Ethnic Groups and Orientalism Essay
Ethnic groups are made up of individuals who share a common heritage. Members of an ethnic group usually live around the same region, speak the same language, and share common religion and practices. Individuals who are tribal minded can be regarded as a hindrance to full integration since they remain attached to non-normative customs, adaptations, and languages. In the past, governments have viewed ethnic groups as a problem.
This is because their customs do not allow them to fit into national governments. Some have a nomadic lifestyle, meaning that they usually move from one place to another with little regard for borders. Their customs are considered as ‘not civilized’ by national governments. However, all this has changed as ethnic groups have become a tourist attraction. Governments are now encouraging the preservation of ethnic cultural traditions. This is going to be very helpful to these groups.
Even though tourists bring change and sometimes, result in harmful effects on ethnic culture, their benefits outweigh their disadvantages. With increase in tourism, ethnic groups do not have to migrate in search for work. They can sell their cultural goods right in their home areas. They can also earn a living from their cultural traditions like dancing and singing. Their earnings help them to incorporate a different kind of education into their cultural learning.
Long-term effects of tourism usually result in integration of the tourists’ into the local communities. This could be of benefit to the local culture, although there are also a number of disadvantages associated with such integration. In addition, integration may result in dilution of the language, a change in customs, or a lack of practice altogether as ethnic groups are too busy taking care of tourists. This is helpful because in the long run, change is always good.
Orientalism is a term used in reference to a style of thought based on a distinction between the orient and the west. Orientalism is usually depicted by artists, written about by novelists and poets and discussed by philosophers and theorists. Orientalism is believed by some to be a stereotypical imitation of the eastern culture.
Orientalism is a big factor in our society. The orient is seen as the centre of languages and civilization in Europe. Its study borrows from the past, and integrates the present and the future. To some scholars, such areas of study areas as anthropology appears highlight how the orient differs from the west.
Orientalism is a factor in the political and economic development of the west. The study and understanding of the orient is firmly rooted in the western doctrine and as such, it grants the west control of the resources in the east. Orientalism is also a factor worth of consideration when it comes to religious prejudice. In this context, orientation endeavours to depict Islam in a negative and stereotypical way.
Orientalism affects our travel fantasies and attraction to ethnic tourism. The depiction of orientalism is usually exotic, alive, romantic, and sensual. Even though this may not be accurate representation of the orient, nonetheless, it draws many to travel to the east. In the recent past, however, the emergence security concerns on the east may be a hindrance to travel in those regions.
To push orientalism into a more positive study, we need to involve more scholars from the west in this debate. This would ensure that information is accurate and lacking in prejudice.
Tribal Cultures, Colonialism & Orientalism Essay
The role of tradition and culture in contemporary society has been the subject of extensive academic scrutiny. Scholars have consistently emphasized cultural importance as a pervasive theme of modern life. There have been controversies and debates over “Asian values” concerning the region’s political discourse.
This was after the Senior Minister of Singapore Lee Yuan Yew opposed the stand of the Eurocentric universalistic. It had demonstrated that the democratic undertakings in the Western version are ideal and practical to the rest of the world. However, probably no absolute Asian can represent the cultural values of all Asians. Although Asian intellectuals may perceive it as awkward and barbaric, preservation of ethnic cultural traditions will be beneficial to the ethnic groups in the long term.
Culture preservation enhances mental strength and Asians will find joy in life in familiar landscapes. Asians should recognize the value of the culture to their future generation. Indeed, the cultural values of Asians poise a sense of identity. The community will gain personality and character of its own.
As culture is shared among the inhabitants of the region, preserving it will involve passing it to the new generation. Effective transfer of culture involves the use of symbols when translating. The common symbols used in Asia include art, religion, and language.
Culture bonds individuals in the society. Preservation of the culture will enhance unification in Asian traditions. The traditions and customs of the Asian community include celebration of annual festivals, designing a unique clothing, eating food, and the imminent cultural values.
These cultural practices have unified the community, and they have experienced a peaceful co-existence in the region. In addition, preservation of Asian culture will impose a sense of social control in which the Asians will be able to shape their behavior and standards. These cultural values are the base for an individual principle in life.
In the ancient times, orientalism was used to describe the attitudes of Europeans toward Asian societies. However, orientalism can also be seen on the way Asians view themselves. This accounts for tendencies to self-orientalization that would become an integral part of the history of orientalism.
This phenomenon is still a factor in the current society. Ideally, ‘Orientalising’ of Asian cultures closely reflects the broader paradigm that is characterized by seductiveness, immorality, and immaturity among others. In essence, orientalism has demonized the Asian culture by depicting it as primitive, immature, irrational, subjective, and backward. On the other hand, it portrays Western laws as modern and advanced, developed, rational, and objective. This is the ideal situation in the current society.
Orientalism affects an individual travel fantasies and the preservation of ethnic culture amongst the Asians. The need to be civilized and modernized in the society will mean that the ethnic culture of the Asians become extinct as it is replaced with the westernized culture. Tourists’ travels to Asia learn about their cultures. In addition, where they would have resort to westernization cultures, the tourist’s travel fantasies would have been impeded.
As such, it will cause a negative impact on the economy of Asia. Though not much success was achieved in spreading the colonial socio-culture, education policies that were accompanied by the westernized culture opened the minds of the youth to political ideas in the West. Indeed, preservation of the community’s culture will enhance tourism, and provide uniqueness in the societal activities. Therefore, it is necessary to preserve it.
The Term Orientalism and Its Differences on the East and the West Essay
The term orientalism originates from the Latin term oriens that refers to “east” and this is in contrast to the Latin occidens that refers to “west”; therefore, the term has been employed for the imitation and representation of different aspects Eastern cultures in the west by authors and artists.
It is important to note that the idea of the differences in culture between the East and the West can be traced back to the early Roman times in which there was an increasing opinion of the differences between Asia and Europe in terms of various aspects such as religious practices and artistic preferences.
Although the East and the West associated from early Roman times through trade activities, voyages, cultural and intellectual exchange, and although they had many things in common, the idea of orientalism got increased recognition during the late Middle Ages in which the East and the West increased their relations and endeavored to exploit one another’s territory through various exchange activities. Nonetheless, the field of orientalism underwent a drastic transformation in 1978 when Edward W. Said, a Palestinian-American scholar, exposed orientalism as a colonialist enterprise in his book Orientalism.
Even though Said study was centered only on the Islamic Middle East, he criticized orientalism as “a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (Said, 15). His investigations have resulted in an enormous impact on the field of cultural studies. More so, various researchers in the other fields of traditional orientalist studies from various parts of the world have utilized his findings in undertaking their analysis.
In the famous book, Said holds that orientalism is a collection of false assumptions lying beneath Western attitudes toward the East and he asserts that it is “subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture”(Pryce-Jones, middle section).
Thus, he used the word to refer to the ubiquitous Western tradition, both scholarly and artistic, of bigotry understandings of the East, formed through the mindset of European imperialism that was common during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, and he was critical both of this scholarly tradition and of some modern scholars who held the traditional opinion on orientalism.
Said maintained that the long culture of deceptive and romantic impressions of Asia and the Middle East in Western culture had played a pivotal role in justifying the Europeans as well as the Americans colonial and imperial pursuits, and he sternly objected to the practice of some Arab elites who internalized the western orientalists’ views concerning the Arabic culture.
Said takes note of the stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims that exists in the western world in that, “the Moslems and the Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers of potential terrorists and this has resulted to a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world that has been portrayed in such as manner to make the world vulnerable to military aggression” (Said, para.1).
According to Said, the U.S. and the British investigation of Islamic civilization was rooted in political intellectualism bent on self-assertion instead of objective investigation; thus, he maintained that western ideologies on the orient, having opinions of the East provided in them, are suspect, and cannot be accepted without further scrutiny.
He views western investigation on Islamic civilization as a type of racial discrimination as well as a means of imposing imperialist domination and that the history of European colonial rule and political domination over the East disfigures even the views of the most ardent western orientalists. “The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other” (Said, 1).
Said asserted that the U.S. and Britain had discriminated the Islamic world in both art and literature since ancient times, and that even in the modern times, their ideologies have dominated the Arabic world politically such that even the most superficially objective Western literature on the East have been pervaded with a unfairness that Western scholars cannot distinguish.
He points out that Western researchers were tasked with the responsibility of investigating and representing Asia’s past from a perspective of their own. And, in doing this, they failed to recognize that the East also had the ability to represent its languages, history, and culture in a manner that suits it best without outside interference. The Western scholars have interpreted the East’s culture in a way that makes Europe to appear as the standard, from which the ”foreign” orient moves away.
According to Pryce-Jones, Said viewed the highly eclectic western scholars as engaging in a long-drawn plot, worldwide but not visible, “to establish the supremacy of the West by depicting an East not only inferior but static and incapable of change. And, at bottom, here was the vulgar Marxist concept that knowledge serves only the interest of the ruling class” (para. 11).
Pryce-Jones, David. “Enough Said.” Newcriterion.com. The New Criterion, 2008. Web. https://www.newcriterion.com/issues/2008/1/enough-said
Said, Edward W. “Islam through western eyes.” Nation.com. The Nation, 26 April 1980. Web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said#cite_note-39
Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York; London: Penguin, 1995. Print.
Williams, Patrick, ed. Edward Said, 4 volumes. Thousand Oaks, CA; London: Sage, 2001. Print.
