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Criticisms of Said[edit]

Hi all,

I think the segment on Criticisms is actually very shortened and even questionable in parts. It only gives a small number of critical points and is suggestive in a few instances. For example, stating that "In his ascerbic rebuttal of Lewis' critique, Said demonstrated how hard it was to debate with a scholar who rejected his opponents' intellectual credibility" is not neutral and sould be changed. In addition, it should be stated clearly that Lewis and Said had been fighting a trench war for 25 years ever since Said had criticized Lewis in "Orientalism" in 1978. Totally missing as yet are discussions of attempts by academics like Bhabha or Lowe to develop Said's theories further. I would like to propose that major themes of criticism should be bundled and discussed. I will attempt to contribute first pointers in the next few days, if that is okay with you.

— Preceding unsigned comment added by Shamilea (talkcontribs) 22:02, 28 November 2006

Go ahead. Paul B 08:53, 29 November 2006 (UTC)
I find the section on Criticisms of Said hard to follow. The scholarly arguments start out weak: "Said ignores many genuine contributions to the study of Eastern cultures made by Westerners during the Enlightenment and Victorian eras." (Said's point would be that these 'contributions' are not disinterested or culturally/politically neutral, but serve an overarching purpose, so this assertion is quite unconvincing, not to say irrelevant.)
It then goes on to firmer ground ("He has been criticised for ignoring the contributions of Italian, Dutch, and particularly the massive contribution of German scholars"). This appears to be a major weakness of Said's critique and should be developed.
We are then treated to a brief view of mud-slinging between Said and Lewis, followed by what appears to be a smear campaign against Lewis ("proper knowledge of ... Lewis' own (often masked) neo-imperialist proclivities...Specifically, Lewis is aligned with prominent "think tanks" that promote "neoconservative" views on U.S. Middle East Policy....Pipes is the author of a website,, which encourages students to report bias on the part of their professors." -- What has Pipes got to do with critiques of Said's Orientalism?)
If such personal attacks on Said's opponents are kosher, where do we stop? Said himself has been personally attacked on various counts. Should these attacks be included?
Couldn't this section be rewritten to provide a more coherent and convincing (and less personal) criticism of the basic theses of Orientalism?
Bathrobe 03:40, 12 June 2007 (UTC)
I've checked the articles on Edward Said and Orientalism (book). Both of these present far more coherent and convincing criticisms of Said's Orientalism than the piece of rubbish presented in this article. Since there is so much overlap, does anyone have any idea how they could be harmonised and coordinated?
Bathrobe 05:54, 12 June 2007 (UTC)
Spouting insults doesn't help anyone. No-one is stopping you trying to improve the section are they? Of course it's the result of additions multiple editors with competing agendas. I hadn't noticed the addition of the attempt to descredit Lewis. Paul B 09:40, 12 June 2007 (UTC)
The only thing that could be construed as an insult is 'piece of rubbish'. And I only used it after I read the very good contributions at the other entries, beside which the criticisms section at this entry does look like a 'piece of rubbish'. I don't think there's anything I could do that would be an improvement on those other articles. The nub of my suggestion is "does anyone have any idea how they could be harmonised and coordinated?" Perhaps this section could be deleted altogether and readers redirected to the other articles. It seems that the three articles on Orientalism, Orientalism (book), and Edward Said are trying to cover similar ground.
Bathrobe 09:54, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Edward Said and "Orientalism"[edit]

"Despite this often mixed tradition, the word "Orientalism" carried no overt negative freight".

Despite the later examples, this still seems like quite a strong and absolutist statement to make.

Likewise with ""Oriental" was simply understood as the opposite of "occidental" ('western')." and the subsequent reference to the negative connotations only being formed "following the publication of the groundbreaking work Orientalism". Surely such claims should be in the 'criticisms of Said' section, as they clearly disagree with the opening statements of the article.

Sithemadmonkey 01:53, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

I'm at a loss to see how they disagree with the opening statements, which are about post-Said attitudes to the word. Paul B 18:52, 25 January 2007 (UTC)


Please do not succumb to Western fallacies of believing that democracy originated in Greece. “Demo=People” “Cracy=rule”, or rule of the people, is certainly not what Greece had in any of its ages. When half the population (females) and non citizens or slaves (up to 30% of the population) are not eligible to vote this certainly was NOT a people ruled society. Rather a androaristocracy might be more precise. Please don’t fall to the familiar bias of ancient Greece as the founders of a civil society. The true work of Martin Luther King and Susan Anthony should reflect the commanding heights of the term “democracy”. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:33, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Isn't this, what's they call it? ... POV? Curious. --Barbatus 17:59, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
Well, if no one will object, I'll remove "groundbreaking." --Barbatus 12:43, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't see what's wrong with it. It's an influential work, so groundbreaking seems fairly NPOV. Paul B 12:53, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
Ifluential, yes (even if, in my opinion, for totally wrong reasons); but what's so "markedly innovative" (definition of "groundbreaking" in the Webster) about it? --Barbatus 03:06, 20 June 2007 (UTC)
I guess becuase it broke new ground - being a foundational work of so-called "post-colonial studies", with its characteristic theoretical language and political assumptions. The term is not an endorsement. It's possible to be both groundbreaking and totally wrong! Paul B 09:50, 20 June 2007 (UTC)
Indeed it is. Probably, as Inglese is not my native tongue, I read to much into this ground-thing. --Barbatus 12:18, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

Orientalism in Religion?[edit]

I came to this page looking for a mention of Orientalism in religion and found ... nothing. Is there opposition to placing the idea on the page or has it simply been overlooked by previous writer-editors?

For clarity, i am referring here to 19th and early 20th century religious texts by European and American authors that make special (and often unsubstantiated and poorly reaseached and just plain fabricated) claims about Middle Eastern / Indian / Asian religions.

