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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).



Magical Orientalism

This term is used in the artistic fields of design, music, and literature to describe a style that represents the East as an exotic, mystical, mysterious, colorful, and even fantastical Other. Very rarely, scholars use it to refer to the practice of magic in Asia, linking it to the occult and spiritual.

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Occult Orientalism, Romantic Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Rashmee Z. Ahmedi, “Leader article: ‘Bollywood’ in Britain,” 2002. At The Times of India (, accessed 5/17; Gerard  Cohen-Vrignaud, “Captialism’s Wishful Thinking.” Modern Language Quarterly 76 (2015); Chris Goto-JonesConjuring Asia (Cambridge, 2016).

Mainstream Orientalism

This term and the term Orientalist mainstream are used by scholars to describe what are assumed to be the standard, generally accepted, and conventional ideological stereotypes held by Orientalists in a given time and place. In 19th century Western Europe, for example, academic Orientalism is considered to be the Orientalist mainstream. Scholars often associate mainstream Orientalism with ideological Orientalism more broadly or, more narrowly, with Edward W. Said's description of ideological Orientalism, that is Saidian Orientalism. As a rule, then, mainstream Orientalists imagine and construct the Orient as having an exotic, essential, timeless, and a-rational nature. A few scholars also identify mainstream Orientalism with the Orientalist gaze directed invasively at an (Oriental) Other. And in rare instances a very few scholars consider Said himself to represent contemporary conventional, mainstream academic thinking about the subject of Orientalism.

See also: Contemporary Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Implicit Orientalism, Latent Orientalism, Orientalist Gaze, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Debashish Banerji, “Sri Aurobindo, India, and Ideological Discourse.” International Journal of Dharma Studies 1 (2013); Asef BayatLife as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Amsterdam U., 2010); Reina Lewis, “Race-Femininity-Representation: Women, Culture and the Orientalized Other in the Work of Henriette Browne and George Eliot, 1855-1880” (Ph.D. diss., Middlesex, 1994); Chase F. Robinson, "Crone and the End of Orientalism." In Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts: Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone (Brill, 2014); Daniel M. VariscoReading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (U. of Washington, 2007).

Male Orientalism

Scholars use this term in two broad contexts, one general and the other in feminist studies. In the general context, Edward W. Said (1978) appears to have been the first scholar to use this term, identifying it as a consequence of the set of semi-subconscious prejudices and stereotypes that he calls "latent Orientalism". Said considered male Orientalism thus to be an almost subconscious, static, and fixed male-oriented worldview that privileges white males, objectifies and shows contempt and fear of Oriental males, and imagines Oriental women to be objects of male fantasies, highly sensual, intellectually inferior, and sexually available. Said notes that the intertwined complex of scholars, institutions, and all of the other paraphernalia of the Western study of the Orient (i.e. academic Orientalism) was historically exclusively a white male domain and a key agent of male Orientalism. While a few scholars use this term similarly to Said, most seem to prefer the terms masculine Orientalism or Orientalist masculinity to describe the same phenomenon.  In the context of feminist studies, scholars have used this term especially to focus on issues related to the study of 19th century European women travellers/writers in the Orient, especially the Middle East. In particular, scholars wrestle with the degree to which these writers reflected or resisted "male Orientalism" (i.e. the Orientalism described by Said) in their attitudes towards "Orientals". Elisabeth Oxfeldt (2010) notes that scholars fall into two camps concerning this question. One group of scholars argues that these women travellers produced "counter discourses" that challenged the dominant ideology of male Orientalism. The other group contends that they more-or-less fell in line with that ideology if unwittingly and not as blatantly. Some scholars have come to the conclusion that women's travel literature actually presents a mixed picture that both reflects and resists the dominant male Orientalism. Scholars also use the term patriarchal Orientalism in feminist studies both specifically to refer to 19th-century women's travel literature and more broadly to describe male Orientalism.  [revised 12/18]

See also: Academic Orientalism, Feminist Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Latent Orientalism, Literary Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Sexual Orientalism, Traditional Orientalism.


Sources & Examples: Male Orientalism: Ali  BehdadBelated Travelers: Orientalism in the Age of Colonial Dissolution (Cork U., 1994); Nicholas J. Clifford"A Truthful Impression of the Country": British and American Travel Writing in China, 1880-1949 (Michigan, 2001); Akita Kimiko, "Bloopers of a "Geisha": Male "Orientalism" and Colonization of Women's Language." Women & Language 32 (2009); Sara MillsDiscourses of Difference: An Analysis of Women’s Travel Writing and Colonialism (Routledge, 1991); Elisabeth  Oxfeldt, ‪Journeys from Scandinavia: Travelogues of Africa, Asia, and South America, 1840-2000 (U. of Minnesota, 2010); Edward W. Said, Orientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Lamia Ben Youssef  ZayzafoonThe Production of the Muslim Woman: Negotiating Text, History, and Ideology (Lexington Books, 2005).  Orientalist Masculinity: Runa Das, “United States–India Nuclear Relations Post-9/11: Neo-Liberal Discourses, Masculinities, and Orientalism in International Politics.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 49 (2014); Anja Haensch, “Orientalist Itineraries: Cultural Hegemony, Gender, Race, and Religion in Ali and NinoI.” In Approaches to Kurban Said's Ali and Nino: Love, Identity, and Intercultural (Camden House, 2017); William J. SpurlinLost Intimacies: Rethinking Homosexuality Under National Socialism (Peter Lang, 2009).  Patriarchal Orientalism: Andrea  Bernadette, “Alternatives to Orientalism? Mary Wortley Montaguand Her ‘Turkish’ Son.” In Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives (Cambridge Scholars, 2011); Sarmista Das, “Transnational and Transcultural Desires: Representations of Identities of South Asian North American Female Sexualities” (M.A. thesis, McMaster, 2006).

Manichean Orientalism. See Binary Orientalism.

Manifest Orientalism

The modern-day study of the notion of Orientalism began with the publication of Edward W. Said’s, Orientalism (1978), in which he coins the twin terms “manifest Orientalism” and “latent Orientalism” to explain the ways in which Orientalism functions and impacts our world.  For Said, “latent Orientalism” is the unconscious, highly durable underbelly of Orientalism that houses a complex system of Western stereotypes of “Orientals” as being essentially different, backward (uncivilized), passive, and ripe for Western manipulation.  Drawing on Said, other scholars describe latent Orientalism as the common sense, conventional wisdom by which the West views the East.  It is static, durable, unconscious, unquestioned, and certain.  Said then defines “manifest Orientalism” as being all of the myriad ways by which the West expresses and embodies its latent stereotypes.  They are the overt “representations” of the Orient.  Superficially, at least, manifest Orientalisms can and do vary greatly and change over time depending on who expresses them, how they are expressed, and in what contexts; but they all consistently reflect the basic, static principles and attitudes of latent Orientalism.  Other scholars have summarized manifest Orientalism as being all of the ways that Orientalists articulate and act upon the stereotypes “stored away” in latent Orientalism—from a learned journal article to a set of drapes or dishes to the insecurities of being Asian American and much, much more.  European colonialism in Asia, in fact, was a vast historical manifestation of Orientalism.  Scholars sometimes use the term Overt Orientalism as a synonym for this term. While most modern-day scholars of Orientalism accept the utility of Said’s distinction between latent Orientalism and manifest Orientalism, there are those who argue that his rendition of it is flawed.  They find something paradoxical, for example, in the distinction between the two, especially in that one is extremely stable and the other highly variable.  Some scholars contend that Said is guilty of a dualistic thinking that creates a disjunction and contradictions between the two.  Others claim that his use of latent-manifest Orientalism “Orientalizes the West,” that is treats it as having a single, essential, and timeless nature.  Or, again, critics argue that he emphasizes only the ways in which latent-manifest Orientalism impacts the Orient and fails to see that it also impacts the West.  These critics, however, often assume that manifest Orientalism stands in opposition to latent Orientalism, a viewpoint that Said neither stated nor implied.  As he uses these terms, rather, they are like two moments, movements, or aspects of a single process, the boundaries of which can be fuzzy at best. In sum, the latent-manifest process out of which Orientalisms arise and are expressed, as described by Said and explicated by others, remains a fundamental insight in the study of the notion of Orientalism.  [revised 7/19]

