Created By: Xzenu on February 23, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on May 24, 2016

Orientalism

This will probably be an index as well as a trope in its own right.

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The so called Orient: Stretching from Egypt to Japan and including everything in-between. Seen through classic European glasses as being one single entity - one of mystery and adventure, were white men can display their superiority and masculinity over the decadent and feminized "orientals".

The development of this ethnocentric vision of "the Orient" went hand in hand with imperialism and colonialism.

Orientalism is a particular set of overarching stock stereotypes about everything and anything east of Greece. Orientialism also relates to the idea of the East being an exotic locale, a place where Suspension of Disbelief is a little easier for Western audiences. Just as an example, the original Comic Book/Green Lantern found his magic ring and lantern in Chinatown. Why not Germantown? There are plenty of stories of European magicians and daemons, but the Chinatown shop serves as a jumping off point for something mysterious, anachronistic, and magical in a modern setting. Hence, Orientalism.

Compare and contrast Arabian Nights Days.

See also the other wiki.

Tropes heavily connected to orientalism:

Tropes that commonly appear in conjunction with orientalism, but are not in themselves part of it:

Individual works famous for orientalism:

Comic Books

Literature
  • Discussed in Edward Said's book Orientalism, which named the phenomenon.

Community Feedback Replies: 47
  • February 23, 2012
    Xzenu
    Note that tropes about Asia and Asian culture s such is NOT included - only tropes on western stereotypes about Asians and Asian cultures.
  • February 23, 2012
    pawsplay
    Mythology
    • Medea, who falls for Jason, is portrayed according to the Asian stereotypes of the time, making her a harsh, mercurial, and irrational figure.
  • February 23, 2012
    KingZeal
    ^^ You might want to state what those stereotypes are then.
  • February 23, 2012
    dalek955
  • February 23, 2012
    pawsplay
    I think conceptions over time vary too much to nail down what "the" oriental stereotypes are. I think expanding a little bit on the masculinity/femininity thing might be useful. Ethnocentrism, imperialism, and colonialism probably need a mention.
  • February 23, 2012
    elwoz
    ^^ Wutai is a Setting Trope (Fantasy Counterpart Culture based on feudal Japan) whose uses may, but don't have to, display Orientalism. Similarly, works set in Jidai Geki, Medieval Japan, Imperial China, Far East, Arabian Nights Days, Qurac, Sim Sim Salabim, Darkest Africa (sometimes), and a bunch of other stock settings often do display Orientalism, but don't have to.

    Orientalism is a particular set of overarching stock sterotypes about everything and anything east of Greece. Edward Said defined the term precisely, and we ought to match him, since it's heavily used in off-wiki critical theory. I'd write it up, but I haven't read the book, unfortunately.

    More existing tropes that fit under this umbrella:

    Tropes that commonly appear in conjunction with, but are not technically part of:

  • February 23, 2012
    fulltimeD
    It must be noted that this trope is loaded with Unfortunate Implications.
  • February 23, 2012
    lebrel
    Hmm. There's two meanings of "Orientalism": the art-movement meaning, which is about romanticized, exoticized scenes of the Arab "orient" (harems, baths, souks, snake-charmers, etc), and the meaning influenced by Said's book, which is also primarily about the Arab / Moslem "orient", not about the Far East, in which the Orient is the "other" by which the West is defined (Christian/Moslem, white/brown, scientific/superstitious, modern/ancient, etc).

    But the tropes we have on this Wiki are primarily about East Asia (China, Japan, etc.). Not to say that we can't write up Orientalism, in either sense, but things like All Asians Know Martial Arts are not part of art-Orientalism and only tangentially relevant to Said-Orientalism.
  • February 23, 2012
    lebrel
    And thinking about it, the idea that Aisan tropes about Asia should be excluded is wrong. Asian cultures are perfectly capable of Orientalizing themselves; just as the West thinks that by comparing the West to the Orient it can discover the unique and important aspects of the West, so the Orient thinks that by comparing the West to the Orient it can discover the unique and important aspects of the Orient. For example, Nihonjinron, or the Japanese idea that the Japanese have special characteristics because they are Japanese, is Orientalizing.
  • February 23, 2012
    Cider
    Orient is a thing, not a person. Having character tropes on the list is kind of offensive.
  • February 23, 2012
    lebrel
    ^ Orientalism is a point of view, and it's one that extends to stereotypes about people, so yes it includes character tropes.
  • February 23, 2012
    Catbert
    What does this do that National Stereotypes and National Stereotyping Tropes does not?
  • February 23, 2012
    pawsplay
    Orientialism also relates to the idea of the East being an exotic locale, a place where Suspensionm Of Disbelief is a little easier for Western audiences. Just as an example, the original Green Lantern found his magic ring and lantern in Chinatown. Why not Germantown? There are plenty of stories of European magicians and daemons, but the Chinatown shop serves as a jumping off point for something mysterious, anachronistic, and magical in a modern setting. Hence, Orientalism.
  • February 23, 2012
    elwoz
    I'm not sure why this got discarded? Anyway, I mostly had East Asian tropes on my list because that was mostly what I could find. We maybe don't have as good coverage of Middle Eastern, South Asian, Desi, etc. tropes, but that's a separate problem.

