A History of the Critique of Orientalism

by:ADALLA, Grace                     PAGGAO, Jayme Natasha 
CANDO, Sinta                        RAMOS, McFarlane Sloan
DIG-AOAN, Charliemaine       SAMANIEGO, Felissa
HERRERA, April Glory            TOMBOC, Jamie

The Middle East consists of the regions from Egypt to Iran, stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to the western side of the Indian subcontinent.... But whose angle are we looking from? They say that the Igorots in the Philippines live in trees and have tails like monkeys. But who exactly is they? Various interpretations of the Orient come about based on different studies, theories and ideologies. Sometimes, these understandings of the Orient are conflicting or coinciding with one another that we don’t know which explanation to believe. One such component is Orientalism. To define Orientalism, “Orientalism denotes a certain perception of “the East” by “the West” or Europe and America, that is essentialist and ahistorical, and covers “all endeavours to establish the Orient as an object of knowledge and domination” (Walker, 1991).

The views on Asia made by Orientalism are a product of overlapping and sometimes conflicting ideas based on history and relative experiences on what exactly Asia and the others are:

“Orientalism, like any other system of knowledge, was the product of several currents and crosscurrents and situations acting and interacting upon each other and in the process producing varied, even conflicting explanations of historical phenomena regarding the societies of Asia. These views had greater or lesser consonance with objective reality depending upon scholars’ conceptual frameworks, tools and techniques of investigation, availability of information and their politics” (Wahi).

The distinction between East and West has been recognized since the 19th century. Max Weber was one of the first social scientists to look into the Eurocentric views on Asia and the newly-forming dichotomy between East and the West (Walker, 1991). The contrast between the east and the west was pursued by the process of colonialism, in which east-west relations was patterned according to the colonial project; wherein the east was serving the needs of the west, and the western traditions of scientism, objectivism, and rationalism became institutionalized as the world standard. In this paradigm, it is necessitated that studies, in order to be accepted in the academe, must adhere to western lens, giving birth to the dichotomies of orient and occident, scientific and exotic, rational and fatalistic, etc.

To follow the framework of Baber Johansen, we will divide the attacks against Orientalism into three phases. The first phase begins in the late 1950s to 1960s, in the period of rapid decolonization of European and US colonies. Although there was the physical absence of the colonizers, their intellectual traditions as the standard of knowledge were continuously acknowledged by the former colonies, further institutionalizing the myth of their universal application. It is then very evident that to seek high recognition of one’s studies, one must refer to the standards of Oriental Studies Departments in western academic institutions as the authority. To add insult to injury, the west created Western-trained Eastern inteligensia that further embedded western ideologies and knowledges in their own countries, leading to a continued colonial captivism in the post-colonial age. In addition was the continuous funding of researches and studies of the eastern countries by the western academic and non-academic institutions.

Phase two begins in 1963 with the publication of Anour Abdel-Malek’s article that saw that the west treated the east as an object of study. Here began the resistance and questioning of western standards and metatheories on their applicability in the east. Abdel-Malek also reiterated the incessant use of Western standards in the eastern academe. He suggested that in order to arrive at more universal humanities, a specialized discipline that could be applied to both the Orient and Occident should be developed. He also pointed out that the object of the study and the subject must relate with one another and a stressed emic (insider’s point of view) point of view in the study in order to have a more universal study.

Samir Amin, in the 1970s, questioned the World Systems Theory in terms of the center-periphery relations. The core – Western countries- have the advanced mode of production and modern industries, therefore also having a more developed and superior superstructure and academe than the peripheries – eastern countries – that are not yet modern and industrialized. Amin points out two criticisms against orietalism: 1) economism, where the core, as more developed economically and the academe, must survive by being the standard, and 2) adopted growth strategy, where peripheries adopt economy and other fields from the core. Therefore, he suggests the Unequal Development Theory, where the development of the economic and intellectual field of the peripheries must not be dependent on the core.

The publication of Said’s “Orientalism” and Brian Turner’s “Marx and the End of Orientalism” brought a turning point in 1978 (Walker, 1991), and also the third phase in Johansen’s framework. Said points out that orientalism is a “western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the orient” (Said, 1979). He adds that the occident uses various ideologies, such as rationalism, to justify their selfish pursuit of self-interest and to justify orientalism. Theories should be seen as culturally-specific and therefore the western-based knowledge and ideologies cannot be applied and enforced when studying the orient. Said uses Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis in looking at Orientalism – in order to critique a discourse, one must critique the ideology from which it is coming from. Therefore, Said says that we must expose the origins of orientalism in order to further understand and critique the orientalist approach.