See also: Applied Orientalism, Blatant Orientalism, Corporate Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Latent Orientalism, Mediated Orientalism, Mythic Orientalism, Naïve Orientalism, Orientalist Theory, Overt Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Theoretical Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Homi K. Bhabha, “The Other Question…” Screen 24 (1983); Sumit Chakrabarti, “Moving Beyond Edward Said: Homi Bhabha and the Problem of Postcolonial Representation.” International Studies 14 (2012); Peter Childs & R. J. Patrick Williams, An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theory (Routledge, 1997); Jukka Jouhki, “Orientalism and India.” J@rgonia 4 (2006); Arun Kumar, “Orientalistm: A Historiographical Survey,” n.d. At (, accessed 7/19; John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester U., 2000); Jane Park & Karin Wilkins, “Re-orienting the Orientalist Gaze,” n.d. At Global Media Journal (, accessed 7/19; Achim Rohde, “Asians in Europe: Reading German-Jewish History through a Postcolonial Lens.” In Orientalism, Gender, and the Jews: Literary and Artistic Transformations of European National Discourse (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015); Edward W. SaidOrientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); David Weir, ‘The Arab as the  ‘Dangerous Other’? Beyond Orientalism, Beyond Post-colonialism” (Paper. Critical Management Conference, Cambridge, 2005); Meyda YeğenoğluColonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism (Cambridge, 1998).

Maritime Orientalism

Jonathan Scott coined this term, which is also used by a few other scholars usually citing him as their source. He uses it to describe the ways in which early modern British maritime Orientalists imagined and constructed Britain's identity as an island nation in contrast to the nations and peoples of Asia and of continental Europe. Reflecting a form of geographical Orientalism, they believed that Britain benefitted both from its insularity and its temperate climate, which explained why it was progressive, civilized, dynamic, and superior to continental European nations and peoples. They believed, furthermore, that these same factors explained why Orientals supposedly are essentially backward, sensuous, and given to despotism. According to Scott, British maritime Orientalists imagined themselves to be the heirs of the great sea peoples of the ancient world including, most especially, the Athenians.  [revised 3/18]

See also: Ancient Orientalism, Geographical Orientalism, Greek Orientalism (Ancient), Ideological Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: David ArmitageFoundations of Modern International Thought (Cambridge, 2013); Jonathan  ScottWhen the Waves Ruled Britannia: Geography and Political Identities, 1500–1800 (Cambridge, 2013); Christopher N. WarrenLiterature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680 (Oxford, 2015).

Market Orientalism. See Economic Orientalism.


Martial Orientalism. See Military Orientalism.

Marxist Orientalism

Scholars generally use this term to describe the ways in which ideological Marxists have imagined and constructed “Orientals” as being essentially different from the West, either negatively or positively. An important segment of the literature regarding this term is devoted to the controversy over the degree to which Karl Marx (1818-1883) and his views on the “Asian Mode of Production” are or are not a form of Orientalist ideology. Edward W. Said (1978) and other scholars since have argued that Marx was a typical European Orientalist who believed that Asians are essentially less advanced than Europeans and needed European help to escape their plight. Other scholars, especially Marxist writers, claim that the analyses of Said and other critics of Marx are superficial and one-sided; they fail, for example, to see that he rejected the Orientalist idea that nations and peoples have essential natures and opposed European colonialism as degrading rather than uplifting. Other scholars argue, however, that in various times and places European Marxists have treated Asians as being essentially backward in comparison to Europe, especially economically, and unable to lift themselves to the level of European civilization. These Marxist Orientalists have imagined and constructed Asia as being trapped in an earlier stage of human development, and they have believed that the working classes in the West are more dynamic than those in Asia. At other times, however, other Marxist Orientalists have articulated a more positive Orientalism that has embraced Asians. They have, for example, displayed an almost naïve enthusiasm for Mao’s China, praised the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), and seen Asians as providing models to be followed in the West. They have supported Asian freedom movements, resisted Eurocentrism, and understood that Asian workers can create their own futures. In sum, Marxist Orientalism presents very much of a mixed picture. Students of Marxist Orientalism have devoted a great deal of attention to Soviet Orientalism. This notion is also occasionally referred to as Orientalist Marxism [revised 6/18]

See also: Brown Orientalism, Bourgeois Orientalism, Economic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Materialist Orientalism, Orientalist Teleology, Orientology, Positive Orientalism, Red Orientalism, Russian Orientalism, Socialist Orientalism, Soviet Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Anouar Abdel-Malek, "Orientalism in Crisis." Diogenes 11 (1963); Adrian Cioflâncă, “The Communist Propagandistic Model: Towards A Cultural Genealogy.” Romanian Political Science Review 10 (2010); Peter Gran, “Political Economy as a Paradigm for the Study of Islamic History.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 11 (1980); Reza Hammami & Martina Rieker, "Feminist Orientalism and Orientalist Marxism." New Left Review 170 (1988); Deepa Kumar, “Marxism and Orientalism.” International Socialist Review 94 (Fall 2014); Kris Manjapra, Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals Across Empire (Harvard, 2014); Agnieszka Sadecka, “Exotic Others or Fellow Travellers? Representations of India in Polish Travel Writing during Communist Era” (Ph.D. diss., Tübingen, 2016); Edward W. Said, Orientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Lütfi Sunar, Marx and Weber on Oriental Societies: In the Shadow of Western Modernity (Ashgate, 2014); Madina  Tlostanova, Gender Epistemologies and Eurasian Borderlands (Palgrave Macmillian, 2010); Bryan S. Turner, Marx and the End of Orientalism (Allen & Unwin, 1978).

Masculine Orientalism. See Male Orientalism.

Masked Orientalism. See Hidden Orientalism.