Examples: Hargrave Jennings ("The Results of the Mysterious Buddhism"), Charles F. Haanel (financial success promoter but also wrote a book on yoga), Aleister Crowley (book on yoga, book in I Ching, photo of himself posed as Hotei), William Walker Atkinson (wrote under at least three fake Indian pseudonyms (see article on Atkinson) and produced dozens of books on yoga, including a book allegedly by a "Swami" on "Mystical Christianity"), T. Lobsang Rampa (British plumber who wrote several books (fake) on Tibetan religion and also dressed up and posed as his own (fake) Chinese literary agent), Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (mediumistic communications with alleged Himalayan "masters"), Alice Bailey (mediumistic encounters with an alleged Tibetan "master" -- yet also wrote a proscription against Europeans marrying Chinese or Japanese people), Alexandra David-Neel (described Tibetan religion for Westerners), .

There are many more examples, but these come to mind off the top of my head.

What do y'all think?

cat yronwode Catherineyronwode 01:57, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure that they really come into the category of Orientalism. Are you used the word to mean "sterotypes of Easternness"? That's not its literal meaning, of course. Western writers who studies Islam and Dharmic cultures are discussed in the article, but these writers are either rather fringy or extreme. Blavatsky and her follower are notable, but I've never seen them referred to as "Orientalists". Also this tradition can absorb - for example - Native Amercian spirituality (Carlos Castaneda) or alleged European "folk" traditions Charles Godfrey Leland, Gerald Gardner. It might be worth a mention that the notion of the "wise-and-mystic" East begins to develop in the late 19th century and has become a cliche by the time Lost Horizon is written. Paul B 08:49, 19 September 2007 (UTC)
I am referring to the concepts elucidated by Carl T. Jackson in his 1975 article The New Thought Movement and the Nineteenth Century Discovery of Oriental Philosophy (published in The Journal of Popular Culture Vol. 9, No. 3, pp 523–548). This predates Said's book (which contains concepts that, being as old as i am, i thought were pretty much "old hat" by the time that book was published).
I would like to correct two misimpressions you have:
First, the proponents of Orientalism in religion were not as "fringe" or "extreme" as you may think -- or, at least, they are no more "extreme" with respect to 19th and early 20th century religion than the Orientalist artists and writers were with respect to the general fields of art and literature.
Second, the phenomenon did not originate in the late 19th century, as you state, but had started in the 18th century, with French books like "The Secrets of the Sage of the Pyramids" -- an anonymous French acount of a trip to Egypt where a wise hermit propounds his magical wisdom. (This book is still in print and is available for free download as well.) Religious Orientalism reached full flower by the mid 19th century, and certainly prior to the emergence of Blavatsky. Paschal Beverly Randolph, who died in 1875, was using an Orientalist approach as early as the late 1850s, when he began to write about learning the secrets of sex-magic from a beautiful exotic woman on a trip to the Middle East ("The Anseiratic Mysteries"). (As an aside, one of the things that makes Randolph's Orientalism so interesting is that not only did he actually visit Syria and environs, he was an African American free man who claimed to have acquired religious, mystical, and sexual secrets from "the dusky races" of the Middle East.) See
  • Deveney, John Patrick and Franklin Rosemont (1996). Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-3120-7.
  • Godwin, Jocelyn, Christian Chanel, and John Patrick Deveney (1995). The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism. Samuel Weiser. ISBN 0-87728-825-9.
For some material that i have written on the general subject of Orientaism in religion at Wikipedia, please go to the article on William Walker Atkinson -- specially the long digressive portion (not about Atkinson) that is included in this subsection: [1].
What i would really like to do is to migrate that more general (non-Atkinson-specific) text over from the Atkinson page to the Orientalism page, in a sub-head on Orientalism in Religion, adding some prafacatory material on the 18th century writers, plus brief mention of Atkinson within the more general text of the sub-section.
Thanks for responding, and i hope you will now better understand the sources from which i am working, and the ideas that i am trying to convey.
cat yronwode Catherineyronwode 17:34, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
the pre-19th century writers are mainly working within models that privilege Egypt and emerge from Rosicricianism etc. That's very common in 18th century occultism. The central question here is whether Orientalism is the best label for this - the article can't cover everything and anything ever said about cultures to the east of Europe. Paul B 17:41, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Split article?[edit]

The article begins:

Orientalism is the study of Near and Far Eastern societies and cultures, languages, and peoples by Western scholars. It can also refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists.

of which the first sentence is really not correct; an Orientalist does not study Orientalism. I think we should split the article into O-ism & Oriental Studies, at present a redirect here. Anyone agree? Johnbod (talk) 23:45, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

