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The Challenge of Orientalism


Lata Mani & Ruth frankenberg
a a a

History of Consciousness Program , University of California at Santa Cruz Published online: 28 Jul 2006.

To cite this article: Lata Mani & Ruth frankenberg (1985) The Challenge of Orientalism, Economy and Society, 14:2, 174-192, DOI: 10.1080/03085148500000009 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03085148500000009

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The Challenge of Orientalism*


Lata Mani & Ruth Frankenberg

Abstract
This paper offers a reading of Said's Orientalism and a critical 'review of reviews' of the book. Our analysis is informed by our definition of Orientalism as a discourse whose key aspects are historical specificity, knowledge and power. We argue that a number of reviews of the text are marked by a severing of these three components. Said's text and its reviews are examined thematically. Our concerns include the separation of general questions of representation from the particular case of Orientalism, the questionable status of a 'real' Orient in Said's project and the problem of the 'universally dichotomising mind'.

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. . . living through the convulsions of the present era - a watershed in human history - forces one to examine critically one's own position and commitment. If from a re-examination and re-assessment of Orientalism we emerge with a craft answering to, and compatible with, the times our introspection will not have been in vain (Caldwell, 1977, p. 38).'
Definitions and critical issues Edward Said's Orientalism (1979) is a provocative study of Western discourses on the Orient and especially Islamic West Asia as it has developed over the last two centuries. In this paper we explore some of the political and methodological challenges of Orientalism based on a particular reading of the book. Our discussion is informed by what we see as key aspects of a definition of Orientalism, emphasizing historical specificity, knowIedge and power. We present a thematic discussion of select reviews, noting problems both in Said's text and in the way it has been taken up, and signalling issues that require further exploration. Said defines Orientalism in three interdependent ways: as an academic label that includes all teaching about the Orient, either in its specific or general aspects; as "a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made
Economy and Society Volume 14 Number 2 May 1985 O RKP 1985 0308-514718511402-0000 $1.50

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between 'the Orient' and (most of the time) 'the Occident' " (p. 2); and finally as "a corporate institution for dealing with the Orient" (p. 3). In this final component of his threefold definition, Orientalism emerges as "something more historically and materially defined than either of the other two" (p. 3). In other words it points to the relationship between Orientalism and colonial expansion, particularly from the eighteenth century onwards, an alliance of knowledge and power that is a central theme of the book. Said's book has provoked controversy and critical selfquestioning among Orientalist scholars. Some, such as Bernard Lewis (1982), have sought t o justify Orientalism in its present shape, argued for the possibility of 'pure' scholarship that is above politics and denounced Said's book as coarse polemics. Others, like Indian historian Ronald Inden (1985), have taken the critique to heart, engaging in thoroughgoing re-evaluation of their own earlier work. The methodological challenges of Orientalism transcend the limits of Orientalist studies as they have been traditionally defined. Art historian Linda Nochlin (1983), for example, draws on Said's work to deconstruct the Orientalist paintings of Delacroix, GerBme and other nineteenth century French painters, locating their representations of the Orient within contemporary European traditions of realism and the picturesque. James Clifford (1980) in his review of Orientalism points to the challenges it poses for anthropology. Said is explicit that the book is intended for several audiences, among them contemporary students of the Orient, policy makers, citizens of the Third World and students of literature (pp. 24-5). It is perhaps not surprising, then, that reviewers of the book focus on different issues raised by Orientalism. However we argue that often in the review process the three interconnected issues of historical specificity, knowledge and power become separated, thereby weakening what we see as the central force of Said's argument. For example if, as Said has argued, Orientalism developed within the context of imperialism, one wonders whether it is possible to develop a counter-discourse that does not address the relations of imperialism. These relations are evident both in the power differential between the first world scholar/intellectual and the third world object of study and in the archive of what is known and/or imagined about the Orient and its Orientals. Engaging with this archive thus seems critical to destabilizing Orientalist discourse. In this context we ask whether Orientalism can be pronounced dead by an intellectual decision. Can we agree with Edmund Burke's claim that, "To recognise a species of discourse is already to be vaccinated