The geisha and western “orientalism” Report (Assessment)
“Geisha” is a Japanese word that means an artist. Geisha refers to an artistic executor or an entertainer. A geisha performs various forms of art such as singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, serving food and drinks. women start their geisha training at a standard age of three years and three days, when they become apprentices, referred to as ‘maiko,’ to a retired geisha who teaches the young girls the art and the way of a geisha (Encyclopedia Britannica online 2010).
While on the other hand, “Orientalism” refers to the orient or east which is in disparity to the occident or west. On other words, orientalism brings into play the impression or representation of certain areas of the Eastern Cultures in the west.
Orientalism occurs when one comes across a particular culture or way of life in a foreign country and it interests the person so much that when he goes back to his country he replicates it using the foreign country as a reference point (Fujimoto 1917). In this particular case, we will explore the depiction of geisha girls who originated from Japan in the West.
History, Origins and Rise of Geisha
According to Gallaher (2003) and Rowley (2005), girls whose families were relocated after the struggles in the late 600’s became ‘saburuko,’ which stands for serving girls. These girls sold sexual services while those with a higher education entertained high-class societal meetings for a fee.
After the moving of the imperial court to Kyoto, Japanese Geisha took root as the court became home to the elite selected few who sort after pleasure leading to the thriving of female entertainers. The fact that men were not bound to be faithful to their wives or held responsible for their extra marital affairs made this business thrive as they went out to seek these women for pleasure in the specified ‘pleasure quarters’ while their wives were only home managers.
Lesley (2006) states that these ‘pleasure quarters’ build in the 16th century made prostitution lawful as long as the act itself was carried out in the ‘pleasure quarters,’ where women would be categorized and accredited. Surprisingly, the first geisha were men who entertained clients who were waiting to view the main popular and talented courtesans, termed as ‘oiran’.
De Mente (1966) states that the predecessors of the female geisha were teenage girls, named ‘odoriko,’ were dancing girls trained as dancers for hire. In 1678, well known entertainers were paid after performing their acts in the homes of upper-class samurai, though majority of them had already incorporated prostitution in their work. Older women took up the name geisha after the men as they were not teenagers anymore.
Some of them only worked as entertainers as compared to prostitution and worked in the same establishments as the men. According to Dalby (1998), World War II brought a significant deterioration to the geisha industry, the geisha women had to sort for other means of earning their daily bread like going to work in factories. “After this the geisha name lost its once prestigious meaning and prostitutes began referring to themselves as ‘geisha girls’ to American military men” Dalby 1998).
After the war the geisha industry boomed once again, though only very few women went back to the lifestyle as majority rejected the western influence and choose to stick to the tradition ways of the geisha. Thus it was the responsibility of these few women to enforce the traditional standards in the profession and also increase the rights of the geisha.
Misapprehension of geisha
Ever since, the entertainment industry in Japan had been vibrant and it is from this where the geisha come in as their name suggests, “to entertain”. This has however been misunderstood the world over as the term geisha is used to refer to many different things and aspects. In some western countries, geishas are thought of as high-class prostitutes or escorts who trade sexual favors for money.
However, in some Japanese cities the lower class geisha do in fact trade sexual favors and activities for money. The biggest fallacy however in this industry is that geisha have sex with their customers, but the truth of the matter is that the present day geisha keep their specialist jobs away from their private lives. According to Mineko & Rande 2003, geisha are not passive and acquiescent; they are some of the most financially and emotionally stable women in Japan as they have been since time in memorial.
This is to say that geishas use their art forms, music, dance and conversation to enchant their clients and they do not resort to sexual activities. “Geisha tend to be single women with lovers and boyfriends whom they personally pick, who support them financially” (De Mente 1966).
Another misconception about Geisha is that they are sold into this lifestyle. This is a myth, however actually poor families sold their daughters into prostitution; the fact is that poor families preferred the life of a geisha for their daughters as opposed to prostitution. They offered services such as cooking and cleaning at the same time while training to become geisha in the future.
This geisha life was highly preferred as it was seen as prestigious and elegant, though this misconception painted the geisha as being a victim of society while it was a choice. Modern geisha are required to have finished school, have written consent from their care providers and have fascination in art before commencing training. Another misconception is that the life of a geisha is easy.
This is wrong considering the rigorous training undertaken by these women that is difficult and it needs a person with a strong personality and strong willed. Apart from the training, these women have to attend various classes as well perform the chores assigned to them in exchange for bedding, tuition and food (Hanlon 2010).
“Geisha are not liberated females” this conception is wrong. According to Wieder (2002), the geisha organization was established to encourage the autonomy and economic personal satisfaction of women. This was the main agenda and it was achieved well in Japan where there were few ways for women to achieve such kind of liberalization.
Dalby (1998) notes that women manage everything when it comes to the geisha society; these women are some of the most lucrative businesswomen in Japan. If the women skills in this business were abolished then the whole industry would collapse. This clearly shows that women who go into the geisha business are iterated or are seeking to liberate themselves.
The misapprehension that geisha are found everywhere in Japan is wrong. Geisha are not found everywhere in Japan they are found in some cities while they are not in other cities. They are not common in all areas of Japan as they are somewhat a secret society and in order to locate one, a person must use contacts.
It is not easy to locate geisha in Japan as you have to approach someone who will make the connection between the client and the geisha, this shows us that the geisha are found in specific areas and they are contacted by specific people who link then to their clients. There are restaurants in Japan that offer this service but one must part with a huge amount of money to access them. Geishas are very secretive and they keep their secretive nature even when attending to clients as the discussions they hold are confidential.
Finally, there is this misapprehension that geisha are all the same. Arguably, this is not true even though the geisha have been trained to act the same with their clients. Makeup is the most common thing they all have in general but then the age, ranks and experience can be observed in the differences in their makeup, makeup is used to differentiate the geisha. The colors of the ‘kimonos’ can also be used to differentiate the age; young geishas have colorful ‘kimonos’ while the older ones have solid color on their ‘kimono’ (Hanlon 2010).
Geisha have been around since the 1600 and the fact that entertainment is a booming business in Japan, they are highly favored to continue their secretive society of high social status women who make a living by using arts and conversation to enchant their clients. It is a profession just like any other and it aims to liberalize women intellectually, physically, emotionally and financially.
The geisha way of life even though not so popular presently, it has remained intact and still follows the traditional rules. The western culture has been influenced by this traditionalist way of life such that some of their clothes and makeup have been influenced by the geisha women. Most of the western cultures refer and equate geisha to prostitutes while in essence they are not. Despite the western influence, geisha have been able to stick around and keep their traditions alive.
Dalby, L. (1998). Geisha. Berkeley: University of California.
De Mente, B. (1966). Some Prefer Geisha. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company.
Fujimoto, T. (1917). The Story of the Geisha Girl. London: T. Werner Laure Ltd.
Gallagher, J. (2003). Geisha: A Unique World of Tradition, Elegance, and Art. London: PRC.
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2010). Geisha. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Web.
Hanlon, R. L. (2010). Misconceptions about Japan’s Geisha women. Helium. Web.
Lesley, D. (2006). The City Geisha and Their Role in Modern Japan: Anomaly or artistes”, in Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon, eds, The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.
Mineko, I. & Rande B. (2003). Geisha, A Life. New York: Washington Square.
Rowley, G. G. (2005). Autobiography of a Geisha. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Wieder, T. (2002). Remaking a memoir. Boston Phoenix. Web.
Orientalism in Western Art Essay
The principles of democracy and equality have been established in the world only recently, in the 20th century. It is important to say that before that period, terror and barbarism were governing the world; however, such issues as slavery and colonialism used to be the reality of developed countries in spite of the unnatural essence thereof.
The 19th and 20th centuries, though demarcating the beginning of a modern, civilized era (especially in the advanced and developed Western Europe), still manifested the largest-scale expansionist endeavors of the West towards the Middle East and North Africa. France and the British Empire were distinguished colonizers at that time, and the relationships of these countries with their colonies were specifically distinct from international relations existing in the rest of the world.
The power of colonizers was so strong that the Western countries, by means of exploring, researching, and documenting their findings about the East, have managed to create an artificial, stereotyped system of concepts regarding the East – Orientalism. It appeared in the 19th century as a separate scholarly study dedicated to Orient; scholars researched people living there, their traditions and customs, their dressing, their language, personal and family relationships, etc.
As a result, Orientalism grew to represent the Orient as seen by Westerners; nevertheless, it did not render the Eastern reality, since it did not correspond to the realistic Eastern context, and manifested only the prism of Western perception.
As a result of these processes, an assumption about the tendency of Western artists to create political propaganda supporting violent occupation and subjugation of inferior cultures by the West appeared.
There is a common opinion that the majority of Orientalist works in the 19th and 20th century were initially made with the intent to promote colonialism and superiority of Westerners over Easterners. Since there is a conflicting body of knowledge and evidence on this point, the issue needs further analysis in support for it, or in opposition to it.
The starting point in the analysis of Orientalism has traditionally been the reference to the work of Edward Said, Orientalism. This book has become a turning point in the assessment of Orientalism, since before this publication it had been considered a positive phenomenon in the history of East-West relationships.
It was Said (1978) who revealed the true nature of Orientalism as an invented, made-up term, system of concepts, scheme of dominance, that allowed Westerners to explore the East without even being there. As the author noted at the beginning of his book, Orient is not analogous to the East, as Orient is a purely Western invention symbolizing romance, exotic beings and dressing, memorable and original experiences, etc. (Said 1978, p. 1).
Indeed, Orientalism has been created to become the Western style of dominating, remaking, and exercising authority over the Orient by Western colonizers (Said 1978, p. 3).