Material Orientalism

Scholars use this infrequently used term to describe the ways in which Westerners, particularly Americans, produce and distribute a wide variety of consumer (material) goods and products, which visually exude a sense of the exotic East usually imagined to be, among other things, spiritual, sensual, quaint, or underdeveloped and backward.  Naomi Rosenblatt (2009), who is a frequently cited source for this notion, argues that Americans historically have consumed these goods to express their cultural superiority in ways that have promoted consumerism and in the process become integral to American material culture.  Western women especially at the turn of the 20th century consumed these products, including notably Oriental-inspired fashions, to free themselves from traditional cultural and social constraints such as confining clothing.  In her study of Cervantes’ material Orientalism, Christina I. McCoy (2015) uses the term in a less ideological sense to describe a way of understanding the Orient more corporally through its material culture.  [9/21]

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, American Orientalism, Commercial Orientalism, Consumer Orientalism, Fashion Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Orientalist Fad, Popular Orientalism, Visual Orientalism, Women’s Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Kevin Burton, "John Wesley Kelchner, Founder of the Temple Restoration Movement: A Freemason’s Attempt to Build a World Chain of Solomon’s Temples for Global Peace." Andrews University Seminary Studies 57,1 (2019); Elizabeth S. Hurd, “Appropriating Islam: The Islamic Other in the Consolidation of Western Modernity” Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 12, 1 (2003); Tea Jansson, “Challenging the Orientalist Reading of Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Letters with Feminist Approaches” (Pro Gradu [M.A.] thesis, U. of Tampre, 2003); Matthias Köbrich, “Representation of Middle Easterners in Contemporary North American TV Series,” 2017.  At Grin (, accessed 9/21; Christina I. McCoy, “The Self as Subject and the Subjected Self: Networks of Being and Becoming in the Captivity of Miguel de Cervantes and Antonio de Sosa” (Ph.D. diss., U. of Texas at Austin, 2015); Naomi Rosenblatt, “Orientalism in American Popular Culture,” Penn History Review 16, 2 (2009).

Materialist Orientalism

Bula Bhadra (1986) seems to be the first to use this otherwise very rarely used term to describe the ways in which Marxist material analysis has historically imagined and constructed “Oriental” means of production as being essentially different from the West.  He argues that Marx identified the “Asian mode of production” with a timeless, essentially rural Oriental way of life that explains why the East is undeveloped compared to Europe.  Alex Colas (2016)  argues, however, that material Orientalism is not a form of Saidian Orientalism because it does not distinguish between the material, real world realities of East and West; it is Orientalist, rather, because it applies a universal materialist theoretical analysis to explain the Orient’s backwardness.  [revised 9/21]

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Marxist Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Socialist Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Bula Bhadra, “Marx’s Views on India: A Sociological Appraisal of the ‘Asiatic’ Mode of Production” (Ph.D. diss., McMaster, 1986); Alex Colas, “Maxime Rodinson and Materialist Orientalism.” Web 8 (2016); Alejandro Colas & George Lawson, “Fred Halliday: Achievements, Ambivalences and Openings.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 39 (2010); Steve Cooper, "Materialist Orientalism: Marx," Asiatic" Mode of Production and India (Book Review)."Journal of Contemporary Asia 20, 4 (1990).

Mature Orientalism

Scholars use this infrequently used term in one of at least two ways: first, most use it as a synonym for the classical Orientalism (or traditional Orientalism) that emerged in the later 18th century, which is widely considered to mark represent a more fully expressed form of Western ideological Orientalism.  This classical form evolved into modern and postmodern Orientalisms, which retained a core of classical characteristics including especially imagining and constructing “Orientals” as having essential, unchanging, and exotic identities that are considered to be (usually) inferior or (less often) superior to the West.  It is this classical Orientalism that Edward W. Said examines in his seminal work, Orientalism (1978).  Second, rarely, this term is used to describe the most fully developed work of an Orientalist author or artist.  [4/21]

See also: Adolescent Orientalism, Classical Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Modern Orientalism, Postmodern Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Traditional Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: First Usage: B. J. Boland, The Struggle of Islam in Modern Indonesia (Springer-Science+Business Media, 1982 [1971]); P. Kerim Friedman, “The First Formosan in Europe,” 2006. At Savage Minds (, accessed 4/21; Ivan D. KalmarEarly Orientalism: Imagined Islam and the Notion of Sublime Power (Routledge, 2012); Amber Sackett, "The Anti-Islam Narrative in Diderot’s Entry “Sarrasins” for the Encyclopédie (1751-1772)." McNair Scholars Journal 21 
(2017); Santiago Slabodsky, Decolonial Judaism: Triumphal Failures of Barbaric Thinking (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Second Usage: Alan D. Hodder, "’The Best of Brahmans’: India Reading Emerson Reading India." Nineteenth-Century Prose 30 (2003).

Maussian Orientalism. See Orientalist Anthropology.

Mediated Orientalism

Scholars use this term to describe all of those agencies (i.e. media) that communicate stereotypes concerning “Orientals,” especially that they have a shared, essential, largely unchanging identity that is, usually, inferior to that of the West.  Asians are imagined and constructed to be, for example, backward, amoral, arrogant and violent (men), sensuous and willing (women), incapable of progressive self-government, and so forth.  While these mediating agencies can be virtually any form of communication, at least some scholars using this term take particular note of the role of news and other modern media as purveyors of Orientalist prejudices.  This notion of mediated Orientalism is virtually the same idea as Edward W. Said’s term manifest Orientalism, which he pairs with latent Orientalism to describe the wide-ranging means by which Orientalist ideologies are communicated and embodied.  “Mediated Orientalism” differs from “manifest Orientalism,” if at all, only in more overtly emphasizing that the means of communication stands in an intermediate position between Orientalist stereotypes and the audience(s) impacted by them. This term is not frequently or widely used.  [revised 7/19]

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Manifest Orientalism, Popular Orientalism, Techno Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Abdollah Bicharanlou & Seyedeh R. Yasini, Abstract of “The Image of Iranian Women in European Televisions; a Case Study of TV Documentaries.” At magiran (, accessed 7/19; Tobias Hübinette, “Representations of East Asians in Contemporary Swedish Popular Culture – Intersections of Race, Gender and Sexuality
,” n.d. At Tobias Hübinette (, accessed 7/18; Silke Schmidt(Re-)Framing the Arab/Muslim
Mediating Orientalism in Contemporary Arab American Life Writing (Transcript Verlag, 2014); Karin G. WilkinsHome/Land/Security: What We Learn about Arab Communities from Action-Adventure Films (Lexington Books, 2009).

Medical Orientalism

Scholars generally use this term in one of two closely related ways.  First, they use it and the seldom-used term psychiatric Orientalism to apply Edward W. Said’s (1978) description of Orientalism (Saidian Orientalism) to the values and attitudes of medical professionals and researchers. Those medical practitioners, it is argued, imagine and construct the physically and mentally ill and disabled as being inferior” Others” who are sickly, weak, and mentally or physically defective. The medical establishment thus both dehumanizes patients and uses medical “discourses” (diagnoses, medical records, research, literature) to exercise power over them.  Second, scholars use this term to describe situations in which Western medicine is held to be essentially superior to the medical practices and institutions of an (Oriental) Other. “Oriental” medicine is thus seen as being superstitious, backward, and unscientific.  [revised 9/18]

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Institutional Orientalism, Oriental Literature, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Neil K. Aggarwal, “Medical Orientalism and the War on Terror: Depictions of Arabs and Muslims in the Psychodynamic Literature post-9/11.” Journal of Muslim Mental Health 6 (2011); Neil K. AggarwalMental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft (Columbia, 2015); Felice Aull & Bradley Lewis, “Medical Intellectuals: Resisting Medical Orientalism.” Journal of Medical Humanities 25 (2004);Ben Kavoussi, “Oriental Medicine or Medical Orientalism?,” 2009. At Science-Based Medicine (, accessed 9/18; Christian Promitzer, “Typhus, Turks, and Roma: Hygiene and Ethnic Difference in Bulgaria, 1912-1944.” In Health, Hygiene, and Eugenics in Southeastern Europe to 1945 (Central European U., 2010); Nicholas L. Sauer, "Disability in Late Imperial Russia: Pathological Metaphors and Medical Orientalism” (M.A. thesis, Youngstown State, 2016).

