Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Megan C. Thomas
Orientalism can refer to several distinct but related phenomena. Contemporary scholars typically use the term to refer to Edward Said's theory that Western ideas about “the Orient,” often stereotyped or overgeneralized, are complicit with a broad history of Western colonial and neocolonial domination of the East. In this conception, Orientalism is both a general discursive formation related to material and historical relations of domination and a quality of specific texts, ideas, or actions. More specifically, however, Orientalism may refer to the scholarly discipline of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that encompassed the study of languages, literatures, religions, philosophies, histories, art, and laws of Asian societies, especially ancient ones. This scholarship also inspired broader intellectual and artistic circles in Europe and North America, and so Orientalism may also denote general enthusiasm for things “Oriental.” Finally, Orientalism was a school of thought among a group of British colonial administrators and scholars who ...