Attention towards Orientalism has renewed nowadays, since there is much Orientalist propaganda and reinforcement of old stereotypes visible in the new media.
Modern films and TV shows, magazines and travel guides try to romanticize the East again, misleading the Westerners and precluding them from an objective assessment of the Eastern reality, especially taking into account the fact that some colonies still exist. Therefore, one has to understand the nature of the impact that the notion of Orientalism brings to people concerned with it.
It is easier to explore the impact of Orientalism on human perception of the East through the works of art produced in the 19th and 20th centuries, since they reflect the vision that critical thinkers and creative personalities (the forefront of the human thought) had about the East through the prism of Orientalism.
It is quite possible to assess the propaganda essence of Orientalism in literary works, but the purpose of this paper is to focus on the works of art reflecting the main points of this trend. As Nochlin (1989) noted, the flourishing Orientalist painting was closely associated with the successful Western expansion to the East at the verge of the 18th and 19th centuries (p. 33).
However, the main goal of Orientalism in painting is regarded to be the documentary realism, i.e., the urge of artists to document the unseen, unusual, and exotic they came across in the East, and to show these unusual images to the rest of the European world (Nochlin 1989, p. 33).
Accessing the issue from a purely artistic viewpoint, one can state that there is no place for propaganda in art; however, the opposite has been proven by many centuries of human experience. Notwithstanding the active role of art in assistance for the ruling regime, there is still a common argument about the distance that art keeps from politics.
As MacKenzie (1995) noted in his analysis of Said’s work, genuine arts and political ideologies have always tended to operate in counterpart, and not in alignment (p. 14). Therefore, one can assume that true artworks reflected human feelings and impressions about Orient, and not the programmed, propaganda messages for the Western world.
Obviously, there was a certain place for propaganda in the Orientalist art, though the portion of propaganda in visual arts was incomparably lower than that in literary works. As Meagher (2004) noted in her analysis of the 19th-century Orientalist art, some strong propaganda features in art may be tracked in the works of Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835) and Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825).
These artists made a great effort in proliferating Napoleonian imperialism, and painted several artworks presenting Napoleon Bonaparte as a healing power, a godlike personality for the world of chaos, barbarism, and lawlessness of the East (Meagher 2004, para. 2).
Some of the propagandist works of these authors are Napoleon in the Plague House at Jaffa (1804, Louvre) and The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame (1806). These painters obviously had their personal benefits from the propagandist activities, since they were close to the Emperor Napoleon in France.
Another format of propaganda produced in Orientalist art is in the depiction of Oriental people as uneducated, wild, and fierce. These themes dominated in the paintings of Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1835) who also represented a propagator of colonialism and never revealed the true nature of the East, but not Orient, though he has been fascinated by Oriental themes during his whole life (Meagher 2004; para. 2; Bernard 1971, p. 123).
The focus on Oriental cruelty and violence was partly presupposed by Delacroix’s interest in the Greek-Turkish war unleashed right at the beginning of the 19th century. However, there were images he created that deeply impressed the public in the civilized West in a negative way, for example, Massacre at Chios (1824) and Death of Sardanapalus (1827-28)
Massacre at Chios (Eugene Delacroix, 1824, Musee du Louvre, Paris)
In his painting Massacre at Chios, Delacroix represented an awful, dramatic image of the Chios massacre only according to his own perception, without seeing Oriental people at all.
The painting was accomplished only due to the help of Delacroix’s friend, Monsieur Auguste, who was a fascinated Orientalist in Paris, and who granted clothes and objects to paint (Thornton 2009, p. 67). It appears hence quite illogical to suppose that Delacroix had the least adequate idea of the Oriental world he depicted, and his portrayal can hardly be called realistic or neutral in terms of propaganda.
Death of Sardanapalus (1827-28, Eugene Delacroix, Musee du Louvre, Paris)
The second violent painting for which the propagandist spirit of Delacroix’s paintings is recognized is the Death of Sardanapalus – it was not recognized by the civilized Western society for the cruelty and violence exceeding all limits in the depicted scene. Delacroix obviously perceived Oriental people as cruel barbarians living according to the principles of force and intimidation.
He was able to go on a short trip to Morocco and Algiers in 1884 (Orientalist Art of the Nineteenth Century, n.d., p. 1). Though Delacroix managed to make many sketches during that trip, and his impressions about the Eastern world were reaffirmed, Delacroix’s paintings, especially the later ones, were far from the Oriental reality (Thornton 2009, p. 69). Thus, there is no surprise in the focus on the healing power of Westerners saving the Orient from its own self-destructiveness evident in the works of many painters of that time.
Notwithstanding the fact that Orientalism is a propagated and stereotyped concept in itself, and it was artificially created for the enhancement of dominance of westerners over the colonized East (MacKenzie 1995, p. 4), there were still genuine fans of Orientalism with sincere urge to understand Eastern people and to become closer to them. One of such lifelong fans of Orient was Etienne Dinet (1861-1929).
This French painter dedicated nearly 50 years of his life to the travels between France and Algeria after only one trip there. Dinet depicted Eastern people as beautiful, cheerful personalities possessing their individual wishes, urges, dreams, and opinions. The most famous works of Dinet are Abd el Gheram and Nour el Ain, Slave of Love and Light of my Eyes (1904) and Girls dancing and singing (1902).
The painting Slave of Love and Light of my Eyes (1904) shows the couple in love; the lovers have to conceal their feelings and can meet only at night to enjoy their love and to say a few tender words to each other. The painting is so lively and positive that one can hardly see any stereotyping or propaganda in it; it is full of love, life, and ability to be happy. Therefore, the present picture is a memorable example of pure Orientalism without any political messages or intents.
Abd el Gheram and Nour el Ain, Slave of Love and Light of my Eyes (Etienne Dinet, 1904, Musee du Louvre, Paris)
Another painting of Dinet appreciated by the majority of art experts and nonprofessional fans is the depiction of two girls from the Ouled Nail tribe. Dinet dedicated many years of his life to approach the people of the tribe closer, and to acquire the ability to depict them with respect and understanding (Orientalist Art of the Nineteenth Century n.d., p. 1).
Comparing the experience of Delacroix to visit a Moroccan harem (Neret 2000, p. 54) with the lifelong effort of Dinet to get closer to the understanding of Easterners, one can assume that the realistic rendition of the genuine Orient was possible only in Dinet’s works.
Dinet had a mediator between him as a Westerner, and the Eastern world in the face of his lifelong friend Sliman ben Ibrahim (Thornton 2009, p. 77). They realistic perception of the East by Dinet is also felt in his disappointed remarks about Egyptian context, in contrast to the majority of Orientalists who took their inspiration and themes from Egyptian images (Thornton 2009, p. 77).
Girls dancing and singing (Etienne Dinet, 1902, Musee du Louvre, Paris)
Concluding the present analysis of propaganda in the Orientalist art, one has to infer that visual art as such did not reflect the propagandist urges. Obviously, there were many inconsistencies in the artwork and reality of Eastern life and culture, mainly due to ungrounded information and lack of hands-on experience.
The majority of Oriental paintings revealed the Western fascination with the exotic and the unknown; Westerners were attracted by the vivid colors of clothes and surroundings, the unusual design of dressing, furniture, and houses.
The lifestyle and national character of Oriental people also produced much interest; harems, aggressiveness and violence in war conflicts, etc., could be left out by the civilized Western world. Surely, the Orient was perceived as a subordinate territory, and people felt its established inferiority, but this awareness seems to have been created by a much larger discourse than Orientalism art.
Bernard, C 1971, ‘Some Aspects of Delacroix’s Orientalism’, The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 123-127.
MacKenzie, JM 1995, Orientalism: history, theory, and the arts. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.
Meagher, J 2004, “Orientalism in Nineteenth-Century Art”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–, viewed on https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/euor/hd_euor.htm
Neret, G 2000, Eugene Delacroix, 1798-1863: the prince of romanticism. Koln, Germany: Taschen.
Nochlin, L 1989, “The Imaginary Orient” in The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society, New York, NY: Harper and Row, pp. 33 – 57.
Orientalist Art of the Nineteenth Century: European Painters in the Middle East n.d., viewed on http://www.orientalistart.net/index.html
Said, E 1978, “Introduction” in Orientalism, New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1979, pp. 1 – 28.
Thornton, L 2009, The Orientalists: Painter-Travelers. Paris, France: ACR PocheCouleur.
Review: “Orientalism” by Edward Said Essay
Until his death, Edward Said was a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University. He was also a Middle East activist, a scholar, and an eminent person in postcolonial studies. Born in 1935, his mother was Lebanese and his Father Palestine.
He started his education in Egypt and later moved to the United States where his father had acquired citizenship. He gained reputation as an intellectual. As a fellow at Stanford University, he published his most acclaimed piece of writing, Orientalism, a book that has provided fodder for debate in many disciplines.
This essay will expound on Said’s Orientalism and the relation between the orient and occident.
According to Said, Orientalism is a collection of suppositions and dogmas defining Western (American and Europe) perception and attitudes towards the Middle East (117). The west has been consistent in its prejudice against the Islamic people.
The Middle East culture was glamorized in the western culture to the extent that European and American imperialists found it justifiable to pursue their colonial interests there. What makes Said angry is the realization that some Arabs elite have been brainwashed to accept this misconceptions about Arab culture (97)
Western scholars who study Asian affairs have formed a body of knowledge that is based on generalization rather than objective facts. An irrational behavior by one person in the East is used as a basis for defining the entire society.
