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.