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against it" (1980, p. 88)? These questions will be explored in the context of reviews of Orientalism. In some ways, the ambiguities in Said's text also make possible multiple readings. Although he begins with a definition of Orientalism that signals that his project is to examine the historical and contemporary shape of Western discourse on the Orient, his text is replete with questions of a more general nature: "Can one divide human reality, as indeed human reality seems to be genuinely divided, into clearly different cultures, histories, traditions, societies, even races; and survive the consequences humanly?" (p. 45); "Is the notion of a distinct culture (or race, or religion, or civilization) a useful one, or does it always get involved either in self-congratulation (when one discusses one's own) or hostility and aggression (when one discusses the 'other')?" (p. 325); "How does one represent other cultures?" (p. 325); ". . . the real issue is whether indeed there can be a true representation of anything . . ." (p. 272). Said never clarifies the relationship between these general questions of representation and the more historically specific ones about the production of an Orientalist discourse. This is a shortcoming which we feel is replicated rather than criticized by reviewers. We will argue that to pose these 'larger' questions of cross-cultural representation outside a historical context often has the effect of converting political questions into textual ones. Equally confusing, Said fails to adequately qualify that he is not here constructing a general theory of Orientalism but a theory of Orientalism as it developed in relation to West Asia. One example will serve to make clear the specificity of his enquiry. First, it would appear from Said's investigation that the production and elaboration of Orientalism was entirely a European enterprise and that Orientals or natives were involved only as objects of scrutiny. However, a study of Orientalism as it developed in relation to India exemplifies the critical role played by natives, notably brahmin pundits and later the urban elite, in the production of such discourse. For instance, in 1772, brahmin pundits were intimately involved in compiling a digest of Hindu laws to enable Warren Hastings to implement the codification of scriptural law. Hastings was the East India Company's first Governor General in India. Appointed t o his post on the rise of the East India Company as a revenue collecting territorial power, Hastings established the principle of 'non-interference' in indigenous social and religious matters. Thus scriptural law was enforced in civil matters: marriage, divorce, inheritance, succession, etcetera. Hastings also decreed that Hindus would be governed by Hindu law and Muslims by Islamic law. Unlike Islamic law, Hindu

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law had never been codified. Hastings invited ten pundits to Calcutta and under his instructions a code was produced for enforcement in court. The nature of such interactions between colonialists and natives, particularly colonial reinterpretations of native statements and assertions, attests to the role, albeit subordinate, of natives in the development of Orientalism. In addition to locating the geographical specificity of Said's text, this example also points to the complex and interactive processes through which Orientalist discourse was produced. Said may be criticized for his failure to grasp this essentially dialogical process, so that Orientalism in his text emerges as a monolithic, undifferentiated and uncontested Western imposition. Wilson (1981) comments on Said's lack of attention to indigenous resistance (p. 64). Part of the problem may be that Said does not here focus on the discursive practices of such institutions as the judiciary, police, administration, contexts in which it is possible to reconstruct a more nuanced sense of the processes of knowledge-production as well as to specify the differentiated relation of such discourses (legal, criminal and so on) to the project of ruling. For all these reasons, we believe that the book is most fruitfully regarded as a focussed study of Orientalism in West Asia set in context of an Orientalism that is geographically and culturally much broader in scope. Needless t o say, this is not to claim that Orientalism as a systematic discourse applies only or even primarily to West Asia. It is to assert that Said has produced a very suggestive outline of Orientalism generally and that his work calls for further studies of its specific geographical and political manifestations. Indeed, Richard H. Minear (1980) and Michael Dalby (1980) both begin to explore an 'Orientalism of Japan' in the context of reviewing Said. Our reading of Said defines Orientalism as an authoritative body of knowledge about Asia and parts of Africa that emerges alongside colonial expansion in these regions in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Put another way, Orientalism is implicitly and from the beginning a discourse of power that characterised a particular set of social, economic and political relations between Europe and its colonies. Said's focus is on Europe's relations with West Asia in general and with Islamic West Asia in particular. This definition of Orientalism emphasizes three interconnected features: historical specificity, knowledge and power. By historical specificity we mean the alliance between Orientalism and imperialism in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century. This complicity between Orientalism and imperialism has made