I don't understand your argument. Orientalism is Western study of the East (or "the Orient"), which is what the sentence says. It says nothing about Orientalism being the study of Orientalism. Paul B (talk) 11:06, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
Is "Orientalism is Western study of the East" true? Only in a very recherche way - see OED. Have there ever been Professors of Orientalism? Degrees in it? No. The correct term is "Oriental Studies", especially now that Said has essentially appropriated the word. Johnbod (talk) 12:06, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
This seems trivial and facile - Said is clearly speaking to present day practicioners of "Oriental Studies," and I think Orientalists like Bernard Lewis understood that clearly enough. At the very least Said considered "orientalism," however narrowly you wish to define it, to be a specific case of a larger issue of the West creating its object of study through the study of subjugated peoples. Plenty of people disagree with him but they all understand that the argument applies to people like Lewis and Patai, and can be extended even further. I share Paul B's incomprehension of Johnbod's remark. Slrubenstein | Talk 12:27, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── What is it with you people? I'll keep it very simple. This article is WP's only article on Oriental Studies, which redirects here. This is wrong. "Orientalism" is not now and never has been a standard term in English for "Oriental Studies", and should not be used as the article title for that subject under normal WP policy. There should be an article called "Oriental Studies", incorporating some of the material from here, and "Orientalism" should just cover the "Saidian" sense. Johnbod (talk) 12:35, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Orientalism should not cover the Said stuff, which amounts to a POV fork as Said is critiquing Oriental Studies. Perhaps you want to suggest that this articel redirect to a main article on Oriental Studies, which would include a section on "history" covering 19th century orientalists, and a section on post-colonial critiques of oriental Studies, including Said? Slrubenstein | Talk 15:52, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
Glad to see we are on the same wavelength at last! (more or less; I do indeed "want to suggest" what I had just plainly stated). Said is critiquing a great deal more than just academic Oriental Studies, as the article rightly explains, and a seperate article is justified (in fact this article has very little on straight Oriental studies (which long predate the C19th btw) - only two sections really. This article could not honestly be renamed "Oriental Studies" at present, and as already explained, "Orientalism" is not an acceptable title for the article we need on the academic subject. So I see a split as inevitable. Actually I see we have a short article on Asian studies, the more usual name these days. The sections on the academic subject alone should be moved there (with some remaining here too) and the Oriental studies redirect should go there. Unless there are reasoned objections I will do this in a few days. Johnbod (talk) 17:07, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
To move the encyclopedia-building process forward, there should be a succinct summary of this article at Oriental studies with a hatnote directing here.--Wetman (talk) 19:21, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
Now, with an article Oriental studies to describe modern studies of all the Eastern cultures and peoples and their histories, and this article Orientalism to describe the historical fascination of the East for the West, often expressed in trivial ways, part of the history of ideas, editing can proceed on each subject without mutual interference. Someone needs to reduce material here that belongs in contemporary Oriental stuidies rather than here. And a hatnote main article... needs to be introduced at the appropriate place.--Wetman (talk) 19:47, 19 February 2008 (UTC)
As I see it the academic field of study should be at the new article Oriental studies you have set up, for the whole period - why break it, and when? Really I still think it should be at Asian studies, or maybe treated as the historiography offshoot of that - History of Oriental studies? This article should cover the wider issue of cultural attitudes, principally from the Early Modern period on, and their academic discussion with Said etc. Johnbod (talk) 01:03, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
Orientalism is a term that is used in two broad senses. In art/literature it is used to refer to depictions or engagements with the East. In scholarship it is used in several related ways. Writers were referred to as Orientalists if they were specialists in Oriental cultures. This usage is still very common in the UK and France for example. See the National Council on Orientalist Library Resources [2]. Some writers like Trautmann use the word to refer to 19th C scholars who were sympathetic specialists in Eastern studies, as opposed to those who believed in either a generic 'progress' or a 'Christian' truth which overode cultural differences. It is very common to use Orientalist in this way - meaning a Western specialist in or aficianado of Eastern cultures. I see no reason why there should not be a separate article on modern 'Eastern studies', or 'Asian studies', or whatever term may be used in different contexts, but I don't think it's true to assert that "Oriental Studies" was always the "correct" term. Paul B (talk) 01:25, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
This is where I came in! "Orientalist! is the standard (older) English term for a scholar of "Oriental Studies", but "Orientalism" is not in English (unlike, I think, in French) a standard English term for what Orientalists study. Point me to any English-speaking University "Department of Orientalism", now or in the past. Johnbod (talk) 01:57, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
We are going in circles. Some universities have departments of Political Science; some have departments of Government. We should not have two articles; these are merely two ways of referring to the same thing. In the case of Orientalism and Oriental Studies, one term was more wideley used in the past, another in the present; one term refers to a broader set of studies, the other to a specific institutionalized form of the study. The point is, they are too closely related to separate. I frankly do not care what the article is called and am happy for you and Paul B to gradually work towards a compromise, but that will not happen if both of you are intransigent. What I do care about is (1) that we not have two articles on two terms that for the most part refer to the same thing and (2) that whatever the article is called in be organized so as to include what would be the contents of the other article. Johnbod's comment may be accurate, for example, but it is unconstructive. I do not see that it matters that there are no departments of orientalism. So what? I can easily imagine an article called "Orientalism" that says in the introduction that in Academe, orientalism is generally pursued through departments (or schools or institutes - my goodness, I hope this doesn't mean three more articles!) of Oriental Studies, and then a section on Departments of Oriental Studies and current academic practice. I am not saying this is the best compromise solution, I am merely saying it is an entirely reasonable one that accommodates Hohnbod'spoint without changing the title. Folks, you will actually reach a satisfying compromise if you open your minds a little bit, use your imagination and try to come up with more than two choices, try to come up with four, five, six ways you can imagine dealing with the facts you have collectively pointed out ... then you can start zeroing in on the best solution for Wikipedia rather than repeating positions you have already asserted. Slrubenstein | Talk 04:08, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
I think you are the one going round in circles; I am quite satisfied with the direction matters are taking. There is an academic field of study - we now, thanks to Wetman, have an article on that called Oriental studies (to which I have been adding on the early history which was ignored in this article). There are, in 2008, two normal meanings of the term "Orientalism", which are both covered in the present article, along with the sections on Oriental studies. Both meanings involve academic Oriental studies, but extend beyond them into other areas of culture. There is far more to Oriental studies than the Said-type controversies, which trouble Assyriology very little. There is no point in combining an article on a very wide field of academic study with one on a particular controversy, and a historic tendency, within it. It just makes no sense. You are in any case wrong to imply that "Orientalism" was ever widely used in English to mean the academic discipline; it was not. The OED cites only one usage of it in this way, from Lord Byron in 1812; presumably a leakage from the French usage. Johnbod (talk) 04:23, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I am for the proposed split. As I understand it, "oriental studies" is an outdated term signifying the study of the people, culture, history or language of the continent of Asia. "Orientalism" is exclusively known, except for the aforementioned Byron, as a term coined by Edward Said to signify an attitude that arose in Europe as the age of imperialism died. It is an attitude of superiority that reflects the old domination-hungry drive of imperialistic Europe though it is now forced into subtler, indirect means, such as art, history, and philology. Abie the Fish Peddler (talk) 15:41, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

