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Orientalism Paperback – 28 Jun 1988

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Product details

  • Paperback: 379 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (28 Jun. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039474067X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394740676
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 278,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edward Said was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He was the author of more than twenty books, including Orientalism, Culture and Imperialism and On Late Style and his essays and reviews appeared in newspapers and periodicals throughout the world. Edward Said died in September 2003.

(Photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe)

Product Description

About the Author

EDWARD W. SAID is University Professor at Columbia University. He was born in Jerusalem in 1935 and educated in Egypt and the United States. His other books include THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE, CULTURE AND IMPERIALISM, OUT OF PLACE: A MEMOIR. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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"On June 13, 1910, Arthur James Balfour lectured the House of Commons on ""the problems with which we have to deal in Egypt.""" Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. O. P. Akemu on 10 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
The Orient. Exotic, mysterious, ancient, savage. These descriptions of the orient are extant in our popular culture. According to Edward Said, they do not necessarily represent the orient as it really is. Instead, these descriptions are the products of a socially-constructed Western project, Orientalism, that described, catalogued, studied and represented the orient in the Western mind. Perhaps, most intriguingly, Orientalism served the power interests of the Western colonists. Yet, the protagonists in the project, mostly Western academics, have been unreflective about the role that they play in the West's subjugation of the Orient.

But what is the Orient? How can heterogeneous, dynamic societies such as India, China and the societies of the Middle East be reduced to essentialist categories? Said's book focuses on the near and Middle East and how this region of the world - with its diverse people and religion - have been represented since the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt. The picture is not pretty. On page after page, Said demonstrates - with sublime rhetorical flourish - how academic study of the Near East was wedded to the political interests and social structures of nineteenth century Europe.

Said clearly respects the scholarship of Lane, Burton and Gustav Flaubert. Yet, he shows that these men - and they are mostly men - created an Orient to serve the colonial ambitions of their societies. Fast forward one hundred years. The Near East is still being studied and packaged for consumption by this same baronly class. Only this time, the words Islam, Arab, terror, and fatalism are used synonymous. Said critiques the orientalist project. He calls for self-reflection in the academy about the role that it plays in the service of power.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are hesitating between 'Orientalism' and 'Culture and Empire', 'Orientalism' is probably the book to get. It was Saïd's first and original contribution, and it is about culture, his field, more than about history, in which he was not a specialist.

Saïd argues that Orientalism paved the ground for, and was later sustained by, colonialism in that it created fixed categories by which the Orient became known to Europeans. These stereotyped views emphasizing, say, fatalism, superstition, or a lack of a conception of liberty, predisposed Europeans to rule over the peoples they classified as Oriental. Saïd's point is that Orientalism owed more to textual analysis than to actual conditions in the East, enabling Europeans to project their own fantasies, wishes, and prejudices onto Orientals. History and archaeology, for example, interpreting the Orient through its classical cultures (ancient Egypt, Sanskrit, Sufi poetry, etc..), supported perceptions of Orientals as impervious to progress and at the same time of civilisations in decline and therefore in need of regeneration through European power. While some of Saïd's references are obscure, especially of some twentieth-century Orientalists, many draw from mainstream literature (Dante, Flaubert, Lane) or immediately graspable travel, historical, and political works. Most are entertaining and thought-provoking, sometimes hilarious, and Saïd's exegesis is consistently witty and incisive.

Saïd's is no doubt a partial view, and it has been criticized as well as emulated. But the author himself makes no total claim on his sources, many of which he professes to admire. This is a book about culture, not history: it brings to light a certain undercurrent in a body of work and literature, it does not aim to explain colonialism.
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This book is a concise beautifully written account of both the origins and the deficiencies in the field of 'Orientalism'. Said sites numerous sources and includes a generous amount of exerts to back up every point he makes which could make for some very interesting future reads if your that way inclined. I really love this book and the price was also great. Edward W.Said has a factual and at times humorously satirical execution which made the book extremely fun to read. I found myself chuckling at times as Said can be very deliberately funny and always is with elegance and poise. Great book for anyone interested in this topic or just matters of history and the factors which have shaped society. This was delivered speedily and in perfect condition. :)
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Format: Paperback
I am not the specialist in the subject of this book or even in humanitarian sciences. I am mathematician by education, so my (mixed) opinion about this book cannot be based on its factual correctness but rather on its consistency.

I really liked the style and language of the book (not everybody agree on it, apparently). The main idea is that contemporary (to author) Orientalism evolves directly from middle-age views and perceptions of the Orient and Islam as alien and hostile culture. So, essentially, the author says, that Orientalism, as science, does not relfect the objective reality but is rather the reflection of European society's view of its neighbour region. Now, it is difficult to imagine, how it could be different until, say, 18th or even 19th century. However, argues Mr. Said, even after the scholars in other subjects had adopted more scientific approach the Orientalism (picked up by Americans after the WWII) did not.

I have two problems with the book.
1) The author says that Orientalism is wrong, but does not offer even the slightest idea of what is, in his view, right. Yes, he mentions it explicitly, that his aim was to destroy, rather than to create, but in my (non-specialist) view this approach considerably reduces the value of the book.

2) The most important drawback, in my opinion, is that author's way of arguing is not very different from those, whom he denounce. When he says that so and so made such and such generalizations or characteristics which are utterly wrong, Mr. Said does not actually bother to prove his point. He assumes, that his assertions are self-evident. Although I myself in many cases agree with author's point of view I could not help but think that his opponents would also presume their views to be self-evident.
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