In conclusion, we have found that various historical experiences and cultural backgrounds shaped the criticisms made against Orientalism, and that by using various theories these Oriental social scientists were able to see the loopholes of Orientalism and create alternatives to Orientalism.  Just as western standards are relatively acceptable to use as a paradigm in the west, eastern standards must be justly appropriated to eastern studies. And those ideologies which create the east-west dichotomy (e.g. objectivism, rationalism, scientism, positivism, etc.) must be further identified and deconstructed to de-institutionalize these east-west-separating ideologies.


Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. United States of America: Random House, Inc.

Wahi, T. (n.d.). Orientalism: A Critique. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv2n1/orient.htm

Walker, K. (1991). Orientalism and the "Other". Retrieved July 28, 1991, from http://www.exhibitresearch.com/kevin/anthro/orient.html



A Critique of David Pryce-Jones’ Enough Said

by: Ballesteros, Nessil
Dejos, Vida Karna
Fernandez, Daisy
Lobarbio, Aiza
Marcelo, Kristia
Rogel, Nigel
Soriano, May Anne

About the Author
       David Eugene Henry Pryce-Jones is a conservative British author and commentator who was born in Vienna, Austria. He was one of the few conservative commentators who have experienced wartime dislocation and relocation. His mother was a Jew which made him partly of Jewish extraction and is connected to several Jewish business dynasties. David Pryce-Jones was said to study modern history at Magdalen College Oxford. He currently lives in London and a senior editor at National Review and also a regular and occasional contributor to some other known publications. Jones subject matter in writing usually include the history of the Middle East and Eastern Europe and as well as about the contemporary events (www.encounterbooks.com).
From the information mentioned about the author, we could say that it must have some connection to what he was proving. Maybe his origins affected the way he was writing the article for according to his background, he came from Vienna. This place is clearly not in the East but rather in the West which is what Said is attacking. Jones must have written the article “Enough Said” to defend and redeem the West were he came from.

Critique to Jones
Generally, Jones has a very personal way of attacking Said that consequently makes him a mere rhetorical writer. This is because instead of grounding his critiques about Said on clear, unbiased information about the biography of Said, he misleads and deceives his readers by using personally opinionated words that stir emotions of contempt against Said. In his article entitled “Enough Said”, Jones stated and emphasized several points debunking Said's arguments.

Firstly, David Pryce-Jones argued in his article that the result of the dichotomy between the Western culture and the rest of the world lead to the conception which are being taught in the classrooms is that the Europeans “were exclusively vicious oppressors while those they ruled are exclusively vicious victims.” His intention in this argument is actually to say that the Third World countries teach their people the idea that the conflicts between the Europeans and the Third World countries lead to a belief that the powerful Western world is the villain or the oppressor who one way or the other inflict their ideas, culture and the like to helpless people of the Third World.. Edward Said, for Pryce-Jones, believed that the West depicts the East as inferior, static and not capable of change; this is how he interpreted Said’s book Secondly, he ignored and debunked Said's accusations of the West as racists, imperialists and colonialists. Using rhetorics as a way of elaborating his argument and further blurring the facts, he stated that “...imperialism brought far-flung peoples into contact with European languages, law, and culture” (Jones, 2008). However, if we try to look closely at Said's arguments, he has perhaps the right to accuse such to the Westerners. During the 1500s – 1600s, European countries were able to take control of many countries in Southeast Asia, indicating that Said was not mistaken in accusing the Westerners of being colonialists. In fact, the West’s colonization towards the Middle East had its lasting effects. It shocked the people in Egypt, and Arab world that had the realization that they are weak when faced in the power of Western armies (www.npr.org). These colonialists includes Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, and the United States, all were successful in gaining control over Asian countries (Wilson, www.seasite.niu.edu).

