Junior year, I read Orientalism by Edward Said and it has stuck with me ever since. Said traces the roots of orientalism to the centuries-long period in which Europe dominated the Middle and Near East, and from Europe’s position of power, defined “the Orient” as simply the “other.” As a result, this view continues to dominate western ideas and does not allow the East to truly represent itself. Said’s Orientalism is eye-opening and incredibly applicable to our society today.
In the book, Said argues that the orientalist perspective depicts the Orient as weak, irrational, and the “other.” On the other hand, the West is seen as the exact opposite: strong and rational. Said states that this binary originates from the European psychological need to distinguish itself from the East.
I believe that Said’s concept of “other” is immensely relevant to our world today. Issues such as racism, sexism, and xenophobia stem from thinking that those who are different from us are inferior and threatening by default. Through this lens, there is little room to acknowledge the humanity inherent in every single culture and individual.
This way of thinking is present all over the media in regards to the coronavirus. As the coronavirus has spread around the world, anti-Asian discrimination has followed closely behind. For example, Donald Trump calling coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” instead of its actual name. Also, people posting blatant xenophobic jokes on social media about China and its culture.
I believe that Orientalism effectively traces the origins of inequality between the West and East as well as gives valuable discourse that is very relevant to our world today. Overall, the concept/reality of the “other” only serves to divide us. We should not focus on our differences, but instead acknowledge the humanity that is inherent in every individual.