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 there are two facets to Weber’s Orientalism.  On the one hand, he was an Orientalist, who tended to treat Asian societies and religions as if they have essential identities, seeing them as homogenous, static, and passive.  On the other hand, some scholars have assumed that some of his views, such as the relationship of capitalism to Western society, must be 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

Scholars generally use this term to describe the application of ideological Orientalism by members of a dominant Caucasian society to imagine and define members of other races as being essentially inferior. Thereby, the “Occident” is understood to be white and superior and the “Orient” as black or brown and inferior. This term is often used in juxtaposition with black Orientalism.

See also: Black Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Racial 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: e-journal 8 (2009).


World-Systematic Orientalism. See Systemic Orientalism.

Women's Orientalism

Scholars use this term usually in one of two ways.  First, they most often use it to describe the ways in which 18th and 19th century European women Orientalists (writers, artists, travelers, and residents in Asia) both differed from and were similar to their male Orientalist counterparts in the ways they imagined and constructed the Oriental “Other”. While women Orientalists sometimes did differ especially in treating such things as the harem less ideologically by seeing beyond the exoticness of “Oriental” women, they also frequently exhibited some, most, or even all of the values and attitudes associated with ideological Orientalism.  Second, scholars less frequently use this term to describe the ideological Orientalisms of women more generally (not just those of 18th and 19th century women)—again, finding that women Orientalists both differed from and are similar to male Orientalists.

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

Sources & Examples: Reina Lewis, Gendering 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); Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era (Cornell, 2013); Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, “Rethinking Global Sisterhood: Peace Activism and Women’s Orientalism.” In No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism (Rutgers, 2010).