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the former particularly powerful. On the one hand Orientalism has informed and shaped the colonial enterprise. On the other hand, this attachment to institutional power has enabled its remarkable, continued and widespread persistence. This definition also stresses the status of Orientalism as a body of knowledge that claims to be superior to any knowledge that the Orientals might produce about themselves. In emphasizing the link between Orientalism and imperialism, we do not wish to posit a totalising notion of power. We agree with the general principle that power in some form attaches to all discourse. As the example of the codification of scriptural law suggests, colonial authority depended upon the discourse of the colonised. Nevertheless we would argue that there is something distinctive, at least quantitatively, in a concentration of colonial power backed by political, economic and coercive systems. In a sense we give primacy to the aspect of Said's definition which sees Orientalism as a corporate institution for teaching, settling and ruling the Orient, regarding its academic teaching as a practice, and the ontological distinction between 'West' and 'East' as one of its central tactics2 This definition of Orientalism as an historically specific discourse of knowledge and power also distinguishes it from earlier representations of the Orient, for example those of the Greeks. As Said illustrates, these share some characteristics of Orientalist description. However, perhaps asserting a sharper conceptual break than does Said himself, we would argue that although they may be the cultural preconditions for the Orientalism that developed later, Greek representations must be seen as distinct from a full-blown Orientalism, because they lack the attachment to imperialism. This connection to imperialism transforms the nature and quality of the 'othering' that might have preceded it, reifying the differences even as the proliferation of Orientalist discourses generates EastIWest distinctions in increasingly complex and elaborate studies of castes, tribes, races, ethnic groups, customs and so on. We suggest that the sheer scale of the modern colonial enterprise radically alters the meaning and thus the consequences of cultural difference from the significance previously accorded to it, whether by individuals or empires. As far as we know such systematic and strategic deployment of cultural difference is unprecedented. To our knowledge there have been at least 60 reviews of Said's Orientalism in Britain and the U.S.A., the majority published in 1979-80.3 We have not surveyed the whole field in this paper. Our particular foci have been, firstly, journals of Middle Eastern and Asian studies, and of history, especially Orientalist history, given that these authors are the specialists

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to whom Said's book is addressed. Secondly, we have looked at some reviews by anthropologists and theorists of representation, two groups for whom Orientalism is especially pertinent. A 'review of reviews' seems to us useful as a means of signalling how Orientalism has been taken up within the 'academy' since Said's is a self-conscious intellectual/political intervention into institutions of research and higher education, seen as key sites of the production of knowledge. If reviews are an adequate indicator, it seems to us that academics' responses have been marked by specific kinds of selectivity and limitation. The cluster of issues and concerns in the reviews is surprisingly small despite the disciplinary and political spectrum of the reviewers and the range of their responses from appreciation to extreme distaste. Our analysis of reviews is thematic. As such we do not claim to have done full justice to all the issues raised by each reviewer. Instead we have delineated themes privileged by these reviews, explored their treatment and commented on absences we regard as significant. A number of issues recur. They are sometimes raised in a spirit of questioning the validity of Said's project (Butterworth, 1980; Duncanson, 1980; Irwin, 1981; Lewis, 1982). At other times they appear in the context of a misunderstanding or rejection of Said's method, in particular his identification of a discourse (Jalal al-'Azm, 1981 ; Kerr, 1980; Kopf, 1980 ; Musallam, 1979; for contrast, Asad, 1980; Clifford, 1980; Gran, 1980). Yet others much more sympathetic t o Said's enterprise take up his methodological challenge, although in a way that lacks political/historical specificity (Clifford, 1980; Kapp, 1980; Minear, 1980). Among these recurrent themes are: a preoccupation with whether all cultures construct reductive and/or hostile stereotypes of one another (Butterworth, 1980; Clifford, 1980; Creene, 1979; Irwin, 1981; Jalal al-'Azm, 1981; Musallam, 1979), the text's narrowness or absences such as its lack of attention to German scholarship (Clifford, 1980; Irwin, 1981 ; Kerr, 1980, among others); the question of the 'real Orient' (Clifford, 1980; Greene, 1979; Irwin, 1981; Jalal al-'Azm, 1981; Kerr, 1979; Kiernan, 1979 ; Musallam, 1979); and the implication that colonisation was, after all, beneficial for colonised peoples (Kiernan, 1979; Plumb, 1979). Also common, we would argue, is that many reviews assess Said's arguments on the production of knowledge about the Orient separately from the issue of power over it (Irwin, 1979; Jalal al-'Azm, 1981; Joseph, 1980; Lewis, 1982; Meyers, 1980; for contrast, Asad, 1980; Wilson, 1981). And a striking absence, from our point of view, is that despite many reviewers' preoccupation with the implications of the

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tendency of all cultures to create selflother dichotomies, no reviewer questions the basis of Said's claim that this is indeed the case. (The exception here is Gran [1980], who notes LeviStrauss' authority on this as possibly dubious, but goes no further.) All of these themes are united, we suggest, by a severing in various ways of what we see as the triple characteristics of Orientalist discourse - historical specificity, knowledge and power.
Power/knowledge severed from historical specificity: the question of cultural representation.

