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Transcript of Orientalist Representat
'Orient and Occident'
From antiquity to the present, 'the Orient' has remained an object of scholarly fascination for 'the Occident.'
There are many examples of Western travelogues (travel diaries) describing the Orient but there are very few equivalent examples of Eastern travelogues.
Even today, in some of the leading universities in the West one can find a separate department for Oriental Studies. There are no corresponding departments of Occidental learning in the universities of the East.
The fascination of the West towards 'the Orient' has produced a specific type of knowledge about the East. The East is represented and understood in Western terms.
The term "Orientalism" carries several different meanings.
What is Orientalism?
Depending on its relation to other signs, the signifier "Orientalism" can signify:
A late 18th century policy of the East India Company favouring the study and preservation of Indian languages, laws, and customs.
Relating to art and Literature, it is The adoption of an artistic style and/or subject matter.
William Holman Hunt, "A Street Scene in Cairo; The Lantern-Makers Courtship" 1854-61
Anonymous Venetian orientalist painting, "The Reception of the Ambassadors in Damascus" 1511. The deer with antlers in the foreground is not known ever to have existed in the wild in Syria.
Eugene Delacroix, "The Women of Algiers" 1834.
A post colonial discourse that describes the process by which the West has come to exert, maintain, and reproduce their domination over the East.
A foundational text in post colonial studies written by Edward Said That Examines the relationship between colonial Rule and the construction and representation of 'the orient' in cultural productions of 'the West' (Scholarship, Literature, fine art, Music).
"The Indian Famine: Great Intercessory Prayer Meeting of Mohammedans in Bombay" a wood engraving, 1897
Lord Curzon (pictured here seated in the centre of the photo) was Viceroy of India 1898-1905. He is often depicted by British historians and even by some Indian nationalist leaders (Nehru for example) as being benevolent and doing good work for India - building schools, setting up a national irrigation system and rebuilding old Indian buildings, restoring the Taj Mahal.
Edward Said suggested the West had deliberately depicted its colonial subjects in the East as children. He argued that these constructions helped to justify British colonial ambitions. this 19th century sketch illustrates his point quite effectively.
Western scholarly interest in the East.
Bernard S. Cohn (1928-2003) was an American anthropologist affiliated with the University of Chicago.
Already anticipating some of the later ideas of Michel foucault and Edward Said, Cohn's research focus was on the representation of indian society in british orientalist texts.
text: a structured collection of signs and codes that When put together create Additional meanings. (see handout "signs, codes, and texts")
Cohn argued that the caste system in india was not only strengthened but ultimately solidified as a concept through the work of British orientalists.
He also suggested that the way Orientalists read ancient religious texts as "accurate guides to the society and culture of the hindus ... led to a picture of indian society as being static, timeless, and spaceless." In other words, the work of orientalist scholars made people think that indian society was backward and trapped in the past.
What is A literature review?
A list, Synopsis, and synthesis of books and journal articles On a specific topic.
What does a literature review do?
it identifies Points of connection, Disjuncture, contradiction, and gaps in The scholarly writings on a Specific Topic.
orientalism in india: reviewing the literature
David Kopf is currently a professor at the university of Minnesota. He has published a number of research papers and books on india and has lectured at the south asian departments of many universities.
Edward SAid's "Orientalism" (1978) established a new way of thinking about the phenomenon of orientalism. After its publication Many Scholars began to thoroughly criticize Kopf's work identifying it as a celebratory account of british imperialism in India.
THe basic theme of his work is that Most british orientalists (particularly the early ones) were honest objective scholars who Ultimately contributed to what he describes as the bengal Renaissance; the re-birth of bengali culture and intellectual life.
The Bengal Renaissance refers to a socio-cultural/religious reform movement in India's Bengal province that is said to have begun in the early 18th century. The Renaissance looked to revive india's great past and promote appreciation and acceptance of the western idea of modernity.
Edward Said (1935-2005) was an American-Palestinian philosopher who redefined the meaning of the term "orientalism."
Borrowing and re-articulating some Foucaultian concepts, said focused primarily on Knowledge, power, and orientalist representations of islam and the peoples of the middle east.
Forerunners to Orientalism
Said argued that, along with their military and economic conquests of "the orient", Europeans created a whole body of knowledge which enabled them to construct and represent "the Orient" strictly in negative terms. Through orientalism, Europeans sought to categorize, analyze, dissect, measure, dominate, rule, and instruct the native.
