Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Final Paper: Orientalism in Aladdin

Orientalism, as defined by Edward Said, dictates the way that the Western world views the Eastern world. Prejudices and stereotypes from this view point are found in countless examples in American society. The extremely popular and widely accepted Disney animated movie, Aladdin, stands as a particularly blatant example of Orientalist ideas and influence. Interestingly, Walt Disney once said, “I think of a child’s mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly” (Giroux, 17). Disney clearly believed that the ideas that children are exposed to will help to create the adults they will become. Unfortunately, media targeted at children today, such as Aladdin, contains much misleading information about the true nature of the East.

The work of scholar Edward Said explores the subject of the East as seen through the eyes of people from the West. In his book Orientalism, he coined the term Orientalism as it is used today. Orientalism can be defined as the lens through which the West, specifically America, views the East, specifically the Arab world. Said argues that “the Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences” (Ashcroft, 87). In other words, the Western world views what he calls the Orient as an exotic place to which the West cannot relate.

Orientalism in a broad sense is a body of scholarship marked by a solid domination of persistent Eurocentralists against Arabo-Islamic people and their culture. The term Orientalism stems from Eurocentralism, which is the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of European culture. Said goes so far as to say that an Orientalist is “anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient” (Ashcroft, 88). Said is making the point that Orientalist ideas are so deeply engrained in Western societies that anyone who seriously studies the East participates in Orientalism to some degree.

In fact, Said says that Orientalism “has less to do with the Orient than it does with ‘our’ world” (Ashcroft, 91). The “our” he is referring to is the West, or more specifically, America. Here, Said is hinting at the key concept of the Other, mentioned explicitly when he says that the Orient is “one of [Europe’s] deepest and most recurring images of the Other. In addition, the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience” (87). In essence, he is saying that Orientalism is the means by which the West “Othered” the East. The term the Other, here, means that the West created an image of the East opposite to its own, one which was backwards, savage, and to which it could not relate. The creation of this Other gives Orientalism its true power because it creates an explicit separation between East and West in which the East is deemed constitutionally inferior. This fosters an environment in which the relationships and beliefs encompassed by Orientalism are taken to extremes as seen in Western popular culture and media today.

The Other can be viewed as the driving force behind Orientalism. What is often referred to as the Mark of the Plural, on the other hand, is a tool often employed for the dissemination of Orientalist ideas. The Mark of the Plural places all people with a given set of characteristics into one group which is then judged explicitly based on common perceptions about these characteristics.

Although Orientalism first became important during the days of colonization, these ideas are still very much engrained in Western culture today. Many believe this is due to the immense amount of influence the media, frequently a source of Orientalist ideas, has on children. After all, the famous behaviorist and psychologist B.F. Skinner said, “Give me a child and I will shape him into anything” (“B.F. Skinner Quotes”). By this, he means that children are very impressionable and can be taught to believe anything if so conditioned at a certain age. In society today, children are often exposed to information from “informal education provided by the media and popular culture, such as movies, television, radio, newspapers, comic books, and advertisements” (Kincheloe, 154).

Numerous studies have collected data about how much television and other popular media sources are present in the lives of typical American children. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood reports the following: “Children ages 2-11 see at least 25,000 advertisements on TV alone, a figure that does not include product placement” (Marshall, 2). Also, the Kaiser Family Institute published a study in 2010 which reported that “youth between the ages of 8 and 18 spend approximately 7.5 hours per day, seven days a week with media such as video games, TV, music, and books” (2). The American Medical Association says that the “number of hours spent in front of a television or video screen is the single biggest chunk of time in the waking life of an American child” (Giroux, 3). Clearly, average American children spend a large amount of time soaking up information from popular media.

The Disney Corporation is a major creator of popular media. It is one of the largest companies in the world (the 110th largest public company in the world according to Forbes magazine), and creates some of the most watched and beloved children’s movies, games, and shows of our time (“The World’s Biggest…”). Giroux states the following in his book The Mouse that Roared: “Combining economic control with pedagogical influence, Disney has become a major cultural player in American life, and the first casualties of its dominance in popular culture are, of course, the most defenseless – children” (157). Here, Giroux hints at the possibility that Disney’s products negatively impact children. In addition, Ibrahim Abukhattala in The Miseducation of the West says, “Movies that children watch for enjoyment and pleasure rather than instruction unfortunately leave a deeper imprint on a fresh, impressionable mind than does an unexciting textbook” (Kincheloe, 159). In other words, popular media from giants such as Disney have the possibility of severely affecting the views of the average American child.