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Several reviewers take Orientalism as a starting point to raise issues about representation in general. For example, Clifford (1980) considers such issues critical for the production of all representational discourses, whether anthropology, travel writing or history. Of all those reviews which turn to these general questions, Clifford's is the most thorough and we will return to it below. However, others have been more dismissive. Kapp, for example, is at pains to emphasise that these 'production-of-knowledge' questions

. . . are (or ought t o be) central to the self conception of scholars who are professionally socialized in and work in one culture but who devote themselves to the study of another . . . (1980, p. 481).
Yet, all too quickly, Kapp compromises his own moral imperative:

. . . in the final analysis even an ardent proponent of Said's critical approach would do well to decide where it must all end. How far can one go in pursuit of the ineffable relationships of object and word, historical document and the reality of the past? . . . One can, perhaps, only go on protesting against the tyranny of the document or of language itself for so long; then one either has to reach some sort of agreement with oneself and get on with the scholarly work at hand (and, inseparably, with the professionally ordained life to be lived), or else one must face up to the fact of ultimate inexpressibility and depart from the scene of the struggle - into silence or into some other walk of life (pp. 483-4).
As we will argue, it is precisely this kind of hasty transformation of Said's critique of knowledge and power into a much more general one of a "tyranny of the document" which makes it appear impossible adequately to meet Said's implicit challenge.

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Clifford's review is a complex one. In it Said's Orientalism is taken seriously and sympathetically, contextualised as an historically specific text, "a part of the general 'writing back' against the West" (p. 205). Importantly, Clifford stresses the "inseparably political and epistemological" character of the issues raised by Said (p. 208). Yet ultimately Clifford fails to anchor his discussion of general political-epistemological issues in the historical context which produced and maintains Orientalism. It is here that one set of themes from Orientalism is privileged over others. For example, Clifford points to an area of ambivalence in Said's text: at times, Said appears to rely on the existence of a 'real' Orient beyond or within the 'distorted' Western product. At other times, notes Clifford, Said is almost tautological in his efforts to avoid invoking a 'more valid' account of the Orient (p. 209). As will be discussed later, we agree that the status of the 'real' Orient is cause for confusion and complaint in Said's text. However, it is noteworthy here that Clifford seeks explanation for Said's difficulty in terms of a general inadequacy of tools of representation, arguing that beyond Said's ambivalence
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. . . lies a substantial, and disquieting, set of issues about the nature of cross-cultural discourses generally. At issue are the ways in which distinct groups of humanity (however defined) imagine, describe and comprehend each other (p. 209).
Again, says Clifford,

. . . the key theoretical issue raised by Orientalism concerns the status of all forms of thought and representation for dealing with the alien. Can one ultimately escape procedures of dichotomizing, restructuring and textualizing in the making of interpretive statements about foreign cultures and traditions? If so, how? (pp. 209-10).
For Clifford, these questions, together' with that of whether it is at all useful to distinguish between cultures, "need to be posed and allowed to stand in sharp relief" (pp. 221-2). In the way in which such questions are posed here there is a degree of slippage between the specific case of Orientalism and the general issue of representation. This is partly accounted for by the somewhat uneasy co-existence, noted earlier, of the two sets of issues in Said's book. There, discussion of the relationship between knowledge of and power over the Orient is punctuated by paragraphs raising the more general question of the meaning and results of cultural divisions. Said does not integrate the two themes and refuses to offer new descriptive strategies. However,

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Said spends much more time on the specific case than on the general issues, begging the question of why problems of representational strategy are not explored in a more historically engaged way, either by him or by his reviewers. All this is not to say that the 'representation' questions emphasized by Clifford are unimportant. They are indeed critical aspects of a translation of Orientalism into anthropology and other disciplines whose project is the representation of people or cultures. Clifford's conclusions are cogent and pertinent ones: he argues that all dichotomizing concepts should be held in suspicion; that Said's concern is with what is 'becoming', more than with the past. He asserts the essentially political nature of any intellectual decisions about how t o describe and represent cultures. We also agree with Clifford that there is an urgent need for further work towards new methods of cultural description. However, we would add that direction for such work might be found through understanding the power relations and cultural imperatives that produced existing descriptions. One might ask what, in existing descriptions, is specific to extreme power differentials or to Western cultural constructions, and what is indeed general to all forms of knowledge about 'Others' by 'Selves'. In the absence of such specificity it is all too easy for the problems to appear practically insoluble - a case of 'conceptualisation and its discontents'. At this point, it is worth looking briefly at Malcolm Caldwell's address to the British Association of Orientalists, for it is at least one attempt to pose questions of representation in an historically specific way. Caldwell in fact begins his lecture with allusion to the more general questions of representation of one cultural group by a member of another: Since, as non-Asian students of the Orient, our intellectual baggage is already well-stocked with Occidental cultural legacies, we can never - however assiduously we devote ourselves to Orientalism - become specialists in the most odious sense of the term (for the major part of the mind of each of us has already been formed and informed by quite a contrary heritage) . . (1977, p. 30).