Ultimately, through Colonialism The west came to define itself through binary oppositions.
Although Said did not focus on Indian history, his method or framework has heavily influenced the way indian history is studied and understood.
Said's approach came to define the work of generations of scholars dedicated to analyzing the ways in which colonialism structured international relationships between nations, the way people thought about themselves and others, and the ways by which those most impacted by colonialism could Liberate themselves.
Ronald Inden is a Former student and current colleague of Bernard Cohn at the university of Chicago. Following Cohn and said, Inden seeks to understand the consequences of colonial power by exploring the construction of indian knowledge in orientalist texts.
Like Said, Inden argues that british orientalists constructed fictions about Indian society and developed wild theories about "the true essence of the indians." Ultimately these ideas and theories which were based on vast generalizations about 'the orient' served colonial interests. according to Inden these Representations characterized india most often in the following ways:
Indian thought as like a dream - ideas are not based in reality
India as effeminate
india and hinduism as a jungle
India as Irrationally spiritual, idealistic, and mystical.
INdia as a backward caste society that is forever unchanging.
India as mysterious place of antiquity, of romance, of exotic beings where the people are frozen in the past.
Mata Hari was an early 20th century dutch women that pretended to be indian in order to advance her exotic dance career. Living her life as an exotic, sensual, indian woman, Mata hari provided personal services of the courtesan type to many affluent European men that were so mezmerized by the orientalists representation of indian women.
The Eroticized Orientalist representations of india can also be seen in the shifting aesthetics of colonial india.
traditional representations of hindu divinities were replaced by printed color images. One of the more powerful examples of orientalism in india is the art calendar.
These calendars were produced for a primarily british audience. indian artists were quick to understand what kind of images the new market demanded.
One of the most famous artist of the art calendar was Raja Ravi Varma (1848 - 1906). He was among the first Indian artists that painted gods with human proportions and adopted the aesthetic style preferred by victorian britons.
In this painting we can see how the Goddess Lakshmi is transformed to fit british knowledge of indian society.
Lakshmi is depicted here in a very suggestive pose and of course what kind of goddess doesn't wear a bikini top when playing hard to get with one her servants?!
Additionally, the artist has clearly made an effort to reproduce the general aesthetic of well known european paintings. Lakshmi is foregrounded on an italianate landscape similar to the work of the pre-Romantic painter Thomas Gainsborough.
"Indian Dreams" is a Mature themed French language comic series written by J. maryse and illustrated by J.F. Charles. Set in colonial india, it is a story of social and sexual awakening in the spirit of djinn.
The Jinn are spiritual creatures most closely associated with arabic folklore. They are mentioned in the Qur'an and other Islamic texts. The Jonn inhabit an unseen world in dimensions beyond the visible universe of humans.
In "imagining india" (1990) Inden explains how orientalist (mis)representations of India were appropriated and used by European and Indian scholars.
He suggests that the construction of India as unchanging, and mystical gave colonial administrators more power to rule. Both in England and in India the idea that india (Britain's long lost brother - the aryan migration theory) needed help from a more progressive, rational, practical, modern people went a long way in justifying colonial rule.
THis type of knowledge creation (caste, hindu superstition, Vedic Ritual etc.) did not simply help Britain dominate india - It helped construct the very notion of what it meant to be western. "Western" was given meaning through binary oppositions to orientalist representations of 'the orient'
considered the founding father of sociology in india, Professor Govind Sadashiv Ghurye challenged many of the myths of orientalist knowledge.
As early as 1932, Ghurye suggested that one of the consequences of the first war of Indian independence (1857) was the belief among colonial administrators that "the safety of the British domination in india was very closely connected with keeping the Indian people divided on the lines of caste."
In support of the aryan migration theory, we can see how Lakshmi has been aryanized. In many artistic works there is a clear shift towards Victorian standards of beauty.
THomas Gainsborough "girl with pigs", 1782
Thomas Gainsborough "Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan" 1885-86
Lord Curzon was an Avid collector and admirer of antiques. He shared the sentiments of William Hastings and the early Orientalists involved with the East Indies ComPany. firmly believing that it was his duty not only to rule india but in his words "to classify, reproduce and describe, to copy and decipher, and to cherish and conserve." Reading these words, it is hard to avoid the strange feeling that Lord curzon, Like Edward Said, had read foucault!
