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Orientalism

  • By: Victoria S. Downey
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Orientalism, as an area of study, has multiple definitions: It is an academic field that seeks to study the Orient, as well as a term for a more general interest in all things “Oriental.” However, within geography, it is most frequently employed as a critique of these two definitions. This critique of Orientalism was first extensively developed by the famed Palestinian scholar Edward Said (1935–2003). Orientalism in this context refers to the process by which “the Orient” (the area of the Middle East, as understood by Said) has been represented in particular ways by “the Occident,” or “the West” (generally understood to be Europe and the United States), both historically and in the present day. Orientalism reflects, and works to maintain, the political and ...

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