Orientalism

The Orient that appears in Orientalism, then, is a system of representations framed by a whole set of forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later, Western empire. ... The Orient is the stage on which the whole East is confined. On this stage will appear the figures whose role it is to represent the larger whole from which they emanate. The Orient then seems to be, not an unlimited extension beyond the familiar European world, but rather a closed field, a theatrical stage affixed to Europe.
Edward Said.

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" preceded imperialism and colonialism but it remained in place even after conquest and discovery of new lands and people, even after finding new and fresh sources of information to correct earlier interactions and even after being removed and thrown out by decolonization movements. After a time, people simply used the same stock of stereotypes repeatedly to refer to the same land as if they couldn't bother changing or correcting their first impressions, and thanks to Pop-Cultural Osmosis, those collection of first impressions still remains most people's idea of "the East".

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 Green Lantern found his magic ring and lantern in Chinatown. Why not Little Italy? 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, Sim Sim Salabim, and Far East. In recent years, people have used the concept of Orientalism which originally applied to "the Levant" and the Middle East, to the cultures of the Sinophone and extended it to refer to regions that are not Asian (such as Africa, South America and Polynesian tribes).

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
  • Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen features Captain Nemo, presented as Jules Verne portrayed him in The Mysterious Island, as Prince Dakkar of Bundelkhand, veteran of the 1857 Mutiny. The comics highlight the racism and imperialism of Victorian Britain but also highlight how complex Captain Nemo is, since he has Majored in Western Hypocrisy but shown to dislike the English or otherwise be standoffish. He's also shown, fittingly as an Indian aristocrat, to have caste/race/religious and gender prejudice. He's shown to be stern and ruthless but also unexpectedly humane and generous, someone who doesn't really fit the stereotypes of the East, either positively or negative.
  • Tintin is full of this. To Herge's credit, he became aware of this and sought to mute it or tone it down. Starting from The Blue Lotus and later again, with Tintin in Tibet which was genuinely well researched and is so well appreciated that it received an award from the 14th Dalai Lama. Nonetheless, the comics do lean somewhat to the trope but it's done better than usual. In any case, Herge's depiction of Asian cultures is a little better than his depiction of South American cultures, to say nothing of his depiction of Africa (which Herge himself regretted that he shelved it later in his career).
  • Craig Thompson's Habibi was described by him as being self-consciously Orientalist in Edward Said's phrase. It tells an Arabian Nights/Days story but the point is to pull a Decon-Recon Switch by both showing how those tropes as used conventionally are wrong while noting that it can be used to more positive ends with better research.

Film
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was famously mocked and derided in India for its bafflingly inaccurate depiction of India, full of Anachronism Stew and just plain weirdness in mixing parts of Hinduism with bits from Aztec and Polynesian culture, as well as Voodoo, and the film-makers own weirdness for the sake of fantasy.

Literature
  • Discussed in Edward Said's book Orientalism, which named the phenomenon. The book as Said admits largely focused on the Orientalism of the Middle East, the Levant and "the Bible Lands" owing to the author's background as a Palestinian Christian raised in Egypt. He notes that the Orientalism towards the Far East, towards India and other cultures could be its own separate kind.
  • Rudyard Kipling's stories naturally came to be seen as possessing this. Especially Kim, The Man Who Would Be King. He also wrote poems talking about the White Man's Burden.


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