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).




David Morley and Kevin Robins (1992, 1995) coined this frequently used term, which scholars use to describe the ways in which popular literature and media in the West (as well as Asia) focus on Asian technological prowess to imagine and construct future Asian societies and cultures as (Oriental) Others.  Building on Edward W. Said’s, Orientalism (1978), Morley and Robins argue that by the 1980s the West, particularly the United States, had become increasingly anxious about the supposed threat that Japanese technological and commercial growth posed to the West’s long-standing domination of Asia.  In this context, the science fiction sub-genre, cyberpunk, became a key medium for expressing these fears of Japanese domination as numerous authors portrayed them as being unfeeling, cyborg-like purveyors of dehumanizing technologies.  Scholars have since identified two major phases in the development of techno-Orientalism.  The first focused on Japan and lasted from the 1980s to roughly the mid-1990s.  The second, current phase has shifted that focus to encompass the rise of China as a major economic power and has expanded techno-Orientalism to include other Asian nations, such as India and South Korea.  Techno-Orientalism has its roots in classical Orientalism, as described by Said, and is similar to it in that both: (a) are inherently racist and sexist; (b) are dualist and posit an (Oriental) Other that is essentially different from the (Western) Self; (c) deal in stereotypes; and (d) are a-historical in the sense that Asians do not change; what they are now is what they will be in the future.  Techno-Orientalism differs, however, in that it: (a) sees East Asian technologies and technologically-based economies as being superior to the West; (b) does not see Asians as being “exotic”—i.e. haunting, alluring, romantic, distant; (c) is primarily future-oriented; (d) is rooted in modern neoliberalism rather than traditional European colonialism; and (e) is not specifically identified with the Western academic establishment (see academic Orientalism), being expressed primarily through popular cultural mediums, especially science fiction novels and films.  In a sense, then, techno-Orientalism is classical Orientalism reimagined and reconfigured in the postmodern, cybernetic, and technological global context.  Scholars have also found that techno-Orientalism is not simply a Western phenomenon.  Asians in Japan and elsewhere have played their own role in manipulating and promoting techno-Orientalist Western stereotypes to imagine and construct themselves as essentially being superior technologically and economically; and they use these stereotypes in international marketing.  They have thus stereotyped themselves and other Asians in a process of self-Orientalism where, for example, Japanese comic books and graphic novels (manga) promote Orientalist visions of hyper-sexualized Japanese women.  Larissa Hjorth (2006) uses the term “neo-techno-Orientalism” to describe the ways in which the advertising and distribution of Japanese and Korean videogames fits this self-Orientalist profile.  Chris Goto-Jones (2015, 2016) has subsequently coined the term gamic Orientalism to explore the ways in which Japanese martial arts videogames create something of a techno-Orientalist fantasy world that imagines an almost religious martial “Asianness”.  All of these techno-Orientalisms have also provoked literary and cinematic counter-discourses among Asian, Asian American, and Western authors and film makers, which seek to subvert techno-Orientalist stereotypes, images, and world views and to reflect actual Asian realities.  Rarely, this term may be used to describe Western reactions to Asian technological domination in the past and present that are unrelated to scifi futures (Gailderecho, 2007) or in a more positive sense to mean simply an attraction to Japanese popular, technologically based culture (Tokita, 2010).  It should be noted, finally, that Wendy Ui Kyong Chun has coined the term high-tech Orientalism to describe techno-Orientalism. [revised 3/20]

