Thinking back to my original blog post on the subject to Orientalism, I come up a bit unsatisfied and bit miffed. I never could figure out until now. Mainly that my exploration into the “Orient”‘s perspective of the west ended during the Second Opium War. With the topic of Orientalism moving on to the modern day I think I should I continue the story. But before I do so I thought I should try to answer why I’m doing this, simply put everybody else is doing their thing on West to East, I thought I might try as well do the other side.
I call this Eastern fascination with the west Occidentalism, from Latin Occiden, meaning west. In my opinion this entire idea can best be embodied in one word, Kare. You know in America how we have faux Chinese instant noodle with flavoring which as Iris points out is basically just sesame oil. Well in Japan the have something called Kare. Kare comes from the English word curry, which comes from the Tamil word Kari. Its nothing like actual Indian curry and you can find it in pre-made cubes in boxes in most grocery stores. That’s right, Japan has its own Orientalism for India.
And its not just that. You know in America how it’s not too uncommon for a person to have a tattoo of a Chinese character, one often drawn incorrectly or taken out of context, well Japan has it as well. Mostly in the form of t-shirts with English writing on it, often times out of context or with incorrect grammar.
Finally this brings me to my main point, isn’t this a good thing? People from all across the world are taking an interest other cultures. Instead of shunning them out they are seeing them as worthy enough to make their own.
One thought on “Occidentalism”
I hear your call for a kind of universal perspective on difference. Certainly every culture has its prejudices of others. Said’s theory of Orientalism, however, is specifically about how colonialism — its presence and its legacy — effect our understanding of difference. When a culture is in a dominant position, the way it represents the culture of the Other …. Well, it’s all about power — and that’s a different type of relationship that the universal one of just misrepresenting another, equal culture.
Now, Japanese culture has its own history of colonialism and power within Asia, while having a complicated relationships with the West as well. So that might require another theory all together.