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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).



Jesuit Orientalism

Scholars use this term to describe the significant role played by the Society of Jesus in the development of early modern Catholic Orientalism.  Beginning in the 16th century, the Jesuits created an informal, global network of priest-scholars who engaged in a sometimes deep, intensive study of Asian religions, philosophies, and cultures for the ultimate purpose of Christianizing Asia.  While they considered Asian religions to be idolatrous and false, they sought to understand “Oriental” faiths, languages, and cultures; and the Jesuits often sought to actively accommodate the Christian religion to indigenous ways in order to more successfully evangelize their peoples. They collected data and indigenous source materials to that end.  And while they largely distrusted indigenous Asian texts and sources, the Jesuits, nevertheless, created an impressively large body of knowledge (an “archive”) about Asia, which scholars today judge to be a mostly biased, ideologically-driven misinformation mixed in with some reasonably accurate information.  Eventually, the Jesuits also developed a complementary network of schools and seminaries, which became centers for housing and propagating their Orientalist archive.  Scholars argue that this archive played an important role in the dissemination of information about Asia in early modern Europe, which was useful to later Protestant and secular Orientalists.  In their studies, in fact, the Jesuits utilized a range of methodologies—including philological, archaeological, geographical, and ethnological studies—which anticipated the classical academic Orientalism of the 19th century.  Scholars often compare Jesuit Orientalism with that of the Franciscans, which was important but less influential, less unified, less willing to accommodate Christianity to Asian ways, but also more willing to include lay and Asian-born Creole students of Orientalism in its number.  Like the Jesuits, the Franciscans were fundamentally committed to evangelizing Asians but discouraged the ordination of Asian priests. [4/20]

See also: Academic Orientalism, Catholic Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Emanuele Colombo, “Jesuits and Islam in Early Modern Europe.”  In The Oxford Handbook of the Jesuits (Oxford, 2019); Dorothy Figueira, “Doing God’s Work: The Missionary’s Task of Translation or Who Makes the Best Jesuits: Comparatists, World Literature Scholars, or Real Jesuits?" Interlitteraria 21 (2016); Stijn Knuts, “Lammens (Henri): Lamens, Henri (Ghent, 1 July 1862-Beirut, 23 April 1937), Jesuit and Historian of Islam.”  At Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer (, accessed 4/20; Dhruv Raina, “Jesuit Missionary Societies as the ‘Itinerant Academies’ of Catholic Orientalism in India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” Journal of Transcultural Studies 10 (2019); Joan-Pau Rubiés, "The Concept of Cultural Dialogue and the Jesuit Method of Accommodation: Between Idolatry and Civilization." Archivum Historicum Societatis Jesu 74 (2005); Ângela B. Xavier & Ines G. Županov, Catholic Orientalism: Portuguese Empire, Indian Knowledge (16th-18th Centuries) (Oxford, 2015); Ines G. Županov, "Jesuit Orientalism: Correspondence between Tomas Pereira and Fernão de Queiros."  In Tomás Pereira, SJ (1646-1708), Life, Work and World (Centro Científico e Cultural de Macau, 2010)..

Jewish Orientalism

Scholars use this term in at least three ways.  First, some scholars use it to describe a form of ideological Orientalism that is also known as anti-Jewish Orientalism, that is the Western orientalization of all Jews, including European Jews, as being an alien, inferior Oriental Other.  Second, the great majority of scholars use this term to describe the complex relationship of European Jewish Orientalist scholars and Jewish Europeans generally to European Orientalism from the 18th century to the 1930s—during which time European Jews of various nations wrestled with their identity as being "Oriental Europeans". Under the influence of Romantic Orientalism as well as ideological Orientalism, Jewish Orientalists both embraced and felt ambivalent about their assumed Oriental identity in a complex process that was both a form self-Orientalism and of counter-Orientalism directed against European anti-Semitic Orientalism. Jewish Orientalists in Europe often embraced Eastern Jews and Arabs as role models.  Third, however, other scholars use this term to describe a form of Jewish internal Orientalism by which (often secular) Jews in Western Europe came to imagine the supposedly "mystical" and traditional Jews of Eastern Europe and the Middle East as being a backward, inferior Oriental-like Other. Jewish Orientalism, more generally, is understood to be the predecessor to and a source of Zionist Orientalism. Some scholars use the term Hebraic Orientalism and others the term Hebrew Orientalism to account for the same general phenomenon of the Jewish European encounter with both Romantic and ideological Orientalism. In all of this, scholars also sometimes use the notion of Jewish Orientalism to point to the complexities of the notion of Orientalism itself.

See also: Anti-Semitic Orientalism, Architectural Orientalism, Counter-Orientalism, Exotic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Internal Orientalism, Medieval Orientalism, Nazi Orientalism, Positive Orientalism, Romantic Orientalism, Self-Orientalism, Semitic Orientalism, Zionist Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: David Baile, “Shabbtai Zvi and the Seductions of Jewish Orientalism.” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 17 (2001); Philip BohlmanJewish Music and Modernity (Oxford, 2008); Michal Friedman, “Reconstructing ‘Jewish Spain’: The Politics and Institutionalization of Jewish History in Spain, 1845-1940.” Hamsa 1 (2014); Susannah Heschel, “German Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool for De-Orientalizing Judaism.” New German Critique 39 (2012); Ivan Kalmar, “Jewish Orientalism.” In Judaism From the Renaissance to Modern Times (Brill, 1999); Ivan Kalmar & Derek J. Penslar, “Introduction.” In Orientalism and the Jews (Brandeis, 2005); Aziza Khazzoom, “The Great Chain of Orientalism: Jewish Identity, Stigma Management, and Ethnic Exclusion in Israel.” American Sociological Review 68 (2003); Yaron Peleg, Orientalism and the Hebrew Imagination (Cornell, 2005).

Journalistic Orientalism

Scholars have devoted surprisingly little attention to the ways in which Western journalism reports events concerning Asians (including those living overseas) and how those reports comprise an important Orientalist “discourse”.  Edward W. Said, in his groundbreaking work Orientalism (1978), sets the tone, however, for its use in his description of a series of 1924 lectures given by a leading European journalist, Valentine Chirol, that imagine the Orient as being dangerous, divisive, and alien to the West (Said, p. 308).  Those who use this term similarly use it to describe specifically the ways in which Western journalists have portrayed Arab Muslims as being irrational, primitive, and prone to violence.  These journalists focus especially on stories of violence, conflate all Arabs as being the same, and they generally rely on Western sources and experts in their reporting rather than on local sources and knowledgeable persons. Helen J. Jun (2006), meanwhile, describes how 19th century black newspapers in the United States engaged in a “black press Orientalism,” which negatively stereotyped immigrant Chinese even as it also attacked Chinese exclusion on racial grounds.   [revised 6/19]

See also: Black Orientalism, Broadcast Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Shelton A. Gunaratne, “Sri Lanka: Victory for Mindful Journalism,” 2015. At Columbo Telegraph (, accessed 3/17;  “Incomprehensible,” At the revealer (, accessed 5/17; Helen H. Jun, “Black Orientalism: Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Race and U.S. Citizenship.” American Quarterly 58 (2006); Erik C. Nisbet, et al., “ Public Opinion toward Muslim Americans: Civil Liberties and the Role of Religiosity, Ideology, and Media Use.” In Muslims in Western Politics (Indiana, 2009); Edward W. SaidOrientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978).

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