He notes the inability of Orientalism as a discipline to get beyond "Europocentricity" and its tendency to perceive social phenomena with clear Western counterparts as specifically Eastern (p. 31). However, the bulk of Caldwell's paper is concerned with what he calls a "sinister Orientalism" of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Throughout this period, says Caldwell, the link between knowledge and the project of domination has been

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quite clearcut. Caldwell traces this allegiance through the Dutch conquest of the Philippines, 'British' Malaya, 'French' Indo-China and U.S. interventions in Thailand, Korea and Vietnam. Caldwell's lecture is not, of course, directly concerned with Orientalism, so a more detailed treatment would be out of place here. It is worth noting, though, that the general 'How can we know . . .?'question about representation, raised by Said and echoed by some of his reviewers was, for Caldwell, quickly transformed into a set of more politically engaged ones. In effect, Caldwell asks, "What can we know?", "Who will fund research and how will they use it in the project of conquest?", "Will they be successful/will the knowledge be sufficiently accurate as military intelligence?", "Which scholars have sought to subvert this process and how successful have they been?" (pp. 3 1-3). Discursive unity called into question. A number of recurrent criticisms of Om'entalism point to real ambiguities in the text. However, contrary to reviewers' conclusions, such ambiguities do not invalidate the unity of the discourse as such. Here, we address some of these 'piecemeal' criticisms. Several reviewers point to the absence of any attention to German scholarship in Said's text. Others, including Kerr (1980), go further, arguing that key figures in British and American Oriental scholarship are given scant attention also. For Irwin (1981), Orientalism is "fatally damaged" by Said's neglect of the German heritage. As Said himself notes, his inability t o include the German Orientalists in his study is a serious omission. And as noted by us, the history of Orientalism as portrayed by Said is centred firmly on West Asia. It is important therefore not to minimise the limitations of Said's book. However to point to its absences should not be sufficient grounds to call into question (as Irwin does) the validity of the project as a whole, nor the value of identifying an Orientalist discourse. Indeed, from Irwin's brief sketch, one in fact gleans a sense that the Germany history would confirm and enrich Said's sense of Orientalist discourse. Similarly, work on India, Japan and in art history, noted earlier, points to the fact that Said has produced a highly suggestive account of Orientalism which should surely encourage further work. A further set of criticisms of Orientalism centres, broadly speaking, around the role of individual Orientalists: as willed actors or as instruments of the discourse; as being "sympathetic to the Arabs" or not; as being liked or disliked by "the Oriental."

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Again, such criticisms are used to call into question the validity of Said's project and the existence of the discourse. For example, Irwin raises the methodological complaint that the Arabist Massignon "is a) blamed for the eccentricity of his interests and b) described as a system for producing certain types of discursive statement" (p. 107). Kopf (1980) asserts the importance of distinguishing between two types of colonialists in India: 'orientalists', sympathetic to Indian culture and 'anglicists' impatient to reform it (p. 499ff). Lewis (1982) points to the popularity of his own books in the Arab world and Kiernan (1979) notes a comment at the British Association of Anthropologists that "many Indian eyes were opened for the first time by British scholarship, whatever its imperfections, to things hitherto unguessed at in their own country and its past" (p. 345). Examining these criticisms is not simple. On one hand, there is ambiguity in Said's treatment of the relation of individuals to the discourse. Clifford (1980), for example, asserts that Said's view is more voluntaristic than a properly Foucauldian analysis might have been (p. 216-17). Again, Said's reading of Orientalism as a monolithic discourse makes contradictory forces in the dialectical sense of the term hard to imagine or account for. On the other hand, though, the criticisms of some of the reviewers just noted seem to spring rather from rejection or misunderstanding of the notion of 'discourse' than from a call for honing of methodological principles. For key to the concept of discourse is the sense of an allegiance of power with knowledge, such that the Orientalist scholars studied by Said both constructed images of the Orient and had some power t o make those images believable by virtue of their location in East-West relations. The Orientalist scholar might choose, in a sense, whether to construct a sympathetic or hostile view of Arabs, a diverse or homogeneous Orient. Further, as Said points out, often an apparent array of diverse Orientals ('nice' or 'nasty'), was ultimately subsumed under a category that was unalterably 'Other'. By contrast with Lewis, Kiernan and Irwin, Dalby (1980) locates the well-intentioned Orientalist firmly within the discourse when he refers to "a sympathy of sorts that was the 'tender' side of structural opposition" (p. 489).4
Viill the real Orient please stand up?

