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Glossary of Orientalisms


Note:  in the text of each entry, users will find terms for Orientalisms sometimes highlighted in bold and sometimes highlighted in italics.  Bold Orientalisms (e.g. Aboriginal Orientalism) refer to main entries in this glossary.  Italicized Orientalisms (e.g. Afro Orientalism) do not have their own entry but are referred to in an another entry, which is indicated by a "See" entry (e.g. Afro Orientalism. See Black Orientalism).



Decadent Orientalism

Before 1978 and the publication of Edward W. Said’s Orientalism, Western Orientalist scholars, critics, and other commentators used this term from at least the 1890s to imagine and construct “the Orient” as being in a general, enduring state of decay. In the United States, there was considerable fear that Asian immigrants were carriers of this Oriental decadence which threated to destroy American civilization. Citing the supposed decadence of China, Japan, and India, Charles F. Curry (1910) wrote, “We have no quarrel with those people. We wish them well in their own countries, but we do not want them in ours.” By the early 20th century, some critics and others were also referring to an aesthetic style in literature and the art as decadent Orientalism. Both these ideological and aesthetic usages continued into the 1960s.

After 1978, scholars, critics, and others have frequently continued to use the term “decadent Orientalism” as well as the somewhat less often used term, Orientalist decadence, as one way to describe the long-held Western Orientalist belief that the ancient Orient contained high civilizations that have since degenerated morally, culturally, and socially. These terms are also used in a more precise way to describe the attitudes of the European, especially French, members of the late 19th and early 20th centuries “decadent movement,” an aesthetic and literary movement that claimed that Europe itself was in decline, a decline that could be imagined as being like the decadence of the East. While the “decadents” lamented and mocked the moral and spiritual sterility of fin de siècle European culture and society, many of them also shared in the European fascination with Asia, sometimes it’s supposed spiritual superiority but more often it’s degeneracy, which they variously described as being opulent, self-indulgent, irrational, stunted, peripheral, sensual, and homoerotic. Important figures associated with this movement include Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans (1848 –1907), Gustave Moreau (1826–1898), Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), as well as Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821 –1890) and his work, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1888). It is also associated with the Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898) illustrations of Salomé and Ali Baba, Richard Strauss (1864-1949) and his The Dance of the Seven Veils, the music of Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875 –1937), and the sumptuous costuming created by Léon Bakst (1866–1924) for the Ballets Russes’ Shéhérazade (1903). The Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) film, The Ten Commandments (1923) is also cited as containing elements of Orientalist decadence. In sum, decadent Orientalism and Orientalist decadence refer to a strain of the classical Orientalism described by Said in Orientalism and thus represent a classical Orientalist aesthetic style that does not constitute a separate type of Orientalism or a separate era in the historical development of Orientalism generally.  [3/23]