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Cinematic Orientalism, Classical Orientalism, Contemporary Orientalism, Cultural Orientalism, Cybernetic Orientalism, Economic Orientalism, Electronic Orientalism, High-Tech Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Modernist Orientalism, Neoliberal Orientalism, Orientalist Fiction, Pop Orientalism, Popular Orientalism; Postmodern Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Science Fiction Orientalism, Victorientalism (Second Context), Visual Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Techno-Orientalism: John Cheng, ”Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media…” Journal of Asian American Studies 18 (2015);  Christopher T. Fan, “American Techno-Orientalism: Speculative Fiction and the Rise of China” (Ph.D. diss., U. of California, Berkeley, 2016); Gailderecho, “o/1 v. Zion: Techno-Orientalism in ‘The Matrix’,” 2007.  At gailderecho (, accessed 3/20; Chloe Gong, “Techno-Orientalism in Science Fiction,” [2019].  At Chloe Gong (, accessed 3/20; Sheng-mei Ma, East-West Montage: Reflections on Asian Bodies in Diaspora (U. of Hawai’I, 2007); Sheng-mei Ma, Sinophone-Anglophone Cultural Duet (Springer, 2017); David Morley & Kevin Robins, “Techno-Orientalism: Futures, Foreigners and Phobias.” New Formations 16 (1992); David Morley & Kevin Robins, “Techno-Orientalism: Japan Panic.” In Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries (Routledge, 1995); Chikako Nihei, “Thinking Outside the Chinese Box: David Mitchell and Murakami Haruki’s Subversion of Stereotypes about Japan.” New Voices 3 (2009); Greta A. Niu, “Techno-Orientalism, Nanotechnology, Posthumans, and Post-Posthumans in Neal Stephenson’s and Linda Nagata’s Science Fiction.” MELUS 33 (2008); David S. Roh, et. al., “Technologizing Orientalism: An Introduction.”  In Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media (Rutgers U., 2015); Stephen H. Sohn, “Introduction: Alien/Asian: Imagining the Racialized Future.” MELUS 33 (2008); Alison Tokita, “Australia-Japan Relations and Japanese Studies in the Age of Globalization.” In Globalization, Localization, and Japanese Studies in the Asia-Pacific Region, vol. 1 (International Research Center for Japanese Studies, 2010); Toshiya Ueno, “Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism,” n.d.  At Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (, accessed 3/20; Toshiya Ueno, “The Shock Projected onto the Other: Notes on Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism.”  In The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2001).  Gamic Orientalism: Chris Goto-Jones, “Playing with Being in Digital Asia: Gamic Orientalism and the Virtual Dōjō.” Asiascape 2 (2015); Chris Goto-Jones, The Virtual Ninja Manifesto: Fighting Games, Martial Arts, and Gamic Orientalism (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2016); Florian Schneider & Chris Goto-Jones, “Where is Digital Asia?
 Introduction to the Second Special Issue of Asiascape: Digital Asia.” Asiascape 2 (2015).  Neo-Techno-Orientalism: Mia Consalvo, Atari to Zelda: Japan's Videogames in Global Contexts (MIT Press, 2016); Larissa Hjorth, “FCJ-052 Playing at Being Mobile: Gaming and Cute Culture in South Korea,” 2006.  At The Fibreculture Journal (, accessed 3/20; Dal Yong Jin
 & Florence Chee, “Age of New Media Empires:
A Critical Interpretation of the Korean Online Game Industry.” Games and Culture 3 (2008).

Temporal Orientalism

Scholars use this term usually in one of two contradictory ways.  First, following Marinos Pourgouris who coined this term in 2006, some scholars use it to describe the ways in which a contemporary Other is measured against and found inferior to an imagined superior past. Modern India, for example, is imagined to have degenerated from the high civilizations of ancient India.  Second, some other scholars use this term to describe the ways in which concepts of time are an element in Orientalist constructions of what is seen as a backward, timeless (Oriental) “Other” that is inferior to the modern (Western) Self. In the first usage, the past is superior and modern-day Others, successors of the past, are inferior because they have degenerated from the past. In the second usage, the past is inferior and those unprogressive, changeless Others who are supposed to have remained mired in the past are therefore also inferior.

See also: Categorical Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Adam Barrows, “Time Without Partitions: Midnight’s Children and Temporal Orientalism.” Ariel 42 (2011); Anna Carastathis, “Is Hellenism an Orientalism? Reflections on the Boundaries of ‘Europe’ in an Age of Austerity.” Critical Race and Whiteness Studies 10 (2014); Steve Guthrie, “Time Travel, Pulp Fictions, and Changing Attitudes Toward the Middle Ages: Why You Can’t Get Renaissance on Somebody’s Ass.” In Medieval Afterlives in Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Emma Kowal, “Time, Indigeneity and White Anti-Racism in Australia.” Australian Journal of Anthropology 26 (2015).