Medieval Orientalism

Scholars use this term to describe the ways in which medieval Europeans imagined and constructed Arabs and other Muslims as being heathen, exotic, effeminate, unspiritual, and debased peoples essentially and absolutely unlike themselves.  They were “the Saracens,” followers of a false, Judas-like prophet who incarnated all that is evil.  They were allies of Satan.  Edward W. Said (1978) was the first scholar to propose (in very broad strokes) the existence of this “medieval Orientalism,” although he did not use the term as such, and, in the process, he initiated a continuing debate as to the reality and the profile of such an Orientalism.  While most modern-day medievalists have ignored this debate, some have joined in it with scholars of Orientalism to arrive at something of a consensus that medieval Orientalism was indeed a form of ideological Orientalism, but one that differed in important ways from post-medieval versions.  On the one hand, it was as racist and sexist as those later Orientalisms.  It too was built out of a latent set of dualistic stereotypes that lumped all Saracens into the same mold, although scholars acknowledge that there were exceptions to the rule (e.g. in Spain and Norman Sicily).  Various scholars argue that medieval European Orientalists in the main both loathed the Saracens and yet found them alluring, a characteristic they shared with later Orientalist attitudes towards “Orientals”.  Other scholars have also noted that negative attitudes towards Judaism fit the overall profile of medieval Orientalism as did attitudes towards Saracen women.  On the other hand, medieval Orientalism differed from Said’s notion of Orientalism in that: (a) it was fundamentally religious and premised on a theological Us versus Them (the “saved” versus the “damned”) dualism rather than a secular West versus East one; (b) it drew on the Bible as its key text and from it (in combination with classical sources) constructed Muslims as being the negative analog of the Christian faith—unspiritual, anti-Christ, and evil; (c) it operated in a context where Islam was dominant, culturally as well as militarily, which meant that it faced a power dynamic that was the opposite of later eras of European expansion and domination; and (d) medieval European scholars acknowledged the superiority and value of Islamic learning.  Scholars of medieval Orientalism have focused most of their attention on the later Middle Ages (roughly the 12th to 15th centuries) and devoted a good deal of that attention to Dante (ca. 1265-1321) and Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400).  In sum, scholars portray medieval Orientalism as being the template out of which grew the latent Orientalisms that manifested themselves in new ways in the centuries that followed.  Other scholars, however, argue that this Saidian portrayal of Medieval Orientalism is over drawn and much too one-sided.  It must be balanced by the degree to which Europeans also admired and, more importantly still, appropriated Muslim learning and practices.  Finally, scholars use a few other terms to describe medieval Orientalism.  Said refers in passing to a school of “Cluniac Orientalism,” represented by the Peter the Venerable (ca. 1092-1156).  Robert Irwin, however, argues that there never was such a school.  Henry Schaller (2018) uses the term, “Crusader Orientalism,” and Sheila Delany (1994) coined the term Chaucerian Orientalism to describe the ways in which Chaucer availed himself of Muslim learning but still stereotyped the Saracens in the same negative ways as other medieval Orientalists.  None of these terms are frequently used, Delany’s being the most often used of the three.  [revised 7/19, 12/19]

See also: Adolescent Orientalism, Christian Orientalism, Early Orientalism, Emergent Orientalism, Jewish Orientalism (first meaning); Nascent Orientalism, Oriental Fantasy, Pre-Modern Orientalism, Pre-Orientalism, Proto-Orientalism, Religious Orientalism, Renaissance Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Sexual Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Medieval Orientalism: Suzanne C. Akbari, “Making Substantial Connections: A Critical Appreciation of Sheila Delany.” Florilegium 23 (2006); Abdullah Al-Dabbagh, "Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination by John V. Tolan." International Journal of Arabic-European Studies 4 (2003); Kathleen Biddick, “Coming Out of Exile: Dante on the Orient(alism) Express.” American Historical Review 105 (2000); Albrecht Classen, "Die Heidin: A Late-Medieval Experiment in Cultural Rapprochement between Christians and Saracens." Medieval Encounters 11 (2005); Anna Czarnowus, "Judas, a Medieval Other? Religion, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Thirteenth-Century Middle English Judas." Terminus 13 (2011); Jacqueline De Weever, Sheba's Daughters: Whitening and Demonizing the Saracen Woman in Medieval French Epic (Garland, 1998); John M. GanimMedievalism and Orientalism: Three Essays on Literature, Architecture and Cultural Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Carol F. Heffernan, The Orient in Chaucer and Medieval Romance (D. S. Brewer, 2003); Ivan Ignatov, “Eastward Voyages and the Late Medieval European Worldview” (M.A. thesis, U. of Canterbury, 2013); Anne Le, “Tracking Medieval Orientalism: Religion and Gender in Le Conte de Floire et Blanchefleur.Paroles gelées 31 (2018); Jonathon Lyons, Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism (Columbia, 2012); Leila A. Ouji, “Aspects of Orientalism in Dante” (Ph.D. diss., Toronto, 2015); Kim M. Phillips, Before Orientalism: Asian Peoples and Cultures in European Travel Writing, 1245–1510 (U. of Pennsylvania, 2014); Lucy K. Pick, “Orientalism and Religion.” Viewpoints 12 (2009); Edward W. SaidOrientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Henry Schaller, "Crusader Orientalism: Depictions of the Eastern Other in Medieval Crusade Writings," 2018.  At Collins Library: Sound Ideas (, accessed 7/19; Chaucerian Orientalism: Suzanne C. Akbari, “Orientation and Nation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” In Chaucer’s Cultural Geography (Routledge, 2002); Shelia Delany, The Naked Text: Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women (U. of California, 1994); Shazia Jagot, “Fin’amors, Arabic Learning, and the Islamic World in the Work of Geoffrey Chaucer” (Ph.D. diss. Leicester, 2014); Cluniac Orientalism: Mustafa Ghani, "The Narrative Assault on Islam,” n.d. At University of Alberta (, accessed 7/19; Robert Irwin, Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents (Overlook, 2008); Said, op.cit.


Scholars use this term, coined by Manfred Pfister, to describe ways in which Northern Europeans historically have imagined and framed Southern ("meridional") Europeans as being essentially inferior in ways that are polar opposites to the North. Pfister first used it to describe the ways in which 18th century British travellers imagined and constructed an exotic, backward Italy. He and some others argue that Meridionism is not a form of Orientalism because: (1) it has not been as intensely destructive of the imagined Other as is the Orientalism described by Edward W. Said; (2) it was not based on colonization of the South; and (3) the Southern nations also impacted the Northern nations’ self-understanding. Scholars more generally, however, point to so many parallels between the two in the ways that the Other is framed as being essentially backward and inferior that, in practice, Meridionism is a form of European internal Orientalism and of ideological Orientalism.