That happened in early 2008 - see Oriental studies. Johnbod (talk) 15:44, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Nice work, Johnbod. But is that your definition of the word "orientalist"? I simply think the lead can be honed further. I will get to work on it and hopefully present improvements soon.Abie the Fish Peddler (talk) 17:46, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Too general a use?[edit]

I agree that Orientalism for this article needed to be defined more, both so that it was not dominated by Said's late 20th century critique, and that it shows its historical timeframe. I think it's inappropriate to put late 20th c. works under "Orientalism", which had its peak in art probably in the 19th c. and early 20th c. The late 20th or early 21st c. works are a different kind of commentary - a Sondheim musical is not the same as a Delacroix painting. Also, to label as Orientalism a late novel by Marguerite Duras, who was half-Vietnamese and grew up in Vietnam, seems to be stretching the point. To say Orientalism is all depictions by the West of any aspect of Asian or Middle Eastern culture, from the 15th century and on to the infinite future, seems too unbounded. Also, artists and architects adapted design elements for different reasons than novelists set works in the "exotic East".--Parkwells (talk) 12:55, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

Orientalism in art[edit]

This discussion is too instrumentalist, assuming artists most wanted to comment on social aspects or criticisms of culture. They work in a visual field, and artists have historically been inspired by new sights, colors, patterns and use those for their own purposes. Art movements arise when groups of artists are inspired by the same source, but every artist's use of elements from the Near East, for instance, or Japan, did not mean it was for the same purpose. Some of it was for shifting ways of seeing, as in Impressionists' adaptation of woodblock elements.--Parkwells (talk) 13:43, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

In light of Said, there really a primary topic?[edit]

I can't recall anything Edward Said said, that i don't despise. (And i've read neither the accompanying article nor much of this talk page.) But i'd like to see at least a clearer indication on this talk page that adequate consideration has been given to the question of whether equal disambiguation (a recognition not of equal significance but of lack of a single topic so overwhelmingly predominant over the others as to justify a primary topic that requires readers seeking the article treating any other sense to get to it thru a HatNote Dab at the top of the page of the primary, rather than going directly to a Dab page that may favorably prioritize the most sought topic). Whether or not Orientalism (book) is the main article on the sense used by Said in title his book Orientalism, and no matter how exaggerated i find Said's complaints, my impression is that they have sufficient currency that it would be clarifying rather than obstructive to make Orientalism the Dab and perhaps Orientalism (Asian studies) the new title of the the accompanying article. Or if the accompanying article is our main coverage of "the Orientalism controversy", i would think Orientalism controversy should be an article, even if Asian studies is the article on "Orientalism" in its pre-Said sense. Perhaps all that it would take to satisfy me is a statement that the accompanying article is about the Orientalism controversy, the traditional term (as opposed to the topic it names) deserves only Rdrs, assertions to the contrary (as per lks provided) were laughed off the talk page, and "equal"-style Dab'n was adequately rediscussed as an issue separate from that. But i'd like at least that, without me and every editor with this concern having to launch their own WP-process research. --Jerzyt 20:46, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

The trouble is that in English "Orientalism" is NOT a usual term for what professors of Oriental studies study. It is a very rare usage, borrowed from the French - see above for lengthy discussion on this. The Oriental studies article is the one you are looking for. Johnbod (talk) 19:32, 5 October 2010 (UTC)


I am surprised to find an article on anything but a minor topic so skewed. Orientalism is a term used before, and independent of, the book. It is like wedging a huge essay on Manhattan (film) into Manhattan. The book already has its own article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Superp (talkcontribs) 17:28, 5 October 2010

See last section - are you looking for Oriental studies? Johnbod (talk) 19:33, 5 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, no, I am not. What I was trying to say was that the article maybe confuses one book about a subject with it being the subject. Is this article about
  1. how Oriental themes and influences were part of Western art, literature, etc. through history (art history), or
  2. the West's perception of the East (for which Orientalism seems a very poor term), and especially one man's (Said's) perception of that perception?
Surely the two are different, but related. Our German friends for instance have 1) Orientalism (art) and 2) Orientalism and the distinction to me seems to work well. I came here expecting (1) and found mainly (2) with a little bit of (1) mixed in. That confused me and I think it might confuse others. I think the current article also has some organisational problems, but let's first clarify the 1/2 thing. (2) seems already largely covered by Orientalism_(book), what seems missing is a good article on (1). Superp (talk) 01:06, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
No, the article is slightly more than 50% 1), more if you count the list, with a perhaps disprportionately long section on 2) right at the end. You are very welcome to add more on 1); 2) is more fashionable in colleges, no doubt explaining the current situation. Obviously the debate Said more or less started has gone on well beyond his book & his lifetime, so the article on the book cannot be expected to cover it all. Johnbod (talk) 01:52, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying, the college angle explains the current situation very well. The article has an active set of editors who seem happy with the current framework. I am willing to invest time in an article more useful for the general public - but not without help. Superp (talk) 09:02, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Actually I think very little has changed for a couple of years. Looking at the 2 articles, some of the Said stuff here might be added back at the book article, but not by me. I might add some more on visual art some time. Johnbod (talk) 12:50, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for posting this, I came here in search of some reference material for literature and art related to the Orientalist style. Doesn't one address material before one addresses criticisms of that material? As the commentor points out, there's a page specific to Said's book, I'd expect any of those criticisms to be found in summary at the end of the sections, rather than--for example--at the very start of the Art, Literature and Music section.--Pakaal (talk) 01:35, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

The list of examples[edit]

It has this stamp demanding more citations, which shouldn't be too hard to provide for some examples. I have a bigger issue with it though: it's full of old stuff! Almost all of the characters and works in it could have been cited by Said in Orientalism. If they were, then yes they should certainly be in here with some kind of a superscript reference. There are so many examples though that can be added to those he used . . . For instance, film is included here and it's great that we have Sex & the City 2 in the list with a reference. I'm sure we can find something to cite calling Indiana Jones 2 orientalist. What about Indiana Jones 4? Hollywood is just so guilty of this so many times in every single year . . . Here are some tentative additions to the list:

And here are some non-film major offenders of late:

  • Pretty much every comic book to feature an Asian or Asian-American or Asian-European going all the way back to 1900 or earlier.
  • The same goes for every video game.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. On purpose though.

