Orientalism still present? If yes, how?

Posted: December 2, 2014 in Polls

Re-read your notes. Are the aspects of Orientalism we talked about still prevalent in the way  the west looks at the Middle East today? Can you provide some examples?


  1. Maya says:

    I believe that Orientalism is still present in the West today. In the U.S. most know very little about this region and tend to unintentionally group the region together as well as stereotype. When I tell people that I go to school in Jordan I’ve gotten such absurd questions like “Do you ride camels like all the time?!?” or “Do they even have internet over there?”. The sad reality is that these wrong ideas about the region allow people to look down on the Middle East even unintentionally.

    Ms. Meg also pointed out that it’s an orientalist construct to even call the Middle East “the Middle East” at all because it’s the Middle East of the West. So the Middle East is a counter to the West and not independent. The name alone is part of orientalism. I had never heard this before and thought it was really interesting.

  2. Kareem Kort says:

    I kind of agree with Maya, but i think that Orientalism is slowly dying. Orientalism still exits because of a lack of knowledge of our region, and Hollywood movies that depict Arabs as savages, but thank god for the internet, it brings people closer together. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube show the west that we are not what we are stereotyped to appear to be.

  3. Mr. L says:

    Excellent perspective Maya. Can you think of some modern day examples which are relevant the the Orentalism as defined by Edward Said?

    • Jennifer Bryan says:

      I know I’m not Maya but… I think a great example of Orientalism is the song “Arab Money” by Busta Rhymes. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcuAw77J8_Y) The song lyrics used in the hook:

      La ilaha illa Allah, ha la ili, hay yo
      Hili b’Allah, hey, hili bay yo
      We getting Arab money
      We getting Arab money

      are very controversial because they distort “La ilaha illa Allah” and can be seen as a mockery of Islam and Arab culture. Then he goes on to say:

      Now, there ain’t no way that you could kill the beast dead
      I got Middle East women and Middle East bread
      I got oil well money in the desert playing golf
      Dolce shorts, dashiki with a Louie Scarf
      Chest cold, diamonds make a nigga wanna cough
      In Dubai, 20 million on the villa loft
      And then I step up in the club and then these other niggas mad as shit
      The way I make the people wanna sing the hook in Arabic!

      This is full of Middle Eastern stereotypes, and even goes on to celebrate singing the hook in “Arabic”.

      When thousands of Westerners, some who know very little about the Orient, are introduced to the Orient with songs, film, media, and even video games that portray it in this light, it’s hard to think that Orientalism no longer exists, or has died down in any way. On the other hand, the perception of the West by much of the Orient is also very distorted. Orientalism exists, but it is also extremely important to acknowledge that inaccurate perception is a struggle for all regions of the world, not just the Orient. The struggle is real!

  4. Hannah Ellis says:

    When I think of the center of ancient education, science, math, medicine, and philosophy my mind jumps immediately to Ancient Greece and Rome. Why is that? Why do I not think about the Ancient Arab world, a place where the first degree granting university was in 859, where trigonometry was invented, where philosophers like Ibn Khaldun (a name I first heard in this class) wrote philosophical texts that would still be discussed in classrooms so many centuries later. Why does the average American say such stereotypical things(see below link)? Is this due to lack of education? Inaccurate education? The media?

    • Jennifer Bryan says:

      Hannah, I would not necessarily say “the average American”, because even that could be seen as a sort of “Westernalism”, assuming that the common nature of most Americans is to speak about the Orient with an Orientalist approach. Although, I do agree that these stereotypes are fueled by the media and a lack of education across borders and cultures. So, does that mean we put these people at fault? Orientalism and cultural misconception occur everywhere… Is it Reverse-Orientalism when an Arab asks an American would happen if they went to America and told people they were Muslim from the Middle East and named Mohammed? expecting a response where the “average American” (because we are all alike) would assume they are a fundamentalist radical “Islamer” who unites with all of his mausoleum brethren! Orientalism is a problem for the West and Orient alike, but the bigger problem is the education, or lack thereof, creating these distorted perceptions. Then, we begin to pose questions, and wonder why the majorities seem to be receiving false representations of each other stimulated by ignorance, sometimes involuntary, all for entertainment and profit.