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Cinematic Orientalism, Classical Orientalism, European Orientalism, French Orientalism, Homoerotic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Literary Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Western Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Decadent Orientalism Before 1978: F. A. Acland, “Current Events.” The Canadian Magazine 33 (1909); Charles F. Curry, in [Proceedings, March 1910] Proceedings of the Asiatic Exclusion League (Organized Labor Print, 1907-1909); Cecil Grant & Norman Hodgson, The Case for Co-Education (Grant Richards, 1913). Decadent Orientalism After 1978: Philip Ball, Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Random House, 2012); Naomi S. Borwein, “The Cabinet of Orientalisms.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Gothic Origins (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021); Gülru Çakmak, “Resistance or Compliance?: The Problem of Orientalism in Osman Hamdi’s Paintings.” In Representation Matters : (Re)Articulating Collective Identities in a Postcolonial World (Brill, 2010 ); Ben Casnocha, “The American West as Idea, Not Fact,” 2007. At Ben Casnocha (, accessed 12/22; Elizabeth L. Constable, “Dis-orienting Cultural Economies” (Ph.D. diss., U. of California, Irvine, 1995); Jeffrey N. Cox, “Recent Studies of the Nineteenth Century.” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900  56 (2016); Samuel N. Dorf, “Seeing Sappho in Paris: Operatic and Choreographic Adaptations of Sapphic Lives and Myths.” Music in Art 34 (2009); Zarah S. Ersoff, “Musical Dandysme: Aestheticism and Orientalism in fin-de-siècle France” (Ph.D. diss., UCLA, 2013); David Fieni, Decadent Orientalisms: The Decay of Colonial Modernity (Fordham., 2020); Ellis Hanson, “Ends of Worlds: An Introduction by the Guest Editor.” Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, 4 (2021); Christopher Hart, Heroines and Heroes (Midrash Publications, 2008); Emily R. Lyons, “‘Curiously Near Akin’: The Queer Imperial Gothic Heroes of Bertram Mitford and Victoria Cross.” Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies 11 (2015); Armando Mendez, “Nymp Errant: The life and Legacy of Russell Patterson.” In Top Hats & Flappers (Fantagraphics, 2006); Diane Negra, “The Fictionalized Ethnic Biography: Nita Naldi and the Crisis of Assimilation.” In American Silent Film (2002); Michael O’Malley, “Money and the Everyday: Paper Money, Community, and Nationalism in the Antebellum US.” In A Cultural History of Money (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019); Robert Stilling, "Claiming Modernity in Egypt: Decadent Orientalism and Mayy Ziyādah’s Fleurs de rêve." Feminist Modernist Studies 4 (2021). Orientalist Decadence: David Fieni, “French Decadence, Arab Awakenings: Figures of Decay in the Arab Nahda.” Boundary 2 39 (2012); Richard Lindsay, Hollywood Biblical Epics (Praeger, 2015); Rochelle Pinto, “In Keeping with Character—Early Encoungters with Ethnography in Os bramhamanes.” Via Atlântica, São Paulo 30 (2016); Morgan T. Snoap, “Algerian Women’s Waistcoats – The Ghlila and Frimla: Readjusting the Lens on the Early French Colonial Era in Algeria (1830-1870)” (Honors thesis, Rollins College, 2020); Scott Trafton, Egypt Land: Race and Nineteenth-century American Egyptomania (Duke U., 2004).


Deep Orientalism


Sheldon Pollock coined this term in a controversial 1993 article devoted to broadening the scope of Edward W. Said’s notion of Orientalism as being a Western ideology of European colonial power and domination. Pollock argues that the deep commitment 19th and earlier 20th century German scholars made to Indology in the absence of any colonial agenda (unlike the French or British) suggests that Said’s view of Orientalism is too limited.  He then plays with the idea that Said’s Orientalism is only a species of a deeper, more fundamental ideology of domination, which in the German case was directed at discovering Germany’s European identity and to dominating (“colonizing”) Europe rather than Asia, which is especially seen in German National Socialism.  German Indology, he argues further, also points to a link between pre-colonial Indian ideologies of power and those of latter-day German National Socialism, thus expanding the notion of Orientalism to a still deeper level of equating it with virtually all “discourses of domination” whatever their origin—European or Asian.  Pollock’s article has received attention in the larger community of scholars studying Orientalism, but his notion of “deep Orientalism” has not been become a part of the vocabulary of Orientalism studies and generally has received little ongoing attention.  There is a sense that it so broadens the basic concept of Orientalism as to render it superfluous—i.e. if Orientalism encompasses virtually every “discourse of domination,” the term loses any specificity and isn’t needed.  Among some Indian scholars, however, Pollock’s apparent linking of ancient India to modern Nazism and Sanskrit to the Holocaust is felt to be repellent and to amount to scholarly malpractice so that the controversies surrounding “deep Orientalism” continue to live on to a degree in India.  [6/19]

See also: Anglo-French Orientalism, Classical Orientalism, Internal Orientalism, Nazi Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Vishwa P. Adluri, “Pride and Prejudice: Orientalism and German Indology.” International Journal of Indian Studies 15 (2011); Ashay, “The Shallowness of Pollock’s ‘Deep Orientalism’,” 2016. At A Critique of Contemporary Indology (, accessed 6/19; Wilhelm Halbfass, “Research and Reflection: Responses to My Respondents.” In Beyond Orientalism: The Work of Wilhelm Halbfass and its Impact on Indian and Cross-Cultural Studies (Motilal Barnardsidass, 2007); Purva Paksha, “Sheldon Pollock’s Idea of a ‘National-Socialist Indology’” (Paper, The First Swadeshi Indology Conference, 2016); Sheldon Pollock, "Deep Orientalism? Notes on Sanskrit and Power Beyond the Raj." In Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1993).