What makes a man turn neutral? (talk) 20:28, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Article focus, in particular the lede[edit]

I've tagged the article with {{lead-rewrite}} as, owing to a never-properly-resolved debate about exactly what this article should be about, it has gradually backslid from the relatively straightforward description given immediately after the split between this and Oriental studies into a super-categorisation which tries to incorporate every definition of the word and as a result is of no use to the reader in figuring out what the article covers. In a way, this is a microcosm of the article itself, which covers every one of the following, seemingly at random:

  1. The imitation of Eastern culture by the West (with no comment on any intentions by the artist)
  2. The depiction of Eastern culture by the West (with no bounds at all: a horrendous overreach which renders the term almost meaningless)
  3. Oriental studies as a whole (this was put to bed in 2008. Move the reference to a hatnote, delete any remaining coverage from this article)
  4. A specific term for works of French art in the 19th Century (split to its own article, hatnote)
  5. Edward Said's book Orientalism
  6. The subject matter of that book, namely systematic misrepresentation of the East in Western culture to further its own ends
  7. Pro-Eastern scholars in the West (i.e. the exact opposite)
  8. Neo-Orientalism (linking to a stub article which coins a neologism for a modern Middle Eastern variant of Said's thesis; worthy of perhaps a paragraph here, but never its own article at this time)

As it stands the article is therefore a train wreck. The above set of bullet points would be as well used as a disambiguation page in itself. The topics it covers are barely related and occasionally mutually exclusive. They cannot all be covered in one article.

What we need to do is to figure out what aspect of the term "Orientalism" this article should refer to. This should be the most commonly-used instance of the term in contemporary English, as per our guidelines on primary topics. The remaining uses should be split to their own articles and linked to through a disambiguation page which will likely resemble the above set of bullets.

Chris Cunningham (user:thumperward: not at work) - talk 19:53, 8 April 2011 (UTC)

I tend to agree, although there is no "specific term for works of French art in the 19th Century" that does not cover English, German etc art. For some reason Said mainly concentrated on French writers & art which has led some to believe that was all there was. The Saidian section should be moved over to the book article, in so far as it isn't already there. "Eastern views of the West" can be dispensed with. By 1 you presumably mean architecture & by 2 art, but these are to a large extent the same thing; architects cannot "depict" so apparently must "imitate". The "oriental studies" is only there to explain the history of the term & can be moved lower down. 1 & 2 do need to be separated, but I think both belong here; equally the split between art and architecture does not work for 1. Johnbod (talk) 22:24, 8 April 2011 (UTC)
I have looked into several encyclopedias to find out what "Orientalism" means. Most of them say that nowadays it generally means Said's theory. I think the most sensible thing to do would be to move the art related content to an article called Orientalism (Art), and reserve this article for Said's definition / theory and issues related to Said's theory.MW 16:25, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
Uh, uh, no. Said did not create the meaning(s) of the word, and it would be very wrong to do this. Johnbod (talk) 16:37, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
From what I see, I think the impact of his work / theory has completely redefined the word. Having this article away from Said's theory seems to be like denying reality.MW 17:02, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
I know of no evidence of this. There are numerous books and articles that use the word Orientalism to refer to trends in art and design. It is also used in a neutral way to refer to western scholarship of asia, and, more specifically, to pro-Asian scholars of the 18th-19th centuries opposed to Westernising Evangelists and Utilitarians. Paul B (talk) 17:14, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
You seem to be unfamiliar with the current meaning of this word in the humanities and social sciences and even in art and architecture etc. The meanings which you describe would have been correct in the pre Said-theory days. But currently, these definitions are obsolete. At the very least, it is not the primary meaning of "Orientalism". If you familiarize yourself with the literature from the last 5-10 years, you may find sufficient evidence that "Orientalism" generally relates to Said's theory. The meanings which you describe are not current.MW 01:24, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
We are perfectly familiar thanks, and yes Said has made the word current in fields where it used not to be much used, but the old meanings truck on. Said's thoughts are perfectly well catered for by the book's article, and a hatnote here. One fashionable book does not corner the meaning of a well-established word. See for example this major exhibition in 2008. In fact this article used to have a lot more on Said, but there were, I think rightly, complaints about that (eg see "confusing" above), so it was merged to the book article, which by the way is of very questionable quality, despite its length. Johnbod (talk) 01:30, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

This is not a can of worms I greatly relish re-opening, but I have to ask why the lead of the article currently reads (with emphasis added):

Orientalism is an academic term, used in art history, literary studies, geography, and cultural studies, which is and describes a critical approach to representations of the Orient; of the Eastern cultures of the Middle East, North Africa, South West Asia, and South East Asia, represented as “European knowledge of the Orient” created by artists and writers from Western Europe.

I'm guessing this is a case of unresolved argument leading to a non-compromise hybrid pleasing no one. Writing that x is "an academic term" [describing xy] is bad enough, but is the academic term orientalism really meant to describe a critical approach (wikilinked to "critical theory") to representations of the Orient? In other words has Said's book achieved such Generic trademark status that in the 21st century, an "orientalist" is someone who studies problematic Western representations of the Orient? (And, presumably, "orientalism" is their ideology?)

Or is this meant to say that "orientalism" refers to exactly those aspects of "Oriental studies", as well as artistic depictions of foreign cultures (Muslims, Chinese, Chinese Muslims, etc...) which are approached critically by critical approachers?

