Gen Z and Orientalism

One of the biggest things that separates Gen Z from the generations before it is that we have all grown up in a post-9/11 world. Those of us in the class of 2020 weren’t even alive before it. So how does that shape our view of the Eastern world?

Orientalism has been present in the United States for a very long time, but many people credit the attacks on the World Trade Center with heightening it. After the attacks, the media created a narrative where the Middle East was synonymous with terrorism, and that has continued through
Gen Z’s entire lifetime. For some in this generation, the only images they’ve seen of the Eastern world are ones of terror cells and desolation. And now we’ve all lived through President Trump’s attempts at a “Muslim ban,” which absolutely stoked the xenophobic fire.

Despite all of this, I believe that Gen Z has the capability to change the American rhetoric around the Eastern world. Although we all don’t remember a time before 9/11 and the stereotypes and racism that followed, we are able to recognize over-generalizations and call people out when they are misinformed. We are continuing to challenge the norms in the media and entertainment industries around telling Eastern stories. Perhaps we, as a generation, will be able to break down the idea of “otherness” that comes with Orientalism and appreciate each other’s cultures without fear.

One thought on “Gen Z and Orientalism

  1. Isabelle, you give me hope for the future. Obviously, the “repository” of Orientalist rhetoric is still very much available to us — as seen in Trump’s use of it with this pandemic (many great posts on this — check out Meenah’s here: https://storypower.criticsandbuilders.com/2020/04/03/orientalism-racism-and-the-coronavirus-pandemic/ +the comments) — but there is a counter-movement, which is using the global nature of things like the pandemic to connect, rather than divide. How do we find those occasions for mutual recognition, rather than relying on the 9/11-type experience to define us in conflict and opposition.

    Like

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