Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Orientalism

I've been reading Edward Said's classic 1978 book "Orientalism." It is one of the foundational critiques of early, and even modern, Western-conducted Oriental studies. Since it was published it has had a profound impact on the field and deservedly so. Westerners studying Asia should to be especially mindful of reflexivity issues.
With that said, I think his argument is a little overdrawn. The earliest, and even some modern, Orientalists were certainly racists, but they could also be brilliant and astute observers. We should be able to, with cautious care, extract valuable insights from their bigoted rhetoric.

The book itself shows Said to be impressively well-read.

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