Thirdly, Jones using the word far-flung peoples to describe Asian peoples is in itself racist. He uses emotions instead of rationalization as a way of supporting his arguments. As stated in the article by Allan Bishop entitled “Western Mathematics: The Secret Weapon of Cultural Imperialism”, the Westerners introduced their ideologies and successfully gained control of their colonies through the wise manipulation and management of trade, education and administration, enough evidence that would support Said's accusation of the West as imperialists and further expose the falseness of Jones' arguments. Fourthly, Jones accused Said to be doing self-serving bias. This could be depicted by Jones stating that ...misrepresenting evidences, and making unwarranted generalizations, Said committed the very sin for which he was accusing Westerners – of concocting a “narrative” to serve his purposes” (Jones, 2008). Jones exaggerated how Said presented facts to support his arguments. He hesitantly argued that Said was only looking for facts that would support his arguments neglecting the “essential” facts about what really was the West are capable of. David Pryce-Jones also believed that Said made ‘egregious historical blunders’ out of laziness or carelessness. If we try to analyze such argument of Jones, he also commits the same mistake he was accusing Said of. He neglected how awful and bad Western writers wrote about Asian cultures. Lets just take for example the so-called “Indolence of the Filipinos”, Jose Rizal further elaborated such Filipino phenomena and illustrated that the indolence of the Filipinos as written and presented by Western writers are not accurate, having their biases included in the text. He found the underlying reasons why such “indolence” occurred in Filipinos. In addition to that, Jones also presented a number of critics of Said's works, further clarifying that he too, without hesitation commits self-serving bias.

Finally, Jim Dexheimer further gives evidences for Said’s defense that in turn counters Jones’ invalid accusations. David Pryce-Jones labels Said as if he was an opportunist because he lived and studied in America, but he condemned it. But Dexheimer believed that Said did not touch any political issues about the Palestine and remained independent and detached from any political party until the conquest of Palestine by Israel on 1967. This is because Said is already academically grounded on U.S., and this shows that Said was grateful, and respectful at the very least, to America and the West. Thus, Jones’ grounds for labeling Said as dishonest and as having double standards are invalid. Dexhaimer also explains that Said was truly a Palestinian originally, in contrast to Jones’ allegations that Said was only a self-acclaimed Palestinian. Said was born on 1935 of a Lebanese decent mother and a full-blooded Palestinian father, who in the 1940s took his family to the U.S. for citizenship. Jones also calls Said as an “archetypal ‘Third World’ victim” which is refutable by Dexheimer’s information that Said was raised in a well to-do family and was privileged.

It is evident that Jones holds hostility against Said because Said was promoting the Palestinian welfare. Said’s cause would have been understandable because he is a Palestinian, but Jones fails to understand because he looks at Said’s cause as a validation for Palestinian “violence and terror”, which is rooted to the 9/11 attacks. After the World Trade attacks, most of the world have had clouded and unclear judgment about the Arabs and Islam, and the majority have seen these people as “others”. They were never seen without prejudice. This truth takes it hold on Jones as he becomes dubious about the very cause of Said. But to Dexheimer, Said was actually promoting the liberation of Palestine because Israel had taken its territories in 1967. Said’s cause can also be rooted to his experience in 1948 when the Israeli state was created, and 80 % of the Palestinian people became hopeless. And so, Said’s Palestinian cause is not to legitimate Palestinian violence and terror but is for the freedom of his homeland.

As the result of Jones’ negative view on Said, he also views Said’s book Orientalist as the work of a “contradictory man”. But only if he looked seriously and objectively, he would have extracted Said’s true purposes. But it is true enough that Said (cited in Dexheimer) made a generalization that all who “teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient… is an Orientalist, and what he/she says or does is Orientalism…” However, Said’s generalization can only be understood if one sees that what Said meant was only as far as these intellectuals used Western concepts in conceiving the East. Said (cited in Dexheimer) adds that we can never understand the East by the use of Western terms and even by recreating an East after West’s ideals. With this, Said’s use of the Focaultian concept of truth can be understood— that he meant that no one who studies the East can ever give the truth but can only provide mere “narratives”. Said (cited in Dexheimer) then formally defines Orientalism as “a style of thought based upon ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘The Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘The Occident’”. Said then only meant that Orientalism is consequently paving the way to discrimination and racism as the West continues to perceive the East in its own terms and misinterprets it.