    ^^ It is a particular, and particularly widespread, superordinate category of national stereotypes and/or "throw all these nations in a blender" stereotypes. Just that it is a recognized, useful lit-crit term means it deserves a page on here IMHO.
  • February 24, 2012
    pawsplay
    That was pretty weird. I wonder if it was a mistake.
  • February 24, 2012
    Cider
    I did not discard it, but my stance hasn't changed. You know, people from the East hate being called Oriental. You might call food or furniture oriental but not people.
  • February 24, 2012
    pawsplay
    Asian people are welcome to improve the article on Orientalism, which is an actual scholarly term. It has nothing to do with saying, "hey, let's go ahead and call people Oriental." The article on Oireland isn't an encouragement to stereotype people or call them epithets.
  • February 25, 2012
    ZombieAladdin
    Some more that could be on the list:

    All of these deal with stereotypes about Asians.
  • February 25, 2012
    MAI742
    Hmm. For what definition of Orient? Is it everything 'not-European', or is just everything east/south of Russia/Greece...?

    Don't forget Oriental Inscurability. Or is it the Inscrutable Oriental? You know, the thing about ignoring subtle cultural customs and expressions in favour of labelling it all as unreadable.

    If we're really gonna go for it, then we ought to lump all the things about asian and oriental people with a hint of... this, I guess, in here.

    Not sure if Nerdy Asian qualifies. Might Whitey is kind of the other side of this, I guess. That and... what, Scary Black Guy?
  • February 27, 2012
    lebrel
    Somebody has to decide what this is actually about. If it's "stereotypes about the Orient", then that's pretty much covered by National Stereotypes and National Stereotyping Tropes. If it's about the artistic or scholarly uses of the term, or both, then we need a nice clear description that states what's covered, and gives a definition for the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the term. Not all stereotypes about non-Europeans are Orientalizing, so if this page is about artistic and/or scholarly Orientalism, it shouldn't just be an index of every trope about non-Europeans that we have.
  • February 27, 2012
    pawsplay
    Nerdy Asian does not qualify. The idea of Orientalism is not simply stereotypes, but of a petite stereotype of a region extending down to every detail, in fact, supplying details which are not just exaggerated but non-factual. Big chunk o' text from Wikipiedia:

    Orientalism" refers to the Orient or East,[2] in contrast to the Occident or West.

    "Orientalism" is widely used in art, to refer to the works of the many 19th century artists, who specialized in "Oriental" subjects, often drawing on their travels to North Africa and Western Asia. Artists as well as scholars were already described as "Orientalists" in the 19th century, especially in France, where the term, with a rather dismissive sense, was largely popularized by the critic Jules Castagnary.[3] Such disdain did not prevent the Societé des Peintres Orientalistes ("Society of Orientalist Painters") being founded in 1893, with Jean-Léon Gérôme as honorary president;[4] the word was less often used as a term for artists in 19th century England.[5]

    Since the 18th century, "orientalist" has been the traditional term for a scholar of Oriental studies; however the use in English of "Orientalism" to describe the academic subject of "Oriental studies" is rare; the Oxford English Dictionary cites only one such usage, by Lord Byron in 1812. The academic discipline of Oriental studies is now more often called Asian studies.

    In 1978, the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said published his influential and controversial book, Orientalism, which "would forever redefine" the word;[6] he used the term to describe a pervasive Western tradition, both academic and artistic, of prejudiced outsider interpretations of the East, shaped by the attitudes of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries. Said was critical of both this scholarly tradition and of some modern scholars, particularly Bernard Lewis. Said was mainly concerned with literature in the widest sense, especially French literature, and did not cover visual art and Orientalist painting, though others, notably Linda Nochlin, have tried to extend his analysis to art, "with uneven results".[7] Said's work has given rise to a new discipline called Postcolonialism or Postcolonial studies.

