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Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (Penguin History) Paperback – 23 Feb 1995

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (23 Feb 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140238670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140238679
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 300,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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First Sentence
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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 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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35 of 39 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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By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Aug 2014
Format: Paperback
The book bases itself partly on the Sorelian myth and partly on a phenomenological dislocation of university pretence. So it, in my view, hits the full bullseye. I care little for "facts" because these are easily manipulated to bring about truth, and truth is another quality which does not exist out there, but is manufactured, such as the Israeli Defence Force killing kids in July and August 2014.

What we get however, is Said taking apart the hubris of academia, and there is a ton of this horse rear end pouring out incessantly in the academic mind, infecting its research methods, written prose, lectures, debates and finally polluting the students.

How do I know?

I have taught across development studies, psychology, sociology, psychotherapy, politics, criminology and philosophy. Those poor students who pay 9K per annum are stuck on the perfect ponzi scheme, as they will never know they have been fleeced till long after they have left.

The problem is, academia has no need, as Said states, to go and talk to an Arab, because the academic mind, fermented within public schools, under grad unis and post grad courses - knows more than the Arab about his reality.

Now transplant this hubris to development, politics, criminology, sociology and you can see that the little square boy and girl who kept their head in books whilst they were taunted as children, later reaps their revenge by imposing their book learning to define reality.
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