As an additional critique, from Jones’ argument that “the interest of Westerners in the East from classical antiquity onwards was motivated by intellectual curiosity”, we find again rhetorical appeals and several justifications for the West to make the East – like what Said says, as an “object of knowledge and domination" (Said 1978:2 as cited by Walker 2008; 1). Was it really because the West was just curious about the East? Or, were they curious for they are interested of the East?  The so called “superpowers” have always been exploiting the inferior, colonized (either in direct and indirect terms) countries since time immemorial.  And now, Jones was trying to justify those subjections through a very simplistic claim – “curiosity”. In relation to this issue of curiosity of the West upon the East, if there is what we can call, “politics of the social sciences”- perhaps we can talk about knowledge as power. We have been very familiar with the saying, “knowledge is power”, yet it does not awaken us about the dominating power of the West over the East especially in the social sciences. This is the very problem that Alatas points out in his book, Alternative Discourse in Asian Social Science; that, as we patronized foreign knowledge, we have forgotten to be critical about them. Thus, neglect for one’s own theorizing, due to the overwhelming, persuading, and flooding Western knowledge, was all the more promoted by altering the very flow of indigenous knowledge development. However, before proceeding for what Alatas argues, let us first consider what Anthony Giddens tells us about power and domination. In doing so, we will be able to have an understanding (first) of the mechanisms in which the East have been subjugated by the West.

Giddens’ differentiated his conception of power (in the context of interaction) in two senses; one as broad, and the other as narrow.  In the broad sense, power can be regarded as the “transformative capacity of human agency”, this capacity in turn refers to “the capability of the actor to intervene in a series of events so as to alter their course … it is the “can” which mediates between intentions and wants and the actual realization of the outcomes south after”. Power in the narrow sense, on the other hand, is “the capability to secure outcomes where the realization of these outcomes depends upon the agency of others” (emphasis mine, Giddens 1976: 111 as cited by Angus Stewart 2001: 14).  Giddens goes on further that this narrow sense of power is the one which “men have over “others”; this is when power becomes synonymous to domination (in Stewart 2001: 14).  Thus, as Stewart concludes, it is in this perspective that dependency upon the agency of others promotes the pursuit of domination and compliance, not mutuality and concert (Stewart 2001: 14). So, if we reflect on the above passage, we can see that by examining what Alatas calls’ “academic dependency” (in soft and hard terms, intellectual and institutional), the West have been able to dominate most of the social science knowledge through its “capability to intervene in a series of events so as to alter their course and, eventually, the outcomes.  Unfortunately, the East has not been able to counteract this capability soon enough such that the West had not been able to sit on the throne.  Due to the course that social science in general has taken, or more appropriately, as it was directed to take its course, its relevance is now being questioned especially in Third World countries. As Alatas points out, “The fact that the humanities and social sciences in developing societies mostly originated in the West had raised the issue of the relevance of these arts and sciences to the needs and problems of Third World societies” (2006; 22). Alatas actively and constructively traces this question of relevance back to the “subjugated” societies: “The lack of home-grown or indigenous theories, concepts and methods in the human sciences is not an issue peculiar to the Arab world.  It is true of the general condition of knowledge in the Third World (2006; 23). Of course, we can just keep going on and on, blaming the West for having dominated the intellectual, social science arena for a very long time. But then again, as we reflect back on this dilemma, we can gain an insight telling us boldly about our role as the “dominated”.  We have been somehow responsible for the domination; we have contributed to its perpetuation by actually doing nothing.

David Pryce-Jones article regarding Edward Said’s Orientalism was satiated with rhetorics. In his objective to critique Said’s book he decided to use rhetorics to appeal to the emotions of the readers. Although Jones wrote the article “Enough Said’´ to defend the West, we can see that the critique was too personal because he was really attacking Said not just the article he wrote. Whether intentionally or not, he used them to mislead, misinform and persuade the readers and think differently about Orientalism. Using such exaggerated and personal attacks on Said to get his point across makes his article seem irrational and of no difference to other writers. More issues are raised to Said by Jones, as mentioned above, and it is obvious that these are attacks to the personality and life of Said. This resulted to somewhat uncritical and irrational article.

Alatas, S. F. (2006) Alternative discourses in Asian Social Science: Responses to Eurocentrism. London and New Delhi. Sage Publications.