In their hasty generalization, the scholars document these archetypes and sell them as literary texts. These texts form the foundation of historical records. The West therefore defines itself in its definition of the East. If the East is lazy and crude, then the West is hard working and civilized. It is the West’s duty to civilize the East.
The notion of “us” and “them” is entrenched and the two are viewed as being antithetical. In the contemporary world, the West views the East in terms of oil and Islam. The later is sometimes equated to terrorism.
A further illustration of how the East is defined is the coinage of the world Mohammedianism, obviously borrowed from its Christian equivalent, Christianity (Varisco, 305).
Occident refers to the countries of Europe and North America. Varisco argues that occident and orient have been constructed as opposite terms (306). While the West stands for everything good, virtues and respect, the East is the direct opposite.
Occident reporters and scholars misrepresent the East and, therefore, propagate the notion that it is the moral duty of the West to control or regulate the people of Middle East (Malcolm, 545).
Chapter 1 of Orientalism traces the development of Orientalism as dating back to the early interactions between the West and the East. The Orientalist (Western scholar) was fast to form an impression that Arabs were uncivilized.
The scholars sent by their respective countries of the West to stay with the Arabs in the Middle East generalized the cultures of the natives as inferior. They also stereotyped Arabs as lazy, crude, and incapable of governing self. The natives’ culture was viewed in terms of the western culture.
The West, therefore, took it upon them, using the tools of power at their disposal to exercise rule and power over the East. This was the onset of colonization and imperialism (“Critical Examination of Edward Said’s “Orientalism”, par. 6)
The second chapter focuses on the over romanticized literature on the East written by scholars from the West. The literature was written for European readers. Orientalist writers and poets presented a Middle East that was naively serene and hence conducive for relaxation.
Devoid of evils, the East was considered less witty and diplomatic and ready for a fatherly figure. In any case, the West had discovered the East, not the other way round. In the same chapter, Said lashes out at Ernest Renan, a 19th century Orientalist for perpetuating the prejudice against the Arab world (356).
The book delves into the Orientalist of the 20th century in the third chapter. With the end of colonialism, USA was now the new frontier in Orientalism. Modern Scholars from the West are researching on languages of the East in order to help their governments come up with better policies to rule the East.
Said observes that such scholars are staying in the East, not because they appreciate their culture, but to know them better and rule over them easily (368). In spite of globalization and increased awareness, the West bias towards the East has not ended.
Arab Muslims are considered by many people in the West as terrorists. Japan is viewed, not by its tremendous improvement in many areas such as technology, but in terms of its martial arts, karate.
Said recommends that any study on the Middle East should also encompass the Middle East natives’ perspective and not just generalizations (360).
In summary, Orientalism is in ideology that defines the people of Middle East in terms of highly subjective and generalized suppositions. Orientalists are scholars who research on Middle East culture and other aspects.
The culture and people of Middle East have been victims of the West prejudice and bias. This is not unique to Asia. Africa too has been a victim.
“Critical Examination of Edward Said’s “Orientalism”” 23 May 2011. Web. https://mashrabiyya.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/critical-examination-of-edward-saids-orientalism/
Malcolm, Kerr. “Edward Said, Orientalism.” 1980. Web.
Said, Edward. Orientalism, London: Penguin, 1997. Print.
Varisco, Martin. “Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid.” Journal of Islamic Studies. 20. 2 (2007): 304-306. Print.
Orientalism in Ozymandias and Alastor: When Exotics Meets Wisdom Essay
The Asian world has always been a mystery for the Western civilization; the former lives according its own laws which the European culture conceive completely, envisions the world, its origins and the way its elements intertwine in harmony in a slightly different way than the Western civilization does; in addition, the Oriental culture uses a range of symbolic which is completely alien to the Western world and can be hardly associated with anything, while triggering a chain of emotions within the heart of an Oriental dweller.
However, either because of its colorfulness and vividness, or because these details stir people’s imagination so easily and with such tremendous effect, the Oriental themes, especially in poetry, were extremely popular in the Era of Romanticism, making the fascination with the Eastern world one of its key features.
As Carruthers and Rawers (2003) explain, “Romantic Orientalism has historically been written and read from a European perspective” (p. 117). Because of the impact of the epoch, Ozymandias and Alastor, Percy Bische Shelly’s two most famous poems, display a considerable amount of details which can be referred to as the explicit manifestations of Orientalism.
One of the first things that fall into the eye of the reader at the very beginning of the poems is the unusual names, Ozymandias and Alastor. The former, interpreted as Ramesses’ throne name, sends the reader into the heat of the Egyptian sun and, thus, makes one plunge into the Oriental world almost instantly.
In addition, the name also immediately riggers an entire cadence of reminiscences connected with the famous emperor, thus, setting quite tragic back-story which an experienced reader can see between the lines of the poem: “In Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias of Egypt,’ is the Oriental potentate on the pedestal now a ‘’colossal wreck, boundless and bare’ because of a unique Oriental despotism?” (p. 281), Varisco (2007) asks.
As for the Alastor, although the name and, thus, the subplot for the poem originates from the Roman mythology and, thus, can be hardly referred to as the one filled with Orientalism elements, there are still recognizable traces of the above-mentioned phenomenon in the poem. In addition, the sound of the name was exotic enough for the poet too use it in the same way the Oriental elements were, i.e., to shock viewers into paying attention to the hidden innuendoes in the poem.
Among the rest of the elements which point at the obvious Orientalism of both poems, the use of settings is rather wise and efficient: In Ozymandias, the author puts a special emphasis on the fact that the events take place in the desert and sand, which is basically the place most people associate with Asian settings:
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies (Shelley, 1818)
Therefore, with the help of two words, “sand” and “desert,” Shelley managed to transfer the audience right into the heart of the Oriental world instantly. However, the chosen tactics works in the poem because it is relatively short, which is not the case for Alastor. As for the latter, Shelly refuses to use the same tactics in the poem; it must be admitted that the following scenery:
the world’s youth: through the long burning day
Gazed on those speechless shapes; nor, when the moon
Filled the mysterious halls with floating shades
Suspended he that task (para.122-126)
can actually be observed in any corner of the world. Unlike in Ozymandias, in Alastor Shelley uses rather the specific imagery than the exotic words to add Orientalism to the poem: the Arab maiden brings the food to the leading character (Shelley 1815, para.129).
The difference in the choices of the means can be explained by the fact that, unlike in Alastor, where the author had a lot of room for vast descriptions, in Ozymandias it was necessary to keep the poem short and expressive; hence, the exotic terms were used as the means to transport the audience to the Oriental settings.
Shelley obviously not only adds certain Oriental elements to the common environment, but sets his narration in a completely new environment, with its specific features. According to Uddin Khan (2008),
In Alastor, the poet-protagonist’s journey takes him back through human history (that is, Arabia, Persia, over the Hindu Kush mountains, which form the Indian Caucasus extending from Afghanistan to Kashmir in north-west India) to the thrilling secrets of the birth of time (p. 47)
Therefore, the poet obviously wants to capture the air of the Asian mysteries in a capsule and convey the specific flair of the Orient world to the readers. Reading the poem turns into walking across the uncharted universes and revealing its secrets; and with the help of specific details, Shelley restores the specific Asian atmosphere.
As Oueijan (n.d.) explains, “In “Ozymandias” (1817–1818), Shelley asserts an “antique land” in order to reveal the emptiness of pomp and power” (p. 8).
What particularly fascinated Shelley was the way in which Owenson “uses Kashmir as a paradisal image for that ideal interior landscape of the fulfilled psyche” (Hoeveler, 2006, p. 168).
However, it is worth mentioning that Shelly also avoided using the elements which he knew little about: “Shelley did not go to Egypt, and neither of his Egyptian sonnets – “To the Nile” and of course “Ozymandias” – mentions the Pyramids, which is logical enough; following the tradition of Romanticism, Shelley writes about the cultures which are quite distant from the European ones and yet does not go into details, allowing the readers to restore the atmosphere of the mysterious worlds themselves.
Speaking of the major Orientalism elements in the poems, one must mention that both poems focus on rather grandeur events in the history of the Eastern world, which can also be considered another important element making the poems Orientalist. As Thomas (2012) explains,
Two specific features of Orientalism are significant both for European Orientalist studies (of India, especially) and for subsequent Indian and Filipino political-intellectual projects: first, Orientalism’s focus on authoritative texts, and, second, its narrative on historical decline from ancient greatness. (25)
Indeed, Ozymandias tells about the rapid destruction of the great empire built by powerful pharaohs, which corresponds to the key concept of the Oriental literature. Likewise, Alastor touches upon the collapse of the world, yet in the case of the latter, it is not the empire, but the world of the narrator, the Poet, which is ruined:
Of the vast meteor sunk, the Poet’s blood,
That ever beat in mystic sympathy
With nature’s ebb and flow, grew feebler still (para.651-654)
Therefore, it is obvious that Shelley uses the typical Orientalism strategies to build a fully realistic universe. However, it would be a mistake to think that the elements of the Oriental culture which were used by Shelley in his poems were completely authentic; these were rather the common ideas of what the Oriental world must look like instead of its true portrayal and carefully verified details.
This is the type of the “middle-eastern world’s own exotic ‘Orientalism,’ for which Europe had become a late eighteenth century dependent customer” (p. 48), as Niyogi (2006) put it. Taking an exotic detail and pushing it to the stage when it became almost grotesque, Shelley crated his own Oriental universe, rather impressive, yet not necessarily true to the facts.
One of the most peculiar features of the poet’s creations, this feature on no account should be considered as a drawback which diminishes the quality of his works, but rather a feature of the epoch, with its taste for the unknown and unraveled. Offering true details would have ruined the charm of the poems.