Anouar Abdel-Malek traced the relationship between European rule and representation of "the other".
Jean Leon Gerome, "Pool in a Harem" 1876
Rene Margrtte "ThE Treachery of images" 1928-29
through representation, abstract and ideological ideas are given concrete form. Thus the idea/sign "indian" is given a specific ideological shape in the way "Indians" have been represented in colonial cultural productions. In the novels of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) and E.m. Forster (1879-1970) for example; as cowards, effeminate, untrustworthy.
in other words, THis is not pipe ... this is just an image of a pipe.
Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was a nineteenth century french author. Celebrated for his descriptive realism, He is considered by many to be one of the greatest writers in the history of western literature.
"A text purporting to contain knowledge about something actual ... is not easily dismissed. Expertise is attributed to it. The authority of academics, institutions, and governments can accrue to it, surrounding it with still greater prestige than its practical successes warrant. Most important, such texts can create not only knowledge but also the very reality they appear to describe. In time such knowledge and reality produce a tradition, or what Michel Foucault calls a discourse, whose material presence or weight, not the originality of a given author, is really responsible for the texts produced out of it."
In orientalism (1978) Said describes the significance and consequence of (mis)representation:
Selected FRom Flaubert, Said provides the following example of orientalist representations of the east:
To amuse the crowd, Mohamed Ali's jester took a woman in a Cairo bazaar one day, set her on the counter of a shop and coupled with her publicly while the shopkeeper calmly smoked his pipe.
On the road from Cairo to Shubra some time ago a young fellow had himself publicly buggered by a large monkey - as in the story above, to create a good opinion of himself and make people laugh.
A marabout died a while ago -an idiot -who had long passed as a saint marked by God; all the Moslem women came to see him and masturbated him - in the end he died of exhaustion.
The east india company was created in 1600 and [in a stunning private/public partnership!] was granted the exclusive right to rule india on behalf of the british crown.
East india house was the London headquarters of the east india company. The company took possession of the elizabethan mansion in 1648 and occupied it until it was resold to developers and demolished in 1861.
William Hastings was a representative of britain and a high ranking employee of the east india company.
"Military Orphan School opposite to Calcutta for the children of private soldiers," of the Bengal Army, East India Company. The house was originally built in 1767 as a rum distillery by john levett, mayor of calcutta, and was know as 'levett's Gardens' but was converted in 1782 by captain william kirkpatrick into an orphange for the children of british soldiers.
William Hastings (1732-1818) was the first governor general of bengal from 1772-1785.
East india House, London
Under his direction, the east india company reformed the indian civil service and developed policies that promoted an acculturated british adminstration in colonial india.
Hastings believed that there was a "direct correlation between an acculturated civil servant and an efficient one." For pragmatic reasons, hastings argued that Englishmen learn to think and act like an Asian otherwise the British would be treated like unwanted foreigners ultimately leading to the collapse of the empire. In other words, to rule india - one must know india.
Hastings rewarded civil servants who were fluent in one or more Indian languages and developed an administrative cadre dedicated to bringing out new knowledge about Indian society and culture.
A group of acculturated Orientalist developed around Hastings, many of whom would gain fame, influence, and notoriety for their writings on the orient.
Romila thapar is an indian historian born in 1931. she has published numerous works on anceint india and is interested among other things, in how the west has constructed indian history.
Edward Said was not the First scholar to Focus on Western Representations of the non-west or to introduce the notion of Orientalism. Over a decade before the publication of Orientalism, the Syran scholar Abdul Lafit Tibawi had covered similar ground in his monograph "English Speaking Orientalists" (1965).
Talal asad has made important contributions to post colonial theory. Exploring the Links between anthropological knowledge and the expansion of european power, asad seeks to provide a nuanced look into the complexities of colonialism.
Malaysian sociologist Syed Hussain Alatas in his seminal work, "THe Myth of the Lazy Native" (1977) outlined how the colonial powers constructed the image of the Malays, filipinos, and Javanese from the 16th to the 20th centuries and how these representations shaped the ideology of colonial capitalism.
Syed Hussain Alatas (1928-2007)
Tunisian Scholar Hichem Djait covered similar ground in "English Speaking Orientalists" (1965)