The issue of the 'real' Orient gives rise to yet another set of criticisms in the context of which a number of reviewers seek t o challenge the accuracy or the relevance of Said's project. Several distinct but linked issues fall into this group. Firstly, Jalal al-'Azm (1981) rests his critique of Said on evidence that Orientalist

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representations were accurate in many respects. Speaking of matters spiritual and religious, he asserts,

. . . it is true that in general the unseen is more immediate and real to the common citizens of Cairo and Damascus than it is to the present inhabitants of New York and Paris; it is true that religion 'means everything' to the life of Moroccan peasants in a way that must remain incomprehensible to present day American farmers (p. 11).
A similar but more sinister line of argument is implicit when Kiernan (1979) poses the following question: Was the East that Europe encountered in the nineteenth century really, as it is maintained, decadent, feudal, riddled with injustice, fuddled with religiosity? . . . The answer today, on both sides of the frontier, is yes (p. 349, emphasis in original). Like Jalal al-'Azm, Kiernan is offering fragments of a supposed 'real' Orient, in order to assert that Orientalist scholars were not simply generating fiction. But within Kiernan's statement there seems also to be a veiled moral agenda: to assert that the scholars of the Orient were not really 'bad guys' who said the Orient was a nasty place - the Orient really was a nasty place after all. The issue becomes the guilt or innocence of the Orientalist versus the guilt or innocence of the Orient. A further point made by Kiernan is that, if Orientalist scholars were not all bad, neither was imperialism itself. Both Plumb (1979, p. 3) and Kiernan (p. 350) cite the benefits of imperialism: transport, healthcare, education, etcetera. The cultural myopia implicit in the notions that only Western healthcare is good healthcare, only Western education is worth having, and so on, need only passing mention. However, it is interesting that both Plumb, adopting a Marxist viewpoint, and Meyers, from a much more conservative viewpoint, arrive at the same conclusion: that imperialism was necessary and desirable for the development of the Orient into a more advanced stage of civilization. Of course, their reasons may differ. While for Marxists imperialism may be viewed as a necessary step towards socialist transformation, from the conservative standpoint global capitalism may appear desirable in itself. As for the latter position, we do not subscribe to it. As far as the former is concerned, we need only point out that imperialism has thus far not guaranteed an eventual socialism. The link between all these sets of questions and assertions about the 'real' Orient is that each seems to represent an attempt to invalidate Said's thesis: to do so by offering accounts of a

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'real' Orient in order to show that the Orientalist/imperialist alliance was not entirely wrongheaded after all. For a number of reasons, these are hardly adequate as critiques of Said. We would argue that, needless to say there is a real Orient in the sense of a geographical place peopled with actual human beings. If it did not exist except as an imaginative realm there would have been no raison d'ttre for an Orientalism. The book also tacitly assumes a living and complex Orient; its enterprise depends on it. Said's task however is not to articulate the 'real' Orient but to elaborate Orientalism: the contexts in which a Western discourse about the Orient was produced; the intellectual traditions that fed it and its internal logic and consistency. One does not look to Orientalism to learn about the Orient any more than one looks to discourses of racism to learn about peoples of colour. Having said that, however, it must be admitted that Said does waver between a position that Orientalist discourse distorts the Orient and one that sees all reality as 'representations of representations'. However, we suggest that at the moment of writing there was little option but to adopt this contradictory stance: the book after all problematises a dominant discourse without the benefit of alternative descriptions of the same terrain. In any case, to assert the 'truth' of Orientalist description is to sidestep the central theme of the book which calls into suspicion any 'fact' about the Orient given the conditions under which such knowledge was produced. On another level, the question of accuracy or otherwise of the discourse is further complicated by the fact that Orientalist discourse was produced in the context of formulating colonial social policy. Such knowledge generated principles by which material and social life were organized under colonial rule, thus producing in many instances the reality it imagined. The example of Hindu-Muslim communalism in India is a case in point (Hardy, 1972). A rewriting of history with attention to the workings of powerlknowledge will no doubt enable a more complex recasting of the question of 'truth' or 'falsehood' of Orientalist discourse. Knowledge severed from history and power: Reverse Orientalism and imperial benevolence. Both Jalal al-'Azm (1981) and Musallam (1979) view Orientalism as a representational discourse autonomous from its allegiance to institutional power, although each does so in a different way. For Jalal al-'Azm, one aspect of Said's definition of Orientalism comes to stand for Qrientalism in its entirety. As mentioned earlier,