Tertiary Orientalism

This is a very rarely used term, which is defined along with primary Orientalism and secondary Orientalism in a set of university classroom flash cards (“Religious Studies 71”), which reads, “[Primary] Orientalism: Western construction of what we think is Eastern.  Secondary Orientalism: when Asians present ‘authentic’ Asian traditions; these traditions they learned were heavily influenced by the west; Asians teaching Orientalism thinking it is authentic.  Tertiary Orientalism: when Asians assume that ethnically Asian teachers are better than non-Asian teachers about Asian traditions, even though the Asian teachers could be Secondary Orientalists.”  [7/20]

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Primary Orientalism, Secondary Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Yoo Seong Cheong, “Multicultural Discourses in Korea.” In Migration und Integration als transnationale Herausforderung: Perspektiven aus Deutschland und Korea (Springer, 2015); Irene Lin, "Journey to the Far West: Chinese Buddhism in America." Amerasia Journal 22 (1996); “Religious Studies 71: Intro to Asian American Religions,” 2012.  At Flashcard Machine (, accessed 7/20

Theatrical (Theatricalized) Orientalism

Scholars use this term usually to describe the ways in which the Western theater embodies ideological Orientalist discourses of the exotic Other in its scripts and staging of plays. Scholars of theatrical Orientalism generally pay particular attention to the aesthetics of staging and costuming, which imagine and portray the Orient as being mysterious, sensuous, exotic, antiquarian, and colorful. Infrequently, a few scholars use the term dramatic Orientalism in much the same way. [4/16]

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Exotic Orientalism, False Orientalism, Musical Orientalism, Operatic Orientalism, Puppet Orientalism, Sexual Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Todd A. Borlik, “A Season in Intercultural Limbo: Ninagawa Yukio’s Doctor Faustus, Theatre Cocoon, Tokyo.” Shakespeare Quarterly 62 (2011); Jamil Khoury, “The Trouble with Mary,” 2013. At Silk Road Rising (, accessed 4/16; Jane Moody, Illegitimate Theatre in London, 1770-1840 (Cambridge, 2000); Brian Singleton, Oscar Asche, Orientalism, and British Musical Comedy (Praeger, 2004); Edward Ziter, The Orient on the Stage (Cambridge, 2003).

Theological Orientalism

Scholars generally use this term to describe and analyze specifically Christian forms of ideological Orientalism that historically go back to medieval times and are couched in theological language. Theological Orientalists typically imagine and construct “Oriental” religions other than Islam as being essentially the same—mystical, spiritual, godless, and unchanging among other traits. Islam is usually viewed more negatively as being supposedly irrational, violent, and ungodly. Theological Orientalisms are often associated with Protestant (often British and American) missionary attitudes towards other religions. This term is not frequently used.   [1/18]

See also: Christian Orientalism, Evangelical Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Learned Orientalism, Missionary Orientalism, Protestant Orientalism, Religious Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Francis X. Clooney, "Vedânta, Theology, and Modernity: Theology's New Conversation With the World's Religions." Theological Studies 51 (1990); Denise Helly, “Isalmophobia in Canada? Women’s Rights, Modernity, Secularism,” December 2012.  At Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (, accessed 1/18; Ivan D. Kalmar, Early Orientalism: Imagined Islam and the Notion of Sublime Power (Routledge, 2012); Yelena V. Muzykina, “Facing the Challenges in Christian-Muslim Dialogue.” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies 8 (2012).

Theoretical Orientalism

Scholars use this term usually in one of two ways. First and more frequently, they use it to describe the body of ideas and principles (theory) Western Orientalists have used to imagine and construct “Orientals” as exhibiting an essential, unchanging nature usually considered to be inferior to the West. They widely cite Edward W. Said (1978) as articulating the groundbreaking description of theoretical Orientalism. In particular, scholars frequently use this term in critical discussions of Fredric Jameson’s controversial essay, “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multi-national Capitalism” (1986), which Imre Szeman (2001) notes has been widely read as being “nothing more than a patronizing, theoretical orientalism.” Szeman’s observation has been fairly widely quoted and represents a frequent use of this term.  Second and much less frequently, some scholars use this term to describe Said’s own work as itself a “theoretical Orientalism,” that is a theory concerning Orientalism. While these two uses are similar to the two ways in which scholars use the term Orientalist theory, their usage differs in that: (a) scholars use “Orientalist theory” much more frequently; (b) they use the two meanings at about the same rate when using “Orientalist theory” while in “theoretical Orientalism” the first usage predominates; and (c) scholars use the term “theoretical Orientalism” much more frequently when discussing the debate about Jameson’s essay and discussions of that essay predominate in its usage.   [revised 9/18]

