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A Royal Palace in Morocco by by Benjamin Jean Joseph Constant

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 Morocco to Japan and including everything in-between. Seen through classic European glasses as being one single entity - one of mystery and adventure, where 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 (and its modern successor Qurac), Mystical India, 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).

For a slightly different type of comparison see the concept of Ruritania, which has been interpreted as an Orientalizing take on parts of the world which are otherwise explicitly European.

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

  • 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.
  • 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 been shown to dislike the English or otherwise be standoffish. He's also shown, fittingly as an Indian aristocrat of the era, 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 negatively.
  • Tintin: The early volumes contain some very stereotypical (and often unflattering) depictions of non-European cultures. To Hergé's credit, he eventually became aware of this and sought to tone it down, starting with The Blue Lotus. The later volume Tintin in Tibet, which is widely regarded as the best entry in the series, was so well researched that it received an award from the 14th Dalai Lama.


  • Alexander: Both played straight and subverted. Told largely from a western perspective, it strongly emphasizes the Ancient Greek perception of the Persians as exotic and decadent "barbarians". Yet it also shows Alexander's genuine respect and admiration for the culture; plus, the sheer number of locations the Macedonian army travels through shows how "Asia" is not nearly as homogeneous as some Greeks may think.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: The film was famously mocked and derided in India for its bafflingly inaccurate depiction of that country, full of Anachronism Stew and just plain weirdness; mixing parts of Hinduism with bits from Aztec and Polynesian culture, as well as Voodoo and the filmmakers' own weirdness all for the sake of fantasy.


  • Naked Lunch is orientalist to a T, centered mostly around the strange and outright bizarre North African port city of "Interzone." Though considering the book's background and author, it's more influenced by copious amounts of heroin than any kind of exoticism.
  • Orientalism: Edward Said's book is the Trope Namer. The book, as Said has admitted, largely focuses 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 also 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 a poem talking about the White Man's Burden. Even at the time it was highly criticized, with response poems titled The Brown Man's Burden, The Black Man's Burden etc being penned and political cartoons satirized this with showing people of color carrying white colonizers on their backs (i.e. the real burden in play).

Video Games

  • After the End: A Post-Apocalyptic America: Deliberately done with the Orientalist faith, described in-game as a "distorted version of Islam". Though they read the Koran (rendered as "Alcoran" by them), they're actually descended from non-Muslims looking for something to cling to After the End. Their traditions are cobbled together from Shriner lore, Arabian Nights, the influence of nearby Disneyland, and "Arabian Nights" Days in general. Those descended from actual pre-Event Muslim communities acknowledge them as technically a new, extremely peculiar sect.
  • Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness: The homelands of the Rillow are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version, They're mostly based on "Arabian Nights" Days being a desert and the Rillow themselves being created by a Demigod level Genie, but the Rillow themselves are vaguely Indian elephant people and have a Silk Road equivalent.