Edward Said is one of the reasons I decided to get a Master’s degree in English. However, it was his theory on cultural and imperialism that I admire. I’ve heard about his theory on Orientalism but this is the first time that I’ve had the chance to work with it. Said says that 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 Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (73). Said believes that the West patronizes the East by trying to find ways of “dealing” with it. I know that there are a lot of people who believe that Said’s theory is no longer relevant. However, for someone to say that is like someone saying we live in a post-racial world. And we know that simply isn’t true. The ideas of the East have gotten worse (in my opinion) especially after 9/11. America feels like they have to control and rule over Eastern civilizations even more. But as I referred in past blog post, who said they needed saving? Many American’s believe this cultures to be so uncivilized because of the stories they’ve heard. Which is why it’s dangerous to hear a “single story.” Said says, “my contention is that without examining Orientalism as a discourse one cannot possibly understand the enormously systematic discipline by which European culture was able to manage” (73). I agree that this type of discourse is needed in order understand the “to speak of orientalism is to speak mainly…. of a British and French cultural enterprise” (73).
While watching Dr. Clemens speak, when she mention Laura Blush radio address in 2001 about Afganistan women, I became angry. Her you have a woman who believes that she is helping Afganstianian women from their “horrible” lives. She believes that she is introducing something new but in reality, she talking about something that has been going on for years. Longer than she’s been in the white house. On top of that, she’s solidifying the “single story” that we know about Afgashtian women and how they are treated. She believed that they did not respect their women “and we in the West do.” Of course, we know that women in the West have not been treated any differently from women in the East. It may not be a cultural acceptance (and it’s not either in the East) but it happens. Dr. Clemens goes on to mention “veil” and how it has become a signifier “for all the perceived negative aspects of Islamic cultures.” I agree, many believe the veil to mean that the women are being dictated over by their men. A lot do not realize that their hijabs are a form of their religious practices. Also, it doesn’t take away from them being beautiful or women.
Recently, 19-year-old Halima Aden was cast in Kanye’s West fashion show. I know many of you are like who cares about Kanye West? However, Kanye isn’t the main topic, it’s Halima. Halima may be the first fashion model to walk down a runway wearing a hijab. Seeing this young woman walking in fashion show shattered the ideology that Laura Bush tried to make about Islamic women and their veils. In addition, it also changes the way in which fashion models are presented and how they are supposed to look.
Trying to understand the East has lead many philosophers and scholars into a lifetime career. Said says, ” When Disraeli said in his novel Tancred that the East was a career, he meant that to be interested in the East was something bright young Westerners would find to be all-consuming passion” (74). People have sent so much time to “help” the East that they haven’t even noticed that their efforts are destroying the East and that they are not helping at all. I think Said’s theory will always be relevant as long as people try to economically and socially rule over others.