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Said suggests that an essential ingredient of the discourse is the ontological distinction proposed between the Orient and the Occident. Our definition interprets this as a tactic of Orientalism. Jalal al-'Azm's critique of Said rests on the fact that such dichotomizing is not the hallmark of Orientalism alone. He argues that this tactic is also discernible, for instance, in Arab response to Christians. He coins the phrase "Orientalism in reverse" and claims that it is in the end no less "reactionary, mystifying, ahistorical and anti-human than Orientalism proper" (p. 25). He cites Arab nationalism and recent Islamic revivalism as examples of this phenomenon. He also quotes from an article on Arab mentality published in Syria: The philosophy of Hobbes is based on his famous dictum saying that 'every man is a wolf unto other men', while on the contrary the inner philosophy implicit in the word insan preaches that every man is a brother unto other men'. Jalal al-'Azm concludes thus:
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I submit that this piece of so-called analysis and comparison contains in highly condensed form, the entire apparatus of metaphysical abstractions and ideological mystifications so characteristic of Ontological Orientalism and so deftly and justly denounced by Said's book. The only new element is the fact that the Orientalist essentialist ontology has been reversed to favour one specific people of the Orient (p. 19). But does this in fact constitute 'reverse Orientalism'? Where, for instance, is the attachment to power on a scale that ensures the authority of Orientalism in Said's sense? Further, this Arab author (not identified by Jalal al-'Azm) is talking about himself: distinguishing Arab mentality from that of the European. This is a different process from that of Westerners describing the 'Other', in the context of which distinctions may be proposed between that 'Other' and the Western 'Self'. Importantly, it is within the context of a specific set of unequal economic, social and political relationships between the West and East that Western descriptions are produced. It is these relationships that lend them strength and endurance. Until this world-historical context changes, it does not make sense to speak of a "reverse Orientalism". A concept such as "reverse Orientalism" is only possible because Jalal al-'Azm raises the question of knowledge separate from the question of power. Where Jalal al-'Azm fails to recognize the reliance of knowledge on power, Musallam (1979) underestimates the reliance of imperial power on Orientalist knowledge. As he states at the

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start of his review, "Orientalism is about the Western use of the Orient as idea, as field of study, and as domain of empire in the last two hundred years" (p. 19). However, he also concludes that there is ultimately "a profound ambiguity" in Said's assertions, on the one hand, that all cultures create dichotomies between themselves and others and, on the other, his forceful exposition that such a tactic was critical t o Orientalism (p. 20). Referring to Said, he says

. . . one gets the distinct feeling that he assumes that the modern West, given its power and achievements, should have been able to view the rest of humanity with the kind of generosity and detachment that the dominant can afford. Given the West's self image as the guardian of the highest human and liberal values, this ought to be an effective complaint (p. 20).
If Jalal al-'Azm decides that this 'similar tendency' produces reverse Orientalism, Musallam concludes that Said's main criticism is that Europe, despite its dominant position, does not transcend this 'human failing'. Based on this he concludes that if all humans have been equally culpable, the West cannot be held particularly guilty. However, far from claiming that such domination could have prompted Europeans to be benign, Said's project has been to show how such oppositions were useful to colonial rule. Besides, it is debatable whether Said's major complaint is that the West produced such binary oppositions as East and West. If there is a complaint it seems t o stem more from the fact that the West imposed such oppositions in ways that furthered its own political and economic interests at the expense of others: in other words, benefitted from an alliance of knowledge with power. Hostility to difference: a universal phenomenon? There is a surprising gap in the reviews: the lack of any serious challenge to Said's assertions about 'culture' in general, especially about cultures' or individuals' responses to difference. Making this even more noteworthy is the fact that, as discussed previously, a number of reviewers are concerned with the implications of these broader issues. It is worth turning briefly to Said's references to culture and representation in general. Within his text are a set of comments, little articulated, about how cultural groups see one another, the dangers of present ways of seeing and the reasons why they persist. Thus, Said notes the division of 'human reality' into

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"different cultures, histories, traditions, societies, even races" (p. 45). Such divisions, says Said, have been used to press the importance of differences, usually not for "admirable" ends. Conversely, the use of these imputed differences in social policy or research reinforces the sense of real difference, eventually giving it a hard, apparently scientific status (p. 67). Here, in summary, Said argues that sharp differentiation between cultures generally exists together with hostility and polarization. Said also explores the process of differentiation of the East by the West in pre-Orientalist days. Here, Said points to the development of an "internally structured archive" within which the Near Orient is created as the complementary opposite of the West and by which the Westerner's sense of the Orient is given shape (p. 58). Interestingly, at a certain point, Said slips from historically specific (though sweeping) statements to the generalized level, with the introduction of the pronoun "one": Something patently foreign and distant acquires . . . a status more rather than less familiar. One tends to stop judging things either as completely novel or as completely well known . . . (p. 58). Said goes on to argue that as a means of controlling that which is threatening, "one" makes of it a new version of a previously known thing. From here, Said moves t o a general psychology of differentiation, pinned not so much to groups as to individuals: If the mind must suddenly deal with what it takes to be a radically new form of life - as Islam appeared to Europe in the early Middle Ages - the response on the whole is conservative and defensive. Islam is judged to be a fraudulent new version of some previous experience, in this case Christianity. The threat is muted, familiar values impose themselves, and in the end the mind reduces the pressure upon it by accommodating things to itself as either 'original' or 'repetitious' (p. 59). This slide from the particular historical event to the general level and from the group to the individual explains little by itself. It is of course based in part on the work of Claude LkviStrauss (p. 53, footnote). However, in the end the tendency of the human mind t o act in this way is left to stand as a metaphysical absolute or given feature of humanity. This is especially startling, given that Said appeals ultimately to rather different assumptions about human nature. For, in his hope for a future in which difference is differently defined, he resorts to 'humanitarian values' and to human ability to transcend existing social relations. On the same theme, Said asserts that what cultures do t o one

