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.