True gems of the era of Orientalism, Ozymandias and Alastor offer a travel into the world which hardly anyone can imagine; not only is this a travel back in time, but also an excursion into the mysterious oriental universe, the place created by Romanticists and for Romanticists.
Addressing all major elements of Orientalism, the poems still make certain changes to the traditional perception of the Oriental world and create a different universe, which are completely impeccable in their weirdness. Even despite certain inaccuracies in the description of the distant world, the poems are the pearls which are worth taking a close look at.
Carruthers, G & Rawers, A 2003, English Romanticism and the Celtic world, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Hoeveler, D L & Cass, J D 2006, Interrogating Orientalism: contextual approaches and pedagogical practices, Ohio State University, Columbia, OH.
Niyogi, C 2006, Reorienting Orientalism, Thousand Oaks, CA, SAGE.
Oueijan, N B n.d., ‘Romantic Orientalism LU lecture,’ retrieved from Lebanon Notre Dame University, ul.edu.lb website.
Shelley, P B 1815, Alastor, or the spirit of solitude. Web.
Shelley, P B 1818, ‘Ozymandias.’ Web.
Thomas, M C 2012, Orientalists, propagandists, and illustrators: Filipino scholarship at the end of Spanish Colonialism, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.
Uddin Khan, J 2008, ‘Shelley’s Orientalia: Indian elements in his poetry,’ ATLANTIS. Journal of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies, vol.30 no.1, pp. 35–51.
Varisco, D M 2007, Reading Orientalism: said and the unsaid, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.
History: Orientalism in the American Society Essay
American society is one of the most diverse in the world as people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds come to the USA in their search for a better life. Andrea Smith notes that these people often face certain hostility as Americans are not friendly and may have a quite distorted view on people coming from other countries.
The author notes that the society is not unified as different groups and minorities alienate themselves from the rest of the society, and their fight for their rights becomes less effective (Smith 67). The author singles out three pillars which create tension within the American society. Orientalism/War is the pillar that got a second life after 9/11 and other terrorist attacks and has contributed to the creation of tension in the US.
Some believe that terroristic attacks made Americans adopt an image of a terrorist who is Muslim fighting against the rest of the civilized world. However, this is not a decisive factor which led to the development of such an image. Smith claims that western civilization has developed a specific view on people of the Middle East and Asia. Western people saw oriental culture exotic, but it was still inferior and hostile in their opinion.
This idea is manifested in a variety of crusades when Christians thought they had the right to intervene in the affairs of nations living in the eastern part of the world. International terrorism is also an outcome of the idea of orientalism as people of the East started avenging people of the West.
Apart from military conflicts and wars, Orientalism is apparent in Americans’ daily life. Hostility and fear contribute greatly to the emerging misunderstanding between Americans and people of various countries of the Middle East and Asia. For instance, Whites do not understand religious beliefs or traditions of other ethnic groups.
It is possible to assume that Whites are simply unwilling to try to understand others as they continue thinking that they are superior to others. Of course, different traditions may be perceived differently. However, if people knew more about other cultures, this misunderstanding could be eliminated from US society.
Smith also notes that ethnic minorities could achieve more goals in their fight against discrimination if they collaborated and interacted with other ethnic groups (73).
The author stresses that Muslims often use the same patterns as whites do and feel certain hostility to other minorities (Smith 73). Thus, Orientalism in the American society makes people of the East adopt a defensive behavioral pattern as they have to prove they are superior or equal with the rest of the society.
In conclusion, it is possible to state that Orientalism has become one of the factors contributing to the development of tension within American society. At that, people coming from the East often alienate themselves from the rest of society and try to focus on their traditions.
Nonetheless, one of the best ways to diminish tension in society is to start a debate involving all people. All Americans (irrespective of the race, ethnicity, religion, and so on) have to share their views and tell others about their culture. Americans have to understand that they are all truly equal. The concept of Orientalism has to be forgotten and eliminated from US society as it leads to tension and disparity among Americans.
Smith, Andrea. “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy.” Color of Violence. Ed. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2006. 66-73. Print.
Orientalism in the Middle East Cultural Studies Essay
Orientalism is an academic concept that is frequently used in different cultural studies, art history, and even politics to introduce and explain the peculiarities of life in the Middle East, known as the Orient, from Western perspectives. Said defines the Orient not as adjacent to Europe, but as a place where the greatest and richest European colonies are located and become the root of the oldest civilizations and cultures (1). The examination of the historical and political views supported by Eastern representatives is not an easy task, especially when it is necessary to consider the cultural aspects of the case. Besides, it is hard for people to comprehend the importance of Orientalism in cases where they know only a little or even nothing about the Arab culture and the world, full of contradictions and beliefs. Said explains his intentions to investigate Orientalism as a necessity in comparing his attitudes on and knowledge of the Arab world with the ideas and thoughts developed by famous people, artists, publishers, and philosophers and find the approval of such immediate development of the discussions on the Middle East in the media (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). To succeed in his achievements and explanations, Said introduces several qualifications proving that the Orient, in comparison to Orientalism, is not only an idea but a reality that makes people think and act (5). The development of the Orient as a region with its cultures, ideas, and histories is based on power and domination inherent to its neighbors (Said 5). Finally, Said issues a call to accept Orientalism as a reality with its own weak and strong points to eliminate all myths and lies that could bother people.
Orientalism Is Not a Reality but an Idea
Many current Orientalism debates are based on Said’s book, whose main idea is the representation of the East by the West in terms of domination, power, and rules that have to be followed. The peculiar feature of this book is its author’s fearlessness and ability to identify the weaknesses of the East and the delusions of the West. The author does not want to take one position and support it on every page of his book. His interest in Middle Eastern culture and history is caused by the necessity to comprehend an unexpected power of the East and its possibility to influence events in the whole world (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). It is not enough to learn the history of the Middle East or have direct personal experience with such countries as India, Egypt, or Syria. It is necessary to compare what people think about the Middle East and clarify the reasons why such approaches and understandings are chosen. However, even the opinions and attitudes of Western representatives on the Orient and its development can vary considerably. Therefore, it is suggested to consider Orientalism not as a reality that has a beginning and an ending, but as an idea that could be spread throughout all parts of the world and combine the attitudes and knowledge of the region under discussion.
The Middle East is complicated due to its beliefs, attitudes toward life, the relations between men and women, and rights that people can or cannot use. It is easy to find several attitudes regarding the same idea and prove the importance of each of them. For example, the majority of Eastern society supports the idea that women cannot perform main roles and have to obey their men about any question or demand. At the same time, the power of men could not be recognized without women. Therefore, women play a crucial role in understanding and recognizing the power of men in society.
Orientalism is a chance to comprehend these relationships and challenges because it is interpreted as a dynamic exchange of knowledge between individual authors and three great empires, including France, Britain, and America (Said 15). However, in many countries, the Middle East is introduced as a homogeneous region with several limitations and concerns. The West uses its powers and confirms its superiority regarding the citizens of the Middle East. Orientalism is a guide and an explanation of how the life of the people in the Middle East can be recognized by the citizens of other regions.
The Orient as a Region with Its Rules and Cultural Norms
It is necessary to say that if Orientalism cannot be defined as a reality that determines the quality of human life, the concept known as the Orient is more than a real idea. It is a region with certain rules and cultural norms. It is the place that helps to define Europe, also known as the West, and the relations that could be developed between the nations (Said 1). However, even if the role of the Orient remains the same in different countries, it does not mean that all countries have the same attitude to this region.
For example, Said explains that American Orientalism and European Orientalism vary considerably because of the experiences the countries have regarding the Middle East (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). Such countries as Britain and France have had colonies in India and other parts of the Middle East. Therefore, the citizens of these countries participated in the development of the region directly and knew what to expect from the representatives of the Middle East. Americans have less direct experience with the Middle East. Their indirect experiences and opinions are based on abstractions obtained from different literary sources, works of art, and the opinions of different researchers and philosophers.
Also, Said discusses the differences that exist between American and European Orientalism regarding the power of politics and political relations. The point is that American Orientalism is more politicized (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). Though America was ready to accept the fact that such countries as Israel became free and independent, it was hard for America to understand the true price of such achievement. Americans developed their opinions about the people of the Middle East from information offered via different media sources. The Arabs had to use weapons and employ violence to protect their rights and make other countries accept their independence (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). Therefore, such concepts as terrorism, terror, power, and cruelty were associated with the Arab world. With time, in modern media, the demonization of Islam occurred (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). Said recognizes the presence of terrorism in the Middle East and explains it as a result of numerous political and economic challenges the Islamic people had to face. Orientalism offers the possibility to comprehend the nature of such challenges and opportunities in the Orient (the Middle East). The development of the Orient is the development of a whole nation with its problems, needs, and expectations.
The Orient vs. the East
The Orientalism debates also include the explanation of the difference between such terms as “the orient” and “the east.” The East is used to introduce the region from a geographical point of view. The Orient is the same as the East; still, the cultural aspects are taken into consideration. In Said’s Orientalism, the Orient was compared to a feminized East that depended on the virile power of the West. Also, it is the West that obtains all necessary techniques and representations to make the Orient visible, clear, and worthy of recognition in the world arena (Said 22).