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another "is neither difficult to understand nor difficult to explain" (p. 67). He suggests that "all cultures impose corrections upon raw reality" and again makes a swift analogy between mind and culture: It is perfectly natural for the human mind to resist the assault on it of untreated strangeness; therefore cultures have always been inclined to impose complete transformations on other cultures, receiving those cultures not as they are but as, for the benefit of the receiver, they ought to be (p. 67). Overall, a number of assertions are conflated. Said makes no distinction, it seems, between what he describes as a general propensity t o transform conceptually, an inevitable hostility to others implicit in such transformations, and a specifically polarizing hostility. Also, it seems to us surprising that Said never entertains the possibility that this propensity to transform, dichotomize and become hostile is as much a social construction as is the content of images thus constructed. In other words, this 'tendency' may be learned rather than 'natural'. One might ask whether the mind could not alleviate the pressure on itself in other ways, if indeed such pressure is there. Given this series of assumed connections, however, it is only to be expected that Said ends by doubting whether any distinction between cultures can be helpful to humanity (p. 325). In the context of his conception of how and why cultures differentiate themselves, it seems difficult to imagine humanity escaping its own mindset. However, we would argue that if there is to be a move beyond Orientalism, certain questions must be asked: Which of these representational tactics are peculiar to Western culture and history? Which are peculiar to Orientalism as a discourse of power or colonial expansion? Has any culture or subculture ever conceptually transformed reality without creating dichotomies and without hostility or appropriation? It is necessary to unravel this set of issues rather than take their inevitable interconnectedness for granted.
Conclusion

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Thus far, we have critically 'reviewed the reviews' of Orientalism, from the perspective of a particular reading and emphasizing a definition of Orientalism as an historically specific discourse of knowledge and power. Among other issues taken up, y e have indicated that we are critical of the separation of general questions about the production of knowledge and representation from the specific critique of Orientalism, by reviewers and by Said. We

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have argued that the transformation of the specific questions into general ones makes a set of potentially answerable dilemmas about representation appear unanswerable in principle. With the move to the general level, a text which could call for a politically engaged sociology of knowledge is aggrandized - and simultaneously reduced - into an existential wail of despair. Clearly, all thought involves representation and all respresentation, including the written text, is partial: both in the sense of being reductive and in the sense of being a culturally and historically specific product. We would further suggest that no 'general' answers can be sought to the question of representation in part because there is no universality to the standpoints of authors. Rather, each of us is located very specifically and differentially in discourses of powerlknowledge. We write from these positions. The challenge, perhaps, is t o develop new tools for social description which acknowledge the specificity and constructedness of any account. On one level, Said's Orientalism presents a profound methodological challenge, but in addition the book concerns the content and status of writing on the 'Orient' as a particular geographical terrain. However, much work will be necessary t o develop an understanding of Orientalism more complex than that provided by Said. As noted earlier, Said's Orientalism appears to be a monolithic and uncontested discourse. Needless to say, further studies of specific societies and institutions are bound t o call into question Said's characterisation. Such detailed and 'local' analyses might also produce grounds for Said's assertions, nowhere argued, that the Orient is a richly differentiated and complex place. History of Consciousness Program University of California at Santa Cruz
Notes

* We would like t o thank Paul Rabinow and James Clifford for providing the context in which the ideas in this paper were first developed. We are especially grateful for James Clifford's critical suggestions and encouragement. 1. Written before Said's book, Caldwell here refers t o Orientalism, the scholarly discipline. 2. We have nowhere qualified our use of the term 'the West'. This is not t o say, however, that we hold 'the West' t o be a homogeneous terrain, uniformly involved in the production of Orientalist discourse. 3 . We have consulted the following: Book Review Digest, Current Book Review Citations, Index t o Book Reviews in the Humanities. 4 . The relation of individual Orientalists to the dominant discourse needs further theoretical specification, something which may require detailed analysis of the practices of individual scholars, ethnographers, missionaries and so on.

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