The animated movie Aladdin was and continues to be a very popular and widely accepted children’s movie in the United States. Critics on the popular American review website, Rotten Tomatoes, ranked it as 92 out of 100, and the top critics gave it 100 out of 100. Eighty-five percent of the audience polled on this site also said they liked the movie (“Aladdin (1992)”). Although the film did not hit theaters until the 25th of November of 1992, it still proved to be the most successful movie of that year. Domestically, the movie grossed over 200 million dollars, making it the eighth-highest grossing children’s movie of all time (“Highest Grossing…”). Giroux notes in The Mouse that Roared that “Aladdin has earned more than ‘$1 billion from box-office income, video sales and such ancillary baubles as Princess Jasmine dresses and Genie cookie jars’ and as a video interactive game sold more than 3 million copies in 1993” (93). It also was nominated for and won numerous awards from the following film institutions: British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and MTV Movie Awards. The film also won two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for its soundtrack (“Awards for Aladdin”). According to a Disney website poll, Aladdin is still ranked the fourth most popular Disney movie of all time (“Best Disney Movies”). Clearly, this movie received wide recognition and general acceptance among the American population.

With such popularity, any movie or media force is bound to have an impact on its culture. Unfortunately, Aladdin frequently Orientalizes the Arab world. The first words of the movie heard by the audience are that of its theme song, “Arabian Nights.” The first lines that were played when the movie was in theaters were the following: “Oh I come from a land/From a faraway place/Where the caravan camels roam./Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face./It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home” (Aladdin). After much outcry from the Arab community and numerous complaints, Disney altered only two lines. The lines “Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face” were replaced with “Where it’s flat and immense/And the heat is intense” (Aladdin). However, the line “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home” was not changed nor was any other racist sentiment in the film (Aladdin). Also, no lines were ever changed for the release of the popular CD, Aladdin (Giroux, 105).

The opening words “Oh I come from a land/From a faraway place” help to create an Other place (Aladdin). They tell the audience members that this land to which they are venturing is completely different and unrelateable to them. The original theatrical release of the song and the song on the CD soundtrack continue by saying “Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face” (Aladdin). This implies that this “faraway” land is needlessly violent and uncivilized or without order. Even the changed lyric, “Where it’s flat and immense/And the heat is intense,” influences the audience to believe that this land is uninhabitable and an illogical place for people to live (Aladdin). The lyric was changed from one that made the audience think of a ruthless and barbaric place to an uninhabitable place. However, the next line, “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home,” is sure to cement the thought that this “faraway” land is indeed ruthless and barbaric (Aladdin).

The movie continues to Orientalize the Middle East with its first character, complete with Arabian accent (created by American actor Robin Williams), twisted and black beard, large turban-like head piece, and unproportionally large nose. In this way, the movie reinforces the Arab stereotype from the very beginning. He says, “Welcome to Agrabah, city of enchantment, of mystery” (Aladdin). This tells the audience that this place is enchanting and mysterious and not like the place where the audience lives. It Others this place by separating it from the world the target audience knows. The character’s large, distorted features help create this Other world as well. Throughout the movie, many people’s faces look similar to the opening character’s face. This creates the illusion that all the people in this land have these traits and that large noses, thick accents, beards, and turbans are the norm in this land, that is, except for the protagonists (Aladdin).

There is a marked difference between the appearances of the characters Aladdin and Jafar, the protagonist and the antagonist, respectively. Aladdin has no beard, no turban, and no Arab accent (he is played by the American actor Scott Weinger). Jafar, on the other hand, has a large turban-like head piece, a darker complexion, darker and lined eyes, sharp features, a large nose and mouth, and an accent. “Peter Schneider, president of feature animation at Disney at the time… points out that Aladdin was modeled after Tom Cruise.” (Giroux, 105) Tom Cruise is a very famous American actor who does not claim to have any Arab background. In this way, the movie Aladdin portrays the good guy as very American-looking and the bad guy as looking like a very stereotypical Arab (Aladdin).