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Internal Orientalism, Quasi-Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Luigi Cazzato, “Mediterranean: Coloniality, Migration, and Decolonial Practices.” Politics: Revista di Studi Politici 15 (2016); Forlenza Rosario & Bjørn Thomassen, Italian Modernities: Competing Narratives of Nationhood (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Manfred  Pfister, “Introduction.” In The Fatal Gift of Beauty, Beauty: Italies of British Travellers (Rodopi, 1996); Maria Schoina, Romantic 'Anglo-Italians': Configurations of Identity in Byron, the Shelleys, and the Pisan Circle (Routledge, 2016).


Mahmoud Manzalaoui introduced this term to describe Edward W. Said (1978) as being a covert Orientalist author writing about the genre of Orientalism in ways that exemplify some of the faults of the genre.  Since then, only a very few scholars have used this term.  Sharon Parker (2005), for example, uses it to describe “meta-orientalist narratives” that are over-arching, broadly encompassing versions of Orientalist stereotypes.   Adam Geczy (2013), in his description of the way in which fashion Orientalisms can transcend ideology, briefly considers calling this special transcendent-like trait, “meta-Orientalism,” but decides that it is better called, “Transorientalism”.  Sarah Brouillette (2011) uses it to describe the ways in which certain Asian writers knowingly play off of the writings of a class of Asian authors who pander to Western Orientalist stereotypes. The goal of their “meta-Orientalism” is to critique the self-serving practices of that class. Brouillette uses the prefix “meta” here to mean “showing or suggesting an explicit awareness of itself or oneself as a member of its category: cleverly self-referential” (see Merriam-Webster). Otherwise, this term is used only very rarely and not in a set of clearly consistent ways. [revised 7/19]

See also: Fashion Orientalism, Hidden Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Transorientalism.

Sources & Examples: Sarah Brouillette, “On the Entrepreneurial Ethos in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.” In Re-Orientalism and South Asian Identity Politics: The Oriental Other Within (Routledge, 2011);  Adam Geczy, Fashion and Orientalism: Dress, Textiles and Culture from the 17th to the 21st Century (A & C Black, 2013); Mahmoud  Manzalaoui, “Review: Reviewed Work: Orientalism by Edward W. Said.” The Modern Language Review 75 (1980); Sharon Parker, “Embodied Exile: Contemporary Iranian Women Artists and the Politics of Place” (Ph.D. diss., Arizona, 2005); Takayuki Tatsumi, Full Metal Apache: Transactions Between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America (Duke, 2006).

Methodological Orientalism

This is a seldom-used term that is mostly used in passing. Scholars who do use it usually use it to describe the application of somewhat covert ways of ideological Orientalist thinking and/or the principles of ideological Orientalism as distinct from overt sets of prejudices that result from such thinking. Thus one can reject a form of Orientalism while still methodologically engaging in dualistic, essentializing Orientalist thinking.  [4/17]

See also: Covert Orientalism, Hidden Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Orientalist Epistemology, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Tom Lewis & Sandra Sousa, “Knowledge and Politics Across the North/South Divide,” 2015-2016. At ISR: International Socialist Review  (, accessed 4/17; Chris Prentice, “Reorienting Culture for Decolonization.” Continuum 27 (2013); Yahya Sadowski, "Political Islam: Asking the Wrong Questions." Annual Review of Political Science  9 (2006).


Scholars use this rarely used term usually in one of two ways.  First and most often cited, Carina Ren and Can-Seng Ooi (2013) use it to describe the presence and communication of ideological Orientalist discourses and practices in particular international or intercultural events, such as exhibits at World Fairs. In these situations, one's own Western nation and its culture (Denmark in this case) is imagined and exhibited as the superior Self and an Asian nation or culture (China) as the inferior Other.  Second, Vassant Kaiwar (2010) uses this term more broadly to describe ideological Orientalist discourses, institutions, and practices in local situations, such as a local Indian community.  A very few other scholars cite Ren and Ooi, but this term does not otherwise seem to appear in the scholarly literature related to the notion of Orientalism.  [revised 1/20]

See also: Cultural Orientalism, Economic Orientalism, Franchised Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Local Orientalism, Orientalist Tourism.

Sources & Examples: Vassant Kaiwar, “What is Postcolonial Orientalism and How Does It Matter?,” 2010.  At Traneuropeennes (,  accessed 7/16; Carina Ren & Can-Seng Ooi, "Auto-Communicating Micro-Orientalism: Articulating ‘Denmark’ in China at the Shanghai Expo." Asia Europe Journal 11 (2013); Carina Ren & Can-Seng Ooi, "Auto-Communication at the Shanghai Expo 2010—Performing and Regulating ‘Danishness’” (Paper, Copenhagen Business School, 2012).

Middlebrow Orientalism

Scholars use this rarely used term usually in one of two ways. First, Mari Yoshira (2003) uses it to describe the role white American women have played in the consumption of Asian goods to explore their own identities as women.  Second, Christina Klein (2003) uses it to describe conventional American attitudes regarding Asia during the era of the Cold War, which attitudes were sentimental, friendly toward Asia, and yet affirmed American superiority.

See also: Cold War Orientalism, Commercial Orientalism, Feminist Orientalism, Positive Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Christina KleinCold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961 (U. of California, 2003); Mari YoshiharaEmbracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism (Oxford, 2003).

Middle East Orientalism

Scholars normally use this term in two closely related ways.  First, sometimes they use it more narrowly to describe the ways in which Western Orientalists imagine and construct specifically the peoples of the geographical-cultural region of the “Middle East” as opposed to those living in South, Southeast, or East Asia.  Second, at other times scholars use this term to refer specifically to Arabs generally (including North Africans). This term is almost invariably used in passing, almost off-handedly, and it can be difficult to discern which usage is intended.  While scholars use it to describe various forms of Orientalism, they seem to use more often in reference to the arts, literature, and culture.

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Cultural Orientalism, Levantine Orientalism. 

Sources & Examples: Peter Heehs, “Shades of Orientalism: Paradoxes and Problems in Indian Historiography.” History and Theory 42 (2003); Sandra Lyne, “Fictions of Alien Identities: Cultural Cross-Dressing in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Opera.” In Music and History: Bridging the Disciplines (U. of Mississippi).

Military Orientalism

Scholars use this term, as well as the very rarely used terms martial Orientalism and Orientalist warfare, to describe the ways in which Western academics imagine and construct Asian warfare to differ fundamentally from that of the West.  The term “military Orientalism” originated with Tarak Barkawi (2006) and was developed by Peter Porter (2009) who argues that Western Orientalists, particularly academics, assume that all Asians (“Orientals”) throughout history have waged war in the same fundamental ways, which reflect essential, shared characteristics of their cultures. Asians, everywhere, for example, supposedly use strategies of indirection and trickery and are prone to violence and brutality.  Other scholars of the notion of military Orientalism generally agree with Porter and often cite his work.  They document the ways in which Orientalist thinking has negatively impacted modern-day scholarly knowledge and interpretations of Asian (and African) military history going back to ancient Greece.  Some argue that a great deal of Western writing about Asian ways of war is fundamentally prejudiced and that this skewed, fanciful approach to Asian war is a typical example of academic Orientalism.  These prejudices, in fact, sometimes shape actual Western military strategies and tactics when fighting in Asia.  Scholars since 9/11 particularly point to the ways in which American military Orientalism is especially seen in American interventions in the Middle East and note its impact on American uses of torture in Asia, which weaponizes attacks on Arab masculinity, a false feminization and, ultimately, a dehumanization of the (Oriental) Other.  Scholars also find evidence of martial Orientalism in Western popular culture, particularly films and war novels. [revised 3/20]

