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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seminal, engaging, fluid
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...
Published 21 months ago by A. O. P. Akemu

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Orientalism
Said has some very important points, men he could definately have shortened the amount of pages. The argument is strong, but is repeated over and over again, so it is sufficient to only read parts of the book. The historical insights are very interesting and gives the reader a good background for understanding some of the complex sociogeographic ascpects.
Published 17 months ago by Isa Marie Romby Nielsen


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42 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, 6 Jan 1999
By A Customer
Edward Said's book Orientalism is a critical summary of Western conceptions and underlying thoughts commonly associated with the Orient. He highlights common misconceptions, which are now interwoven with the thought process of a "westerner" with regards to the orient. He chastises Western historical, social and religious studies of the Middle East and North Africa. Said accuses Western science of being biased; not on purpose however, but rather inherently, due to a self imposed superiority complex. A state which is perpetuated by associating technological superiority with social superiority. As a result, Oriental cultures and religions, when compared to their Western counterparts are painted as exotic, different, traditional, sensual, and fanatic...in an ignorant sort of way.
Said describes Orientalism, as a means through which the West comes to terms with the Orient. This is based on the Orient's special place in European Western Experience. It has helped to define the West as its opposing image, concept and personality placing it in a position where it exist as an integral part of Western material enlightenment and culture. The most common classification for Orientalism is an academic one, which still serves in a number of academic establishments. Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient regardless of whether he/she is an anthropologist, sociologist or historian is an Orientalist, and what he/she says or does is Orientalism.
Said's critique lies heavily on the Western belief of 'knowledge is power'. Throughout his book references are made to the ability to study the 'Orient', and how this confers authority and dominance to the students which are predominantly western scholars (Orientalists)
"Two great themes dominate his remarks here and in what will follow: Knowledge and power, the Baconian theme. As Blafour justifies the necessity for British occupation of Egypt, supremacy in his mind is associated with "our" knowledge of Egypt and not principally with military or economic power."
He describes the desire for knowledge about the orient as being spawned from the desire to colonialise effectively not to decipher the complex nature of a society which is inherently different, thus bound to do things a little differently. By comprehending the Orient, the West justified a position of ownership. The Orient became the subject, the seen, the observed, the studied; Orientalist philosophers were the apprentices, the overseers, the observers. The Orient was quiescent; the West was dynamic.
This is a rather unfortunate position both for the West and the 'Orient'. The students used their position of perceived understanding to further compel 'Oriental' people into subservience while simultaneously justifying their actions. They protected their conscience by convincing themselves that the 'Orient' was incapable of running itself, thus their territory must be administered for them.
"It dose not occur to Balfour to let the Egyptian speak for himself, since presumably any Egyptian who would speak out is more likely to be the "agitator [who] wishes to raise difficulties"
Said makes some vivid, passionate and striking points however, he seems to be lacking of a little objectivity. The general tone of his book "Orientalism" depicts western Orientalists as persistently reinventing the near and Middle East in self-serving, eurocentric terms; as seen through Western eyes, "the Orient" emerges as a passive, backward world, monolithic in nature and exotic in its alienism, a realm ideally created to sustain the West's daydream of supremacy. Said brutally charges Western scholars for perpetuating the notion that the Orient should not be taken seriously but rather be seen as a subject of study.
It is in this line that Said builds his argument. Totally oblivious to the fact that the sheer passion in his discourse may be equated to favouritism by readers. He makes many hard hitting and vivid points, but the repetitive hammering on the same point posses the ability to transform a great piece of work into an opus which skates around a diluted form of reverse racism. As progress is made through "Orientalism" several instances are depicted which provoke negative attitudes from the reader:
"The European is a close reasoner; his statements of fact are devoid of any ambiguity; he is a natural logician, albeit he may not have studied logic; he is by nature very sceptical and requires proof before he can accept any proposition...the mind of the oriental on the other hand, like his picturesque streets, is eminently wanting in symmetry. His reasoning is of the most slipshod description. Although the ancient Arabs acquired in a somewhat higher degree the science of dialectics, their descendants are singularly deficient in logical faculty..."
Excerpts with similar themes are found all over Said's "Orientalism". They generate feelings which cannot be considered to be catalyst to a sound and logical comprehension. It is this model of argument, employed by Said, which reduces the effectiveness of his contention. In Said's blueprint of Orientalist discourse, the argument fell, inadvertently but ultimately, into the same binary logic it desired to criticise. He essential conveyed the impression that, there is justifiably, a "real" Orient; whose essential contrast remains incomprehensible by Occidental reasoning.
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22 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The other side of anti-Semitism, 16 Oct 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Orientalism (Paperback)
The phenomenon Edward Said describes in his book is the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim traditions in society and literature. "Orientalism" is a term that describes a "discourse", a school of thought. And like anti-Semtism, which was one part of Orientalist prejudice in the 19th century, the discourse of anti-Muslim anti-Arab prejudice has a long and powerful history. Regrettably it infects leading scholars of the Middle East like Bernard Lewis. Said deserves credit for putting it all together. Although he is a harsh critic of Western imperialism and Israeli and American power in the Middle East, he hardly manifests racism towards any group.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 8 Dec 2009
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This review is from: Orientalism (Paperback)
This book is not about blaming the west for what is going on in the world or it is not about the Israeli Palestian conflict. It is about who we are as human beings and how we share a common history and how we are connected to one another. Our experiences have influenced one another for thousands of years and Orientalism simply suggests another way of thinking as opposed to binary logic. There is no east and there is no west as we know and imagine, it is only in our minds.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orientalism, 9 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Orientalism (Paperback)