  5. Saif says:

    Unfortunately, orientalism is still present until these days. The image that people have in their minds is not correct, and the media made it even worse, where in every clip about Jordan, they start it with Bedouin tents, and camels in deserts. The only way to change the way they think about it is to actually see it in their own eyes.

  6. Saif says:

    Also, last term I was part of the virtual “Shu fi Mafi”, and I used to meet an american guy learning Arabic once a week via Skype. He was surprised about how people in Jordan actually listen to House and Trance music. Well not all of them. He also thought that we ride camels on a daily basis,

  7. Rya Inman says:

    Aspects of Orientalism are still present today in the way the West looks at the Middle East, as they still see Middle Easterners all as Arabs and all as Muslims (generally speaking, not everybody). People (aided by the media’s portrayal of the Middle East) tend to view Middle Easterners in extreme ways, highlighting the images to which they are most exposed, including images of war and terrorism, poverty, religious views many people think are backwards or wrong, etc. (basically anything the viewer does not associate with his or her own culture, in effect creating a distinction between himself and “the other.”

  8. Osama Al Mahasneh says:

    I think that the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a modern day example of orientalism. Indeed, many of the foreigners that come to Jordan from the West have a completely different understanding of the conflict. The West views the Arab as terrorists after 9/11, and so they immediately say that Israelis deserve to have Palestine as their homeland even though they do not how the Israelis took over Palestine. One the other hand, the Arabs do not know about the history of the Jews, and how they suffered in Europe and had to flee to Palestine.

  9. eunsoljun15 says:

    I think Orientalism still exists because of ignorance and media. Humans like to be fooled by what others say. We are too lazy to find it out for ourselves because we think the television or the friends we hang out with know all the answers. Orientalism is still prevalent because most of the Westerners still associate all Arabs as all Muslims. Media continues to present the Middle East as a place of instability, terrorism, and religious enigmas.

    I don’t think Orientalism should only be associated with the West because there are a lot of people in the East who deal with the same problem. Many of my Korean friends ask me whether I am safe or not, whether my friends own castles, or whether I go to school with the prince. Many of them weren’t even familiar with Jordan. When they asked me where Jordan was, I described it as a country near Syria and Iraq. Their reply was “Why do you live in such an unsafe place?” They like to associate the Middle East with wealth, and danger. The media is what they feed off of.

    Can the media really alter its ideas and opinions on a certain nation? On a bigger scale, a certain region?

    • Eun, it is only normal for people to associate insecurity with the “Middle East,” because generally this region is filled with choas and killings. You can’t disagree with the FACT that Syria lives in a terrible condition, Egypt has loads of chaos in it. In Lebanon people still kill each other for being Shi’a or sunni. Iraq too witnesses terrorist mass murders from week to week or month to month. When a person from a different continent looks at the map and sees that this region is filled with chaos they don’t think it is once in a while thing and these incidents don’t represent the entirety of the region. They circle the whole area on the map and say this is an insecure region on planet.
      This isn’t necessarily orientalism, but the instinctive human reaction to war and terrorism.

      This region doesn’t have a space research center that sends satelites to orbit the planets or a grand biochemistry labs that create cures for diseases or a big hadron collider to reseach matter at its core, but rather it has day to day shootings and bombings that get shown on TV in every corner of the world. Obviously people don’t get an opportunity to learn about the culture of the people or their languages and religions.

      People’s views aren’t oriental lenses, but the reflections of what happens in here.

      • eunsoljun15 says:

        How can it be reflections if they aren’t showing the other side of the country or the region? We looked through those travel pamphlets, and the videos in class and there were so many examples that we were so shocked at since it was clearly not a decent representation of this region.

    • Mr. L says:

      What is your name but your identity? And even that is given to you by someone else….

      • Identity is more than just my name Mr. L!
        Identity is an all-encompassing label that include my name, my birth place, religion, language, social persona and moral characteristics and…. I may not have control over one of these, but I have have the ultimate power to create my own identity and the way I should be known. I could even change my name (like Dr. Muhammad and Pelin did) and I won’t be known with my old name anymore. So, the name isn’t my identity really…

  10. Juliana Kaldany says:

    Eun, are you asking if the media can change the perspective of it’s audience towards a certain region/nation?