Why not instead say that Orientalism is a certain Western aesthetic (or cultural tendency) (or the name for an aesthetic ... or even an academic term for an aesthetic if we must hedge about whether "orientalism" exists cohesively anywhere but in their capacious minds) depicting and drawing from (near/middle/whatever) Eastern cultures? And then there can be a whole big section, reflected in the lede, on "Critique of Orientalism". (As User:Kdbeall observes below, the critique is bigger than the book and could have its own section here. Perhaps "critical studies" could move from a section in "Background" to its own section at the end, much as many other articles include "Criticism" sections near the bottom.)

In other words (as User:Johnbod and User:Paul Barlow question above) is the post-Said "critical" approach really part of the definition of "Orientalism"? Or is it simply a significant scholarly approach to Orientalism which should be mentioned in the article on that topic?

Sorry. groupuscule (talk) 22:15, 13 May 2017 (UTC)

Actually it is more that it has been changed without, I think, anyone much noticing. This is how it used to be, and that 1st para should be returned, I think. The article tends to be edited by cultural studies types without any great awareness of other approaches. Johnbod (talk) 02:39, 14 May 2017 (UTC)
OK that's a relief. What do you think about moving the criticism section to near the end, after "Religion", before "Eastern Views of the West"? It doesn't seem like Background. groupuscule (talk) 10:40, 14 May 2017 (UTC)

Citation/Source for the second paragraph[edit]

Namely, this part: "Today, it is commonly used to describe a form of racism or prejudice against peoples of 'the East', such as Arabs, Jews, Iranians, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Indians or other Asian groups as 'mysterious, dishonestly intelligent, overly sensual, warlike, and barbarically loyal to their 'tribe' instead of to humankind'."

This is my source. You'll find the definition towards the end of the pamphlet. If someone who is proficient with putting in references could just stick this in, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

evildoer18769.248.98.23 (talk) 19:01, 11 September 2012 (UTC)

There's no way that's an reliable source & it is way too over-specific. I have rewritten the reference to the post-Said sense of the word. Johnbod (talk) 19:54, 11 September 2012 (UTC)

It seems about as reliable to me as using Edward Said's book. Please explain to me why it's less credible. In any case, it's an accurate definition. (talk) 23:42, 11 September 2012 (UTC)evildoer187

Seriously? How many reviews or citations does this phamplet or flyer have? Johnbod (talk) 01:36, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

It has some additional resources towards the end of the pamphlet. Anyway, both this and Said's book are essentially the personal opinions of their respective authors. How is one more or less credible than the other? (talk) 01:55, 12 September 2012 (UTC)evildoer187

And what do you mean by overly specific? Are you suggesting we make it more vague? With all due respect, that's a pretty ridiculous thing to ask for. (talk) 23:46, 11 September 2012 (UTC)evildoer187

Please don't ban me from editing. evildoer18769.248.98.23 (talk) 23:58, 11 September 2012 (UTC)

I'm just removing (most of) that contribution because it doesn't improve the article. Johnbod (talk) 01:36, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

I don't agree. (talk) 01:47, 12 September 2012 (UTC)evildoer187

My additions don't hurt it either, do they? (talk) 01:49, 12 September 2012 (UTC)evildoer187

Also, Said's book is almost exclusively about Western prejudices towards Arab-Muslim culture. He barely even touches on other Asian groups like East Asians, South Asians, ethnic Jews, etc. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:57, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

How is what I posted a 'minority' viewpoint?[edit]

"More generally, it is commonly used to describe a form of racism or prejudice against peoples of 'the East', such as Arabs, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Indians or other Asian groups as 'mysterious, dishonestly intelligent, overly sensual, warlike, and barbarically loyal to their 'tribe' instead of to humankind'."

Seems like an accurate definition to me. Are people just mad because I included Jews in that definition? Because they are an Asian group as well. I don't understand what the problem is. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:00, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

Rudolf Ernst (1854-1932)[edit]

Added to list, since he is at least "notable" enough for his own WP article. Perhaps this list (and others?) should be spun-off as separate list? ~Eric F (talk) 15:41, 5 November 2012 (UTC)

Asian and North African?[edit]

Said's book makes little, if any, reference to any Asian culture besides that of Arab and Islamic culture. I feel that if you're going to add "Asian and North African", you should at least source it.Evildoer187 (talk) 16:56, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

You were the one adding. You don't think he covers North Africa? Really? He doesn't mention non-Islamic Asia much (and has been criticised for it) but it is covered in his scope, and as I recall writers such as Pierre Loti are covered to some degree. Certainly his thesis has been enthusiatically extended to the rest of Asia by others, which is relevant here. Equally, and unsurprisingly given his background, he tends to avoid terms such as the "Islamic world" or "Middle East", preferring "the East" and "the Orient". I have added the Middle East for geographical precisionJohnbod (talk) 17:19, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

Read my post again. "Said's book makes little, if any, reference to any Asian culture besides that of Arab and Islamic culture." North Africa is obviously accounted for in the "Arab and Islamic cultures" bracket. I was concerned because he seldom mentions Chinese, South Asian, Jewish diaspora/Israeli/Hebrew etc cultures, all of which fall under the scope of Asia/the Orient. He was predominantly concerned with the Arab world, so I thought the article should specify that.Evildoer187 (talk) 21:58, 9 November 2012 (UTC) That said, the article is fine as it is now.Evildoer187 (talk) 21:58, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

Orientalism and the Jews[edit]

This is an excerpt from a published book, both of which are written by the same people. It talks about how Jews living in Europe (and who were of Middle Eastern ancestral origins) are/were also victims of Orientalism, even to this day. I think it should be included in some way in the main article, or at least the second paragraph of the intro. Evildoer187 (talk) 11:29, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

That belongs, if anywhere, in the Said-style Orientalism article, not here. Johnbod (talk) 13:52, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