The palace guards who are continually chasing Aladdin also help support the demonizing stereotype of Arabs. These guards are the “bad guys” and are dumb, missing teeth, bearded, turban-wearing, and sword-carrying. The “street-rat” Aladdin is chased by these men who are trying to kill him for stealing a loaf of bread. Aladdin even says, “All this for a loaf of bread” (Aladdin)? Not only do these characters portray a negative stereotype, they also further Orientalize the image of this land as savage and carnal by showing its justice system. When Princess Jasmine goes into the market for the first time, she takes an apple and gives it to a starving, shoeless, and dirty child. The shop-owner sees her, grabs her by the arm, and takes out his sword to cut off her hand, then and there. Thankfully, Aladdin steps in and tricks the dumb Arab so that he does not carry out this sentence (Aladdin).

Later, once Aladdin in caught by the guards, Jafar tells Jasmine that Aladdin was beheaded. When asked why that was his sentence, Jafar replies that his crime was kidnapping the Princess. Although she is upset that her new friend has died, she does not seem terribly surprised by the punishment of beheading. This interaction tells the audience that people are beheaded often in this society without a trial and before even the Princess can do anything about it. The justice system is further desecrated by Jafar’s habit of changing the laws of Agrabah throughout the film. He uses his sorcery to get the Sultan to do anything he wants. This gives two insights into the stereotype of Arab society in this movie. First, it continues to show that there is no justice in this savage land – how could there be when it is so easy to change all the rules and to keep the Sultan busy by playing with his animal figurines? Second, it also shows the mystique of this land. This Other land and its people are unrelateable to Americans because they use hypnosis and sorcery, which Americans consider dubious and unrealistic. Scenes such as these continue to Orientalize the Arab world by creating fundamental differences between that land and the one in which the movie is being shown (Aladdin).

Additional examples of Orientalism within the first ten minutes of Aladdin abound as Aladdin is chased through the streets by the guards. He interferes with street-people swallowing swords, eating fire, lying on nails, walking on coals, charming snakes, and flexing their unrealistic muscles as if in a side show at a circus. Aladdin also runs into harem women all over the street. Though these women are not wearing clothes that fully cover their bodies, their mouths are always covered with at least translucent fabric. These examples depict Agrabah as a mystic land of the Other by including exotic images that would never be seen anywhere but where people are primitive, mysterious, and completely different from their Western counterparts (Aladdin).

Most of these examples simply show the exaggerations and stereotypes present in children’s works such as this one. A more fundamental mistake, however, is apparent in Aladdin’s depiction of modesty. Currently in the Islamic world, modesty, especially for women, is taken very seriously. Yet, in many works today, women supposedly from the East are portrayed as sexy, exotic, and scandalously dressed. This is certainly the case in Aladdin. For one thing, the Arabian princess, Jasmine, does not even wear a complete top. Her top leaves both her midriff and her shoulders completely uncovered and is extremely tight. This image not only further conditions the stereotype of women from the East, but has very little, if any basis of truth. A woman, especially of her royal position, in an Islamic country would never be seen dressing like this, even when just lounging around the palace. Modesty is also important for men in many Islamic countries. Many men in the movie, including Aladdin, do not wear shirts; this would not be true in a typical Islamic nation. Knees and shoulders are almost always covered, even for the poorest in the society. This movie makes little if any effort to be realistic about the society it claims to be portraying (Aladdin).

Unfortunately, the problem of propaganda targeting children is nothing new. In fact, Hitler is known to have said, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future” (“Adolf Hitler Quotes”). If people are continually conditioned to believe certain ideas during childhood, they will likely stubbornly harbor these ideas as adults. Regrettably, there are few practical solutions to this problem. For one thing, large and powerful companies that specifically target children, such as Disney, need to be held accountable for the products and images they produce. However, considering the amount of money Aladdin and other movies with similar problems create for Disney, this is not likely to happen in the near future.

The best solution for combating the media forces trying to leave an impression on children is education. There is no reasonable way for children to be effectively shielded from media influence, but children should not be left defenseless. Children should be taught often throughout their educations how to critically evaluate what is being told to them by the popular media. Once children are able to identify misleading information that TV, movies, commercials, and other media forces contain, they can take an active role in changing these stereotypes and in reducing Orientalism and similar ideas (Marshall, 127-8, 188-200).