This is an absolute must in any colonial and postcolonial literature student's library, as well as anyone who's remotely interested in cultural, psychological and literary studies. It's an amazing read and contains some very controversial points which have become the springboard for a whole host of literary debates. Said's words have inspired an entire generation of writers and critics who followed, critiqued and wrote with and against this work in particular. As with any other critical work, there is no doubt that there will be many who disagree and agree with it, and this is no exception. It is, by no means, an absolute authority on its subject but it has helped to shape and define much of what we read, how we read, what we see and perceive and how we see and perceive. I cannot recommend this book enough, the rest - I believe - speaks for itself.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent food for thougts, 2 Dec 2013
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L. Razzaq "Labied" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Orientalism (Paperback)
Expected nothing less from Edward Said. Well written, well considered and well presented. It is excellent reading, but demands serious readers.
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very important contribution., 29 Mar 2002
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F. Khan - See all my reviews
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Edward Said links the university tradition known as Orientalism to 19th century Western imperialism. He shows how Orientalism is biased and not objective and imposes Western values on the Orient. He highlights the biases of authors such as Bernard Lewis and other significant orientalists of the past century.
The book is written in a scholarly style so is not as accessible as it could be, but the author's reading is breathtaking
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love it, 14 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Orientalism (Paperback)
i like this book it was so nice and make understood how western tranform this region into a bloody mess. thanks to Edward Said
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16 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orientalism�A Benchmark for Future Generation �Pretenders�!, 18 Mar 2002
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Asrarul Islam Chowdhury (Cambridge, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
...It is impossible to make a critique of Edward W Said's "Orientalism" within 1,000 words. A description would do injustice and prejudice the reader who intends to embark on a journey into scholarly research. I will therefore try to comment on Edward W Said's "Orientalism" from a philosophical point of view, trying to keep in mind that I want neither to defend, nor attack issues raised in this masterly piece of work.
The beauty of path breaking books is that they not only describe (explain) a set of hypotheses, but also open doors in the minds of future generation thinkers. This is what separates the best from the rest. This is "the" criterion that makes a piece of art stand the test of time. If this is true, "Orientalism" definitely qualifies a place as one of the best-written books of the Twentieth Century.
If the hypothesis that all science is political is accepted, then reviews and critiques of "Orientalism" will be at extremes-some receiving the book with warmth, others attacking it with severe animosity.
Talking about a sensitive and political subject like "Orientalism" that has been shaped over centuries of description by "westerners" in particular, challenges the very notion of how the "West" has come to view the "East". Said is right when he stresses that the "West" sees the "East" from a superiority complex, and that this view is inherent within its very outlook. It is not unnatural for a culture or civilisation to impose its superiority on other cultures and civilisations. Human beings, by their very nature, are insecure, and thus find an outlet to establish their superiority over others. And indeed, an 'inherent' characteristic, not only of the outlook of the "West" towards the "East", but also from the other way too.
One of my most favourite metaphors in describing sensitive issues is how does one define half a glass of water, "half full" or "half empty"? Both are correct and both are wrong! Truth itself is relative and subject to contrasting interpretations. Each individual will have a personalised interpretation on the same phenomenon or topic (recall Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon").
Like any great piece of scholarly literature, "Orientalism" will also fall prey to attack and defense. Nevertheless, "Orientalism" will find a place as one of the greatest works on sociological sciences, a masterpiece that has opened up new windows-more eyes to see the world we live in, not only for today, but also for future generations to come. Whatever one's view about "Orientalism", it will remain a benchmark for future generation 'pretenders'!
Asrar Chowdhury
Girton College, Cambridge, March 2002
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Orientalism is an inaugural book for postcolonial studies, 18 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Orientalism (Paperback)
Although from the perspective of postcolonial and cultural studies in the late nineties Said's Orientalism may seem basic or unselfconscious, one must remember the importance of this book to a wide range of fields. Through his identification of the construction of the racist and imperialist discourses of academic Orientalism, Said forces those interested in literary and cultural studies to reflect upon their own status as intellectuals and their own complicity with Orientalism and, by extension, other exploitative modes of power. Said's book at least partially inaugurates contemporary debates about the literary canon, as well as really paving the road for a variety of approaches to postcolonial studies, including, most importantly, the work of Homi Bhabha.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Few books are as vital as this one for understanding politics today., 27 April 2009
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This review is from: Orientalism (Paperback)
I don't think that there is a lot to add to the reviews which praise this book.

How 'The West' sees others, especially Islam and Muslims, is so central to current world events that any work which addresses the issue is of interest and any that is as incisive as this one is vital.

That 'Orientalism' has withstood 3 decades of counter-attack from from it's detractors is testament to it's strength as a description and an analysis.

The book can be tough reading at times and Said can be prone to using twenty words when one will do. A more succinct and readable account of the same thesis is found in Said's 'Covering Islam'.

One other minor criticism, Said got Marx wrong. But never mind.

Still, essential for anyone who wants to engage with the world today.
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Orientalism
Orientalism by Edward W. Said (Paperback - 28 Jun 1988)
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