Orientalism: Linguistic and Cultural Representation of Truth. Said provides a critique of Orientalism as the basis of humanistic practice.

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Orientalism: Linguistic and Cultural Representation of ‘Truth’

“The ‘Orient’… has been made and remade countless times by power acting through an expedient form of knowledge to assert that this is the Orient’s nature… In the process the uncountable sediments of history, which include innumerable histories and a dizzying variety of peoples, languages, experiences, and cultures, all these are swept aside or ignored, relegated to the sand heap along with the treasures ground into meaningless fragments that were taken out of Baghdad’s libraries and museums. My argument is that history is made by men and women, just as it can also be unmade and rewritten, always with various silences and elisions, always with shapes imposed and disfigurements tolerated, so that ‘our’ East, ‘our’ Orient becomes ‘ours’ to possess and direct.” (Said xviii)

        Edward Said does not handle the topic of Orientalism like an archaeological excavation by which it was merely uncovered by the explorative endeavors of researchers. Instead, he treats it more like a genealogy of structures that develop over time. In fact, there was no ‘Orient’ until ‘Orientalism’ was created. Orientalism is a discourse, or a group of statements that make the Orient analyzable, that produce and manage the ‘Orient as an object.’ The writings on the Orient are meant to be studied and investigated as a compilation of information that generalizes the characteristics of that region of the world through the lens of the Occident.

        The Orient is a discursive formation, which is subject to rules of conditions of existence, coexistence, modification; all that is outside of the discourse is ‘non-discursive’, which refers to the silences and elisions mentioned by Said. These are the boundaries of the discourse, for non-discursive things threaten the discursive formation.

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        So, what is so important about discursive formation? It, in fact, directly pertains to notions of power. The Orient is not even something that is grounded in reality - it is a creation of mankind. It is also a simplified creation, as there is no way that all the knowledge compiled can cover every single detail, nor can it do so with accuracy as not that many people can enter into the Orient from such an objective standpoint that they can record data without coloring it with bias. The entire study is thus a generalization, a canvassing of the area ...

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