See also: Academic Orientalism, Cinematic Orientalism, Cultural Orientalism, Greek Orientalism (Ancient), Ideological Orientalism, Nuclear Orientalism, Popular Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Sexual Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Tarak Barkawi, Globalization and War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006); Tarak Barkawi & Keith Stanski, Orientalism and War (Oxford, 2014); Marouf A. Hasian, Jr., “Military Orientalism at the Cineplex: Postcolonial Reading of Zero Dark Thirty.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 31 (2014); Benjamin Isakhan, “Review Essay: Military Orientalism and the Occupation of Iraq.” International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies 4 (2010); Hamid Kbiri, “Military Orientalism: Contrasting Western and Eastern Ways of War.” Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research 3 (2017); Patricia Owens, “Torture, Sex and Military Orientalism.” Third World Quarterly 31 (2010); Patrick Porter, Military Orientalism: Eastern War through Western Eyes (Hurst & Co., 2009); Sibylle Scheipers, Unlawful Combat: A Genealogy of the Irregular Fighter (Oxford, 2015); Rose Mary Sheldon, Ambush: Surprise Attack in Ancient Greek Warfare (Frontline Books, 2012); Ezra Strauss, "Sexualizing Torture." Footnotes 9 (2016).  Martial Orientalism: Derek Gregory, “’The Rush to the Intimate’,” 2008.  At Radical Philosophy (, accessed 3/20; Karl Hack w/ Tobias Rettig, “Imperial Systems of Power, Colonial Forces and the Making of Modern Southeast Asia.” In Colonial Armies in Southeast Asia (Routledge, 2006); Carolyn Prouse, “Framing the World cUPP: Competing Discourses of Favela Pacification as a Mega-Event Legacy in Brazil.” Recreation & Society in Africa, Asia & Latin America 3 (2012).  Orientalist Warfare: W. Anthony Sheppard, Extreme Exoticism: Japan in the American Musical Imagination (Oxford, 2019).

Mimetic Orientalism

A small number of scholars use this seldom-used term generally in passing and without definition or explanation, but apparently to mean simply a form of reverse Orientalism by which Asians (“Orientals”) imitate ideological Orientalist ideas and strategies to create a counter-narrative for their own purposes, such as to promote Western-like modernization.  Kemalist Orientalism, for example, may be considered to be a form of mimetic Orientalism. Usage of this term may draw on or, at least, reflect the “mimetic theory” of René Girard (1923-2015), also known as “mimetic realism.”

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Kemalist Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism (First Usage).

Sources & Examples: Emmanuel Szurek, “’Go West’: Variations on Kemalist Orientalism.” In After Orientalism: Critical Perspectives on Western Agency and Eastern Re-appropriations (Brill, 2015); Yiman Wang, “Anna May Wong: Toward Janus-Faced, Border-Crossing,
’Minor’ Stardom.” In Idols of Modernity Movie Stars of the 1920s (Rutgers, 2010).

Missionary Orientalism

Scholars use this term generally to describe the Orientalist discourses of Western Christian missionaries, especially Evangelical Protestant missionaries including especially those working in and/or writing about Asia. In general, the goal of missionary Orientalist discourses was to convert “the heathen” to Christianity, and missionary Orientalism was thus based more on a Christian-heathen than East-West dualism. This form of Orientalist discourse is considered unique because its focus is on religious influence rather than secular power, on “saving” the Other rather than colonizing them in the full sense of the term, and believes that the (Oriental) Other is not irredeemably and essentially beyond hope—they can be "saved". Like other Orientalist discourses, however, missionary Orientalists engage in stereotyping an inferior, alien Other. Historically, there has been a class of missionary-scholars who engaged in more formal, academic Orientalist discourse.

See also: Academic Orientalism, American Orientalism, Biblical Orientalism, Catholic Orientalism, Christian Orientalism, Constructive Orientalism, Evangelical Orientalism, Liberal Orientalism, Protestant Orientalism, Religious Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism, Sinological Orientalism, Theological Orientalism, Zen Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Urs App, "William Jones’s Ancient Theology." Sino-Platonic Papers 191 (2009); Jagvinder Gill, "Re-Oriented Britain – How British Asian Travellers and Settlers have Utilised and Reversed Orientalist Discourse 1770-2010" (Ph.D. diss., Warwick, 2010); V. Ravindiran, “Discourses of Empowerment: Missionary Orientalism in the Development of Dravidian Nationalism." In Nation Work: Asian Elites and National Identities (Michigan, 2000); Margaret B. Swain, “Pére Vial and the Gni-p’a: Orientalist Scholarship and the Christian Project.” In Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers (U. of Washington, 1995); Ravindiran Vaitheespara, “Caste, Hybridity and the Construction of Cultural Identity in Colonial India: Maraimalai Adigal and the Intellectual Genealogy of Dravidian Nationalism, 1800-1950" (Ph.D. diss., Toronto, 1999); Hui WangTranslating Chinese Classics in a Colonial Context: James Legge and His Two Versions of the Zhongyong (Peter Lang, 2008).

Mock Orientalism. See False Orientalism.

Modern Orientalism

This term is used usually in one of three ways.  First, scholars very often use it simply (and frequently without clear definition) to mean “up to date Orientalism,” the Orientalism of the present.  Second and also very often, they use it to mean Western ideological Orientalism that in other contexts is also known as traditional Orientalism. It is, that is, Saidian Orientalism, the form of Orientalism described by Edward W. Said in his book, Orientalism (1978). For him, modern Orientalism began in late 18th century Europe, although it had its roots in earlier periods; and it was closely associated with certain European historical developments including: (1) a rise in secularity; (2) increased awareness of Asia; (3) colonial expansion; and (4) the growth and development of scholarly fields devoted to the study of the East. For many scholars, in sum, modern Orientalism means Saidian Orientalism.  Third, however, other scholars question the accuracy, utility, and fairness of Said’s depiction of modern Orientalism and offer their own defining characteristics, genealogies, dates, key personalities, and significant events for modern Orientalism; and they often argue for a more positive, benign description of the phenomenon itself. Some argue, for example, that Said’s notion of modern Orientalism is too all encompassing and one-sided; and others disagree with his emphasis on secularism, arguing for the continued significance of religion in modern Orientalism. This term is not to be confused with the related term, modernist Orientalism, and it must also be distinguished from the still more closely related term, early modern Orientalism[revised 6/17]

See also: American Orientalism, Classical Orientalism, Contemporary Orientalism, Conventional Orientalism, Early Modern Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Imperial Orientalism, Late Orientalism, Mature Orientalism, Modernist Orientalism, Orientalist Science, Saidian Orientalism, Scientific Orientalism, Secular Orientalism, Traditional Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Urs App, "William Jones’s Ancient Theology." Sino-Platonic Papers 191 (2009); Curtis Chagnon, “Examples of Orientalism in Western Pop-Culture.” At Prezi (, accessed 6/17; Michael Haldrup, et al., "Practical Orientalism: Bodies, Everyday Life and the Construction of Otherness." Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography 88 (2006); Alexandra LIaneri, “The Persian Wars as the ‘Origin’ of Historiography:  Ancient and Modern Orientalism in George Grote’s History of Greece.” In Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars: Antiquity to the Third Millennium (Oxford, 2007). Lucy K. Pick, “Orientalism and Religion,” 2009. At Middle East Institute (, accessed 8/18; Amit RayNegotiating the Modern: Orientalism and Indianness in the Anglophone World (Routledge, 2007); Edward W. Said, "Arabs, Islam and the Dogmas of the West." New York Times Book Review (31 October 1976); Edward W. SaidOrientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Ziauddin SardarOrientalism (Open U., 1999); Daniel M. Varisco, Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (Washington Press, 2007). 

