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).



Wacky Orientalism

Wester Wagenaar (2016) coined this otherwise extremely rarely used term to describe the ways in which Western media and popular culture imagine modern-day Japan as being “wacky,” that is strange, abnormal, weird, and odd in a variety of ways. “They,” for example, are supposedly dominated by technology, are attracted to robots, and engage in outlandish expressions of sexuality, which can be seen in their popular entertainment.  Wacky Orientalists, at times, see the Japanese as being not merely weird, but also as posing a danger to the West especially because of their putative technological prowess.  The West, by way of contrast, is understood to be normal.  Wagenaar argues that “wacky Orientalism” has an economic side to it as well.  It, among other things, attracts tourists. [revised 9/19]

See also: Economic Orientalism, Exotic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Orientalist Tourism, Popular Orientalism, Psychological Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Christopher Hayes, “Utopia or Uprising? Conflicting Discourses of Japanese Robotics in the British Press.” Mutual Images 6 (2019); Wester Wagenaar, “Wacky Japan: A New Face of Orientalism.” Asia in Focus 3 (2016).

Weberian Orientalism

Scholars use this term to describe the relationship of the German sociologist and economist, Max Weber (1864-1920) to the notion of Orientalism.  Although he did not use this term himself, Edward W. Said (1978), set the tone for its use by suggesting that Weber was an ideological Orientalist, if somewhat inadvertently so.  Syed Alatas (2002, 2017) argues that Weber’s relation to Orientalism may be understood in one of two contradictory ways: on the one hand, Weber can been seen as having been an Orientalist because he tended to treat Asian societies and religions as if they have essential identities, seeing them as homogenous, static, and passive.  On the other hand, it can be argued that later scholars have misrepresented his views, such as the relationship of capitalism to Western society, as being Orientalist when, in fact, they were not.  Although Engin F. Isin (2002, 2005) does not use this term, he does refer to “an orientalist Weber” who saw an essential (ontological) difference between East and West and tended to treat both as unified, homogenous entities.  Since Said, this term has been used only infrequently.  [revised 9/19]

See also: Academic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, New Orientalism, Ontological Orientalism, Philosophical Orientalism, Sociological Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Syed F. Alatas, “Max Weber (1864-1920).” In Sociological Theory Beyond the Canon (Springer, 2017); Syed F. Alatas, “Religion, Values, and Capitalism in Asia.” In Local Cultures and the “New Asia”: The State, Culture, and Capitalism in Southeast Asia (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2002); Nursel Arslan, “The Bifurcation of Political Islam in Turkey: The Case of the People’s Voice Party” (M.S. thesis, Middle East Technical U., 2012); Engin F. Isin, “Citizenship and Orientalism.” In Handbook of Citizenship Studies (SAGE, 2002); Edward W. SaidOrientalism (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Gerasimos Tsourapas, “Can the Islamist Moderate? The ‘Moderation Theory’ in Critical Context.” In Transformation of Muslim World in the 21st Century (International Ilem Summer School Proceedings, 2013).

Welfare Orientalism

Scholars use this term, associated with Gordon White and Roger Goodman, usually to describe comparisons made by Asian scholars, political leaders, and other social commentators between Western and East Asian social welfare systems, which comparisons support the argument that Asian systems and their underlying cultural values are inherently superior. These Asian Orientalists thus justify limiting government’s role in social welfare and ignoring concerns for social rights as being Western issues that are irrelevant to their own setting.

See also: Positive Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism, Social Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Shogo Takegawa, “Japan’s Welfare-State Regime: Welfare Politics, Provider and Regulator.” Development and Society 34 (2005); Gordon White & Roger Goodman, “Welfare Orientalism and the Search for an East Asian Welfare Model.” In The East Asian Welfare Model: Welfare Orientalism and the State (Routledge, 1998); Yumei Zhang, Pacific Asia: The Politics of Development (Routledge, 2003).