See also: Hard Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Latent Orientalism, Manifest Orientalism, Orientalist Theory, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Aijaz Ahmad, “Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the ‘National Allegory’.” Social Text 17 (1987); Satoru Hashimoto, “Comparative Hermeneutics and Utopian Desire; ‘Chinese Modernity’ in Modern Chinese Aesthetics,” n.d. At CiteSeerX (, accessed 6/16; Madeline Hsu, “Unwrapping Orientalist Constraints: Restoring Homosocial Normativity to Chinese American History.” Amerasia Journal 29 (2003); Fredric Jameson, “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multi-national Capitalism.” Social Text 15 (1986); Anna Runesson, Exegesis in the Making: Postcolonialism and New Testament Studies (Brill, 2010); Edward W. Said, Orientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Imre Szeman, “Who's Afraid of National Allegory? Jameson, Literary Criticism, Globalization.” South Atlantic Quarterly 100 (2001).

Theosophical Orientalism. See Occult Orientalism.

Therapeutic Orientalism

Scholars use this very rarely used term usually to describe the ways in which an essential, exotic Eastern spirituality has been imagined as a cure for the ills of Western civilization.   [7/16]

See also: Medical Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism, Spiritual Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Ferdinand III, “Dhummytude leads to Dhimmitude,” 2011. At Western Civilisation (, accessed 7/16; Suzanne Marchand, “Nazism, ‘Orientalism,’ and Humanism.” In Nazi Germany and The Humanities: How German Academics Embraced Nazism (Oneworld, 2007).

Tourist Orientalism. See Orientalist Tourism.

Traditional Orientalism

This term is closely associated with the terms, ideological Orientalism and Saidian Orientalism, and is generally used by scholars in several closely related ways.  First, they use it to describe a Western field of scholarship dedicated to the study of the “Orient”—including its scholars, academic institutions, international conferences, libraries, associations, and other institutions and actives.  Second, they use this term to describe a Western artistic and cultural movement that included painting, architecture, and fashion design among many other things.  Third, they use this term to describe a Western way of imagining, constructing, and gaining authority and power over “Oriental” Others, particularly in the Arab Middle East and in the Far East. These Others were believed to have an essential, unchanging nature that was exotic, superstitious, culturally stagnant, threatening yet alluring, spiritual, backward, poverty-stricken but also sumptuous, politically authoritarian, lacking in originality or creativity, and supremely unlike the West. As a historical phenomenon, traditional Orientalism had its roots in late Medieval Europe, came into its own during the age of European colonialism, and ended in the 1940s. Its influence, however, continues, particularly in ideological Orientalism. When scholars use the unadorned term, “Orientalism,” they usually mean traditional Orientalism but in association with ideological orientalism and, to a lesser extent, Saidian Orientalism. Most scholars associate this term with European colonialism, Western ideological domination, and a set of accompanying, prejudices; but there are still some who see (traditional) Orientalism to be an honorable field of scholarly endeavour.

See also: Academic Orientalism, Aesthetic Orientalism, Binary Orientalism, Canadian Orientalism, Classical Orientalism, Eurocentric Orientalism, European Orientalism, Global Orientalism, Historical Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Indological Orientalism, Institutional Orientalism, Orientalism Theory, Popular Orientalism, Pre-Orientalism, Professional Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Saidianism, Sinological Orientalism, Tropicality.

Sources & Examples: Anouar Abdel-Malek, "Orientalism in Crisis." Diogenes 11 (1963); David Bukay, “Can There Be an Islamic Democracy?” Middle East Quarterly 14 (2007); Muhammad Ali Khalidi, “Orientalisms in the Interpretation of Islamic Philosophy.” Radical Philosophy 135 (2006); Biray Kolluoglu-Kirli, “From Orientalism to Area Studies.” New Centennial Review 3 (2003); Laetitia Nanquette, “French New Orientalist Narratives from the ‘Natives’: Reading More than Chahdortt Djavann in Paris.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29 (2009); Edward W. Said, Orientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Wester Wagenaar, “Wacky Japan: A New Face of Orientalism.” Asia in Focus 3 (2016).

