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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).



Xenophobic Orientalism

Scholars use this term and the term Orientalist xenophobia to describe the many different ways in which Westerners express their fear and hatred of Asians who they often imagine and construct to be a powerful, threatening force.  They are the Mongolian hordes, the Yellow Peril, the jihadis, and the armies of Islam.  These xenophobia are usually racist and at times have a sexual element: Asians are feared because their influence threatens to make the West more effeminate.  Scholars describe how these fears inform Western national policies, such as an American foreign policy that seeks to keep nuclear weapons out of Asian hands.  More generally, however, they are mediated by popular culture including, in particular, motion pictures.  While xenophobic Orientalism is not a new phenomenon historically, it has become an increasingly dominant form of Western ideological Orientalism as older Orientalisms bred in the 18th and 19th centuries, which were more ambivalent in their attitudes towards "Orientals," have waned.  And in some cases, at least, Asians have themselves acquired the habits of mind of Orientalist xenophobia, casting the United States, for example, in the role of an “evil empire” threatening Asia, especially Islamic Asia.  [6/19]

See also: Cinematic Orientalism, Hard Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Neo-Orientalism, New Orientalism, Nuclear Orientalism, Popular Orientalism, Racist Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism,


Sources & Examples: Xenophobic Orientalism: Roman Bartosch and Celestine Caruso, “The Good, the Bad and the Ubernatural: The Other(ed) Werewolf in Twilight.” In Werewolves, Wolves and the Gothic (U. of Wales, 2017); Adam B. Carmichael, “The Biopolitics of Normative Monogamy: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Polygamy Debate and Bountiful, British Columbia” (M.A. thesis, U. of British Columbia, 2010); Pamela K. Gilbert, The Citizen’s Body: Desire, Health, and the Social in Victorian England (Ohio State U., 2007); Charlie Jerrmyn, “Kraftwerk in Hong Kong,” 2018. At Karrot (, accessed 6/19.  Orientalist Xenophobia: John E. Browning & Caroline J. Picart, “Introduction.” In Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race and Culture (Scarecrow, 2009); Paul Burton, "Eugenics, Infant Exposure, and the Enemy Within: A Pessimistic Reading of Zack Snyder’s 300." International Journal of the Classical Tradition 24 (2017); Runa Das, Revisiting Nuclear India: Strategic Culture and (in)Security Imaginary (SAGE, 2015); Billy Stevenson, “Huston: Across the Pacific,” 2019. At Cinematelevisionmusic (, accessed 6/17.

Zen Orientalism

Bernard Faure (1993) was the first to use this term, which he used to describe the ways in which Japanese figures such as D. T. Suzuki (1870-1966) and Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945) introduced Zen Buddhism to the West, particularly the United States.  Faure and subsequent scholars argue that especially Suzuki’s version of Zen incorporated ideological elements of Christian missionary theological thinking as well as a nationalistic idealization of Japanese culture to create an imagined Zen that resulted in a Western-influenced, ideologically-based spirituality.  This Zen Buddhism was packaged and sold to the West as having an essential, a-historical identity that made it a commodity for Western consumption.  Zen Orientalism has, in sum, functioned as a positive Orientalism and also as a reverse Orientalism.  Historically, it is particularly identified with the beat or hippie generation of the 1960s, which was particularly taken with Zen universalism as an alternative spirituality.  This term is not widely used and most often scholars who use it cite Faure. [revised 9/19]


See also: Beat Orientalism, Consumer Orientalism, Missionary Orientalism, Nationalist Orientalism, Occult Orientalism, Positive Orientalism, Secondary Orientalism, Religious Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism, Self-Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: Thomas Dean, Metaphysics and Mystery: The Why Question East and West, v. 2 (iUniverse, 2018); Bernard Faure, Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition (Princeton, 1993); Tiffany Funk, “Zen and the Art of Software Performance
John Cage and Lejaren A. Hiller Jr.’s HPSCHD (1967-1969)” (Ph.D. diss., U. of Illinois at Chicago, 2016); Carl T. Jackson, "D. T. Suzuki, “’Suzuki Zen,’ and the American Reception of Zen Buddhism." In American Buddhism as a Way of Life (State U. of New York, 2010); Edward King, Virtual Orientalism in Brazilian Culture (Springer, 2016); Cristina Rocha, Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity (U. of Hawai’i, 2006).

Zionist Orientalism

Scholars use this term to describe the emergence of a new form of ideological Jewish Orientalism among Eastern European Jews beginning in the late 19th century that drew especially on Romantic Orientalism to articulate a vision for the return of the Jewish people to their biblical homeland. Zionist Orientalism, historically, has taken two interrelated forms: first, it is used to frame Arabs as being essentially backward, treacherous, and inferior; and second, it is also used as a type of internal Orientalism to frame non-European (“Oriental”) Jews as being backward, lazy, and also inferior. Zionist Orientalists generally have rejected traditional Judaism and envisioned an essentially new, secular, and “modern” Jewish culture. Some scholars use this term to describe the ideological Orientalist supporters of the State of Israel over against Arabs. A very few scholars use the term, Ashkenazi Zionist Orientalism, to emphasize the role of Eastern European Jews in the origin and development of Zionist Orientalism. Dimitry Shumsky uses the term, post-Zionist Orientalism, to describe a Russian-Jewish Orientalism that is a particular type of Zionist Orientalism. [revised 5/17]

See also: American Orientalism, Anti-Semitic Orientalism, Ideological Orientalism, Internal Orientalism, Jewish Orientalism, Primitive Orientalism, Racial Orientalism, Romantic Orientalism.

Sources & Examples: M. Shahid Alam, “Bernard Lewis: Scholarship or Sophistry?” Studies in Contemporary Islam 4 (2002); Adi Gordon, “The Need for West: Hans Kohn and the North Atlantic Community.” Journal of Contemporary History 46 (2011); Dafna Hirsch, “’We are Here to Bring the West, Not Only to Ourselves’: Zionist Occidentalism and the Discourse of Hygiene in Mandate Palestine.” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 41 (2009); Ariel Hirschfeld, “Locus and Language: Hebrew Culture in Israel.” In Cultures of the Jews, v. 3, Modern Encounters (Shocken Books, 2002); Irfan Khawaja, “Muslim Anti-Semitism and Zionist Orientalism: The Workings of a Vicious Cycle,” 2003. At Theology Library (, accessed 5/17; Arieh B. Saposnik, Becoming Hebrew: The Creation of a Jewish National Culture in Ottoman Palestine (Oxford, 2008); Ella Shohat, “Taboo Memories and Diasporic Visions: Columbus, Palestine, and Arab Jews.” In Genealogies of Orientalism: History, Theory, Politics (U. of Nebraska, 2008); Dimitry Shumsky, “Post-Zionist Orientalism? Orientalist Discourse and Islamophobia among the Russian-Speaking Intelligentsia in Israel.” Social Identities 10 (2004).

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