As a more specific solution to movies such as Aladdin, people native to the Arab world should be included on the production team. This would possibly create a more realistic setting for the movie. If this had been done for the movie Aladdin, perhaps it would have been noted that an Arabian princess would never wear such revealing clothing.

Movies beloved by typical American children, such as Aladdin, play a part in creating stereotypes and increasing Orientalist ideas in the general public today. Only through education will this situation ever change on a large scale. Sister Mary de Lourdes once said, “Every bigot was once a child free of prejudice” (Kincheloe, 159). Additionally, John F. Kennedy said, “For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, continued and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often, we hold fast to the clich├ęs of our forbears” (153). Taken at face value, these great words mean that Orientalism and all other forms of prejudice can be uprooted through careful attention to society’s children.

Works Cited

“Adolf Hitler Quotes.” Brainy Quote. 9 Apr. 2011. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/adolf_hitler.html>.

Aladdin. Dir. Ron Clements and John Musker. Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Pictures, 1992. DVD.

“Aladdin (1992).” Rotten Tomatoes. 16 Apr. 2011. <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1042582-aladdin/#!reviews=all>.

“Aladdin Awards.” AMC Movie Guide. 1 May 2011 <http://movies.amctv.com/movie/1338/Aladdin/awards>.

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, eds. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

“Awards for Aladdin.” The Internet Movie Database. 16 Apr. 2011 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103639/awards>.

“B. F. Skinner Quotes.” Brainy Quotes. 9 Apr. 2011. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/b/b_f_skinner.html>.

“Best Disney Movies.” Disney Movies Guide. 16 April 2011. .

Giroux, Henry A. The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1999.

“Highest Grossing Children’s Movies of All Time.” Consumer News and Business Channel. 16 Apr. 2011 <http://www.cnbc.com/id/42592128/The_Highest_Grossing_Children_s_Movies_of_All_Time?slide=9>.

Kincheloe, Joe L., and Shirley R. Steinberg, eds. The Miseducation of the West: How Schools and the Media Distort Our Understanding of the Islamic World. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004.

Marshall, Elizabeth, and Ozlem Sensoy, eds. Rethinking Popular Culture and Media. Rethinking Schools, Ltd., 2011.

“The World’s Biggest Public Companies.” Forbes. 3 May 2011. <http://www.forbes.com/global2000/#p_11_s_acompanyRankOverall_All_All_All>.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Possible Solutions for Resolving This Situation

After reading only a little bit into some of the books Amanda Richey suggested to me, I continued to be more and more appalled by popular media, more specifically Disney. Walt Disney himself once said, “I think of a child’s mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly.” Even the Disney Corporation is aware of how much of an impact they are making on millions of children every day. I realize that Disney is not the ultimate evil and that they aren’t the only ones playing this dangerous game of conditioning impressionable children, but that does not give them an excuss to get by with it. Personally, my first thoughts were that I never wanted to let my children watch TV or anything related to Disney. However, once I got over the shock of the realization of how prominate Disney and popular media is in our society, I remembered that trying to completely shelter children also comes with its own set of consequences.

When I continued my researching, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many solutions were being proposed by teachers, parents, and others involved in this problem. Well, before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s define the problem in this case. The problem is the popular media is conditioning children with prejudiced ideas. (In my paper I will be focusing specifically on Orientalist ideas.) Clearly, children should not be raised in a society which is crippled by biased, prejudiced, and/or racist ideas. The first and best solution would be to make the media accountable to the public for the culture it is helping to create. However, the media is a pretty big monster to take on, so this prospect is not very feasible right now.

Something that everyone can do right now is become aware of this problem – admitting it is the first step. Once people start to see this problem and how prevalent it is in our society, they can begin to educate others, especially parents and teachers. Once parents and teachers realize the effect that TV and movies and other forms of popular media are having on children, we can begin to undermine its force. If the media and corporate giants are not going to change their ways, the least we can do is prepare children to recognize and move past their pit-falls. This is best done through education. Examples of questions to ask pupils to think about when viewing things in popular media such as commercials include the following: Who is the author? What is his purpose? Who is he targeting? What feelings do you walk away with after viewing this scene? What exactly is the evidence being presented to back up these claims? In the book Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, the editors (Elizabeth Marshall and Ozlem Sensoy) emphasize the idea of critical media literacy. They say that we not only need to critique the ideas that are continually being shoved down our throats by popular media, but we also need to take action and protest against it in order to reconstruct the ideas that are reaching us and our children.

