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on 16 October 1997
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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on 8 December 2009
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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on 4 July 2014
Brilliant book and an equally excellent seller
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 February 2012
First published in 1978, Said's text is a sustained and sometimes controversial expression of the way in which the `Orient' has been put to work as a cultural term not so much defining the `east', as serving as an image of the `other' in order to define the `west' by opposition.

The negative critics here seem, to me, to have slightly missed the point: as with all academic studies, Said's book is not trying to be a once-and-forever depiction of either `east' or `west', but is a historicised expression of his analysis at that particular place (Columbia University, where he was a professor) and time (c.1978). As Said himself says in the introduction, like all scholars he hopes that the book will open up further debate and research: so he actively wants his book to be deconstructed, resisted, revised and built upon. As with all scholars, he is self-conscious of his own situatedness and openly declares himself an Arab Palestinian educated and teaching in Ivy League universities, thus setting out his own caveats from the start.

As a literary theorist, Said aligns himself with other postmodernists, especially Derrida and Foucault, and applies their terms of analysis to the notion of the `orient', treating the concept itself as a `text'.

This may not be a perfect, all-encompassing book which ties together issues of race, culture, feminism, politics, ideology and any other -ism that each individual reader may expect, but there are plenty of reasons why this is still a studied text at universities.
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on 2 December 2013
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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on 29 March 2002
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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on 14 December 2013
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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on 18 March 2002
...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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on 19 March 2009
The book is good I suppose. After all a classic. A standard work.

But it's seventies writing: superfluous, too elaborate, tiresome. A style that continuously tends too distract the reader from what is said. Nowadays it would take half that amount of pages to make your point.
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on 18 March 1999
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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