Each century, the representation of the region was changed dramatically. For example, before Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition, the Orient was a territory with its people and rules. After the expedition and the impact of William Jones and Anquetil-Duperron, the Orient was studied from a scientific point of view when new opportunities and authorities were discovered (Said 22). Only after the Orient was recognized in the political arena, the East could be introduced as an example of how people could develop traditions, share their experiences, and prove their rights for their existence. Even though much time was spent in investigating the Middle East, there were still many things and aspects that were misunderstood or not seen by the people of the West (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). As soon as the Orient was recognized as one of the most aggressive regions full of terror and inequality, the people of the West started using the same negative attitude and criteria to judge other actions and attempts of the East to become respected worldwide. One wrong judgment and one inappropriate action were enough to create an image of the Middle East as full of rage and anger (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). Still, it is correct to define the orient as a set of references to “its origin in a quotation, or a fragment of a text, or a citation from someone’s work… or some bit of the previous imagining” (Said 177). This definition proves that it is easy for a region to gain popularity relying not on personal experiences but the opinions of other people and different outside sources.
The West defined itself as a region that was more powerful and capable of taking a leading position in comparison with the East because of its ability to control its rage. Therefore, in Said’s work, the Orient is depicted as an irrational and weak Other. Arabs are usually shown as gullible and devoid of energy and any kind of initiative (Said 38). They are said to be cruel to animals, and they are liars who always look suspicious and unfair to other people around them. Unfortunately, such attitudes and opinions could hardly be changed or improved with time because the already offered ideas have been approved for ages.
The Orientalism Debates on Knowledge and Power
In the middle of the 18th century, it became popular to share knowledge of the Middle East and introduce its customs and lifestyles through a variety of means. Additionally, it was necessary to underline the power of men in a certain society. Nevertheless, American and European Orientalists shared different opinions. The colonial experience of France and Britain about Egypt and its traditions was hard to compare with the visions developed by the Americans. In America, people did not have a chance to develop direct relations with the Arabs. Therefore, they built their opinions and attitudes to a new culture based on the information they could gather from different sources.
It was hard for people from different countries to build trustful and effective relations with the Arabs because of being afraid of their violence and power (Said 287). Men obtained an impressive volume of powers that could not be comprehended. Women were afraid of their men. They could initiate their actions, but be obliged to have permission from their men. The picture that people had of the Arab world was rather ambiguous for a long time. It was hard to come to conclusions or to build new plans concerned with the Arab world.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to promote effective comparisons and explanations of the Arab world by relying on the opinions of other people, as well as observations that could be made from movies or Hollywood cartoons like Aladdin (“Edward Said on Orientalism”). Said maintains that Orientalism offers the possibility to answer such questions as to why people try to use their preconceived notions about people’s identity and motives instead of formulating their own opinions and knowledge. Orientalism is a guide that describes the process of how people come to certain conclusions. There is no need to agree or disagree with the facts. The only thing that has to be done is to accept the facts and develop personal attitudes and knowledge. Said uses Orientalism as a possibility to consider the historical and institutional contexts of the Middle East such as the British imperial presence in the Middle Eastern colonies (213) and the European imperial powers that influenced American attitudes (294). Nowadays, the Middle East is still present as a region where such things as barbarism, violence, and some kind of charm are combined. Such a variety of emotions and attitudes could be explained by the presence of European and American Orientalism and the necessity to combine different types of knowledge regarding the power of the Middle East.
The Middle Eastern Sins
Said, as well as other writers who investigate the Middle East, its history, and development, admit that it is not an easy task to comprehend the Orient. The politics of the Middle East could easily be misunderstood because of existing judgments or misinterpretations, which can also be called sins (Davis). One of the main challenges that many analysts and researchers face is the inability to take history seriously (Davis). In other words, the historical context is not considered as opinions and knowledge of the Middle East are being formed. People are ready to use the information that they have “at hand” and neglect the actual reasons or explanations that could be given only if the past of the country is observed. Davis calls this sin as presentism that pays certain attention to the present details and current achievements instead of a thorough evaluation of past decisions and actions.
Another important aspect of understanding the Middle East is the attention to the elites and their power over ordinary people. The investigations show that public opinion does not play as crucial a role as it might. The focus on elites promotes the development of a rigid understanding of the Middle East because of the necessity to accept all political changes regarding the leaders’ needs without considering the needs of ordinary people. In such a situation, it is hard to comprehend all peculiarities of the Middle Eastern world, but use only the perspectives developed by rich and powerful people.
There is also a myth, called fundamentalism, in Islam and the Middle Eastern world (Davis). It is about the necessity to pursue causing radical Islamic politics to pay less attention to Islamic theology or Islamic law, but to focus on the basics that have been known for ages. Davis offers an analogy of this requirement in the form of members of the Ku Klux Klan, radicals who were ready to spread terror among people just to support their Christian beliefs and ideals.
Finally, one of the main mistakes made by many Americans and other people while analyzing the world of the Middle East is a binary attitude toward politics. Americans, as well as other Western analysts, view all political events in the region as either black or white. There are no other colors under consideration. It is impossible to analyze the mistakes and clarify neutral aspects. All actions and thoughts could be either good or bad. This attitude is also applicable to Middle Eastern education, health care, and different social services (Davis).
Importance of Orientalism in the Middle East
In general, there are many ways to comprehend the Middle East, learn its history, and take the lessons its powerful nation introduces. However, Orientalism remains one of the most powerful approaches for the citizens of different countries to study the Middle East, which is also known as the Orient. For a long period, the Orient has been introduced as a crucial part of European civilization and culture (Said 2). Orientalism teaches the Western civilizations how to comprehend the Middle East socially, ideologically, politically, scientifically, and even imaginatively (Said 3). While discussing the nature of the Middle East, it is also necessary to consider the impact of three forces on the understanding of the Orient. These are the Orient, the place where Arabs live; Orientalism, the method chosen for studying the nation; and Western Orientalism, the way of how Western civilizations can investigate the Middle East, its development, and relations with the world.
Said is an author who examined the world of the Middle East from different perspectives and proved that the Middle East is a complicated term that cannot be judged from one particular aspect only. There are many attitudes people could develop about Arabs. There is much knowledge people could use to investigate Arab lifestyles. Also, people should remember the mistakes that could be made in understanding the Orient (Davis). The Middle East has many sides and many colors. It is hard to consider the power and impact of all of them. Still, Orientalism is the first step that has to be taken in understanding the essence.
Davis, Eric. “10 Conceptual Sins in Analyzing Middle East Politics.” The New Middle East, Web.
“Edward Said on Orientalism.” YouTube, uploaded by Palestine Diary, Web.
Said, Edward, W. Orientalism. Penguin, 2003.
Literature Review #2: The Politics of Gender
Nowadays, as well as several decades ago, the politics of gender remains a crucial aspect of consideration in the Middle East. Arab women have to deal with several barriers that exist in the political, social, and cultural worlds of the region. Until the middle of the 19th century, Eastern women did not have an opportunity to write about themselves, and the understanding of women’s history was based on the materials and thoughts developed by men or the representatives of other nations (Ze’ev 157).
It is hard for people to comprehend the true essence of the women’s world without clear examples and explanations. The politics of gender is usually defined as an unfair or incomplete concept from a Western point of view. However, the male representatives of the Middle East do not find it necessary to provide their women with certain rights and develop laws and reforms to promote gender equality and power (Suad 113). The outcomes of such uncertainties or unwillingness to discuss the role of women in the modern world include the increased number of uprisings, like the Arab Spring, where the rights, freedoms, and security of women were discussed (Mounira and Zarrugh). Several years ago, women just wanted to be recognized as a group of people with rights and benefits. Still, men did not accept the challenge and made women forget and neglect their demands. Within a short period, women were ready to protect their rights and ask for personal freedoms to promote democratization and equality in the Middle Eastern society in which they have to live (Moghadam 137). Social justice, political freedoms, and the possibility of avoiding sexual terrorism—these are the main aspects of female protests that occur in the Middle East (Hafez 174).
Historical Evaluation of Women’s Rights in the Middle East
Many modern authors raise the question of the quality and appropriateness of historical sources and the choices that writers made several decades ago. It is not enough to prove that past approaches can have certain limitations. It is necessary to investigate the situation relying on a certain topic. For example, Ze’evi offers to investigate the history of women in Jerusalem during the 17th century (157). The role of women was frequently discussed several centuries ago and remains a crucial topic for discussions nowadays. However, one of the main mistakes made by Western Orientalists is the belief that the status of women is the same in all parts of the Middle East.
The history of women’s rights in the Middle East is complicated. Many representatives of the West cannot agree with the attitudes developed regarding Arab women. In the majority of cases, Orient women are treated as chattel that men can buy and sell to meet their own needs and demands (Ze’evi 159). Eugene Roger was a famous French writer who focused on the relations between genders in Lebanon. In his writing, much attention was paid to the conditions under which women were sold and the situations in which widowed women could buy men. In any event, the idea that men could buy women merely to make their desires come true should be defined as wrong and unethical. Still, Roger describes eight-year-old girls and their satisfaction with the possibility of getting married at such a young age and being under the protection of their men (Ze’evi 159).
In the 17th century, communication between men and women was not properly developed. Brides did not have the chance to know something about their future husbands, and grooms relied on information about their future wives that other people could give. The main difference between this unawareness was that men did not even care for their wives. The only thing that mattered for the Arab men was their reputation and the possibility to develop a family business, work and earn money for living and entertaining, and follow the traditions. Women did not have any particular obligations except being loyal to their husbands, keeping silence unless a man asked to break it, and taking responsibility for all household work (Ze’evi 160). There were also examples of women who had to wear bells in their hair to warn men or other visitors or inhabitants of the house about their arrival (Ze’evi 160). Women did not have the right to leave home without their husbands, to speak to different people without the permission of their husbands, or to draw conclusions or share thoughts without their husbands’ approval. Women were not able to learn how to write or read. As a rule, such orders and restrictions were explained by Arab men’s jealousy. Also, there were cases where Arab women were ready to betray their husbands for personal, religious, or political reasons. Therefore, men needed to keep a strict hold on their women, stay calm, remain safe.
