• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss some of the recurrent themes in western representations of the non-European 'other'.

Extracts from this document...


Discuss some of the recurrent themes in western representations of the non-European 'other'. This essay intends to discuss some of the typical western views, and in many cases, stereotypes, of the non-western world. The essay will focus on two main areas that have often been subject to great prejudice: the 'Oriental' world of the Far East, Near East and South Asia, and the 'Primitive' societies of Africa and to a lesser extent Native America. The essay will open with a short explanation of how certain words can be used to draw these boundaries, before discussing the specific areas, including some of the problems resulting from these stereotypes and misconceptions, also emphasising the influence of colonialism. We will then draw on some common grounds between these different forms of representation along with common issues and criticisms. As the essay comes to an end it will propose a question about the possible future of these representations, before attempting to draw a conclusion on what has been discussed. Rather than going straight into the different criteria by which western society distinguishes itself from the non-western world, it seems a good starting point to mention some of the actual words used to draw a boundary between 'us' and 'them'. The use of the words 'us' and 'them' are of course examples in themselves. 'Us' seems to imply some sense of unity, a base from which any judgements about the less clearly defined 'them' can be made. ...read more.


It is easy to formulate a picture of typically 'primitive' man in our minds, as we have all probably learned similar ideas of what it means to be primitive - it is when we apply this stereotype to societies around the world that we face a problem. Sadly, this has been the case for many, many people ever since the first interactions between the culturally different. Nederveen Pieterse quotes Debrunner, in his book 'White on Black3'; "The Negro represents natural man in all his wild and untamed nature. If you want to treat and understand him rightly, you must abstract all elements of respect and morality and sensitivity - there is nothing remotely humanized in the Negro's character... Nothing confirms this judgement more than reports of missionaries." (1992: 34). Reading such a paragraph will most likely lead to sheer disgust from the reader, and rightly so. The truth is though that such a view echoes that of many western views of the last several hundred years; that of the backwards, barely human, wild man. Nederveen Pieterse points out that many of these views are based on 'absences' - something deemed as lacking from these people that are requited to make them human. (1992: 35). Some views take the idea even further, believing that certain societies may have provided a 'missing link' between man and ape, as Nederveen Pieterse explains: "Edward Tyson proposed the pygmy, whom he identified with Homo Sylvestris, as the missing link." ...read more.


(Talal Asad, 1973: 25). In response to such a situation, I propose a question. Orientalism, like all western representations of the 'other', has always had a clear emphasis on power and control. With the modern world developing as it is - China fast becoming one of the world's main powers, with India to follow in the future, what effect will this have on western Oriental views? Is it possible that a shift in, or at least an expansion of, power bases would abolish such stereotypes in any way, or is it possible that our views of what the Orient is are so distant from reality that any such change would in fact leave our ill informed views intact? It seems fitting that an essay that originally intended to focus on the way the West represents the other actually focussed more on the universal criticisms of these representations - this is hardly a coincidence. What is clear from discussing these different representations of the 'other' we have is that while they may focus on very different locations, and completely different sets of misinterpretations, they all share some very common grounds - both in the way these representations are formed, and more importantly the way these representations are criticized and rejected. Therefore in conclusion, while there will always be different names given to the ways we may represent certain areas around the world, it is likely that there will always be one combined perceived 'other' that an ignorant westerner may apply very similar frameworks to, no matter how different they may actually be. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Anthropology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Anthropology essays

  1. Extended Essay on Mimicry in Humans

    found that people engaged in mimicry donated more money to charity as compared to people who did not mimic. The results of this study show that mimicry creates more empathy and pro-social tendencies in people. Therefore, it can be said that mimicry not only helps in positive social interactions,

  2. Nanook and the Innocent Eskimo

    Flaherty initially wanted to film an adventure movie about an Inuit in the Hudson Bay in 1914 and 1916 (Freeze, 48), but after burning his film reels accidently and returning in 1920, he had plenty of time to construct a film which documented the untouched Eskimo and his dexterity in overcoming the harsh conditions that surround him.

  1. How has the West represented the non-West, and what are the political implications of ...

    Examples of these political implications include: racism, and the idea of White supremacy; an economic relationship of dependency between the West and non-West; and the gulf created between "Christian" and "Islamic" nations, emphasised of late after cases of Islamic extremism such as 9/11.

  2. Discuss the extent to which tourism is a neo colonialist activity supported by cultural ...

    human rights (of its original people), Australia would be coming stone motherless last.' Professor Colin Tatz, Genocide Studies Centre, Sydney (Cited in Pilger, 2002, p. 159) There are various case studies and texts that deal with this behaviour and possibly one author in particular, is worthy of close attention.

  1. How useful is the term "counter-culture" to describe developments in Western Society during the ...

    The Civil Rights movements emerged and proved many victories during the sixties. After a decade of protests and marches beginning peacefully with the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56 to the student-led sit-ins of the 60s and the march on Washington in 1963, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964


    Sara and Dara, who were brother and sister, were designed and marketed by the government-sponsored Amusement Department of the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. Barbie also seems to have turned into something of a gay icon.

  1. Modernity in India and Tendencies of Assimilative Appropriation

    I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people's houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.7 The Indian culture of our times is in the making.


    of all these Latin derived dialects, chosen as the base of Standard French), only displays light differences in syntax, vocabulary and pronunciation. Lorrain on the other hand, which is one of the la langue d'O�l dialects spoken further from Paris, displays an abundance of pronunciation differences from Standard French.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work