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Role of Orientalism in Past and Present Western Culture

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In his book, Said (1994, pp. 1-5) the division of the world as comprising the East and the West was a doing by Europe. Each division had a name with the East being the Orient, and the West being the Occident. While the occident was civilized, the orient was uncivilized thus defining an artificial boundary that founded the concept of theirs and ours, them and us. Compared to the orientals, the Europeans defined themselves as the better race and used this as a basis for their acts of colonization.

Colonization was also justified as a duty by the West to civilize the uncivilized East and this involved ruling them. For the West, Europe regarded itself as having the right to represent the Orientals in the West by themselves, which resulted in orientalizing the orient in the subject to European perceptions. In order to portray and emphasis, the artificial elements linked to the orientals, the Europeans generalized attributes through particular reports, literary works, and in other sources. As a result, the minds of the Europeans adopted a certain image regarding the orientals which then infused prejudice in the European attitude.

Such prejudice was evident in the orientalism or the study of the orientals, and in all their reports and research. The orientalism culture never died and is still present today with Islam viewed as a terrorist religion and the Arabs as uncivilized (Said, 1994) regardless of whether or not the generalization was an irrational action of an individual. Said (1978, pp. 4-7) regards such generalizations as discursive construction of the East founded on the asymmetrical relationship between Occident and Orient.

In addition, Said further refers to this relationship as founded on the power of domination of diverging degrees of multifaceted supremacy (5). Hall (1992, pp. 187-192) identifies the attributes of the West to include industrialized, capitalist, developed, urbanized, modern, and secular thereby synonymous with modernity but logically antonymous of underdeveloped and backward.

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