However, even though women were under the control of their husbands or fathers, they were not completely deprived of all rules. For example, women could ask for a divorce based on such reasons as mistreatment, the husband’s impotence or disappearance for a long period, or attempts to befit the woman’s status in society (Ze’evi 165). It was also important for a woman to have legal approval of the reasons for a divorce because divorced women had fewer opportunities to find a good husband again unless good recommendations and explanations could be given.
After a divorce or their husbands’ deaths, many women received money and property from the family. Therefore, such thoughts as complete dependence on husbands or the inability of a woman to exist alone should be disproved. Even in the 17th century, there were rights that Arab men could not disregard.
Citizenship Laws regarding Women in the Middle East
Citizenship status in the Middle East is a serious question for discussion. To be a citizen in the Orient means to be a person who can take into consideration a set of practices, including cultural, political, judicial, and economic aspects, and become a competent member of society (Joseph 107). However, each region needs to have a criterion according to which political, economic, and other aspects may be identified. Therefore, Joseph offers to promote the development of citizenship laws to define the political purpose, distributing powers, and various assigning statuses based on civic myths and obligations (Joseph 107).
For example, in Lebanon, civic myths are used to prove regional economic liberalism, social conservatism, religious freedoms, and gender equality (Joseph 108). Kinship is one of such myths that are recognized and respected by the citizens. It is based on an imagined biological system of recruitment with the help of which it is possible to create birth groups, further creating frames that make it possible to develop different attitudes to certain groups of people and introduce the rules which have to be followed. Kin relations predetermine the attitudes to women considerably.
The investigations of Joseph show that, in Lebanon, women are usually involved in discussions regarding sectarian pluralism and its ability to define the quality of life in the Middle East and the role of the government. The creation of sects was explained as a possibility for introducing numerous attitudes to the same question, prove the emergence of each of them, and identify what has already been done, what can be done, and what has to be done at any cost. Sectarian pluralism is used to explain the development of gender inequality in the Middle East. A high priority is usually given to a unified civil family code (Joseph 113). Therefore, many feminists and supporters of women’s rights fail to prove their positions but focus on weakening the sectarian pluralism that defines the standard of living. Family law is misunderstood by the representatives of the Middle East because of the presence of numerous sects with their own rules and expectations. Therefore, it is hard for the representatives of Western civilizations to judge and comprehend life in the Middle East because the Middle Eastern citizens themselves could not define one group of standards that has to be followed.
Regarding the instability of citizenship laws in the Middle East, the status of women in society remains unstable as well. Men want to protect their freedoms and promote safety and order in their lives. Women are used by men to meet their cultural, social, and personal needs, and the law is used to cover these needs. Though women are deprived of freedoms and choices, they know what disobedience means and how to begin protecting their rights (Joseph 123). Still, to become confident and able to protect her interests and demands, any woman has to learn how to distinguish myths from reality and how to solve urgent problems and protest against hegemonic oppressive forces that are spread throughout society (Hafez 176).
Importance of Distinguishing Myths from Reality
There are three main aspects to be taken into consideration when the inequality between men and women in the Middle East is discussed. First, people believe that Arab men have better opportunities and freedoms in society in comparison to Arab women (Hafez 179). Second, the development of marriage relations differs among men and women because men enjoy life security promoted in families, and women have to obey the rules determined by other family representatives (Hafez 179). Finally, women remain culturally and socially marginalized (Hafez 179). These are three main reasons why women need changes and re-organization of the society in which they have to live every day. With time, it becomes harder to control women and their desires than it was several decades ago. Women can weigh their opportunities and choose what is appropriate to them. Women use media to gather information and develop comparisons. Besides, men are so involved in the socio-economic development and the promotion of small and large businesses in their countries (Hafez 179) that they neglect the experience and knowledge their women may get.
There is a myth regarding the modernization of women in the Middle East. Western people believe that Arab women were not ready and eager to protest until the 2000s. However, this view has two sides. On the one hand, it is true, Arab women were not ready to demonstrate their rights and demands openly before the 2000s. On the other hand, it is wrong to believe that women were not ready for protests. The first steps of female modernization were taken in the middle of the 1900s when Muslim women strove to get an education and obtain recognition as a certain social group (Hafez 180). Women prepared themselves to speak freely and learned how to use their bodies as one of the main communicative means in case they could not use their mouths.
Female Bodies and Female Virtue
Female marginalization from existing political and democratic life is possible nowadays due to the possibility to target on the female body and rely on its power (Hafez 173). There were many cases in Middle Eastern history when women had to use their bodies to protect themselves, to prove their positions, and to provide themselves with a safe future. The case of Samira Ibrahim proved that society could use female bodies to make them regret every incorrect step is taken (Hafez 173). A body is defined as an instrument to humiliate women in such a case. The same cases addressed to men could be hardly observed in history. Therefore, much attention was paid to such a case to gather enough grounds for further uprisings. However, even unsuccessful past experiences did not help to stave off judgments and maltreatment of modern women. Several years ago, the case of an unknown woman in a blue bra shocked millions of people. Men proved that they could use their power and strength against women who did not want to recognize their actual place in society. Women, in turn, we’re ready to use any possible means to be heard and be supported. Female bodies are symbols of female virtue and identity that may be regarded as the only form of protest that could be available to women (Hafez 176). Though it is not always easy for women to learn how to use body language, they are ready to make the attempt and to change the world they have to live in.
Only one question remains. If women can use their bodies as the vehicle to speak freely, why were they not able to take the same steps several centuries ago and avoid misjudgments and humiliations? The point is that not many historical sources were written by women. Men were the authors of the sources that modern people can use nowadays (Ze’evi 157). The cases of protests could have occurred in past centuries. Still, they may be not enlightened properly because of the gender issue in authorship. Therefore, the concept of the female body as the means of protests against gender inequality in political, social, and cultural aspects may have a long history with several branches.
The Arab Spring as a Result of Gender Inequality
The Arab Spring is still considered one of the most effective and unforgettable events in the Middle East. It was a cultural breakthrough that touched upon the political life of the region regarding the existing gender inequality issues and concerns (Charrad and Zarrugh). In 2011, women took their chances and protected their rights in the region of Tunisia. Women were ready to perform the roles of bright politicians, policymakers, activists, journalists, and photographers to testify to their concerns and the necessity of living in a world full of prejudices and inequalities (Charrad and Zarrugh). It is necessary to admit that all events and activities demonstrated by women during the Arab Spring had legal explanations and grounds.
Family law and the rules women have to follow concerning their marriage, divorce, child-rearing, and family heritage play an important role in the Middle East. The latest changes were crucial for women because they obtained many benefits and opportunities. For example, the abolition of polygamy was achieved (Charrad and Zarrugh). Not many men’s privileges were observed in family relations because women became able to choose husbands, to ask for a divorce, and promote their rights over children. Women could study and use their knowledge to protect their rights. However, it is necessary to admit that, in some families, the power of traditions remained integral, and women were not ready to change everything in their lives. In other words, some women still like the idea of being dependent on their men, and it is wrong to believe that all women in the Middle East, as well as in other countries, try to avoid the necessity of dependence on their men.
Therefore, it is necessary to consider the events of the Arab Spring in the context of family law and personal status codes that are developed by families (Charrad and Zarrugh). It can happen that a woman may not need her independence and many rights to be used to improve her life. Still, it is necessary to introduce such guarantees and explanations as support women, their rights, and the possibility of avoiding sexual or other forms of harassment in the Middle East (Moghadam 140).
Future Female Modernization and Democratization
Nowadays, democratic and modernizing movements of women to support their rights and freedoms have become a frequent event with several unpredictable outcomes. In some regions of the Middle East, female movements are supported and bring certain results. In some regions, like the case with the woman in a blue bra, women’s attempts to change something and demonstrate their abilities could be misunderstood and punished. Democratization and modernization of women’s rights turn out to be a question of time. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are some countries where considerable changes in gender politics have already taken place (Moghadam 141). However, all authors mentioned in this literature review support the idea that new changes could be observed because Arab women do not want to stop as they have already recognized the power of education, Orientalism, and the relations they may develop in their families and society. In the 17th century, the marginality of women and men was a burning question because of the impossibility to gather credible sources and develop a specific system (Ze’evi 171). In the 18th–19th centuries, women did not find it necessary to change something because of the. In the 20th century, family law and citizenship law were promoted (Joseph 107) and resulted in numerous uprisings and movements known as the Arab Spring (Charrad and Zarrugh; Hafez 172).
Charrad, Mounira M., and Amina Zarrugh. “The Arab Spring and Women’s Rights in Tunisia.” e-International Relations, Web.
Hafez, Sherine. “The Revolution Shall Not Pass-through Women’s Bodies: Egypt, Uprising, and Gender Politics.” Journal of North African Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, 2014, pp. 172-185.
Joseph, Suad. “Civic Myths, Citizenship, and Gender in Lebanon.” Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East, edited by Suad Joseph, SUP, 2000, pp. 107-136.
Moghadam, Valentine M. “Modernising Women and Democratisation after the Arab Spring.” Journal of North African Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, 2014, pp. 137-142.