Demotic Orientalism

John M. MacKenzie (1995) coined this term to describe a form of Victorian British popular Orientalism that involved the use of supposedly Oriental aesthetic styles in various forms of popular Victorian architecture associated with entertainment and leisure activities, for example, in seaside resort architecture. A number of factors including the growth of the middle class and increasing amounts of disposable income led to the emergence of demotic or popular Orientalism in the mid-19th century, which was a popularization of what had previously been a leisure industry limited primarily to the elite. While the inspiration for these styles may have been more artistic than ideological, demotic Orientalist architects still imagined and constructed an essential, changeless Orient as the source of that inspiration.

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Architectural Orientalism, Popular Orientalism, Seaside Orientalism, Victorian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Teresa Breathnach, “For Health and Pleasure: The Turkish Bath in Victorian Ireland.” Victorian Literature and Culture 32 (2004); Fred GrayDesigning the Seaside (Reaktion Books, 2006); John M. MacKenzieOrientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (Manchester, 1995).


Scholars use this infrequently used term usually to describe the application of Jacques Derrida's (1930-2004) "strategy of deconstruction" (deconstructionism) to Orientalist discourses. De-Orientalism is thus a form of critical analysis that intends to unpack ("deconstruct") the deeper meanings and assumptions underlying the ways in which Orientalists imagine and construct Others, most frequently as being essentially inferior. The goal of de-Orientalism is usually to redress the injustices that underlie Orientalist stereotypes. Scholars point out, however, that "de-Orientalists" often end up playing the same Orientalist game of treating groups of people as categories who are essentially "inferior" because of their Orientalist prejudices.  [revised 10/20]

See also: Covert Orientalism, Hidden Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Joanna R. BarlowSubject to Change: The Lessons of Latin American Women’s Testimonio for Truth, Fiction, & Theory (U. of North Carolina, 2005); Steven Heine, “Ie-ism and the Discourse of Postmodernismin Relation to Nativism/ Nationalism/Nihonism.” In Japan in Traditional and Postmodern Perspectives (State U. of New York, 1995); Brett Levinson, “The Death of the Critique of Eurocentrism: Latinamericanism as a Global Prasix/Poiesis.” Revista de Estudios Hispanicos 31 (1997); Jeff Lewis, “The Blind Puppeteer: the Australia Indonesia Communications Relationship in the Postmodern Context” (Ph.D. diss, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 1994).

Desert Orientalism

Priya Satia (2008) seems to have been the first scholar to use this term, a form of environmental Orientalism, which she uses to describe a series of British Edwardian authors who had a “helpless attraction” for the austerity, vast spaces, challenges, beauty, bareness, and nobility of the Arabian desert. It was for them an exotic setting sometimes tinged with a sense of the occult. Rosie Bsheer (2020) uses this term in passing to describe the way the Saudi Arabian government for self-serving purposes portrays its own territory as “a hinterland without history, culture, and politics.” Other scholars have yet to take up this extremely rare term. [revised 10/22]

See also: Environmental Orientalism, Fictional Orientalism, Literary Orientalism, Orientalist Fad, Romantic Orientalism.


Sources & Examples: Rosie Bsheer, Archive Wars (Stanford U., 2020);  Priya SatiaSpies in Arabia (Oxford, 2008); For Priya Satia’s usage see also: Hsu-Ming TeoDesert Passions (U. of Texas, 2012).