Transcendental Orientalism

Scholars generally use this term and the term Transcendentalist Orientalism to describe a positive Orientalism widely shared by 19th century American Transcendentalists, which in the 20th century had an impact on key thinkers of the Beat Generation of the 1950s, notably Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) and Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) among others. Most scholarly work on Transcendental Orientalism, however, focuses on Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and David Henry Thoreau (1817-1862), who were most profoundly influenced by Asian thinking and most influential in communicating that thinking to a wider audience especially in the 1830s and 1840s. For them, Asian texts offered profound insights into a more natural, organic, and intuitive way of thinking that promised American thinkers the chance to break with Britain and Europe in creating a more uniquely American way of understanding reality. Their positive attitudes, as well as those of other leading Transcendentalists, toward Asian religions and thought marked a substantial change in American thinking about “the Orient”. Scholars caution, however, that there was a great deal of variety among 19th century Transcendentalists and many tended to mix attitudes of American/Western superiority with a general appreciation for Asian religious and philosophical ideas. Transcendentalists also tended to pick and choose what appealed to them from their study of Asian texts resulting in the creating of artificial renditions of Asian thought.  [1/19]

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Philosophical Orientalism, Positive Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Edmund R. Goode, “East of New England: Reorienting the Early Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell, 2010); Alan Hodder, “Asian Influences.” In The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism (Oxford, 2010); Victor G. Kiernan, America, the New Imperialism: From White Settlement to World Hegemony (Verso, 2005); Arthur Versluis, American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions (Oxford, 1993).


Adam Geczy coined this term to describe his understanding of the complex, non-dualistic, and dialogical nature of international fashion Orientalism and the Orientalist relationship of Asian fashions to the international fashion industry, particularly in the West. He believes that the ideological notion of Orientalism articulated by Edward W. Said (Saidian Orientalism) is inadequate for understanding the dynamics of Orientalism in the world of fashion and other aesthetic Orientalisms, such as in the visual arts and music. He argues that a dualistic, all-inclusive paradigm, such as Said’s, cannot account for the intricacies of the global fashion industry for two reasons.  First, clothing is unique because people physically wear it, which means that the ideological, stereotypical Orientalist gaze that is usually directed by Westerners toward “Orientals” is redirected to the Western wearer of Eastern fashion. The Western “Self” thus associates itself with the exotic, sensuous, colorful, and alluring Orient, at once embracing and challenging Western cultural stereotypes and even asserting its independence in the face of those stereotypes. Oriental fashion informs Western identity.  Second, the contemporary world of Orientalist clothing fashion is embodied in a massive international commercial enterprise that amounts to a stylistic dialogue by which the West appropriates Asian styles, interprets them, redesigns them, mixes them with other styles, and then re-interprets them, re-redesigns them, and re-mixes them again in an ongoing process that virtually cleanses Orientalist fashions of their stereotypes. The exotic East is no longer essentially and irredeemably inferior or alien; it is instead a powerful spur to the Western imagination. Geczy further observes that this process is not a one-way street. Asians (and other people in the rest of the world) participate in it by incorporating Western fashion into their own fashions and by using their own Asian fashions as signifiers of cultural identity with significant social and commercial implications, including for Asian local tourism. The process described by Geczy is one of mutual exchange, retranslation of styles, and re-envisioning of those styles set in the context of modern globalization. It is a process that has had a massive impact on Western fashion, an impact that Geczy believes began with the French fashion designer, Paul Poiret (1879-1944), in the first decades of the 20th century. Transorientalism, in sum, is a global cultural movement by which East and West carry on an intricate and mutually beneficial dance of fashion and style, one that transcends the debilitating influences of Western ideologies and stereotypes. Scholars rarely use this term other than to discuss Geczy’s views.   [revised 12/18]

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Commercial Orientalism, Cultural Orientalism, Dialectical Orientalism, Economic Orientalism, Fashion Orientalism, Franchised Orientalism, Gendered Orientalism,  Hidden Orientalism, Hybrid Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Meta-Orientalism, Musical Orientalism, Mythic Orientalism, New Orientalism (Third Usage), Oriental Look, Orientalist Gaze, Orientalist Tourism, Popular Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism, Self-Orientalism, Sexual Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Adam Geczy, “A Chamber of Whispers.” In China Through The Looking Glass (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015); Adam Geczy, Fashion and Orientalism: Dress, Textiles and Culture from the 17th to the 21st Century (Bloomsbury, 2013); Adam Geczy & Jacqueline Millner, Fashionable Art (Bloomsbury, 2015); Cody Ross, “Trans-Orientalism, Surreal Fashion and Sino-Cinema at the Met,” n.d. At the WILD (, accessed 12/18; Justine M. Taylor, “The Third Skin” (M.A. thesis, Sydney, 2013).