Bishop, A. (2004) Western Mathematics: The secret weapon of cultural imperialism? In Ashcroft et. al., eds., The Postcolonial Reader (452-456).  London and New York: Routledge.

Dexheimer, Jim. Orientalism, revised 29 August 2002. Retrieved from http://www.wmich.edu/dialogues/texts/orientalism.htm. Accessed on August 3, 2008.

http://www.encounterbooks.com/books/author/prycejonesd.  Accessed on August 3, 2008.

Shuster, Mike. The Middle East and the West: Carving Up the Region.  Retrieved from
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3859631.  Accessed on August 3, 2008.

Stewart, A. (2001) Theories of Power and Domination: The Politics of Empowerment in Late Modernity. London. Sage Publications.

Wilson, Dr. Constance. Colonialism and Nationalism in Southeast. Retrieved from http://www.seasite.niu.edu/crossroads/wilson/colonialism.htm. Accessed on August 4, 2008.

CRITIQUE OF THE CRITIQUE (A Discussion of the Reviewers Critique on Edward Said’s Critique of Orientalism)

by: ALCABEDOS, Yarra
MANUEL, Floper Gershwin E.
MARAMAG, Sarah Jinky
QUINTO, Jennylyn F.

Edward Said was an outstanding example of those who criticized the West root and branch through his writing. He was best known for criticizing the West when he wrote his book “Orientalism” (1978) where he described the persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arab people and their culture. He argued that a long tradition of false and romanticized images of Asia and the Middle East in Western culture had served as an implicit justification for Europe and America's colonial and imperial ambitions. However, his accusations towards the Westerners made him and his writing controversial. With this, a lot of scholars rose and argued most of Said’s generalization in his book.

This short paper aims to discuss, some of the criticisms of other scholars toward Said’s criticism on Orientalism. It will present the arguments raised by first, providing which part of Said’s book did the author criticize and second, by discussing how and why the author criticized the declarations of Said based on their articles.

David Pryce-Jones discusses and critiques Edward Said’s criticism on Orientalism based on his background as a Palestinian. He adds in his article a short biography of Said: who was born in Jerusalem in 1935; claimed to be a Palestinian; ejected by Zionist Jews and a third world victim; a son of an American citizen father; a member of a Christian family and has extensive business interest in Egypt; and professor of Comparative Literature in Columbia University; who wrote speeches for Yasser Arafat in the 1970s and in addition; an advocate of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). With this, Jones was pointing out that the root of Said’s coming out with a criticism about Orientalism was all about his awareness and stand point to the Arab-Israeli conflict during his period of living (Pryce-Jones, 2008: para. .

Jones says that Said could not accept Israel in anything because of the injustice the Palestinians had from the Arab-Israeli conflict. He wanted them to be put in bloodshed that’s why he broke up with Arafat and he even insisted an armed struggle when Arafat planned to arrange with the Israelis to end the war in Palestine. Said has great anger towards the Israelis he didn’t want to have peace with them.

Said also generalized that the Orient are racists and imperialists; Jones implicitly points out that Said dropped generalizations about the Orient and Orientalism without understanding and really studying the East and the West – Said made generalizations based on his emotions towards what is happening in his environment.

Irwin calls Said’s book as “a work of malignant”, in contrast to Said, he is free either spite or arrogance. Said’s pseudo-Foucault style “descends into meaningless verbiage and contradiction and because of Said’s selectivity, he made failures to take historical context. For Warraq, the interest of the West from the East leads to intellectual curiosity; wanting to find out other cultures to which they were sharing in this world.

Michael Richardson (1990, cited from Macfie; 2000) is an anthropologist connected to the school of Oriental and African Studies in London and his article “Enough Said” argues that the work of Edward Said on “Orientalism” is “manifestly ideal”.

Richardson pointed out different arguments about Orientalism opposing the presentation of Said regarding the subject matter. First is the idea of Said wherein Said says that the Orient cannot represent itself therefore he must be represented. In this argument, Richardson pointed out the contribution of Marx on the conception of Said.  Richardson then contends that Marx did not talk about the Orient but he talked about peasantry who cannot represent themselves to the Bonapartist party. Marx talks about the assertion of class interest, therefore he said that Said must not connect this with the presentation of Orientalism.