Ze’evi, Dror. “Women in 17th-Century Jerusalem: Western and Indigenous Perspectives.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 27, 1995, pp. 157-173.
Orientalism in “Not Without My Daughter” Film Essay
Orientalism is a common concept in international studies. It is used by academicians in reference to the culture of societies in some parts of the world. The regions include Asia and the Middle East. Parties responsible for making the representations include writers, artists, and designers from western countries. Orientalism is common in movies, films, songs, and other artistic expressions. For decades, Hollywood has produced a number of popular movies, series, and children cartoons that depict the stereotypes held by western countries in relation to Muslims and their culture.1 Some of the films portray a positive picture of inhabitants in the Middle East. However, others illustrate negative, crude, and exaggerated images of the Arab community. In spite of the wide range of depictions, some elements showed in the movies tend to be true. Such aspects include ill treatment of women in the society and the proliferation of terrorism acts that involve kidnapping and killing of individuals from western nations.
Since the 9/11 bombing of the United States, majority of films produced in the western world portray Arab communities as terrorists full of ill motives.2 Some of the most popular blockbusters propagating these themes are based on plots involving attacking and bombing installations in the United States. In addition, some of the scripts are based on kidnapping and rescue missions of citizens from this country. The villains are more often than not militants from the Middle East.
The current paper is written against this background of stereotypes propagated about societies in the Middle East by films and other artistic expressions in the west. To this end, the author will use the film “Not Without My Daughter” to examine the various aspects of orientalism promoted by the creators. The movie is a true story that depicts the plight of women in the Middle East. In particular, it portrays the harsh treatment of this group in Iran.
Representation of Societies in the Middle East through the Film “Not Without My Daughter”
“Not Without My Daughter”: A Brief Synopsis
“Not Without my Daughter” is a 1991drama film about the true story of Betty Mahmoody. Betty is an American citizen married to an Iranian husband. The couple has a daughter named Mahtob who is aged four. The movie begins with Betty and Moody at their home in the United States. Life in this western nation is characterised by freedom, beauty, and peace.3 The home is built near a lake with an evergreen surrounding. The setting is meant to create a good picture of America and the good life of people in society.
After staying for some time in the United States, Moody, an Iranian physician, decides to take his American family to Iran. He claims that his relatives wish to meet his wife and daughter. Upon hearing the news, Betty becomes reluctant.4 The reason behind this is because Iran is considered to be an unpleasant nation, particularly for women of American origin. The negative notion about the country brings out the differences between peaceful America and an Iranian society that is in turmoil.
To persuade them to accompany him, Moody claims it will be a two weeks visit. As a result, Betty agrees to go with her husband. Upon arrival in the new country, Betty’s fears are confirmed. Her husband had other plans. He declares that Iran will be their new home. Moody deceives his wife in spite of the fact that he had taken an oath using the Quran. He had assured his wife that the family will return to America.5 Betty tries to object. However, Moody gets violent and smacks her. None of the family members who witness the incident sympathise with her. In addition, none tries to question her husband’s action. Due to this ill treatment, Betty plans to escape and return home.
Depiction of Iran and the Middle East in the Film
After their arrival in Iran, Betty forms the opinion that the country is different from the United States. Detailed descriptions of their previous home depict the United States as the best place to stay in the world. The reason for this is because the environment is serene, beautiful, and clean. On the contrary, Iran is described as a dirty place. In addition, it is a colourless and dull society. Betty considers the nation to be ‘backward’, uncivilised, and old-fashioned.6
The country is an archaic land full of violence and other vices. The situation is different in America, where people are calm, civilised, and advanced. In the film, Iranian citizens are portrayed as aggressive individuals. The aggression starts from their mode of communication to how they resolve issues. They tend to converse in high pitched voices using fearful and violent gestures. However, it is important to note that only men are expected to show such emotions. Women are not supposed to shout or scream in dialogues.
The creators of the movie portray Iranian men as abusive and oppressive towards their wives. Once in Iran, Moody changes and becomes hostile. He seems to touch base with the Iranian in his DNA. He goes ahead and hits his wife in front of the family members.7 In addition, each time he is angry with his wife’s actions, he makes no efforts to correct her or share his opinion in the right manner, as was the case in America. Instead, he engages in animalistic and brutal actions, including abusing his wife physically.
The movie reveals the violence experienced by women in the Middle East. Female members of the society are considered to be inferior to their male counterparts.8 Due to this, they are required to submit to their husbands at all times. In the movie, Betty decides to put up with her husband’s abusive behaviour just to gain trust. She sees the move as an option that will facilitate her escape. However, not all men in Iran are evil and mean. For example, in spite of their violence and negative attitudes towards women, Betty is helped to escape by an Iranian man.
To some extent, the picture portrayed in the film is true. The reason behind this is because women in the Middle East are known to be victims of ill treatment and inequality. The inequality tends to be influenced by the peoples’ culture and beliefs. It is also influenced by legislations put in place in the country.9 One such law is Tamkin. The decree requires women to submit to their husbands. Under Article 1105 of the country’s Civil Codes, the position of the head of the family belongs to the man. However, as already indicated, some men are nice towards the womenfolk. An example is the man who assisted Betty in her escape plans.
The film “Not without My Daughter” depicts nations in the Middle East as places where the freedoms of women are curtailed or nonexistent. For example, once in Iran, Moody prevents his wife from leaving the house.10 In addition, she is restricted from using the telephone. At one time, Betty manages to visit the Swiss Embassy. After reporting her case, she is told that as long as she resides in Iran, she cannot leave the country without her husband’s permission. She is also informed that the case applies to all women married to Iranian men. Freedom is a major concern in countries in the Middle East. For example, in Saudi Arabia, like in Iran, women are not allowed to leave the house without permission from their husbands or male relatives.11 In addition, they are not required to drive cars or cycle.
The film considers Islamic religion to be a major determinant of the behaviour of residents in the Middle East. For example, in the movie, Iranians are portrayed as individuals who pray ‘excessively’. They do so both at night and during the day. In addition, religion dictates women’s dress code. At one time, Betty is attacked by strangers because some of her hair was not covered with a headscarf.12
The angry mob claimed she had violated the dressing code stipulated in Islamic religious scriptures. Women in the Middle East are not required to take part in prayers. In addition, as seen in the film, they are not allowed to show any happy emotions. The picture shows that Islamic nations are different from the American society where people can be playful and share fun moments. In different scenes, Betty is met with a fearful look from other women when she plays and laughs with her daughter.13
The film depicts the hardships experienced by mothers when securing child custody. In Middle Eastern nations, husbands can seek divorce without any clear reasons. However, the man must pay the wife mahr upon separation.14 In addition, a man is allowed to remarry immediately. The case does not apply to women. Betty wishes to escape and separate with her abusive husband. In Iran, this will be difficult. The reason is that the American laws are different from those in Iran. Once they divorce, Betty would lose custody of her daughter.
After the Islamic revolution, Iranian laws changed. As a result, men were granted custody of boys when they turn two years and girls when they attain the age of seven.15 However, the laws changed again in 2003. In this case, mothers were allowed to retain the custody of sons until they turned seven. Betty’s daughter is aged 4. As a result, Betty risks losing her if she opts to stay. In addition, if she leaves without her, the child will suffer in the hands of her father.
Perpetuation of Positive and Negative Stereotypes by Producers of “Not Without My Daughter”
A stereotype is a notion adopted by a group of people in relation to a certain aspect of life. Producers of “Not Without My Daughter” are mainly perpetuating negative stereotypes about societies in the Middle East. Positive aspects of the Iranian culture are revealed in very few scenes. One noticeable part is when Betty and her daughter are helped to escape from Iran by a man. Some of the elements portrayed in the film are true. However, there are considerable levels of exaggeration. People from the Arab nations are depicted as wealthy and uncultured. They are also described as terrorists and religious extremists.16
In spite of the fact that the film is based on a true story, the producers try to insinuate that all people in Iran and the whole Middle East are violent and oppressors. The notion results in misinterpretation of Muslims and Arabs. In addition, Iranian culture is considered as rigid.
In most modern and traditional societies, men are considered to be superior to women. The latter are given less opportunities in the community, even in developed countries. Differences between the two genders arise due to the fact that in some nations, the cases of mistreatment are rampant.17 In America, divorced couples also face the problem of settling custody issues. In addition, there are cases of gender based violence where women are the main victims. However, in the film, countries in the Middle East are portrayed as the only places where these problems occur. Producers of the movie ignore the fact that some women in Arab nations lead successful and inspiring lives.18 As such, American producers should expand the scope of their work and focus on the positive side of their themes.
Since the late nineteenth century, Hollywood and American directors and producers have majored in the creation of films about other nations. The themes in the movies range from the antics of political leaders to weird behaviour of people in foreign nations. A case in point is the film “Not Without My Daughter”. An analysis of most of these artistic expressions reveals that most producers focus on the negative attributes of their target nations. For a long time, nations in the Arab world have been on the receiving end of this skewed representation of the global culture. People in these nations are considered to be barbaric, cruel, and terrifying.19
In addition, the movies portray Arabs as people who focus on the restoration of women subordination. Only few films, such as ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, show positive aspects of the Muslim world.
Hamamsy, WE & M Soliman, Popular culture in the Middle East and North Africa: a postcolonial outlook, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York, 2012.
Haugen, DM, The Middle East: opposing viewpoints, Greenhaven Press, Detroit, 2009.
Kamalipour, YR, The U.S. media and the Middle East: image and perception, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, Connecticut, 1997.
Luyendijk, J, People like us: misrepresenting the Middle East, