MCOM227: 7th Blog Post – What is Orientalism?

/, ôre‘en(t)l,izəm/

Style, artifacts, or traits considered characteristic of the people and cultures of Asia.
     the representation of Asia, especially the Middle East, in a stereotyped way that is regar-ded as embodying a colonialist attitude

In this assignment I’m supposed to write what I know about Orientalism and what is it’s importance… it’s gonna be a pointless and short blog since I don’t really know much.


What is Orientalism and why does it matter?

There are many variations of the meaning and there is no one right definition of Orientalism.

Well we can start off by breaking down the word: Orientalism → Oriental → Orient : meaning East  (Asia;  as opposed to  Occident  aka the West – Europe and America). When we say something is / or looks oriental we immediately think of  Asia (the continent, not just China …):

 Arabia,  Persia/Iran (the Middle East) , India, China (the Far East) and maybe Northern Africa, but nowadays its used to refer to Arabs.

Geographically, Asia is divided into: North Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, South Asia, Near Asia (aka the Middle east), and the Far East.


Orientalism is mostly used in a stereotypical way, like we talked about in Wednesdays class, the us (the west) and them ( the rest of the primitive East). Orientalism is an umbrella term that typically encompasses: Middle (near) Eastern traditions, culture, so on.

 Orientalism is also linked to politics and power, like colonization and the image of the west dominating some submissive east areas. That’s all I know about political links….

Moving on.

In an artsy way, Orientalism was used to portray the near East as a mysterious and exotic place that needs to be “tamed” and brought into (CFW) . Many of the paintings that objectified woman, and showed the west a general and constructed idea of what the east actually was. Basically, they were portrayed in a way that exploited their way of living, like the fact that men own the power and woman are slaves who dance (always shown in provocative ways), play music and cater the more important “Man”.  One example (of many) is this  :

Francois Gabriel Guillaume Lepaulle (French artist, 1804-1886) The Pasha and His Harem
Francois Gabriel Guillaume Lepaulle (French artist, 1804-1886) The Pasha and His Harem


In my opinion, like many other words, Orientalism has been hijacked and is being used for political dominance, stereotyping and pushing the Middle east into the “them” corner. In other words, oriental can be used along aside foreigners  in some situations. In addition, over the years as the world changed the word changed with it… and with that change there have been some adaptations like: exportation of oriental  traditions and culture to the West and vice versa

That’s all I know about Orientalism….. Hahaha! I’ll update this post once we talk about it in class 🙂




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