russia has launched a full-scale war in Ukraine! Headway asks you to donate to the charity fund to protect Ukraine and the world’s peace.

Support Ukraine

library / 
4.6 (1726 reviews)

Summary of Orientalism 

Short summary

Orientalism is a broad discussion of the west’s post-colonial influences on the Middle East. It examines the several ways and shades in which Western colonialism and imperialism are holding sway in the east. Europe and the U.S. have not limited their imperialistic forays to colonial adventures. Furthermore, Western intellectuals have gone as far as painting a Middle Eastern culture portrait, using Europe as the gold standard. Edward W. Said was born into an ecosystem that helped him have a broad perspective of the Orient. Having the privilege of growing up in Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon before settling in the United States gives the necessary fodder to analyze people’s humanism from these regions relative to others. Said held a professorship of literature at Columbia University until his demise in 2003. However, he is popularly remembered for his efforts at cultural criticism in “Orientalism.” It has dramatically helped the West understand the Orient and vice versa. “Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient — in short, Orientalism is a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” ~ Edward W. Said

Key points


Orientalism — the Orientalist, Oriental, and Orient — with occidental trappings

Just before the joint American-British invasion of Iraq, news outlets were on the hunt for Orientalists. These individuals have garnered academic knowledge, either by scholarship or through some brief stint in the Middle East (Orient). There were a handful of Orientals (Eastern natives) living in the U.S. at the time. However, most westerners are yet to recover from the post-September-Eleven shock. Hence, the discrimination that swayed in alongside Al-Qaeda’s adventures makes it unlikely for any Arabian to go on U.S. media. For rating’s sake, they’ll most likely be denied thoroughfare at the door of famous media houses.

Nonetheless, the American people would love to understand the kind of people with whom they’re dealing. In the end, they settle for the Orientalists, with their skewed, though sincere, view of the Eastern cultures. The orientalist is the scholar, the Orient is the rich eastern precincts, while Orientals are the occupants.

Europe had a jolly colonial ride on the Asian continent, and in the process, gave European intellectuals a skewed view of the originality of Oriental culture. These intellectuals seem to understand what Oriental culture should be instead of what it is. These pseudo-academic views are often faulty, irrespective of their knowledge and good intentions. In his scholarship, the Orientalist implies that the Orientals (Arabs and Asians) are incapable of self-definition. To this end, the subconscious imperialist drafts an Orientalist history and culture from a distorted and birds-eye point of view.
For every person without a cultural identity, there will always be someone to dictate not just what they think they are but what they should be.
Unfortunately, cultural discrimination is not limited to the West alone. Even the natives of the Oriental Middle East are apprehensive of having any relation with subjects that bear the Americanism tag. Arabs are often blinded by the unchecked control the west has over their countries to appreciate American society for what it is.

Conclusively, the two sides of the Orientalism meniscus happen to be faulty. Judging an entire community or nation based on the nefarious activities of some Islamic extremist, die-hard white supremacist, or racist intellectual is the wrong way to go. Instead, we all need to understand individual personalities and how they interact with their local society. By inference, we need to know how they adjust and overlap with entirely new civilizations and cultures, particularly in this era of globalization.

There are several things that miss us due to seeing people and the world from a myopic perspective. This summary will help you open up your worldview and understand the major ideologies that shape the modern world.

The absolute categorization of Orientalism and the defining factors

A story was told of a colonialist who spent 25 years in Oriental Egypt, serving in various administrative capacities. The meticulous and unflinching poise of this colonialist at serving the British crown won him an illustrious reception in Britain after his retirement. The day of his official acknowledgment by the Queen arrived, and he was required to give a brief address. The entire narrative of the colonialist gave a warped and distorted caricature of the Egyptian culture. British decision-makers in the audience, many of them having no opportunity of an Egyptian pilgrimage, believed the tales of their sentry.
Continue reading with Headway app
Continue the summary
Other chapters is waiting for you in the app

The fallacy of establishing entities on the strength of arbitrary and theoretical knowledge


Societal redefinition of beliefs and the engineering of values


Requirements for Oriental adventure and pedagogy


Mutability and the lump-sided outlook of Orientalism


Find a way out of the many faults of Orientalism



Buy full book on AmazonContinue the summary

What is Orientalism about?

Who should read Orientalism

Topics in Orientalism