  • February 27, 2012
    pawsplay
    So... prejudiced outsider interpretation, of exotic foreigners, associated with imperialist mythology. Nerdy Asian hits the first and last, but is not a "foreigner" stereotype as it pertains to modern assimilations to Western cultural norms (inversion of the trope, actually).
  • March 13, 2012
    Xzenu
    Thanks for the input, everyone. Updates made.

    As for the discard, it was indeed weird and indeed not an accident. And it wasn't Cider's fault. It was some guy calling himself "rjrya 395" who had a little temper tantrum and blanked a number of tropes that was once started by me. Including Alternate Techline and Asian Hooker Stereotype. He discarded this thread while he was at it. Everything he destroyed was restored quickly, so everything was already back to normal the next time I logged in.

    @Cider: This trope is about old imperialistic stereotypes. This does give it a big capacity to offend. We should minimize the offense without losing accuracy.
  • March 13, 2012
    lebrel
    Again, what exactly is this going to be about? Is it art-movement Orientalism, Said Orientalism, or just "stereotypes of the exotic East"? So far it doesn't seem to be cohering around either of the former. If you want an index about "old imperialistic stereotypes", but don't care to conform to either of the accepted definitions of Orientalism, it probably needs a different name.
  • March 13, 2012
    Xzenu
    It's supposed to be the Edward Said kind of orientalism.
  • March 13, 2012
    lebrel
    OK, then you need to explain a bit more about what Said's concept of Orientalism is, and perhaps explain how the tropes we have here fit, since they are for the most part not built around the same axis as his argument. For instance, All Asians Know Martial Arts is a very poor fit to Said's concept of Orientalism; you could make a case that it reflects the idea that Oriental cultures are based on mystical, ancient knowledge (in contrast to the West's rationalism and science), but that's kind of a stretch. We just don't have the major tropes that Said's argument is built around, The Orient Is Mystical While The West Is Scientific, or Oriental Passion Versus Western Discipline, or even Orientals Are Whimsical Tempramental And Childlike While Westerners Are Mature And Dedicated.
  • March 13, 2012
    Xzenu
    Awesome points. I don't think we'll need to make those as separate tropes, they'll do nicely as Internal Subtrope of this one. I'll make a new draft the day after tomorrow.
  • March 14, 2012
    elwoz
    ^^lebrel: To the extent that any trope-about-people-from-Asia is used to exoticize them and/or marginalize them, I think Said's critique applies, even if Said didn't cover that trope in his book. But it's worth distinguishing (in our text) the tropes Said called out from other tropes that get used the same way.
  • March 14, 2012
    lebrel
    ^ Yes, and there are tropes invented in the modern era that Said did not cover which fall under his definition of Orientalism, such as "Japanese culture enforces uniformity and stifles creativity, in contrast to Western culture which celebrates individualism". But the specific trope All Asians Know Martial Arts is not in and of itself orientalizing in Said's sense, in that it does not reflect an essential difference between the West and the Orient (the West has never defined itself in terms of "not knowing martial arts"). It's just a stereotype about Asians. Many of the tropes proposed on the list are merely stereotypes, not specifically orientalizing stereotypes. At least not in Said's sense.
  • March 14, 2012
    lebrel
    On reflection, I think part of the problem here is that the draft description does not actually describe Said's view of orientalism. It does not necessarily cover "any trope-about-people-from-Asia is used to exoticize them and/or marginalize them". Said's book is quite dense and he has a number of points, but his main emphasis is on the tendency of (Victorian) Western commentators to consider the Orient not in terms of itself, but in terms of what it shows about the West; that is, the idea that by comparing the West and the Orient, one can not only define the West but also discover what is special (and superior) about the West.

    Orientalist stereotypes are those which both a) posit an essential difference between the West and the Orient and b) by which that difference is defined:

    • The West is white, the Orient is brown.
    • The West is Christian, the Orient is Muslim.
    • The West is rational, the Orient is superstitious.
    • The West is scientific, the Orient is mystical.
    • The West is disciplined, the Orient is passionate.

    And so forth. Extending the idea to East Asia (which Said does only slightly) requires small changes: the Far East Orient is yellow and Buddhist (Shinto, pagan, whatever) rather than brown and Muslim.

