Professor Edward Said's Orientalism

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Orientalism (Draft) When future scholars take a look back at the intellectual history of the last quarter of the twentieth century, the work of Professor Edward Said of the Columbia University is identified as very important and influential. In particular, Said’s 1978 book orientalism will be regarded as of profounding significance. Orientalism revolutionised the study of the Middle East and helped to create and shape entire new fields of study such as post-colonial theory as well as influencing disciplines as diverse as English, history, anthropology, political science and cultural study. Said’s book is one of the most controversial books of the last 30 years sparking intense debates and disagreements. Orientalism tries to answer the question of why when we speak about the Middle East for example; we have a pre conceived notion of what kind of people live there. What they believe, how they act, even though we might have never have been there or indeed even met anyone from there. More generally, orientalism asks how we come to understand people, strangers, who look different to us by the virtue of the colour of their skin. The centre argument of orientalism is the way we acquire this knowledge is not innocent or objective but the end result of a process that we flex certain interests. That is, it is highly motivated. Specifically, Said argues that the way the west, Europe and the US looks at the countries and the people of the Middle East is through a lens that distorts the
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