Richardson also says that Said fails to justify the presupposition that made him create the idea that the European subject has created Orientalism. Richardson says that Said wasn’t able to discuss the nature of this idea, why, how, and where it originated. He then argues that Said failed to represent the philosophical underpinning of such relation wherein a symbiotic relationship exists (i.e. the reality of the master is the slave and the reality of the slave is the master) where each needs each other to complete their relation to the world. Using this analysis, Richardson points out the idea that Said refused to accept, and this is the idea which we also think is true. This is the idea that Orientalism could be changed only by the Orient itself acting upon the relation. This means to say that the Orient must have to recognize itself. What Richardson tries to point out here, where we agree is that there must not be any forms of domination rather consider each other in the relationship as free agents. This is in opposition to what Said is saying that “Orientalism was imposed upon the Orient” and that it was a European project.

Another point is that, anthropological images of the Orient were absent in Said’s. This means that Said only talks of the ‘Other’. Said failed to present images of ourselves and conceived only of establishing images and representations of other people.

These points made Richardson say that Said’s account is an idealist.

BERNARD LEWIS – “The Question of Orientalism”
Bernard Lewis’ central tenet in his article ‘The Question of Orientalism’ is: Edward Said’s Orientalism is fundamentally flowed due to Said’s selectiveness of historical facts and events in accordance with his belief that “Orientalism derives from a particular closeness experienced between Britain and France, and the Orient, which until the early 19th century had really meant India and the Bible lands” (Said, 1978:4 cited in Lewis, 1993: 257-258).

Lewis cites the following errors he found in Said’s Orientalism:  first, Said’s reorganization of the history of Orientalism. Lewis declares that Arabic studies in Britain and France predate British and French imperial expansion in the Arab world whereas Said pronounced the opposite which reinforced his argument that Oriental studies were first undertaken by the French and the British, and these studies were merely elucidated by the Germans, thereby downgrading German scholarship.

Second, Lewis critiques Said’s adoption of Schwab’s framework in analyzing the development of Indic studies in Europe. Lewis argues that such a framework is not applicable to examining the development of Islamic studies in Europe for the two regions’ differences in terms of the degree of European invasion (in India it was not existent), the period when Western study of the regions began and the purpose behind these studies, and the relationship between Europe and these two district regions.

Third, Lewis continues, Said was particular in his selection of individuals and writings included in his material. In addition, his reinterpretation of extracts from certain documents was not in congruence with what the authors intended to relay.

Fourth, passages from Said’s work have an accusatory tone. For instance, he spoke of Orientalist Silvestre de Sacy as someone who ‘ransacked the Oriental archives…what texts he isolated, he then brought back; he doctored them…’ (Said, 1978: 127 cited in Lewis, 1993: 262). Fifth, Lewis proceeds to point at Said’s omission of Russian scholarship in the field of Islamic studies that could not be attributed to his ignorance of Soviet scholarship.

Lastly, Lewis reveals Said’s apparent distaste for and ignorance of Arab scholarship. He was seemingly blind to the existence of writing by Arab authors who devoted themselves to analyzing the defects of the Arabic society and ultimately, to the existence of Arab literature on Orientalism (Lewis, 1993: 257-263).

LAWRENCE ROSEN – “Orientalism Revisited: Edward Said’s Unfinished Critique”
A January/February 2007 issue of the Boston Review, Lawrence Rosen’s article entitled Orientalism Revisited: Edward Said’s unfinished critique raises the issue whereby despite decades of controversy, neither Said’s most recent supporters nor his most ardent critics have succeeded to offer serious analysis to address the central question: can scholarship on the Middle East be freed from its political context?  Said’s arguments convey that “throughout the Western history, writers on the Middle East, regardless of their varying attitudes of their day, reinforced an image of Arabs and Muslims as uniform, incompetent, and unreflective” (Rosen 2007: para 30).  Further, following Foucault, Said contests that the Orientalists attributed features to Arabs-racial inferiority, Islamic fanaticism, unbridled sexuality, craven acquiescence to power- which yielded a caricatured image of the Middle East coined by the Westerners themselves.  With these arguments by Said, Rosen presents Robert Irwin’s book entitled Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents as opposition.  Irwin says in his book, “that book (referring to Said’s Orientalism) seems to me to be a work of malignant charlatanry in which it is hard to distinguish mistakes from willful misrepresentations” (cited in Rosen 2007, paragraph 4).  Said’s attacks are obviously selective, exaggerating, and intemperate, mixing time periods.  In addition, Irwin argues that earlier Orientalists were devoted to studying the languages of the region and establishing the relation of Islam and its history to Jewish and Christian sources.   They were not actually overtly political. They did not even engage themselves in conversation with policymakers.  Irwin’s suggests that in order to truly analyze the work of earlier researchers about the East is simply to read them out of the category of Orientalists in order to avoid the bias of racism.