    • eunsoljun15 says:

      No, I am asking if the media will alter it’s views on a certain region because media sometimes portray what the audiences want to see, not what the true reality of the situation is. I am curious whether media can really change its whole focus, and actually send a positive and realistic image of the region by not generalizing.

      • salehqadi says:

        Yes but think about it, aren’t Arab governments and media happy with these orientalist views? Don’t WE describe ourselves by the adjectives ‘timeless’ or ‘lands of wonders’ or whatever else? I think it’s going to the direction that states that one side has to be good and another side is the bad one, the Western side is good while Arabs HAVE TO BE the bad or messed up side despite the fact that they are not necessarily bad. The media is just setting Arabian lands to be those lands in which someone can go back in time or live without technology in. Money is all they want, and this delivers that to them so why would they change it right? Those ignorant people in charge of such stuff don’t know the circumstances..

  11. Jude Hadadeen says:

    I believe Orientalism still exists. Less than a month ago, my friend showed me a picture of a girl from New Zealand who came to the Round Square conference at King’s. The girl posted a picture of herself in a hatta with the caption, “What am I doing here?” with her friends posting comments like, “Hope you don’t get beheaded!” This shows how the girl and her friends perceived Arabs, the ‘other’, as dangerous, strange people who live in a mystical place far, far away. Other than this exotic, hazardous, and unusual picture of Arabs, the West believes that all Arabs are Muslim. When a foreign student came to King’s last year, she was completely shocked when she found out I’m a Christian Arab, saying that “there is no such thing.”

  12. salehqadi says:

    I think that orientalism still exists till now. It is something that is totally frustrating to us as Arabs that the West looks at us like that, but what I think is more frustrating that our side is not doing anything against this, but complaining. I, in first place, blame our media by not having a reaction to that. I mean if their media succeeded to bring all the people together against us, then our media would find it easier to bring us together, to first give our people awareness so our people would not adapt what they wanted us to be. Secondly, to get us together to give a clear image of us towards the world. And finally, to create a side against us like they did, so then we would know how to shape our nations. Xenophobia is the key, it’s having an ‘other’ side to keep you motivated to face them and get better than them.

  13. I think you have good points, but orientalism, as we discussed in class, entails more than just some stereotypical portrayal of North African leader. Although I haven’t seen the movie but I heard a lot of discussions over the movie on dinner and lunch tables, and from the details I can deduce that the movie is nothing more than a twist of how Moamar Qadhafi lived.
    You and I both know for sure that Qadhafi had “hot” female bodyguards. He lived an over the TOP lavish and luxurious life and he was a womanizer. Qadhafi also stole the riches of his nation and was solely concerned with comfort, money….

    So, saying that West portrays Arab world in a wrong and that this movie is a representation of Orientalism is a false claim. If media portrays a specific people with their obvious characteristics, then nothing is wrong with that.
    The movie is obviously a comedy and nobody thinks it is the exact true image of an Arab leader, but it still shows a luxurious leader, and that is a fact and not a stereotype.

    • The fact that people find it funny how the “dictator” is portrayed in the movie shows just how much Orientalism has gotten to us. Mr. L mentioned a scene in the movie where the general and his friend were talking about a Porsche 911 and the people with them in the helicopter thought they were terrorists, and everyone in class started laughing including me. It is weird because we have sort of gotten used to Arabs being portrayed that way and we laugh at how ridiculous it is rather than be outraged at how the West views us as Arabs.

    • You sound like you are disagreeing just for the sake of it. This movie mixes both the old oriental view of the Arab world with the newer stereotype that All Arabs are terrorists- which is really weird but I guess the West is happy with the paradox.

      Now, you may be surprised how many Americans believe Wadiya is a real country, and how many believe that Arabs torture and female victimization are embedded in Arab culture, not that those are negative traditional trends being battled by many.

      The current circumstances in which this movie came out suggest that this movie bought into these stereotypes and even encouraged them just for the sake of collecting more revenue. Of course, this is what holloywood wants: MONEY.