And where is this Said-style Orientalism article?Evildoer187 (talk) 13:56, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

see line 1 para 2, lazy boy! Johnbod (talk) 14:00, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

Need I remind you that there are very clear guidelines against WP:SHOUTING and rudeness.Evildoer187 (talk) 16:53, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

I would take the opportunity that it always pays to read at least the lead of an article to see what the actual subject is before suggesting changes. That way you don't waste other editors' time. Johnbod (talk) 17:03, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

Too long[edit]

This article is too long and tries to hit too many targets. For instance the section on religion seems out of place and there is almost no discussion of literature. I think it should be a general discussion of the topic and the rest should be split out to articles such as Or and architecture, Or and religion, Or and art, Or and literature etc. Philafrenzy (talk) 17:58, 10 December 2014 (UTC)

This article is not anything approaching overlong by wikipedia's general standards. As for the claim that the section on religion "seems out of place", I simply don't know what you mean. Why? You just say it is. Paul B (talk) 15:13, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
"almost no discussion of literature" is the key weakness as present; I certainly agree with that. Johnbod (talk) 15:34, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that's true. Paul B (talk) 17:41, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't know how many articles we should have on this subject. That was the discussion I was hoping to start. It just seems to me that there is more than enough material to have a general article on Or and separate ones on at least Art & Architecture, Literature, Film, Music, Dance and probably others too. Each of those has the potential to be very long in its own right. Philafrenzy (talk) 17:55, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
Of course there is nothing stopping you creating spin-off articles, but I would no be in favour of breaking up this article, since the sections are related to one another. Usually we create spin-offs when a particular section gets to be too long. It is then moved to its own article and its contents are summarised in the main article. Paul B (talk) 18:00, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
It seems to me that the length of the article is creating an illusion that the topic is more fully covered than it actually is. For instance, had "Orientalism and literature" existed separately a couple of years ago, how long would that article be now? I agree, however, that its all related and we should continue to have a summary of each area here and separate articles about sub-topics. In fact you could argue that what we have now is the summary without the other articles. Philafrenzy (talk) 18:31, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
Well you could. We might add one of those "This section needs expanding" tags for literature, which of course everyone would ignore. Johnbod (talk) 19:08, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

'In dance' section[edit]

I'm concerned about the In dance section.

  • It's pretty long, unless I missed something about the significance of dance to the overall topic
  • It may be written with the intention of advertising.
    • Its only web cites are of (without specifying a page);
    • its book citations also do not specify pages, are inelegantly repetitive, and rely heavily on a single work; and
    • its unregistered author (here's the diff) geolocates to Long Island City, United States, which would fit if the author has some sort of commercial interest in the American Ballet Theatre whose website is ambiguously cited.

I'd fix it myself, but I came here looking for URLs to fix, and I'm not comfortable just fixing the URLs without addressing what I see as a bigger problem with this new section. However, I'm not knowledgeable about the subject, and so can't boil it down to a reasonable size, if that's what needs doing; and I'm still a pretty new editor, so I'm not sure if a revert is warranted either.

Sorry. Respectfully, Mathieu ottawa (talk) 08:42, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

I fixed the web citations. The other problems remain. --Mathieu ottawa (talk) 03:49, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

English meanings of "Orientalism"[edit]

The article currently claims that "however the use in English of Orientalism to describe the academic subject of "Oriental studies" is rare; the Oxford English Dictionary cites only one such usage, by Lord Byron in 1812". Is this accurate? (I don't have access to the OED, so I don't know if this is supposed to mean "it gives one example, form 1812" or "it says the only recorded instance was from 1812"). I do have a 1977 issue of the Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (i.e. published the year before Said's Orientalism) that gives the definitions "An eastern expression, custom, etc; Scholarship of eastern languages". (Note that this dictionary generally lists meanings in order of first use, so "scholarship of eastern languages" would presumably be current at the time of publication). I also have a 2005 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English which doesn't actually define "orientalism" but merely gives it as a derivative of "oriental". So from this, I gather that using "orientalism" to mean "Asian [language] studies" is now obsolete or obsolescent, but that it used to be standard or common, whereas the article text implies it never was. Iapetus (talk) 08:54, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

It's now obselete, it used to be rare - very rare in fact. There was a long section on this years back. Note that "the academic subject of "Oriental studies"" is not the same as "Scholarship of eastern languages", and was even less so pre-1900. Johnbod (talk) 11:37, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

Orientalism and Colonialism and Imperialism[edit]

I feel that there is a need for further discussion of orientalism in the context of post-colonialist studies and as a tool of imperialism. Indeed, the Orientalism article is categorized as "Admiration of foreign cultures" which is hardly the case and a deep misconception. Orientalism is the invention of this notion of an 'exotic', 'uncivilized' and 'unchanging' East, and is a direct tool of colonialism and imperialism. Additionally, there is a lack of discussion of orientalism in popular culture. Works which show prime examples of orientalism range into popular media such as cartoons, comics, and poems. For now, I will try to amend the article with greater inclusion of the discussion of orientism in the context of post-colonial studies into the article. However, a split into two articles may be necessary.