Modernist Orientalism

Scholars generally use this term to describe a phase in the development of Orientalist discourses, institutions, and practices that is marked by a transition from classical ideological Orientalism to less monolithic, more ambivalent, and less domineering forms of Orientalism. Those discourses reflect the scholarly understanding of modernism itself as a broad set of cultural movements responding to the changing, shifting nature of so-called modern life. Modernist Orientalism is thus a boundary concept with roots in classical Orientalism, which thus manifests itself to a lesser or greater extent in a variety of modernist Orientalist discourses, institutions, and practices. This term is to be distinguished from the related term, modern Orientalism.

See also: Classical Orientalism, Contemporary Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Late Orientalism, Modern Orientalism, New Age Orientalism, Techno-Orientalism, Virtual Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Christopher Bush, “Modernism, Orientalism, and East Asia.” In A Handbook of Modernism Studies (MIT, 2008); Robert Kern, Orientalism, Modernism, and the American Poem (Cambridge, 1996); Lawrence Normand, “Shangri-La and History in 1930s England.” Buddhist Studies Review 24 (2007); Zhaoming Qian, The Modernist Response to Chinese Art: Pound, Moore, Stevens (U. of Virginia, 2003); Brian  Singleton, “Asian Theatres, Mnouchkine and Shakespeare: The Search for a Theatrical Form.” In Re-playing Shakespeare in Asia (Routledge, 2010); Mercedes Volait, “Middle Easter Collections of Orientalist Painting at the Turn for the 21st Century: Paradoxical Reversal or Persistent Misunderstanding?” In After Orientalism: Critical Perspectives on Western Agency and Eastern Re-appropriations (Brill, [2015]); Steven Yao, “A Rim with a View: Orientalism, Geography and the Historiography of Modernism.” In Pacific Rim Modernisms (U. of Toronto, 2009).

Musical Orientalia. See Musical Orientalism.

Musical Orientalism

Scholars use this term and the terms Music OrientalismMusical OrientaliaMusicological OrientalismOrientalist Composer(s)Orientalist Music, and Orientalist Musicology to describe the ways in which Western music in its many various types, forms, and expressions imagines and constructs “Orientals” as having an essential, changeless nature usually seen as inferior to the West. This term and the term “Orientalist music” are frequently used, and the other five terms included here, especially “music Orientalism,” are used far less often. Technically, the term “musical Orientalia” refers to the paraphernalia involved in musical composition and production, but in effect it is used to describe the same Orientalist phenomena as the other terms. The term “Orientalist composer(s)” seems to be most often used in passing and uncritically, although scholars also associate it with ideological Orientalism as well.

While a few scholars trace musical Orientalisms as far back as ancient Greece, contemporary Orientalist music began in roughly the late 18th century, reached its peak in the late 19th century, and remains an important theme in Western music down to the present, appearing, for example, in music videos produced by contemporary rock and pop stars. Romanticism has been an important influence on its development, and the history of Orientalist music is often closely tied to Western colonialism. Scholars themselves only began the critical study of musical Orientalisms in the 1990s and initially focused largely on classical and light classical music. Their studies drew on the work of Edward W. Said (1978) who for the most part did not treat music as an expression of Orientalism, except in operas, particularly Aida (Verdi, 1871). Scholars observe that historically musicological studies and descriptions of “Oriental” music were themselves largely another expression of ideological musical Orientalism and that “Orientalist musicology” was a branch of academic Orientalism. While strictly speaking these terms can be used to describe any Western music that is influenced by Asian music, scholars for the most part use all of them to describe more specifically music that represents the Orient as exotic, sensuous, and mysterious. They observe that Orientalist music has little to do with Asian music as such. Its intent, rather, is to entertain Western audiences by communicating to them Orientalist stereotypes that highlight the superiority of the Western (Self) to the Oriental (Other). Some scholars go so far as to argue that any Western uses of or borrowing from Asian music is open to the suspicion of being Orientalist. A few scholars have observed, however, that in certain situations Orientalist music can be used to subvert dominant musical traditions, and other scholars tend to evaluate “Orientalist” music solely on its merits as music apart from ideological considerations. Scholars have also noted that Orientalist music, including popular Orientalist music, can be racially charged as well as sexist, imagining and constructing Asian women (and, homoerotically, men) as sensuous, sexy, and alluring while imagining Asian men as brutal and uncivilized. Western musical Orientalism has also had an impact on Asian music itself in how Asian scholars and others understand and value that music historically and in how Asian music can incorporate Western Orientalist elements into its own music. Finally, scholars describe the ways in which musical Orientalisms commercialize and exploit indigenous Asian music for monetary gain.

In defining more precisely what constitutes “Orientalist music,” Derek B. Scott lists a set of musical “devices” that include: “…whole tones; Aeolian, Dorian, but especially the Phrygian mode; augmented seconds and fourths (especially with Lydian or Phrygian inflexions); Arabesques and ornamented lines; elaborate `Ah!' melismas for voice; sliding or sinuous chromaticism; trills, and dissonant grace notes; rapid scale passages (especially of an irregular fit, e.g. eleven notes to be played in the time of two crotchets); a melody that suddenly shifts to notes of shorter value; abrupt juxtapositions of romantic, lyrical tunes and busy, energetic passages; repetitive rhythms, and repetitive small-compass melodies; ostinati; ad libitum sections (colla parte, senza tempo, etc.); use of triplets in duple time; complex or irregular rhythms; parallel movement in fourths, fifths, and octaves (especially in the woodwind); bare fifths; drones and pedal points; `Magic' or `mystic' chords (possessing uncertainty of duration and/or harmonic direction); harp arpeggios and glissandi (Rimsky-Korsakov changes the connotation of the harp with a mythical past to one of oriental exoticism); double reeds (oboe and especially cor anglais); percussion (especially tambourine, triangle, cymbals and gong); emphatic rhythmic figures on unpitched percussion (such as tom toms, tambourine and triangle).” (Scott, 1998, p. 327).  [revised 10/18]

See also: Academic Orientalism, Aesthetic Orientalism, Asiatic Orientalism, Authentic Orientalism, Commercial Orientalism, Conventional Orientalism, Cultural Orientalism, Egyptian Orientalism, Electronic Orientalism, Exotic Orientalism, False Orientalism, Genuine Orientalism, Homoerotic Orientalism, Operatic Orientalism, Orientalist Archive, Poetic Orientalism, Pop Orientalism, Popular Orientalism, Self-Orientalism, Sexual Orientalism, Theatrical Orientalism, Transorientalism.