      The intentions of the director, whether they were the ones that I suggested, or yours, do not mean that we should not look down onto this movie. Yes it is funny and I laughed a lot at it, but I know it is not the reality in the greater Arab world- and so did the directer know, but the director also knew that the general public does not know, and that this movie is supporting a wrong perception. This is why we cannot encourage material like this

      • Abuhawash, I didn’t by any means say that we should encourage the production of such movies. All I am trying to say is that the way Arab region is portrayed in media isn’t an invention but rather a report of what actually happens here.
        You just said that “…torture and female victimization are negative traditional trends being battled in the Arab culture.” By saying this you agree to the fact that negative traits exist in the Arab world.
        What I am trying to say is that the sooner the Arabs put an ending dot to the “negative cultural trends” or self slaughter, the faster the western media is going to stop productions such as the dictator and blah blah blah.

        In other words, West is not to be blamed for orientalism, it is the middle east that keeps the party going…

  14. As we discussed in class todat, Orientalism is essentially a false view of the east in the west. In Gerome’s art work we clearly see an exaggerated and wrong portrayal of the Arab region, but in today’s news what we see is absolutely true.

    If the TV says there was bomb blast in Syria or there was a guy beheaded in Iraq, they show the pictures as proof. They don’t make it up to demonize the Arab region.

    It is true that not a lot is known about the Arab world in the west or for that matter anywhere in the world. But that is because media’s priority is always to show a murder and bombing and not an Arab Christian screaming I am an Arab and a christian. The problem is that there are too many terrible things happening in this region that pacifist news about this region never gets the priority.

    What happens in today’s media is not orientalism, but rather a generalization of insecurity in the Arab countries. Had Arab world been safe and had everything been under control, the world would see the next day that not everyone in the Arab world is muslim….

    • Jude Hadadeen says:

      You said, “What happens in today’s media is not orientalism, but rather a generalization of insecurity in the Arab countries.” I just want to point out that Orientalism actually revolves around the idea of generalization…

      • Orientalism may revolve around the idea of generalization, but what media does is prioritizing their news choice. They would rather show a murder on TV which attracts consumers, than show a tiny boring and unnoticeable positive gathering in a mosque or church in this region.

        Unfortunately the number of times a murder happens in this region by far outnumbers the number of pacifist acts…

    • When the media prioritises its news choice, it chooses showing bombings in the Arab region rather than any other normal activity any person would be doing as Wali said. However, when the media decides to do that, then whoever is going to be watching the news will start to think that all Arabs are like that. They are nothing but terrorists and “Jihadists” as many US news portray them to be. Once the viewer has that in mind, it is an Orientalist thought. It is Orientalist because it perceives the “other”, the Arabs, as being terrorists and primitive in everything they do.

      • BUT, it is Arabs’ fault to give them (the west) the opportunity and provide media with loads of violence that leaves westerners thinking of this region as an everlasting crime scene…

  15. Reading through the comments, I can see that we can agree that Orientalism still exists. We can see it in the news, literature, movies, from the immediate accusation of a Middle-Eastern-most-likely-Muslim-extremist-with-beard guy for terrorist attacks or the subtle call to prayer in the background of some desert scene in a movie. In fact, I can even mention a personal example of this mind set. This summer, during SEP, a friend of mine, Shahd al-Jawhari, managed to convince our American friend that she owned three camels in her back garden. One of them was a midget by the way. Their names were Sophie, Sara, and something else. But the point is: he bought it. There was some kind of mindset he possessed that made this idea credible, that it was natural to find an Arab with three pet camels in the backyard. So, okay, Orientalism still exists, but what about the Orient itself?
    I believe, in a way, that the Orient may encourage Orientalism. While the essence of Orientalist depictions is one of decadence and eternal, you can’t deny how awesome those robes look, or how exciting the dances in the harem might be. I feel like THAT mindset has also become apparent, one that enjoys these exotic portrayals. Think of it this way: typically, when asked what a guest should do when visiting Jordan, we think “Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, The Roman Amphitheatre,” and so on and so forth. But, of course, all those places tell them very little about what it’s like to be Jordanian. It seems almost as if we want to please the West by showing them what they want to see. We seem to enjoy the images just as much as the West might. I think the moment Orientalist notions become offensive is when they are directed to a specific individual or group. In other words, we separate ourselves from what is depicted in Orientalism, even though it is still a depiction of us or where we come from. It is when one is accused of seeming like the ‘typical Oriental’ that one is offended.

