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One of the main implications of Said's work is that even and maybe especially scholarly research about the orient (naively called Oreintalism before Said) is in fact deeply political in being an essential part of the imperialist mechanism of control and exploitation.The main importance of Said's Orientalism is in pointing out the even though colonialism is allegedly over, the systems of thinking, talking and representing which form the basis of colonial power relations still persist.Said’s third meaning, “which is something more historically and materially defined than either of the other two. Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient – dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” (p.
Although Said states early on that, “There still remained the problem …
outlining something in the nature of an intellectual order within that group of texts without at the same time following a mindlessly chronological order” (p.
Surely one must always consider their own ‘position’ in life, their cultural baggage, but attitudes, relationships and policies do change both amongst individuals and societies.
This change may be imperfect and have inconsistent results, but it does happen.
As one might expect from an academic whose discipline is comparative literature, Orientalism is a text-based analysis with many literary and historical references and quotations, some in French or German without translation.
However, Said’s text is so richly defined, detailed and clearly written that the reader does not loose the core message because of a paucity of knowledge about referenced authors or the inability to fully understand the occasional multi-lingual presentation.
It is a fundamentally important point, that one should keep in mind while reading his analysis, since it is a hopeful consideration that mitigates some of his harsher social criticisms.
Having established a definition of Orientalism, Said proceeds to provide a deeply detailed record of the development, evolution and impact of Orientalism.
Said analyses central Western texts in order to account for the way the conception of The East was crystallized.
This conception, according to Said, prepared the ground for the political and cultural occupation of the non-Western regions by the West. Another intellectual influence found in Orientalism is the concept of hegemony derived from the philosophy of Antonio Gramsci.