Dialectical Orientalism

Scholars generally use this term and the term Orientalist dialectic to describe an approach to the study of Western ideological Orientalism that is an alternative to and frequently critical of Edward W. Said's notion of Orientalism—i.e. Saidian Orientalism. Scholars critical of Said argue that his treatment of Orientalism is too one-sided, rigid and negative. Specifically, he constructs Western Orientalism as being essentially a set of virtually absolute oppositions (Us versus Them, West versus East), which he contends have enabled Western colonialism and imperialism. Some of these critics propose instead a dialectical method that sees Orientalist binary relationships as being complex, interdependent, reflexive, situational, and more both-and instead of either-or. These scholars sometimes claim that historical European Orientalists have actually employed such a dialectical approach, and they also argue that scholars of Orientalism themselves should be more sensitive to the complexities of Western understandings of the Orient and do well to apply their own dialectical methodology to that end. Defenders of Said claim that a closer reading shows that he himself did have a nuanced approach open to the interdependent nature of binary Orientalist relationships. Other scholars critical of Said also argue that he focuses his attention too narrowly on especially French and British Orientalisms dating from the late 18th century. They contend that Europeans prior to the 18th century had a more nuanced and complex relationship with "the Orient," especially the Ottoman Empire, which, again, is better understood by employing a dialectical approach to the study of those earlier periods. While both of these terms can be used interchangeably, scholars tend to use the term "dialectical Orientalism" to discuss broader issues of methodology and the term "Orientalist dialectic" to focus on the interactions within those relationships themselves. Marilyn Ivy, for example, uses the term "Orientalist dialectic" to describe the ways in which the West has (on the one hand) imagined Buddhism as a repository of traditional virtues useful to the modern West, but (on the other hand) constructed Buddhists as backwards, and then re-imagined Buddhism as a useful, modern middle ground between the dialectical poles of the primitive and the modern.  [10/18]

See also: Anti-Orientalism (First Usage), Binary Orientalism, Comparativist Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Dialectical Orientalism: Marcus Keller & Javier Irigoyen-García,“Introduction: The Dialectics of Early Modern Orientalism.” In The Dialectics of Orientalism in Early Modern Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); Victor Li, “Edward Said’s Untidiness,” 2004.  At Postcolonial Text (  Accessed 10/18; Shlomy Mualem, “Imaginative Geography: Dialectical Orientalism in Borges.”  Trasnsmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World 6 (2016); Tanya Narozhna & W. Andy Knight, Female Suicide Bombings: A Critical Gender Approach (Toronto Press, 2016); Satoshi Toyosaki & Eric Forbush, “Japan’s Internationalization: Dialectics of Orientalism and Hybridism,” 2017. At ResearchGate (, accessed 10/18.  Orientalist Dialectic: Sylvia Chan-Malik, “Chadors, Feminists, Terror : The Racial Politics of U.S. Media Representations of the 1979 Iranian Women's Movement
.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 637 (2011); Jagvinder Gill, "Re-Oriented Britain – How British Asian Travellers and Settlers have Utilised and Reversed Orientalist Discourse 1770-2010" (Ph.D. diss., Warwick, 2010); Marilyn Ivy, “Modernity.” In Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism (U. of Chicago, 2005); Ann Kontor, “The Bold and the Beautiful: A Courtois Saladin?” Chimères 28 (2004); Andria D. Timmer, “Constructing the ‘Needy Subject’: NGO Discourses of Roma Need.” PoLAR 33 (2010).

Dialogic Orientalism

Debashish Banerji has used this otherwise extremely rarely used term to describe an alternative, spiritual form of Romantic Orientalism identified with the Indian nationalist thinker Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) who imagined and sought to construct a critically insightful dialogue between the "rational" West and "spiritual" India, which reveals that each shares the essential characteristics of the Other. The goal of this dialogue is a mutual transformation leading to the possibility of new futures.

See also: Alternative Orientalism, Romantic Orientalism, Spiritual Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Debashish Banerji, “Sri Aurobindo, India, and Ideological Discourse.” Collaboration: Journal of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother  34 (2009).

Disguised Orientalism. See Hidden Orientalism.