If we successfully teach our youth to think critically for themselves, the media will have much less power, our youth will grow into much more self-aware adults, and our culture will be much less dominated by the popular media. Although this seems very cheery, no generation has had the goal of raising children to turn into mindless adults. This will definitely be a large task for our entire generation once we start having families of our own. The ultimate solution is to step away from the culture that is mindlessly led by the media and into a culture of free thinkers that make their own decisions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Terms That Apply to This Situation and How They Apply

Many of the terms in this course are interrelated. My main term of Orientalism is related (but not limited) to the following list of terms from class: bias, Diffusionism, Centralism, hegemony, post-colonialism, dehumanization, Inside/Outside, the Other, the Mark of the Plural, and Eurocentrism (which was specifically discussed in the last blog). For now, I will briefly go over half of these terms and how they relate to Orientalism – the other half will probably be added at a later date.

The most basic definition of Orientalism is a biased way of looking at the “Orient.” Clearly, bias is an important definition when considering Orientalism. A bias is a way of looking at something; typically it is from one’s own perspective. The main problem with Orientalism is that it is not only a way of seeing and interpreting the “Orient” but is interpreted as fact. For example, for the average American who may never visit the Middle East, the images displayed in the extremely popular Disney movie Aladdin may be his or her only picture of that entire region. It is partly because of this that Orientalist ideas remain so persistent in our culture today.

Diffusionism is the idea that one place invents and that all other places imitate. Its tennents include thoughts like “Europe is progressive and historical, whereas nonEurope is not progressive and ahistorical.” With thought processes along this line, it is no wonder that colonization grew out of this time period. That is how the topic of diffusionism is related to Orientalism; without wide-spread diffusionism ideas, colonization may not have ever happened. Therefore, without diffusionism, there may not have been a need for the term Orientalism.

Centralism is quite similar to diffusionism. It is the belief that there should be one dominate culture which stems from Europe. This is also directly related to hegemony, or the domination of one group by another. More specifically, cultural hegemony is defined as the imposition of the views/beliefs of the dominate cultural group onto the subordinate one in a multicultural society. Hegemony was used in many ways during the colonial period and is still seen in the ever-present idea that the West is above the East. Hegemony can be thought of as the action that creates Orientalism. Without hegemony, there cannot be the colonial situation or the persistent cultural idea that the East is exotic and completely different from the West.

Post-colonialism is simply the time period in which Orientalism is currently occurring. Some believe that the colonial period will not end until the colonized countries are able to stop looking to the colonizers for answers. However, in the way we discussed the term in class, we are currently in the post-colonial period (since the colonizers are no longer in the colonized country). Therefore, because Orientalism has been brought about in this period, it is highly related to post-colonialism.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Background/History of My Topic

I’m not really sure how deeply I want to go into the “history” of my topic. I mean, propaganda through conditioning has been used for centuries and there are numerous examples of such now and throughout history. After all, it was at least partly through propaganda and conditioning that people in the home countries in Europe slowly became less interested in the “colonial issue” until the colonial relationship finally reached a breaking point during the colonial period. However, I will not get into that quite yet. In my previous blogs I have already gone over Orientalism. Now, I would like to add a bit of background about the second term I plan to discuss, Eurocentrism.

Long before American children were being taught incorrect ideas about Middle Eastern people through the media and forms of childhood entertainment, Europe was having problems with the way it viewed other parts of the world, too. This is why I think Eurocentrism fits well into my topic. False ideas that infiltrate an entire culture have to start somewhere, and I plan to start from Europeans creating a culture of Eurocentrist ideas. In that respect, Orientalism stems from Eurocentrist ideas. The concise definition we used for Eurocentrism in class was the following: “Eurocentrism is the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of European culture.” Orientalism by definition is a way of viewing the Orient, and Eurocentrism is a way that Europeans view other places; therefore; both are deeply related (if not the same thing) when one is discussing Europeans viewing the Middle East. Therefore, if I can get the topic of Eurocentrism to fit into my paper cohesively, I would like to also explore this topic as it relates to American children today.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Situation I Propose to Analyze and Why

As seen from my last entry, I plan to analyze Orientalism beginning in childhood, where most thoughts and ideas are first developed. Because Orientalism also deeply involves the Mark of the Plural and Othering, I will also be exploring these concepts as they relate to Orientalism. I believe that Orientalist ideas are so deeply engrained in our society for many reasons, but the reason these ideas seem to be retained so long is due to the fact that they are conditioned from childhood.

