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).



Unintentional Orientalism. See Accidental Orientalism.

Unofficial Orientalism. See Official Orientalism.

Unself-Critical Orientalism. See Critical Orientalism.

Urban Orientalism

Scholars generally use this term (including in the form of "Orientalist urban") to describe the ways in which Western Orientalist academics, government officials and agencies, urban planners, and others beginning in the 19th century have called upon ideological Orientalist stereotypes to imagine and then manage cities in Asia and elsewhere (e.g. Latin America, the Balkans, and the United States) to be chaotic, irrational and, therefore, in need of reform.  These cities, including urban enclaves that are usually slums inhabited by racial or ethnic minorities including migrants, are thus stereotyped as being essentially different from and at odds with their majority cultures to the point that they are a danger to social cohesion and peace.  Indian cities, for example, are supposed to be noisy, polluted, dirty, congested, haphazard, disjointed, rural-like, and ill-conceived (see Angotti, 2012b)—which deficiencies must be corrected by an intrusive reshaping (i.e. “rationalization”) of the city.   Students of this notion argue that, in fact, it is urban Orientalists themselves who disrupt the social and cultural cohesion of cities, usually with tragic consequences for their poorer, working class, and minority residents.  These cities or urban enclaves are, in sum, imagined to be the Other and treated in much the same way that colonial powers have ruled their colonies so that, in a sense, urban Orientalism is similar to colonial Orientalism.  Scholars also associate these views with neoliberal Orientalism, which also draws on an older colonialist mentality and worldview.  These attitudes, it should be noted, often persist in national urban planning policies even after the colonizers have departed.  At the same time, there is a strain of urban Orientalism that superficially values “old-fashioned,” traditional urban settings and seeks to preserve them for nostalgic reasons and for tourism, while isolating them from their larger “modern” urban societies and cultures.  This term is neither rare nor all that frequently used.  [revised 12/20]

See also: Colonial Orientalism, Cultural Orientalism, Geographical Orientalism, Governmental Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Inner City Orientalism, Neoliberal Orientalism, Racial Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Shatha Abu-Khafajah, et. al., “Urban Heritage ‘Space’ under Neoliberal Development: A Tale of a Jordanian Plaza.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 21 (2015); Paul Amar, States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism (Duke U., 2013); Tom Angotti, The New Century of the Metropolis: Urban Enclaves and Orientalism (Routledge, 2012a); Tom Angotti, “Urban Latin America: Violence, Enclaves, and Struggles for Land.” Latin American Perspectives 40 (2013); Tom Angotti, “The Urban-Rural Divide and Food Sovereignty in India in Journal of Developing Societies.” Journal of Developing Societies 28, (2012b); Jens Hanssen, “Municipal Jerusalem in the Age of Urban Democracy: On the Difference between What Happened and What Is Said to Have Happened.” In Ordinary Jerusalem 1840–1940:Opening New Archives, Revisiting a Global City (Brill, 2018); Delaney Tax, "Urban Contacts: Orientalist Urban Planning and Le Corbusier in French Colonial Algiers," 2019. At USD (, accessed 12/20; Bryan S. Turner, Marx and the End of Orientalism (Routledge, 2014); Timothy Yu
, “Oriental Cities, Postmodern Futures: Naked Lunch, Blade Runner, and Neuromancer." MELUS 33(2008); Sanja Zlatanović, “The Literary Opus of Bora Stanković and the Construction of a Local Identity.” Ethnologia Balkanica 12 (2008).

Usual OrientalismSee Conventional Orientalism


Utilitarian Orientalism

Scholars use this term and the term Orientalist Utilitarian(ism) specifically to describe the impact of the 18th century British philosophical and political movement, Utilitarianism, on British attitudes towards and policies in colonial India.  James Mill (1773-1836), a follower of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and author of the highly influential work, The History of British India (1817), was a key Utilitarian Orientalist figure who published his book in order to promote certain colonial policies in India.  The Utilitarians generally imagined and constructed India as having an essential, unchanging nature that was backward and uncivilized, passive, stagnant, ignorant, poverty-stricken, despotic, and in desperate need of British-led social and cultural reform.  They held that “the greatest good” for the majority of Indians meant conforming them to Western democratic ways.  Utilitarians, such as Mill, opposed a faction in India and Britain (called the "Orientalists" because they advocated a more open policy towards India), which wanted to promote change in India through indigenous means, including native-language education.  “Utilitarian Orientalism,” thus, came to mean all of the ways and means European colonial governments and other agencies used to Europeanize Asians “for their own good.”  One key element in this strategy was the scholarly production of knowledge, such as Mill’s history, aimed at promoting their utilitarian program.  As is usual with this type of Orientalism, Utilitarian beliefs about India had very little, if anything, to do with the realities of India itself.  Scholars do occasionally use these terms, especially “Utilitarian Orientalism,” in other contexts usually in ways that suggest the use of Western ideas, policies, power, and influence to promote changes in Asian societies and cultures—changes that would be, supposedly, useful to the people.  [revised 7/19]

See also: Academic Orientalism, Colonial Orientalism, Constructive Orientalism, Early Orientalism, Liberal Orientalism, Orientalist Projection, Philosophical Orientalism, Practical Orientalism (19th Century).

Sources & Examples: Sudeshna Banerjee, “Reading ‘the Poverty of India’: A Critical Engagement with the Saidian Interpretation of Orientalism.” In Reorienting Orientalism (SAGE, 2006); Jamie Bodine, “Institutionalizing Colonial Identity: A Case Study On The Indian Partition (M.A. thesis, City University of New York, 2015); Rachel Dwyer, Key Concepts in Modern Indian Studies (New York U., 2015); Suzanne Marchand, “German Orientalism and the Decline of the West.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 145 (2001); Douglas T. McGetchin, Indology, Indomania, and Orientalism: Ancient India's Rebirth in Modern Germany (Fairleigh Dickinson U., 2009); Colette Zytnicki, “The ‘Oriental Jews’ of the Maghreb: Reinventing the North African Jewish Past in the Colonial Era.” In Colonialism and the Jews (Indiana U., 2017).