Introduction

2. Imaginative Geography and Its Representations: Orientalizing the Oriental


4. Chapter 3. Orientalism Now
      (Latent and Manifest Orientalism)
5. The Latest Phase

To start with I will read, analyse and appropriate Said’s writings in the introduction.

Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
Personal Note
Page Number
Other peoples References & theories


“The Orient was almost a European invention” pp01

“Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western Experience” pp01

“The orient is an integral part of European material civilisation and culture” pp02

pp02 talks about how America’s understanding of the orient is less dense than it should be.

“By Orientalism I mean several things, all of them, in my opinion, interdependent  Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient — and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist  sociologist, historian or philologist — either in it’s specific or it’s general aspects, is and orientalist, and what he or she does is Orientalism.” pp02

“Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the orient” and most of the time “the occident”.” pp02

Ontological = of the nature of being. Ontology is the studies the nature of being. 
Occident = Western Countries. Used in correspondance with Orient, a word which describes a place/ type of person.
Epistemological = Philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge.

“Orientalism as a Western style for dominating  restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” pp03

“My point is that orientalism derives from a particular closeness experienced between Britain and France” pp04

Vico talks about how men have made their own history, what they know is what they have made. pp 04

Orient and Occident are mad made. pp 05

“In the first place, it would be wrong to conclude that the Orient was essentually an idea, or a creation with no corresponding reality.” pp 05

Disareli – Novel “Tancred” – East=Career. Bright young Westerners would find the East an all consuming passion. pp05

“The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of complex hegemony.” pp 05

Asia and Western Dominance – K.M. Panikkar. pp05

Gramsci – Hegemony pp07

“European Superiority over Oriental Backwardness” pp 07

The distinction between Pure and Political knowledge.
Knowledge about Shakespeare = pure
Knowledge about Soviet Union = political pp09

“The determining impingement on most knowledge in the Contemporary West (and here I speak mainly about the US) is that it be nonpolitical, that is, Scholarly, academic, impartial about partisan or small minded doctrinal belief.” I’m taking “it” to be knowledge.

Impingement = trespass 
Partisan = bias in support of a political party
Doctrinal = Characterised by. Belonging too.

“No one has ever devised a method for detatching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of society” pp 10. This is so important, it’s the area I need to define myself in, like everyone else I am influenced by my surroundings, my circumstances of life will influence my writings.


What I like about Said’s method of writing is the amount of definition he offers, he does not Jump into using words like Orientalism or pure knowledge and assume you to understand what he means. The whole introduction seems like Said is providing the context; this is a word, this is my definition and this is and example. It made me understand his terminology and so if I adopt this technique I hope I will be able to help people understand the context of my talk.

The last quote is defining of the introduction. It is impossible to separate an individual from their context, even if they are a scholar. In my opinion it’s this individual context which sparks debate and an interesting unique insight into a topic.

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