Literature

Orientalism and Arab-Islamic history: an inquiry into the orientalists' motives and compulsions

"They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

"Soldiers, from the top of the pyramids, forty centuries look down on you!" Napoleon Bonaparte

As the intellectual outcome of the European affiliation of power with knowledge, Orientalism is a Western cultural phenomenon which is particularly related to the colonial and post-colonial reception of the Orient, its people and history. Orientalism, states Edward W. Said, is "a political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (Europe, the West, 'us') and the strange (the orient, the East, 'them')."(1) As the "strong" and the "familiar" entity, the West finds it automatic and, at times, imperative that "the Oriental is contained and represented by dominating frameworks."(2) The frameworks of containment and representation take various forms and apply different techniques. Among the major frameworks are historical presentations and re-presentations. Eric Meyer has very recently reduced Said's argument into the compact structure of a sentence. "Considered as a single metagrammatical sentence," states Meyer, "the ideological syntax of the narrative of Romantic Orientalism might be reduced to the structure of Hegel's Philosophy of History, in which the west as subject defeats the East as object in the battle for world-historical ascendancy."(3) According to this logic, the Orientalist historiography of Eastern civilizations expresses an imperial desire: to subject the "other" and the "other's" past to the imperial will, and to come out with a new "world history" in which the Western power becomes the historical necessity in a "new world order."

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