White Orientalism

A few scholars use this term to describe the fundamentally racist nature of the notion of Orientalism by which culturally white societies—such as Australia, Canada, and the United States—impose their cultural standards and values on peoples of other races, usually but not necessarily Asians.  Prakash (2013), for example, describes Black Americans as living under the domination of white Orientalism.   White Orientalism is thus understood to be an oppressive form of racist Orientalism that is a continuation of classical Orientalisms by which the racially white Self imagines and constructs non-white Others as being essentially and irredeemably inferior to and the antithesis of whites themselves.  This term is not frequently used, and Elaine Laforteza (2006) also uses the term, “Orientalist whiteness”.  [revised 11/20]

See also: American Orientalism, Australian Orientalism, Black Orientalism, Canadian Orientalism, Classical Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Racial Orientalism, Racist Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Helen H. Jun, “Black Orientalism: Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Race and U.S. Citizenship.” American Quarterly 58 (2006); Elaine Laforteza, “Speaking Into Safety: Orientalism in the Classroom.” Borderlands 8 (2009); Elaine Laforteza, "What a Drag! Filipina/White Australian Relations in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.” ACRAWSA 2 (2006); Elaine Laforteza, "White Geo-politics of Neo-colonial Benevolence: The Australia-Phillippine ‘Partnership.’" ACRAWSA 3 (2007); M. Prakash, “Orientalism and the Self-effacement of Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison‟s The Bluest EyeAsian Review of Social Sciences 4 (2013);  Yongkun Wan, "On Chinese Cultural Symbols in The Joy Luck Club."  In 8th International Conference on Social Network, Communication and Education (SNCE 2018) (Atlantis Press, 2018); Elke Winter, “Descent, Territory and Common Values: Redefining Citizenship in Canada.” In Naturalization Policies, Education and Citizenship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).


World-Systematic Orientalism. See Systemic Orientalism.

Women's Orientalism

Scholars use this term to describe the ways in which Western women writers, travelers, artists, and others have historically imagined and constructed “the Orient,” particularly in the era of classical Orientalism, which reached its apex in the 19th century.  They argue that the study of women’s Orientalism offers an alternative, more nuanced understanding of ideological Orientalism than is usually found in Orientalism studies, which feminist scholars argue tends to be more male-oriented.  Reina Lewis’s book, Gendering Orientalism (1996), is widely regarded as the groundbreaking study in the field.  She argues that women Orientalists differed from their male counter-parts in that they were often more pragmatic and less racist in their representations of “Oriental” women.  They sometimes challenged Western myths about the Orient and saw Asian women’s lives as being more like European ones than male writers and others allowed.  Scholars generally acknowledge, however, that women Orientalists imagine and construct Orientals as having an essential identity, assume the superiority of Western civilization, and often treat Asian men with the usual Orientalist stereotypes.  They also understand that some Orientalist women writers and artists are as fully racist and sexist in their Orientalism as are male Orientalists.  Still, the study of women’s Orientalism challenges the highly pejorative approach of Saidian Orientalism, offering a more grounded and realistic picture of how the West viewed the East.  This term, though not rare, is not as frequently used as might be expected. [revised, 11/20]

See also: Aesthetic Orientalism, American Orientalism, Exotic Orientalism, Fashion Orientalism, Feminist Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Material Orientalism, Positive Orientalism, Romantic Orientalism, Saidian Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Jill Beaulieu & Mary Roberts, “Orientalism’s Interlocutors.” In Orientalism’s Interlocutors: Painting, Architecture, Photography (Duke U., 2002); Reina LewisGendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (Routledge, 1996); Joanna Liddle & Shirin Rai, “Feminism, Imperialism and Orientalism: the Challenge of the ‘Indian Woman’.” Women’s History Review 7 (1998); Mary Roberts, Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature (Duke, 2007); Hsu-Ming Teo, “American Popular Culture through the Lens of Saidian and Post-Saidian Orientalist Critiques.” Critical Race and Whiteness Studies 10, (2014); Judy Tzu-Chun WuRadicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era (Cornell, 2013).