Glossary of Orientalisms

Last Updated: September 2019

 

Since 1978 when Prof. Edward W. Said published his groundbreaking work, Orientalism, scholars of Orientalism have expanded and refined the meaning of the notion of Orientalism, and in the course of things they have created literally hundreds of terms to describe particular Orientalisms. And because the study of Orientalism spans a number of fields, the various scholars working in their individual fields have devised their own sets of Orientalisms. The result has been, to say the least, a confusion of Orientalisms  –"chaos" may not be too strong a word. Not infrequently, one term is used in different and even contradictory ways meaning one thing in one source and another in another. More often, two scholars or groups of scholars name the same Orientalism using two different modifiers; this is particularly true of the term ideological Orientalism, which has a veritable treasure trove of synonyms. Or again, two terms may seem to have the same meaning, but there are nuances or implications that differ. Thus, as one example, the meaning of nesting (nested) Orientalisms is similar to internal Orientalism to a degree, but not entirely. The study of Orientalism, furthermore, is an ongoing process, which inevitably leads to giving new meanings to old terms and inventing new terms to name new insights (which sometimes aren't actually new but still get a new name).

The purpose of this glossary is to address and, it is to be hoped, mitigate this complexity by listing, briefly describing, and cross-indexing the many different Orientalisms found in the scholarly literature.

The glossary does this by providing a brief description of each term listed, sufficient to provide users with an initial orientation to its meaning. These entries are as purely descriptive as possible, and they are not intended to reconcile contradictory usages or to evaluate the efficacy of a given term. Nuances and details are left to the further study of users. The references appended to each entry provide typical examples of the usage of a term. They usually include one or more key works, but they are are not intended to be suggestions for further study as such. Since the definitions of the terms in this glossary were developed primarily through online searches, it is entirely possible that scholars have used a given term in ways other than described here. In consequence, this glossary is very much a "work in progress," more-or-less permanently so. The breadth and complexity of the field means that it is impossible even to contemplate a "complete" set of entries for all of the names for Orientalism.

For all of its complexity, in any event, Orientalism as a field of study is highly useful, at times exciting, and worthy of study. I offer this glossary in the hopes that it will help students of Orientalism make sense of it all. Enjoy!

Herbert R. Swanson
September 2016

 

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