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).
Gamic Orientalism. See Techno-Orientalism.
Gastronomical Orientalism. See Hidden Orientalism.
Gay Orientalism. See Homoerotic Orientalism.
Gaze (Orientalist). See Orientalist Gaze.
Gendered (Gender) Orientalism
Scholars use this term to describe the ways in which Western Orientalists imagine and construct “Oriental” women (especially Arab/Muslim women) to be exotic, sensuous, alluring, submissive, and available, but also downtrodden and brutalized by Asian men who by the same token are violent, tyrannical, and a-moral. These sexist stereotypes and the attitudes that accompany them are usually coupled with racist constructions so that in the Western Orientalist imagination brown and black men and women are held to be essentially different from and inferior to white women and men. In popular Western Orientalist thinking all of this seems “natural” and “normal,” which serves to demonstrate the covert power of gendered Orientalisms; they are simply assumed to be true without forethought. The veil and the harem are the prototypical images of Oriental gender relations. Scholars point out that Orientalist ideology is dualistic and feeds off of a fundamental binary distinction between East and West that is often expressed in terms of gender. Western Orientalists, that is, have long constructed “the Orient” itself to be both “woman-like”—effeminate, sensuous, incapable of logical thought, and weak—but also “man-like”—dangerous, haughty, bloody, dictatorial, and emotion-driven. Oriental men have to be subdued; Oriental women have to be saved. This ideological approach to gender was embodied in 19th century European colonialism and remains potent in our post-9/11 world (e.g. in the American “War on Terror”). Western art and literature have long powerfully communicated influential popular images of the sensuous women and brutal men of “the East” in painting, poetry, music, the theater, films, mass media, and especially in women’s fashions where Western women gradually appropriated and adapted supposedly Asian styles of dress (e.g. harem pants) as ways to experiment with their own identity and seek to free themselves from the constraints of old-fashioned clothing styles while challenging their male dominated society’s stereotypes of them. Scholars argue that the Western media today continues to portray Asian men as being dangerous and women as downtrodden. They also observe that Western feminists often see their “Asian sisters” through this same ideological lens as needy and powerless, and Western gays frequently look on their “Asian brothers” as the victims of cruel Asian prejudices. The academic study of this notion builds largely on Edward W. Said’s work, and unlike other fields of Orientalism studies where his view of Orientalism as a Western ideology of power and domination over Asia is debated, there is little debate here. Said is the starting point for the study of gendered Orientalism. [revised 6/19]
See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Environmental Orientalism, Fashion Orientalism, Feminist Orientalism, Hidden Orientalism, Homoerotic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Liberal Orientalism, Male Orientalism, Racial Orientalism, Sexist Orientalism, Sexual Orientalism, Transorientalism.
Sources & Examples: Lila Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? (Harvard, 2013); Ann R. David, “Dancing the Diasporic Dream? Embodied Desires and the Changing Audience for Bollywood Film Dance.” Participations 7 (2010); Emiko Okayama & Francesco Ricatti, “Tokidoki, Cute and Sexy Fantasies between East and West: Contemporary Aesthetics for the Global Market.” PORTAL 5 (2008); Hillary Kipnis and Jayne Caudwell, “The Boxers of Kabul: Women, Boxing and Islam.” At BU: Bournemouth University (), accessed 6/19; Jeanne Scheper, Moving Performances: Divas, Iconicity, and Remembering the Modern Stage (Rutgers, 2016); Maryam Khalid, “‘Gendering Orientalism’: Gender, Sexuality, and Race in Post-9/11 Global Politics.” Critical Race and Whiteness Studies 10 (2014); Rochelle Terman, “Islamophobia and Media Portrayals of Muslim Women: A Computational Text Analysis of US News Coverage.” International Studies Quarterly 61 (2017); Mari Yoshihara, Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism (Oxford, 2003).
Scholars use this term and the term Orientalist geography usually in one of at least three ways. First and most often, they use it to describe Edward W. Said's understanding of Orientalism as being fundamentally spatial (i.e. geographical) where the Self is imagined to be in one (Western) "place" and the Other in a distant, strange, exotic (Eastern/Oriental) "place". For Said and the large body of scholars who have followed his lead, Orientalism is thus the stereotypes and ideologies that imagine and frame (map) an inferior Orient in opposition to a superior West. In this sense, Saidian Orientalism is geographical Orientalism. Second and less often, other scholars use this term to describe the ways regional Orientalisms within a nation (e.g. "modern" Northern Italy versus "backward" Southern Italy) or within a continent (especially, Western Europe versus Eastern Europe) are imagined and framed spatially (geographically). Third and much less frequently, scholars also use this term to describe the ways in which the academic field of geography—historically, in the service of European colonialism—has itself been a venue or medium for imagining and constructing Others living in distant, "exotic" lands as being essentially different and usually inferior. [5/17]
See also: Academic Orientalism, Cartographical Orientalism, Desert Orientalism, Frontier Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Local Orientalism, Maritime Orientalism, Regional Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Urban Orientalism.