    And as I said above, orientalizing arguments can be used by non-European cultures, like Japan's Nihonjinron, which posits that comparing Japan to the West can identify what is special and unique (and superior) about Japan.
  • March 14, 2012
    lebrel
    On yet further reflection, it might be better to make this about art-movement orientalism rather than Said-orientalism. That would nicely cover all the "exotic portrayals of the mysterious, adventurous East" type of tropes without having to go into the details of Said's argument and its limitations (including the fact that he focuses on the Near and Middle East and the Far East has a somewhat different set of stereotypes, and that he primarily considered older sources and many of the stereotypes he describes were outdated at the time he wrote the book, etc).
  • March 14, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    I'd like to second the idea of adding the notion of the "inscrutable" behaviour/speech to this. I know it's really just a projection of sorts (the Westerner cannot understand the person from the East, not necessarily for any reasons of accent, but more word choice, facial expression, etc.), but it comes up a lot in the fortune-cookie proverbs sometimes used as dialogue for East Asians (notably the old Charlie Chan movies).
  • June 23, 2012
    Noah1
  • December 28, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Bump. Can we get more hats/comments/examples/discard votes on this?
  • December 28, 2012
    elwoz
    I like the idea of making this be art-movement orientalism rather than Said-orientalism. It's more like what we usually call a "trope" that way, so it'll be easier to keep it on topic. We can still talk about Said as a prominent critic of the concept.
  • December 28, 2012
    arromdee
    If you read the Wikipedia link, Said's idea is controversial. If even some academics think that Said is classifying stereotypes subjectively, there's probably enough subjectivity that our editors (who aren't as educated as academics) are going to have problems classifying them according to Said's criteria at all.

    So I don't think this will work as proposed.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    ^ Do you think it works if we take lebrel's suggestion and genericizing it to "art movement orientalism"? I think we need something with this name.
  • September 1, 2015
    Angelus25

  • September 1, 2015
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    Just because a topic is deeply offensive doesn't mean that the wiki should not cover it. A lot of our articles about really offensive bits of fiction get used as starting places for people researching oppression in media. Yes, we catalogue some pretty messed up things, but that doesn't mean we approve of them. Sometimes bringing them to light is the best way to bring change.

    </Mod Hat>

    That said, I do think that the European colonial view of the East is a supertrope we should have. It's one that casts shadows on fiction even now, even if it's a bit of an Undead Horse Trope.
  • September 2, 2015
    Rjinswand
    I agree that such a page should exist. But it needs a more clear definition.

    I don't think we should strictly follow Edward Said's definition of it, but rather use it for all Western stereotypes of "the Orient" that feature the East-West dichotomy.

    A couple suggestions, though:
    • Why not use the main title of Asian Gal With White GuyMighty Whitey And Mellow Yellow?
    • Japanese Ranguage — maybe rather use its supertrope, Asian Speekee Engrish?
    • Magical Negro (for Asian values of "negro") — Um, sorry, what? Maybe you're thinking of its sister trope, Magical Asian?
    • Look up the Asian Index, there might be other tropes that would fit here.
    • The Green Lantern example, it's actually a weird one... It's tied to China because the original GL was based on Aladdin, which is an Arabic tale set in China. So I'd say it's more of an example of "Orientalism" in the "art movement" sense.
    • I'd suggest to make it an index, without examples of its own. I'm sure Tintin is already listed on the subtropes' pages, so no need to single it out here. As for Edward Said's book, it's not an example of orientalism, it's a work that explores the concept itself — so I think it'd be more logical to mention it in the description.
  • September 2, 2015
    Arivne
    • Corrected spelling (sterotypes).
    • Namespaced character names.
    • Italicized work names.
  • September 2, 2015
    shimaspawn
    Not all Western views of the East are Orientalism. It's a more specific topic than that and is one that generally refers to a Colonial, Exotified view of the East. It's not about modern stereotypes, but instead ones from around the early 1900's.

    We've picked up new stereotypes since then but that doesn't mean that this isn't a topic to discuss.
  • September 2, 2015
    Rjinswand
    ^ Okay, but what I meant is, Said's work is only related to the Muslim civilizations. Should we remove all East Asian-related tropes then?
  • October 4, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump
  • May 24, 2016
    MasoTey
    Bump
  • May 24, 2016
    EdnaWalker
    So, this trope applies to east of Greece, but west of Hawaii and Alaska. It doesn't apply to Africa except possibly to Egypt and other parts of North Africa.
  • May 24, 2016
    Chabal2
    I dunno about the Tintin one, The Blue Lotus was famous for actually doing the research thanks to a Chinese fan working with the author (the Japanese ended up getting the short end of the stick due to that).

    Voltaire's work Memnon is a satire of French court life (everybody is obsessed with their rank, adultery is the standard practice, religious issues...) but the setting is orientalized to ensure No Communities Were Harmed: the king becomes the emperor, priests of various orders becomes mages, the Pope becomes the Dalai Lama...

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=22svd5j7xqb8arav7x96a0ay