Transplanted Orientalism

Other than quoting a 1930 statement by Martha Graham, this term is used only very rarely by scholars. When they do use it, they use it to mean simply the transfer of influential ideological Orientalist attitudes, values, and behaviors from one nation or people to another, such as from the ancient Carthaginians to the Romans. The Graham quotation reads, “We shun the imperialism of the ballet, the sentimentality engulfing the followers of the great Isadora Duncan, the weakling exoticism of a transplanted orientalism" (p. 253).

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Charles N. Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture (Oxford, 1980); Deborah Jowitt, Time and the Dancing Image (U. of California Press, 1988); Megan Pugh, America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk (Yale, 2015).

Traveling Orientalism

This is a seldom-used term that applies Edward W. Said’s take on “traveling theory” to the idea of Orientalism. Said sees theories as constantly in motion, undergoing changes that go beyond their original applications and that impact later time periods, places, people, and situations as a result. This term suggests that the use of the notion of Orientalism by ideological Orientalists is such a theory, which means that it is malleable, adaptable, and depends on the cultural and intellectual context within which it is used.  [4/16]

See also: Ideological Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Amira Jamarkani, “Travelling Orientalism,” 2010. At Politics and Culture (, accessed 4/16; Malreddy P. Kumar, "Introduction: Orientalism(s) after 9/11." Journal of Postcolonial Writing 48 (2012); Mishka Sinha, “Orienting America: Sanskrit and Modern Scholarship in the United States, 1836–94.” In Debating Orientalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Tribal Orientalism

Scholars use this rarely used term generally in one of two ways.  First, Asoka Kumar Sen uses it in passing to describe the ideologically-based scholarly Orientalist study of a tribal people in India by Indian scholars. In this usage, tribal Orientalism is a form of internal Orientalism by which the scholars of one nation, territory, or society "orientalize" a people or group within their nation, territory, or society.  Second, a very few others have used this term also in passing and pejoratively to describe factions or parties who treat opponents with the prejudices of ideological Orientalism after the fashion of "tribal politics".   [9/16]

See also: Academic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Internal Orientalism, Local Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Huzaifa S. Ilyas, “The Attitude of Southerners to Northern Nigerian Intellectuals,” 2013. At Sarari at Work (, accessed 9/16; Asoka K. Sen, Representing Tribe: The Ho of Singhbhum Under Colonial Rule (Concept, 2011).


David Arnold first used this term in 1996, and it has since become widely accepted by other scholars who use it to describe the ways in which the West has historically constructed tropical regions as being essentially different, dangerous, disease-ridden, and snake-infested natural environments. Tropical peoples, by the same token, are imagined and constructed as being lethargic, backward, ignorant, incapable of making the best use of their natural resources, and thus best served by becoming colonies of the Western nations. As in the case of ideological Orientalism, tropicality represents one way in which Western nations imagine themselves as being civilized, industrious, wise, and capable by comparison. Scholars frequently emphasize the role that Western sciences have played in creating images of and knowledge about “the tropics”—including the complicity of those sciences in promoting colonialism. Western art has also been a medium for imagining the exotic, lush, and dangerous tropics. While Arnold distinguishes tropicality from Edward W. Said’s notion of Orientalism, most scholars see the two as being similar to one degree or another. Tropicality, however, places particular importance on physical, geographical location and on nature in its imaginative construction of the tropical Other. Scholars frequently see Romanticism as being one source of Western tropicality.

See also: Academic Orientalism, Aesthetic Orientalism, Arcticality, Binary Orientalism, Geographical Orientalism, Quasi-Orientalism, Romantic Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism, Scientific Orientalism, Traditional Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: David J. Arnold, The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze: India, Landscape, and Science, 1800-1865 (U. of Washington, 2006); Daniel Clayton & Gavin Bowd, “Geography, Tropicality and Postcolonialism: Anglophone and Francophone Readings of the Work of Pierre Gourou.” L’Espace géographique 35 (2006); J. Michael Dash, The Other America: Caribbean Literature in a New World (U. Press of Virginia, 1998); Erica N. Morawski, “Modernism on Vacation: The Politics of Hotel Furniture in the Spanish Caribbean.” In The Politics of Furniture: Diplomacy and Persuasion in Post-War Interiors (Routledge, 2017); Christine Rosenfeld, “Tropicality & the ‘Other’: Origin  & Evolution of US-constructed Cuban Place-identities” (M.Sc. thesis, Pennsylvania State U., 2012); Heidi V. Scott, “Paradise in the New World: An Iberian Vision of Tropicality.” Cultural Geographies 17 (2010).