    • Rashed says:

      That is absolutely correct. However, if you think about it, what else can you really show a tourist? You cant really keep them in Amman because cities are usually much the same. So you take them to Jerash, Petra, and so on even though other races built what is in Jordan (Roman Amphitheater). To really counter against orientalism you would have to invite people over to live in a oriental house, live like an oriental, and understand for themselves. Media will never change how they view us because only strange things grab viewers. For example, In Yemen, most people never go to Bab Al Yemen, or Bab Al Mandab, however when foreigners come that is the first place tour guides take them because that is the most place painted and shown in media. Mercantilism is very much an Arab thing, and I have to admit, Orientalism does help the Arab economy.

      • That’s exactly my point. We’re playing along. I’m not saying we shouldn’t show them these sites. I’m saying we should make it clear that these are historical sites, separate from the modern culture. Yes, there are some aspects of our culture that are apparent in orientalist depictions, such as the markets you would find on the sides of streets, but is that really the whole picture? By showing them only what they want to see, you’re strengthening their false perception. It is a false perception in that it applies the things they see in the ‘touristy’ areas to our modern day lives. And like I said, you’re okay with it, as long as they understand that this isn’t you. But they might not. We can play along thinking that we’re both amused by the same thing, something other than us, when in reality, they’re amused by us. We just don’t like to think it so.

  16. Daniel A. Leal says:

    Orientalism needs to be seen as an evolving idea not set and stone. While many of the aspects of its connotation, exotic, subservient, and contrasting nature, are still present in the view of the Middle East, Orientalism in this region has presently come to embody excess. Present-day Orientalism depicts the Middle East specially as the land of excess; excess rhetoric, excess wealth, excess gluttony, excess pride, excess squandering, excess worship, excess violence. The U.S., currently the world power, displays this image upon the Middle East because it is something it does not want to see in themselves as the Europeans did, when in reality superfluous, although perhaps necessary, consumerism has made the U.S. the land of excess.

    • First of all (on an unrelated note to orientalism), how is the “superfluous” culture of consumerism in the United States “perhaps necessary?”

      Secondly, the Arab region isn’t in reality a moderate place, so depicting the truth isn’t necessarily a negative thing. We established that Orientalism is by definition a pejorative word, and things that follow under the category of an oriental view of this part of Asia, are supposed to be a false depiction of what exists in reality. That is not what we see. We see true journalism.

      • Daniel A. Leal says:

        The U.S. economy has come to a point where it requires excessive consumerism to at the very least break even, that is why the U.S.’s superfluous spending is perhaps necessary.

        Whether it is true or not, is not the point I am trying to make. The point is that the U.S. also has excesses of violence, in religious and ideological extremism, excess in spending and avarice, look at Wall Street, and even physical excesses. Yet, the U.S. does not acknowledge the excesses of its own society as much as it places emphasis on the excesses of other societies possibly to compensate for itself or to justify that it itself is imperfect too, just as the Europeans did with the original forms of Orientalism.

  17. I believe Orientalism still exists to this day. The first thing I thought of as evidence would be the scene from family guy where Peter talks about his “Palestinian” alarm clock, and as soon as it says allahu akbar it explodes. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4hJ-iig8qM
    At first I thought it was funny, but then when I watched it again after having the thought of Orientalism in mind it kind of angered me. The scene maybe made to ridicule the way the West views the Middle East, or it could be how they actually view us but the scene is still there. The fact that they linked “Allahu Akbar”, which is an expression muslims use in prayer, to an explosion shows how they perceive Muslims as being terrorists.

  18. Bridghid Sheffield says:

    I think that aspects Orientalism still exist today as most of the west has such a contorted view of the Middle East. In a lot of media, the Middle East is shown as being basic and quite antiquated. Someone from South Africa who participated in Round Square was utterly shocked when he found out that western songs ‘reached’ Jordan. Additionally, to some western people, images like war, terrorism and extremists come to mind when the words Middle East are mentioned.

