The Arab World and the Occident: Toward the Construction of an Occidentalist Discourse
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Purpose: This article aims to engage in a meaningful discussion of Occidentalism as a discourse that draws its roots from Orientalism. It scrutinizes the limitations of Occidentalism in investigating the East-West encounter from the perspective of Orientals (Arab intellectuals) and the multifarious ways the latter relate to and imagine the Occident. It will cast a critical eye on the multiple and diverse constructions of Occidentalism as a discourse, arguing that unlike Orientalism, which homogenizes the Orient, Occidentalism does not Occidentalize/homogenize the Occident. Methodology: We take as a starting point Edward Said’s definition of Orientalism as a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and ‘the Occident’, and we explore the limitations and the possibilities of Occidentalism as a method to construe the colonial mechanisms of misrepresentation of the Other as everything different from the Self. This article compares and contrasts a plethora of existing definitions of Occidentalism as formulated by scholars from both the Arab world and the Occident. Findings: This paper concludes that the Oriental’s encounter with the Occident cannot, and should not, be projected as a reverse relationship, or, as some claim, as an ‘Orientalism in reverse’. Instead, it should be projected as a diverse set of relationships of Orientals who have experienced the Occident in a variety of manners. Furthermore, while Orientalism derives from a particular closeness experienced between the Occident and its Orient, often through real or imagined encounters, Occidentalism is also the outcome of a long cultural relationship between the Orient and its Occident. What differs between the Orient and Occident, however, is the position of power and hegemony, which characterizes the Occident’s encounter with the Orient. Originality: This article takes an all-inclusive view to discuss the term Occidentalism from the perspectives of both the Orient and the Occident. It teases out the limitations of this term. It challenges Orientalist methods of misrepresentation, which continues to blemish the Arab world and its discourse of Occidentalism as a discourse of hatred of the Occident. Furthermore, through the discussion of Alloula’s Oriental Harem, it offers insight into the suggested Occidentalism method, which emphasizes the disfigurations of the Orient while tactfully writing back to the Occident.
- 2021 - Volume 39 - Issue 2 [7 items ]