Sources & Examples: Lisa Eck, “From Orientalism to Cosmopolitanism: The Challenges and Rewards of Teaching Foreign Literature,” 2013. At Digital Commons at Framingham State University (), accessed 5/17; Andrew Graan, “On the Politics of Imidž: European Integration and the Trials of Recognition in Postconflict Macedonia.” Slavic Review 69 (2010); Corey Johnson & Amanda Coleman, “The Internal Other: Exploring the Dialectical Relationship between Regional Exclusion and the Construction of National Identity.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102 (2012); Judith Lewin, “The Sublimity of the Jewish Type: Balzac’s Belle Juiveas Virgin Magdalene aux Camélias.” In Jewishness: Expression, Identity, and Representation (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2008); David N. Livingston, “British Geography1500-1900: An Imprecise Overview.” In A Century of British Geography (Oxford, 2003).
Scholars use this term usually in one of at least two ways. First, the great majority of its users use it loosely and more-or-less in passing as a synonym for ideological Orientalism, traditional Orientalism, and/or Saidian Orientalism—seeing these forms of Orientalism as being widespread international ("global") phenomena. Second, a smaller number of scholars more fully define this term, doing so in a number of ways. Some describe it as being part of the worldwide reach of European colonialism and Western imperialism. Others see it as a more recent phenomenon—although rooted in the past—that is promoted by such things as international developments especially in the area of technology ("globalization") and by "global" events such as 9/11. Some scholars emphasize the ways in which formerly colonial peoples and others internalize and thus make Western Orientalist thinking "global" through the processes of self-Orientalism. A few others observe that the notion of Orientalism has an inner "dynamic" that is universalizing and expansive by its very nature and in that sense "global" or "globalizing".
See also: Cosmopolitan Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Imperial Orientalism, International Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Self-Orientalism; Systemic Orientalism, Traditional Orientalism.
Sources & Examples: Maurizio Asscari, “Shifting Borders: The Lure of Italy and the Orient in the Writings of 18th and 19th Century British Travellers.” In Sites of Exchange: European Crossroads and Faultlines (Rodopi, 2006); 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); Luigi Cazzato, “Mediterranean: Coloniality, Migration, and Decolonial Practices.” Politics: Revista di Studi Politici 15 (2016); Andrew Jones, “From Time and Space: Science Fiction and Its Present Moment” (M.A. thesis, Colorado State, 2012); Chisu Teresa Ko, “Toward Asian Argentine Studies.” Latin American Research Review 51 (2016); George Morgan & Scott Poynting, “Introduction: The Transnational Folk Devil.” In Global Islamophobia: Muslims and Moral Panic in the West (Routledge, 2012); Daniel F. Vukovich, China and Orientalism: Western Knowledge Production and the P.R.C. (Routledge, 2012); Adrienne Ward, Pagodas in Play: China on the Eighteenth-century Italian Opera Stage (Bucknell, 2010).
Scholars use this term generally to describe the influence of Gothic, including Romantic Gothic, themes in Western literature by which authors imagine a lurid, emotional, sensual, exotic, fearful, despotic East, which is thus presented as a dangerous, evil, and violent antithesis to the West. Gothic Orientalism emerged in the later 18th century and was most influential in 19th century Romantic literature. Some scholars see its influences carrying over into the 20th and 21st centuries.
See also: Literary Orientalism, Romantic Orientalism.
Sources & Examples: Clive Bloom, Gothic Histories: The Taste for Terror, 1746 to the Present (Continuum, 2010); William Hughes, Historical Dictionary of Gothic Literature (Scarecrow, 2013); Marie Mulvey-Roberts, The Handbook to Gothic Literature (New York U., 1998); Edward Ziter, The Orient on the Victorian Stage (Cambridge, 2003).
C. Bradford Ellison uses this term to describe the ways in which international governmental development agencies and their personnel draw upon ideological Orientalism to imagine and construct the non-Western nations in which they work as being essentially poor, backward, and culturally deficient. They see these nations as being the opposite of the West, which they imagine to be essentially wealthy. They construct poverty in Western nations, by the same token, to be an aberration that is unrepresentative of the "true" West. These agencies and their personnel use the notion of Orientalism to justify and legitimate their powerful interventions in the nations where they work.
See also: Cultural Orientalism, Green Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Neo-Liberal Orientalism, Political Orientalism, Urban Orientalism.