Sources & Examples: Musical Orientalism, Music Orientalism, & Orientalist Music: Elena Boschi, "Loose Cannons Unloaded: Popular Music, Space, and Queer Identities in the Films of Ferzan Özpetek." Studies in European Cinema 12 (2015); Philip Brett, “Queer Musical Orientalism.” Echo 9 (2009; MartinClayton, “Musical Renaissance and its Margins in England and India, 1874–1914.” In Music and Orientalism in the British Empire, 1780s to 1940s: Portrayal of the East (Ashgate, 2007); Martin Clayton & Bennett Zon, “Introduction.” In Music and Orientalism in the British Empire, 1780s to 1940s: Portrayal of the East (Ashgate, 2007);Charles H. GarrettStruggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century (U. of California, 2008); Elissa H. Keck, "William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast: Orientalism and the Continuation of the English Oratorio" (M.A. Thesis, Tennessee, 2010); David Kozel, “Oriental Music as a Part of the European Collective Consciousness.” In The Orient in Music—Music of the Orient (Cambridge Scholars, 2017); Brian Lee, et al., “Orientalist in Modern Pop Culture,” n.d. At Orientalism in Modern Pop Culture (, accessed 10/18; Claire Mabilat, "Introduction: Orientalism and its Relation to Music and Musical Representation." In Orientalism and Representations of Music in the Nineteenth-Century British Popular Arts (Routledge, 2017); Nick Page, “Orientalism in Western Classical Music: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade,” n.d.  At Introduction to the Modern Middle East (, accessed 10/18; Tattvika Patel, “Orientalism in Western Popular Music [Revised],” 2015. At YouTube (, accessed 10/18; Risto P. Pennanen, "Lost in Scales: Balkan Folk Music Research and the Ottoman Legacy." Muzikologija 8 (2008); Paul Robinson, “Is ‘Aida’ an Orientalist Opera?” Cambridge Opera Journal 5 (1993); Edward W. SaidMusic at the Limits (Columbia, 2008); Derek B. Scott, "Orientalism and Musical Style." Musical Quarterly 82 (1998); David Tresilian, “Musical Orientalism?”  At Al-Ahram Weekly On-line (, accessed 10/18.  Musical Orientalia: Mariella De Seimone, “Aristophanes’ Phrynichos and the Orientalizing Musical Pattern.” In Music in Antiquity: The Near East and the Mediterranean (De Gruyter Oldenbourg & Hebrew U., 2014).  Musicological Orientalism & Orientalist Musicology: Amine Beyhom, “What Future for Arabian Music after Two Centuries of Musicological Orientalism?,” 2017. At OIB: Orient Institut Beirut (, accessed 10/18; Claire Mabilat, “British Orientalism and Representations of Music in the Long Nineteenth Century: Ideas of Music, Otherness, Sexuality and Gender in the Popular Arts” (Ph.D. diss., Durham, 2006); Martin Stokes, “Silver Sounds in the Inner Citadel? Reflections on Musicology and Islam.” In Interpreting Islam (SAGE, 2002).  Orientalist Composers: Martin Clayton, “Musical Renaissance and its Margins in England and India, 1874–1914.” In Music and Orientalism in the British Empire, 1780s to 1940s: Portrayal of the East (Ashgate, 2007).

Musicological Orientalism. See Musical Orientalism.

Muslim Orientalism

A few scholars use this seldom-used term to suggest the possibility that Muslims (both historically and in the present) can and perhaps do imagine and construct non-Muslims or other Muslims as being essentially and irredeemably alien and inferior Others in ways that parallel Western ideological Orientalism, especially as described by Edward W. Said in his book, Orientalism (1978). [revised 3/20]

See also:  Ideological Orientalism, Islamic Orientalism (Third Usage), Religious Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Johan ElverskogBuddhism and Islam on the Silk Road (U. of Pennsylvania, 2010); Richard Foltz, “Muslim ‘Orientalism’ in Medieval Travel Accounts of India.” Studies in Religion (2008); Juliane  HammerAmerican Muslim Women, Religious Authority and Activism: More Than a Prayer (Texas, 2012); Nizar F. Hermes, “The Orient’s Medieval ‘Orient(alism)’: the Rihlaof Sulaymān al-Tājir.” In Orientalism Revisited: Art, Land and Voyage (Routledge, 2013); Zeba Khan, “When Racism Goes Viral: The Coronavirus and Modern Muslim Orientalism,” [2020].  At Muslim Matters (, accessed 3/20.

Mythic Orientalism

Scholars use this term and the term mythical Orientalism usually in one of two ways.  First and somewhat more frequently, they use these terms (and the very rarely used term, “mythological Orientalism”) to describe the inspirational impact on Western art (including music, ballet, and literature) of various “myths” about the exotic, mystical Orient as an ancient land of mystery, spirituality, sensuality, vast wealth, and extravagance.  Suzanne Lussier, for example, describes the influence of “the mythical Orientalism of the Ballets Russes” on 1920s Art Deco.  Asians themselves sometimes appropriate these Western “myths” and use them to their own artistic ends.  Second, scholars also use these terms and the very frequently used term Orientalist myth to describe a set of false ideologies about and stereotypes of Asians in the tradition of Edward W. Said’s, Orientalism (1978).  Where some scholars, that is, see mythic Orientalist qualities as being sources of artistic inspiration and creativity others take these same qualities to be sources of Western colonialism, imperialism, racism, and sexism.  In both cases, Orientalist myths are considered to be mystical or mysterious, sometimes involving ancient stories that are larger than life and trade in essential and universal (god-like) archetypes.  They are about beliefs in the religious sense of believing in what is felt but not seen and based on faith rather than secular values or logic.  Scholars thus consider them to be false, irrational, destructive, and powerfully manipulative ideological manifestations of what Said calls latent Orientalism. [revised 7/19]

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Latent Orientalism, Manifest Orientalism, Medieval Orientalism, Orientalist Epistemology, Orientalist Myth, Religious Orientalism, Self-Orientalism, Transorientalism.

Sources & Examples: Mythic Orientalism: Mary F. Casper, “American Dreaming and Cultural Ethnocentrism: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Mythic Discourse in the U. S. State Department’s Share Values initiative” (Ph.D. diss., North Dakota State, 2007); Rehan HyderBrimful of Asia: Negotiating Ethnicity on the UK Music Scene (Routledge, 2017); Lucia Leman, “Byron’s Manfred and the Greek Imaginary” (Ph.D. diss., Nottingham, 2013); Aména Moïnfar, “Reconciliations: Memory and Mediation in Narratives of Postcolonial Second Generations” (M.A. thesis, U. of Texas at Austin, 2010).  Mythical Orientalism: “2 Russian FIFI Awards for MANE,” 2013. At MANE on the web (, accessed 7/19; “The Conjuring Mythic Collection,” n.d. At Conjuring Design (, accessed 7/19; Nevena Daković, "Imagining Belgrade: The Cultural/cinematic Identity of a City at the Fringes of Europe." In The Cultural Identities of European Cities (Peter Lang, 2011); Nathan H. Doyle, ed., “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” v. 2 (Joseph Knight Company, 1896);  Alan M. Kriegsma, “A Spectacular Evening,” 1978. At The Washington Post (, accessed 7/19; Suzanne Lussier, Art Deco Fashion (Harry N. Abrams, 2016).  Mythological Orientalism: Odo Marquard, Farewell to Matters of Principle: Philosophical Studies (Oxford, 1989).

Mythical Orientalism. See Mythic Orientalism.

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