In the XVIII century, European culture demonstrated an increased interest in the countries of the East, especially the Muslim ones. One of the reasons for this interest was the desire to learn the peculiarities of “one’s own” cultural type against the background of “someone else’s” one. The East is not only a neighbor of Europe, but also the location of the largest, richest and oldest colonies; it is the source of European languages ??and civilizations, its cultural rival, and also one of the deepest and most persistent images of the Other (Ghazoul 2004: 123). In addition, the East has helped Europe (or the West) to determine its own image, idea, personality and experience with the help of the contrast principle.
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Orientalism is a definite trend in the manifestations of a particular cultural tradition (literature, painting, historical and ethnographic concepts, etc.), based on a number of features peculiar to this tradition and to the Oriental worldview in some form or another. Orientalism, due to ethnographic realities, includes adherence to North African patterns (the Maghreb, to which all the North African countries belong, the west of Egypt, which is known as the West for the Arab world).
One of the examples of Orientalism can be represented by the trends in painting that use themes, symbols, motifs, typical for the Middle East and China (Chinoiserie). The dominance of Eastern influence was often contrasted with the values ??of European cultural traditions that had an independent origin. Therefore, an excessive interest in exoticism, which, ultimately, is an Orientalism, has been criticized in Europe. Some oriental art historians, culturologists and historians agree with this criticism, because, in their opinion, an enthusiasm for exoticism has nothing to do with the true understanding of the culture of the East; it is only the copying of external signs, with the same superficial notion of the meaning hidden behind forms and symbols.
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Analysis of the history of comprehension and modern interpretations of the East, performed by the West, and vice versa seems to be important and topical in the light of globalization and associated aggravation of ideological, religious, intercultural and economic conflicts between the countries of the East and the West, with its values ??dating back to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The European interpretation of the East is called “Orientalism”, which has negative connotations in the East and is critical of the western system of Western-minded scientists, while the Western image, often oversimplified and often negative, is known by Asian authors as an “Occidentalism” (Chamberlain 2007: 278).
In a broad sense, “Orientalism” has been understood as an aggregate of various kinds of academic or artistic narratives about Asian and African cultures, represented in Western art, literature and scientific creativity. By the eighteenth century, the term was mainly with the grant that considered and utilized purported Oriental dialects (Varisco 2015: 423). This understanding of Orientalism differs sharply from the popular interpretation, widely accepted in the modern world.
Surprisingly, some young Western scientists, apparently suffering from a postcolonial guilt complex, continue to attack their predecessors, who studied non-European cultures, and accuse them of aiding and abetting cultural imperialism. This led to the fact that the very term “Orientalism” or “oriental studies” was considered by young radicals to be politically incorrect and offensive to Muslims throughout a quarter of a century. Sometimes the polemics in Edward Said spirit capture other eastern regions and impose a postcolonial interpretation on interactions with the Middle East, even with Japan. Therefore, an indulgent crouching, represented in one of the recently published works, has undergone all traditional American Japanese studies.
The theme of languages ??of culture and the languages ??of their description presupposed a semiotic understanding of the culture as a text. The description can be viewed as a text in another language – the language of the researcher’s own cultural presuppositions and the methods of his methodological narration. In other words, it was supposed to consider the problem of Orientalism/Occidentalism as a translation problem – with all its limitations, possible mistakes, and false concepts, both culturally determined and adopted ad hominem. The parts that were lost in translation or were “incorrectly” translated are not less interesting than the translation on the surface notions. The contradiction is being particularly obvious on account of religion: not exclusively is the European scholastic custom of Orientalism revealed as the instrument of a hegemonic government, advancing a fierce mutilation of Islam that has its underlying foundations in the medieval Christian contempt and dread of its religious adversary. Moreover, all Western talk about the Orient is uncovered as ‘racist’, “colonialist” and absolutely ethnocentric (Mellor 2004: 100).
The book of Said, though being hopelessly inadequate in terms of the material presented, touches upon a number of important problems of intercultural communication. Said was wrong in his main thesis, according to which the study of the “East” in the XVIII-XX centuries was only a part of the colonial policy of the West. He was also mistaken in most of the factual information given (at least in everything that concerns India and Indology. However, one way or another, Said drew the scientific community’s attention to a real and complex problem, which stated that the study of cultures is inevitably marked by presuppositions, and sometimes by the prejudices of one’s own culture (Said 2003: 345). This was also true for oriental studies, since this ideology, being a simplified and dogmatic version of well-known theories, believed itself to be universally true and completely devoid of reflection and self-criticism.
The cross of Orientalism and Occidentalism: the Manchu image of its time of existence shows how Orientalism and Occidentalism intersected with the image of Asia in the twentieth century. Created under the influence of Japan, visual symbols of historical events and heroes in Mangzhou-Go ideologically resembled Western Orientalism, which to a certain extent was close to Japan of that time in relations with its Chinese territory. If you recall the influence of Japanese art (ikyo) on the formation of coloristic views of post-impressionists, then here one can speak of a certain influence of the East. According to Tamanoi, “ikyo” refers to “a place that is far away from home.” Nonetheless, such a place, although foreign (to the Japanese), constitutes another home (for the Japanese)” (Tamanoi 2009: 2). At the same time, Japanese artists were subject to some pan-Asian ideology of Occidentalism, aimed at promoting “joint prosperity” of the East and the West.
More fruitful is the position that emerges from the fact that in a broad sense Orientalism was a form of searching for cultural diversity by Europe. Actually, European Orientalism in art and literature should be viewed as a multifaceted manifestation of globalization that arose at the beginning of the systemic crisis of Western civilization, confronted with its own lack of self-sufficiency (in cultural, artistic, religious, philosophical and economic plans) and in need of a Friend. At the same time, the early phase of Orientalism preserved the Western language describing the objects of other cultures and was romantic-academic (Orientalism in a narrow sense), devoted to exotic oriental subjects. The next wave, the Japanese of Impressionism and Art Nouveau, was a much more serious transcultural phenomenon – a tectonic shift, as a result of which not only plots but also formal features of the expression plan were borrowed from the East. This was replaced by the primitivism of the avant-garde and surrealism with its appeal to African and indigenous art, behind which (after World War II) the marginalization of Western artistic discourse was vivid, which was inspired by the language of self-expression of the liminal social groups (“naive art”, the art of the mentally ill). This movement represented the successive stages of expansion (loosening and enriching at the same time) of the new European cultural paradigm, paving the way for the globalization of the Western worldview and cultural practices. Orientalism can be regarded as a phenomenon of globalization or as a process of making the West less Western.
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Along with this, the native “exclusionism” and “protection” have been growing in the non-western parts of the globalized world for nearly a hundred years. These forces – zealots of originality and opponents of integration – chose Orientalism as a bogey of cultural and colonial expansion (this is precisely what Said’s pamphlet is dedicated to). The scientific result of the conference can have the sense that considering a lot of Orientalism against the background of different “East” and “West”, it was possible to clear these concepts from politically biased connotations to some extent, and to advance in understanding the interconnectedness of the multipolar world.
Both Western scientists and those of the developing countries contain flaws in the concepts of identity, the main one of which is the tendency to construct unambiguous determinations of Western and Eastern cultures that do not take into account the presence of polymorphism, heterogeneous characteristics, and principles in them. With the modern concept of Orientalism built on the understanding of this phenomenon, the main place belongs to Edward Said, who is an American scholar of Arab origin. He as a thinker belongs to the eastern cultural tradition, but also has a fundamental Western education.