Conversely, Lawrence Rosen opposes this suggestion of Robert Irwin.  For him, it is not simple as that.  Certainly, he argues that scholars are not always objective.   Irwin, in Rosen’s words “ treats texts as if they had no political effects, as if (in earlier periods) salvation were the concern and attachments to royalists or mercantilism were incidental, and as if the explication of a text did not in itself imply unstated criteria” (Rosen 2007, paragraph 6).  This implies that Rosen contends that texts cannot be meaningfully interpreted if they cannot be attached somehow to the writer’s ideas and perspectives, (although he emphasizes the word ‘political’).  Irwin is right in saying that texts should be read in terms of the context that they were written.  But with Rosen, that is not enough.   There should be some sort of exploration or reference to the prior impressions of the writers about the East.  For Said on one hand, Rosen says, that he fails to consider whether assumptions about language, textual analysis, and social dynamics may be capable of substantial degree of autonomy or whether they necessarily lead to adverse judgments of those studied.  He therefore suggests that what lacks Said is the project of exploring without prior judgment some of the Orientalists’ intellectual assumptions and consider whether they can be departed from political implications.  He suggests then that the words used in texts should be critically examined by researchers, not simply through their earliest meanings, but how they are being utilized by everyday living, especially regarding their political implications.  There should be exclusive emphasis on texts and meanings.  Words cannot be only understood by just tracing their original meaning, although that may be useful.  Yet, words do change.  So are meanings.  Apparently, there is a need of interdisciplinary insight over the words or the language itself utilized by the writer or the speaker who speaks or writes about the East.  Speakers of the language, say Arab, have deeper understanding of the language.

Westerners, sad to say, have lesser advantage unless they undergo training or long apprenticeship to fully comprehend the language.  Researchers themselves should have the initiative to learn first the language, the passion to understand and comprehend it, the outlook to try to use it as a medium of communication with the Arabs, the attitude to observe how the words are being used to express emotions and ideas, and maybe by that time, interpretations and analyses may follow.  Rosen criticizes further the Orientalists in Irwin’s account who act as though they know the true reading of Muslim texts better than the believers themselves.  They on one hand “endeavor to express what their subjects cannot say well for themselves” and on the other “act like ‘cultural game wardens’, preserving and shepherding the misguided to the correct solutions” (2007: para 13).  It is not enough to say that since Orientalists know the texts, Orientalists know best.  In the end, Rosen says that contemporary Orientalists have the necessary methods and the techniques to deepen their studies about the East.  Yet, Said-although he got much of the substance wrong- but his method-looking at discourse as an artifact of its writers’ contexts, in Rosen’s words, “was basically sound” (Rosen 2007, para: 14).


Al-‘Azm, Sadik Jalal. (). Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse. From Macfie, Alexander Lyon (2000). Orientalism: A Reader. New York: New York University Press.

Lewis, Bernard. (1993). The Question of Orientalism. From Macfie, Alexander Lyon (2000). Orientalism: A Reader. New York: New York University Press.

Pryce-Jones, David. (2008). Enough Said: On Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism by Ibn Warraq. Retrieved July 24, 2008 from http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/enough-said-3743.

Richardson, Michael. (1990). Enough Said. From Macfie, Alexander Lyon (2000). Orientalism: A Reader. New York: New York University Press.

Rosen, Lawrence. (February 2007). Orientalism Revisited: Edward Said’s Unfinished Critique. From Boston Review. Retrieved August 03, 2008 from http://bostonreview.net/BR32.1/rosen.php.

Walker, Kevin. (1991). Orientalism and the Other: Towards a New Anthropology in the Middle East. Retrieved July 24, 2008 from http://www.exhibitresearch.com/kevin/anthro/orient.html. California: University of California Berkeley.