Reading, and thus feeding my intellectual curiosity has always been a necessary past time for me to partake in. Whether it’s the guardian on my phone to a novel from my school library to the journal articles related to my courses, I have an insatiable drive for new knowledge. From increasing my reading to a book a week, from the start of my final academic year, I can confidently say that I have come out an enlightened individual able to apply much of the knowledge of Chomsky, Jones, Nietzsche and Friedan into my interactions with others. Orientalism was no different for me, I had heard it was a topic of discussion in my friends’ English classrooms and knew I had to give it a read. After devouring it over my skiing holiday in the February half term, I felt the need to educate my peers,through a lecture, on both the joys of reading and the importance of transferring the words of Edward Said into a modern take it the issues gripping our current climate.


Edward Said was an American Palestinian academic, literary critic and political activist. In the book, Said criticises the western acquisition of knowledge of Asian societies as he expresses how many of these ideas have been entangled with a view of superiority, meaning that alongside this variation of knowledge came the birth of harmful and sustained stereotypes of Middle Eastern peoples that continue to haunt and defect modern day anthropology, politics and literature. The book is divided into three sections and 12 subsections, with the first third, the scope of orientalism covering the historical and cultural roots of Orientalism, tracing its development, back the trading links created by institutions such as the Levant company. The second section, orientalist structures and restructures is where Said goes into depth at how Middle Eastern fascination by the west, in an artistic and literary context, is constantly moulded with the west's underlying and oppressive ideologies and power dynamics. Finally, the concluding section on orientalism now discusses the current relevance of orientalism and how it bleeds into the way global politics continues to be understood and interpreted.


The research process for my lecture was messy and disoriented, mainly consisting of filling my phone notes up with pages and quotes that stood out for me for differing reasons. For example. as an intersection between being a woman and a minority myself, I was deeply moved by Said’s words of the long-standing and harmful western media identity of what it means to be a woman from the Orientalist perspective. He quotes Flaubert, who in his travel account of Egypt create the archetype of a Middle Eastern woman essential delicate mindlessly course but also self-sufficient and emotionally careless and more brutally ‘ a machine making distinction between a man and another man.’


I felt compelled to also look for more recent examples in media to reflect health orientalism is a concept that still lives and breathes in our current modern day. This can be seen from works of Wes Anderson, where he is guilty of ‘othering’ in Isle of Dogs, giving a voice to the American characters and the dogs yet the Japanese characters are left be interpretable only through facial expressions and body gestures. Outside of a cultural realm I also aimed to show how orientalism is still alive in geopolitics,with the Kroening report that aimed to suppress the voices of Palestinian peoples, in reducing the effectiveness of their campaigns and organisations.


 My main lessons from the book, which were then reiterated in my lecture, was to always be analytical and never be satisfied with what society gives us. I feel disappointed I did not, prior to the book, recognise the extent that Asian and Arab communities are oppressed by the west in intellectual thought and politics. Reading particularly orientalism has shown me a vital lesson of looking at the media I receive more than simply face value, and trying to instead assess as successfully as possible if it represents minorities truthfully and kindly or is mainly trapped in the western closet of understanding that minority.