So far I have researched some different avenues that reinforce Orientalist ideas on children. I have decided to group these things into five categories: news, music, movies, school, and other forms of entertainment. I realize that children don’t often watch the news, but their parents do. The primary way that children learn is through example, especially from their parents. It would be very easy for children to pick up Orientalist ideas from their parents who are reinforced by the news. As far as music that children listen to is concerned, I haven’t yet looked into much besides movie soundtracks. For example, Aladdin provides us with this gem of a lyric: “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like you’re face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home!” Although this was later changed to “Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home!”, it was changed only after the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee claimed that the original line was not appropriate and racist.

For the category of movies, Aladdin is obviously a prime candidate of study. It is one of the most popular movies Disney has ever made, and is one of the only children’s movies that provides children with an image of the Middle East, whether it is accurate or not. Disney, of course, seems to have never shied away from straight racism – the “Red Man” in Peter Pan; the Jamaican-sounding, jobless crab named Sebastion from the Little Mermaid; the monkeys (the only characters in the movie who speak broken English) who want to be like real humans in the Jungle Book; the black, poorly spoken crows in Dumbo; the single black centaur from Fantasia (that was later cut completely from the movie); just to name a few. Because Aladdin provides the only example (that I know of) of racism and Othering in regards to Arab people specifically, I believe I will stick with the numerous examples it gives its audience.

Clearly, children learn many things in school – that’s the point of education. In the first reading for this class, J.M. Blaut says in The Colonizer’s Model of the World the following about textbooks: “Textbooks are an important window into a culture; more than just books, they are semiofficial statements of exactly what the opinion-forming elite of the culture want the educated youth of that culture to believe to be true about the past and present world.” Obviously these textbooks are quite influential, especially when the pictures they paint are often children’s only pictures of other parts of the world.

As far as other forms of entertainment, I plan to explore the topics of Disneyworld, specifically Epcot, and circuses. Having never been to Disney world myself, this topic may be a bit harder for me to cover. Also, if anyone has other specific examples of how Orientalist ideas are imposed on children, feel free to leave them in a comment! As you can see, examples abound in our society, but having more to choose from would be very helpful for my paper and presentation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Aspects of Colonialism Most Interesting to Me and Why

The most interesting aspect of colonialism to me is Orientalism. Orientalism is the lens that Westerners, specifically those in the United States, use to view the East, specifically the Arab world. The main aspect of Orientalism that interests me is how these ideas become so engrained in our entire culture. In my experience, ideas such as this one are so deeply engrained in a peoples or culture because of two possible causes. The first is from personal experience. After all, it is through personal experience that people make the majority of their judgments. However, many people have not had very many personal experiences with people from the Middle East or have ever even visited an Arab country. Therefore, conditioning, the second cause, is most prevalent. If something is heard early and often, it sticks with people. I would like to focus my paper on how and why this bias and “lens” by which we see the Orient is formed and is retained.

I plan to go deeper into this topic by starting at the age where learning is begun – childhood. B.F. Skinner, the great psychologist and behaviorist, once said, “Give me a child, and I will shape him into anything.” Another wise man once said, “Give me a child between the ages of 5 and 10, and he’ll be mine for life.” These quotations simply mean that if one takes children and conditions them to think a certain way, they will probably think that way for the rest of their lives. I plan to explore how movies, textbooks, children’s books, Disneyland, and other forms of childhood entertainment and education lead to Orientalist ideas in adults.

Another plus about the topic of Orientalism is that it encompasses almost all the terms we have gone over this semester. In order to have Orientalist ideas, people must invoke at least one if not all of the following ideas: the mark of the plural, dehumanization, Inside/Outside thinking, Othering (alterity), the Other, Eurocentrism, diffusionism, and hegemony. All of these terms are used when describing Orientalist ideas and biases.