Dissident Orientalism

Laurence Cox (2013, 2013), drawing on J. J. Clarke (1997), coined this otherwise rarely used term to describe 19th and earlier 20th century Irish dissidents, living mostly in Asia, who employed Buddhism to challenge British colonialism and colonialist Christianity both in Asia and in the United Kingdom. Irish and other British dissenters thus imagined Asian Buddhism to be a pacifistic, tolerant, and rational anti-colonial oppositional antidote to European imperialism and religion. Cox argues that dissident Orientalism thus differs from the negative, colonialist classical Orientalism described by Edward W. Said (Orientalism, 1978). [revised 10/22]

See also: Alternative Orientalism, Counter-Orientalism, Occidentalism, Positive Orientalism, Radical Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Laurence CoxBuddhism and Ireland (Equinox. 2013); Laurence Cox, “Rethinking Early Western Buddhists: Beachcombers, ‘Going Native’ and Dissident Orientalism.” Contemporary Buddhism: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14 (2013); Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud, Radical Orientalism (Cambridge, 2015); Mihirini Sirisena, “The Dissident Orientalist: An Interpretation of U Dhammaloka's 1909 tour of Ceylon.” Interventions 19 (2017). Other: J. J. Clark, Oriental Enlightenment (Routledge, 1997); Laurence Cox, “Buddhism in Ireland: The Inner Life of World-Systems.” Études Irlandaises 39 (2014).

Divergent Orientalism. See Self-Orientalism.

Dogmatic Orientalism. See Orientalist Dogma.

Domestic Orientalism. See Internal Orientalism.

Double Orientalism

Scholars use this term usually in one of two ways. First, some scholars use it to describe situations in which an Other is treated as having two different but mutually reinforcing essential characteristics. China is, for example, seen as being both essentially Asian ("Oriental") and essentially Communist; or, again, Japan is treated as being both the very essence of traditional Asia but also of modern techno-Orientalism.  Second, other scholars use this term to describe situations in which a nation that is itself the object of Orientalist prejudice, such as Japan, in turn treats another nation, such as Tibet or Nepal, as being in some sense essentially inferior. Other scholars use the terms secondary Orientalism (second usage) or nesting (nested) Orientalism to describe this second type of double Orientalism. In addition, a few other scholars use this term idiosyncratically to describe other situations in which essentializing Orientalist categories are applied in two related ways, such as when Orientalisms in historical novels are said to reflect and even promote Orientalisms in real life.

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Neo-Victorian Orientalism, Nesting [Nested] Orientalism, Secondary Orientalism (2nd definition).

Sources & Examples: Amir Abbasi, “Islam and Africa Terms,” n.d. At Quizlet (, accessed 10/17; Robert Barnett, “Violated Specialness’: Western Political Representations of Tibet.” In Imagining Tibet—Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies (Wisdom Publications, 2001); Dina GusejnovaEuropean Elites and Ideas of Empire, 1917-1957 (Cambridge, 2016); Toshio Miyake, “Towards Critical Occidentalism Studies: Re-inventing the ‘West’ and ‘Japan’ in Mangaesque Popular Cultures.” In Contemporary Japan: Challenges for a World Economic Power in Transition (Edizioni Ca’ Foscari, 2016); Umemura Mugio,“Visual Images of Japanese Culture
 in Geography Textbooks in Italy (1912-2014).” In New Steps in Japanese Studies (Edizioni Ca’ Foscari, 2017); Jane Chi Hyun ParkYellow Future: Oriental Style in Hollywood Cinema (Minnesota, 2010); Greg Perreault, "'Islam Is Everywhere': Pre-Arab Spring Coverage of Islam in the English Egyptian Press." Journal of Media and Religion, 13 (2014); Daný van Dam, "A Conscious Failure to Pass: Dressing across Sexual and Racial Borders in Neo-Victorian Fiction." Neo-Victorian Studies 9 (2017).

Dramatic Orientalism. See Theatrical Orientalism.

Dualistic Orientalism. See Binary Orientalism.

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