Sources & Examples: C. Bradford Ellison, “Imagining the Poor: The Discourse that Directs Western Intervention in Africa and Its Impact on the Condition of American Poverty” (Thesis, Duke, 2016).
Greek Orientalism (Ancient)
Scholars use this term and, less frequently, the term Athenian Orientalism to describe ways in which the ancient Greeks are thought to have imagined and constructed Eastern peoples and their cultures as being the essential, timeless (Oriental) Other. The idea, however, that modern-day Orientalist attitudes can be attributed to the ancient Greeks has generated much debate, a debate that began with Edward W. Said (1978) who argues that the ancient Greeks were the progenitors of Western ideological Orientalism. This debate focuses in part on Greek attitudes towards the "barbarians" (barbaroi). Some scholars argue that the Greeks took Eastern peoples to be the model for barbarism, which peoples included the inhabitants of Anatolia and modern-day Syria, the Egyptians, and especially the Persians. There does seem to be some consensus that ancient Greek attitudes towards these "Orientals" were complex, fluid, and could be inconsistent and contradictory. Scholars have identified the era of the Persian Wars (499-449 BC) in the 5th century B.C. as being an important moment in these shifting attitudes, one that encouraged the Greeks to see particularly the Persians as being essentially inferior, effeminate, weak, and immoral in comparison to the manliness, military skills, and moral goodness of the Greeks themselves. Even then, however, the Greeks embraced artistic and sartorial styles, as well as social and political influences from the Persians. Prior to the 5th century BC, in sum, the Greeks do not seem to have held a full-blown ideology of Orientalism although traces and elements of an embryonic Orientalism are at times evident. Even after the Persian Wars, the picture is mixed, and scholars are able to make apparently strong arguments for and against the idea that ancient Greek Orientalism was fully "Saidian," depending on the sources they use. The claim that modern-day Western Orientalism began in ancient Greece remains equally contested. [11/17]
See also: Ancient Orientalism (Contemporary), Classical Orientalism, Greek Orientalism (Modern), Hellenistic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Maritime Orientalism, Military Orientalism, Oriental Formalism, Roman Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Temporal Orientalism.
Sources & Examples: John Franklin, “’A Feast of Music’: The Greco-Lydian Musical Movement on the Assyrian Periphery.” In Anatolian Interfaces: Hittites, Greeks and their Neighbours (Oxbow Books, 2010); Yang Huang, “Orientalism in the Ancient World: Greek and Roman Images of the Orient from Homer to Virgil” Bulletin of the Institute for Mediterranean Studies 5 (2007); Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, “Persianisms: The Achaemenid Court in Greek Art, 380–330 BCE.” Iranian Studies 50 (2017); Cameron McPhail,“The Roles of Geographical Concepts in the Construction of Ancient Greek Ethno-cultural Identities, from Homer to Herodotus: An Analysis of the Continents and the Mediterranean Sea” (Ph.D. diss., Otago, 2015); Margaret C. Miller, “Orientalism and Ornamentalism: Athenian Reactions to Achaemenid Persia,” 2006. At Sydney Open Journals Online (), accessed 11/17; Tomasz Polański, Ancient Greek Orientalist Painters: The Literary Evidence (Księgarnia Akademicka, 2002); Frank Redmond, “You Barbarian! Greek Kernel of Orientalism,” 2012. At Lucian of Samosata Wiki (), accessed 11/17; Edward W. Said, Orientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978).
Greek Orientalism (Modern)
Scholars generally use this term in one of three ways. First, they use it to describe the ways in which Western Europeans, including 19th century philhellenes, have often imagined and constructed modern Greece as a backward "Oriental-like" Balkan nation that historically was long a part of the Ottoman Empire. Some Western Orientalist commentators have argued that there is nothing of ancient Greece remaining while others still see traces of Greece's ancient civilization in the modern nation. The tourist industry in Greece has played its part in constructing Greece as the home of ancient civilization and as the locale of a contemporary exotic, Eastern-like "Other". Rodanthi Tzanelli (2004) uses the term Hellenic Orientalism to describe the view that Western nations imagine and construct Greece as being more progressive because of its ancient heritage than it actually is. Second, modern Greeks themselves from the late 18th century onward have often employed ideological Orientalisms to define their self-identity over against neighboring peoples. According to scholars, the Greeks have long rejected their Ottoman, Oriental heritage and identified themselves with Western Europe, and one way they do this is by constructing their Balkan neighbors as being essentially inferior, Oriental-like peasants who lack Greece's high civilization. By the same token, they imagine Turkish and Arab peoples as being dangerous, seductive, lacking values, lethargic, and the very antithesis of the West generally and Greece in particular. Greek Orientalism is thus an example of the Orientalist strategy often termed nested (nesting) Orientalism, which is a strategy that scholars identify with the Balkans by which Balkan peoples, themselves the objects of Western European Orientalisms, impose their own Balkan Orientalisms on peoples to their East. The complexities and ambiguities of Greek Orientalism are further reinforced by the fact that the Greeks also still cherish distinctive, non-Western elements of their heritage, notably Greek Orthodoxy, as being essential elements of their identity. They also often identify themselves with the ancient Greeks, especially the age of the Persian Wars. Third, scholars also use this term to describe those 19th and 20th century Greek painters whose Orientalist styles draw on Western European aesthetic Orientalisms while portraying both Greeks and Middle Easterners in more sympathetic terms. From the 1840s to the 1860s, the "Munich School" of painting heavily influenced Greek artists, and thereafter many Greek painters became more impressionistic. [11/17]
See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Euro-Orientalism, Greek Orientalism (Ancient), Ideological Orientalism, Nesting [Nested] Orientalism, Orientalist Tourism, Temporal Orientalism.