07:50, 28 March 2016 (UTC)Kdbeall (talk)

Not here please. The specific Saidian sense of the term is discussed at Orientalism (book) and elsewhere. This article covers the older and wider meanings of the term. Johnbod (talk) 13:57, 28 March 2016 (UTC)

No, putting Orientalism in the post-colonial context in only the [[Orientalism(book])] article ignores the contributions of other post-colonial academics. So, there needs to be a space to discuss Orientalism in a post-colonial context without merely cramming it all into the aricle about the book by Said. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Kdbeall (talkcontribs) 15:23, 28 March 2016 (UTC)

To better discuss orientalism we must go beyond a focus on art and "admiration of foreign cultures". Disregarding the work of countless other post-colonialist academics would not allow a full discussion of orientalism. To illustrate that this current article does not cover the breadth of orientalism, take that there has been no discussion of orientalism with respect to Imperial Japan and Oceania. Additionally, there needs to be more reference to the use of orientalism in popular western and Japanese culture to establish the dynamic of "other". Take for example, King_Kong_(1933_film), there is clear dynamic of "civilized" vs "uncivilized" at play. Note secondary sources such as Tropics of Savagery: The Culture of Japanese Empire in Comparative Frame and Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture" that discuss this. Kdbeall (talk) 20:27, 28 March 2016 (UTC)

As I said, not here. There is discussion at the other article as to whether that should be re-named, re-focused etc, but it has been concluded (see talk archives) that all that should not be here; it is essentially another, obviously related, topic. Johnbod (talk) 12:43, 29 March 2016 (UTC)
I'll bring the discussion to Orientalism(book). I'm considering splitting it to Orientalism (postcolonial studies) or something similar because there is a great amount of work regarding orientalism beyond Said in secondary literature. For this article, I will include more popular media related to orientalism. Kdbeall (talk) 15:19, 29 March 2016 (UTC)
Probably a good idea (to split the other), or maybe just start a new article, which you don't need any agreement to do. I'm not sure what "more popular media related to orientalism" means - to my mind there are already rather too many stray 19th & 20th-century items that don't really amount to a coherent subject. See this section above for a bunch of suggestions of stuff we really don't need. or not in this article. Johnbod (talk) 17:16, 29 March 2016 (UTC)

By "popular media related to orientalism" I mean mass media that featured "oriental" tropes. For example, King Kong and The Teahouse of the August Moon. I feel that the current sections "In Film" and "Literature" are stubs. I agree that there are too many stray 19th and 20th century items. The sections about orientalism in art needs to be more concise. Kdbeall (talk) 02:59, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

There's nothing "oriental" about King Kong - like the remake its exotic setting is all "traditional society" - ie "primitive tribes" on small islands. That's a different trope which should not be confused. Said is all about the cultural/artistic treatment in the West of very developed Asian & Middle Eastern cultures. I don't think we're going to agree. I think we have other articles specific to film & popular culture elsewhere. Johnbod (talk) 03:14, 30 March 2016 (UTC)
Well, we have to look at orientalism beyond Said's work. Since the publication of Said's work, there has been more work in the field. Note, Said's work was published in 1978. But, since then, there have been further works expanding the discourse of orientalism. For example, take "Popular Orientalism and Views of Asia" by Kawamura Minato, which deals with Japan's own creation of "imagined geographies" and use of orientalist tropes. Regardless of your personal opinions on the meaning of orientalism, there is discussion of orientalism beyond Said's original definition. As for King Kong's orientalism, please see Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture. Kdbeall (talk) 04:02, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

Article has an "American unconscious"[edit]

If anyone cares to know, I was really thrown by the opening section concerning this "Edward Said". I had just finished reading Wikipedia articles about Romantic Medievalism, The Victorian propagation of Chivalric and Gothic Art & Literature. It was explained to me that this came about by a society trying to escape its excessively secular-rational, ugly-overdeveloped and too liberal-non-conformist state of being. So you can imagine the shock I felt when, looking for a breakdown on the Oriental artistic and cultural contribution to the movement at that time in imperial Britain, especially among new wealth, I find this strange something or other about a sinister conspiracy to unconsciously assert "Western society as developed, rational, flexible, and thereby superior" as if those adjectives were actually something universally valued and idealised above all throughout the last three centuries.

Now, I'm not writing here, on the bottom of a talk page of an obscure Wikipedia article to deny the basically accepted fact of cultural imperialism. What alarms me is what the collective creators of this article thought where the important topics of discussion to be outlined front and centre in this article. I strongly feel that this article should first outline the progressive discovery, import and integration of Eastern Art and Culture into the various Western countries, particularly Domestic Britain, because of its empire and because this article is in English. Instead, it's more interested in the history of the rejection and trivialisation of the East through the miserable parts of the 20th Century.

Why? Americans. The article is dominated by citizens of the US, who prioritise American authors and the American perspective. This just follows naturally on Wikipedia because Americans make up the majority of the English speaking world today and Wikipedia's borders are based on language not country. This is a problem because America was mostly an irrelevance in the 18th and 19th centuries, and without wanting to sound cruel, they don't have much of a history except for genocide, slavery, civil war and Puritanism. Coming from this background in today's world, of course, is a mindset that is hopelessly riddled with guilt and thoughts of "domination and submission" in every conceivable context. This makes an American radically unqualified to judge the importance and significance of events of other nation's empires from other times, because all they'll see as important and worthy of discussion is conflict, judgementality and racism that is reflected in their own history and neo-culture. It would be better if these kinds of articles we're at least structured by someone else from a background that enables them to give fair and balanced treatment to these delicate periods of history. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rayner-hills (talkcontribs) 13:21, 10 December 2016 (UTC)

While there are merits in your analysis of problems with this particular article, there is a problem with your premise. The United States were indeed built on a foundation of genocide, slavery, and civil war. However most countries and regions of the planet have similar backgrounds in constant wars and conflicts, their own histories of forced labor and exploitation of workers, their own histories of discrimination, persecution, and religious intolerance. We do not live in a perfect world, and history is often written in blood rather than ink.

I do not think it is likely to find writers who will view the phenomenon without projecting ideas deriving from their own cultural background. At best you can search from sources that do not reflect the orthodoxy of American academia. As for the relations between East and West, I would start on reading on the orientalizing period of ancient Greek art (8th-6th century BC). Artwork taking inspiration from the cultures of Syria, Assyria, Phoenicia, Israel, and Egypt. Dimadick (talk) 15:38, 11 December 2016 (UTC)


This is a branch of Orientalism, but there is no due mention of it in this article. I tried to insert a passage but it was reverted two times. Why?2601:84:4502:61EA:B45E:2270:6C0B:A28A (talk) 02:48, 31 December 2016 (UTC)