  19. Mr. L says:

    Ah yes, I get it….3,000 people dying is funny, right? Oh, and you plagiarized part of your comment…

  20. Faisal.D says:

    In my Opinion yess till this day orientalism is still present and one can see it in Jordan .
    The west see Jordan as if its 1000 years old they think we ride camels and shit but its not true but its what they think and honestly that’s some of Jordan’s money is made.the biggest example of this is
    the schools brochure with the sheep in the background.

  21. Juliana Kaldany says:

    Wali, what exactly do you think the middle east can do in order to “stop the party”?

  22. Zaid Khalaf says:

    Parts of Orientalism are still present today in the way the West looks at the Middle East, as they still see Middle Easterners all as Arabs and all as Muslims . People tend to view Middle Easterners in extreme ways, highlighting the images to which they are most exposed, including images of war and terrorism, religious views many people think are backwards or wrong, etc. the viewer does not associate with his or her own culture, in effect creating a distinction between himself and the other.

  23. Zaid Khalaf says:

    Parts of Orientalism are still present today in the way the West looks at the Middle East, as they still see Middle Easterners all as Arabs and all as Muslims. People tend to view Middle Easterners in extreme ways, highlighting the images to which they are most exposed, including images of war and terrorism, religious views many people think are backwards or wrong, etc. basically anything the viewer does not associate with his or her own culture, in effect creating a distinction between himself and other

  24. yasminemalas says:

    I think Orientalism has meshed so deeply into our culture that it can no longer be depicted in a black and white manner. If it was so easy to distinguish between what is depicted about us from the West and how much of that is truly accurate, this concept of “Orientalism” would have been dealt with long ago. Who knows really if this whole “shisha” and “sitting around” thing came into play only after an observer from the West wrote it in all of their journals and letters, or if that was simply just the case. I also tend to believe there are always two sides to a story, so what it is that’s said by the West and what it is that is truly taking place is nothing but a blurred line that by now is veiled by our true practices and what has been said of us. It’s like putting eggs and cake batter into a bowl and mixing to the point where the egg and the batter can’t be distinguished anymore. The eggs are still in there somewhere, and so is the batter, but it’s difficult to tell which is which. And anyway, which would you really want to take out completely?

  25. Marah Tarawneh says:

    I think not only Orientalism still exists, but also many accept and embrace it. We always talk about how the West think we ride camels, but if you go down to Petra or Wadi Rum, the souvenirs that they sell to the tourists are all about camels and sand, e.g. the key chains with small camels or drawing with sand in bottles. So before we wonder why the West have this image about us, we should really think whether we are enforcing that image or not, if we are then we accepted their oriental definition of us.

  26. eunsoljun15 says:

    I totally agree with Marah of the fact that we also “accept” and “embrace”. Even the Middle Easterners portray to the world of this region as a place of history. They show them the most ancient of all things. Going to these historical places only shows a biased point of view and the Westerners take with them the “stagnant” side of the Middle East.

    • If it is deep history that makes a place appear “stagnant” why can countries that contain historical sites such as Machu Pichu, Stone Henge, Tikal, and the Parthenon not be viewed in the same way? I believe that you are right history is one of the first things advertised when you come to the Middle East. I was asked fifteen minutes after landing in Jordan when I was going to Petra. But really the West’s interpretation is profitable if you validate it. As Marah said they sell camel keychains and orientalist accessories to tourists. They do this for a reason, to make money, its what the tourists expect and want to buy. Is it really a choice to validate it though if the tourists are expecting to buy these things?

      The history of the region contributes but I believe it is the stereotyped tribal culture of the region that was most influential in the appearance of being stagnant. Dating back to some of the first impressions that the West had of MENA region such as the letters from Napoleon’s French soldier to the letters of the Earl of Cromer it is stereotyped that the Arabs, as a whole, are inactive and do things like smoke and eat bizer all day. Isn’t it easier to see this whole region as fitting one description much like the fat uneducated or redneck American stereotype, Africa being referred to as one country rather then a continent, hockey playing Canadians, Mexicans and South Americans wearing ponchos (since Mexico has become the apparent representative of South America in common thought)? The World is a massive place and to try and understand the billions of people that live here we create boxes, even if schools teach us to preach individuality, we try to make everything simpler to understand. This is the main reason I think Orientalism exists.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s