Sources & Examples: Stathis Gauntlett,”Between Orientalism and Occidentalism: the Contribution of Asia Minor Refugees to Greek Popular Song, and its Reception.” In Crossing the Aegean: an Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey (Bergahn Books, 2003); Athanasia Glycofrydi-Leontsini, “Perceptions of the Oriental in Modern Greek Painting.” Phainomena 23 (2014); Georgia Gotsi, “Empire and Exoticism in the Short Fiction of Alexandros Rizos Rangavis.”Journal of Modern Greek Studies 24 (2006); Brian D. Joseph, “Some Reflections on Greek in a Slavic Context, in Both Academia and the Real World, with an Overview of Greek in the Former Soviet Union.” In Balkan and Slavic Linguistics, in Honour of the 40th Anniversary of the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures (Ohio State U., 2003); Diana Mishkova, “In Quest of Balkan Occidentalism.” Tokovi Istorije 1-2 (2006); Diana Mishkova, “Symbolic Geographies and Visions of Identity: A Balkan Perspective.” European Journal of Social Theory 11 (2008); Sotiris Mitralexis, “Modern Greece Between East and West: Hysteria and Otherness,” 2017. At Greek News Agency (), accessed 11/17; Rodanthi Tzanelli, “Casting’ the Neohellenic ‘Other’: Tourism, the Culture Industry, and Contemporary Orientalism in ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ (2001) .” Journal of Consumer Culture 3 (2003).
Scholars use this term usually to describe the ways in which some, perhaps many, Western environmentalists (“Greens”) imagine and construct indigenous Asian peoples living in areas that are at risk environmentally. Larry Lohmann (1993) first used this term, and most scholars cite him when using it. Lohmann argues that Western “environmental activists, ecological economists, development experts, and deep green theorists,” imagine and construct Asian local indigenous (“tribal”) peoples as being essentially traditional, pre-modern peoples who live in harmony with their natural environments. They thus exemplify green values and fill a role convenient to the goals of Western environmentalists who severely criticize any deviations by those peoples from the green norm. Lohmann sees these attitudes as replicating 19th century European colonialism as well as being a romanticizing of indigenous peoples in their supposedly natural settings. Huber (1996) argues that Western travelogue writers exemplify this green Orientalism in their idyllic portrayals of Tibetans who are imagined to be living in harmony with their natural environment and embodying it in their national character and philosophy. Scholars criticize Green Orientalists for ignoring the realities of the lives of indigenous peoples, for assuming that they know what is best for those peoples, and for seeking to exercise control over them. Other scholars, however, note that in specific contexts the issue is not the basic values or even attitudes of Green environmentalism, which at times speak to local political realities and the best interests of indigenous peoples. [revised, 6/19]
See also: Environmental Orientalism, Governmental Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Liberal Orientalism, Positive Orientalism.
Sources & Examples: Eve Z. Bratman, "Villains, Victims, and Conservationists? Representational Frameworks and Sustainable Development on the Transamazon Highway." Human Ecology 39 (2011); Elizabeth DeLoughrey, et al., “Introduction: A Postcolonial Environmental Humanities.” In Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities: Postcolonial Approaches (Routledge, 2016); Toni Huber, “Shangri-la in Exile: Representations of Tibetan Identity and Transnational Culture,” 1996. At Tibetan Buddhism in the West ( accessed 6/19; B. G. Karlsson, Contested Belonging: An Indigenous People's Struggle for Forest and Identity in Sub-Himalayan Bengal (Curzon, 2000); Larry Lohmann, “Green Orientalism.” The Ecologist 23 (1993); Gang Yue, “Fragments of Shangri-La: ‘Eco-Tibet’ and Its Global Circuits.” In Postcolonial Green: Environmental Politics and World Narratives (U. of Virginia, 2010).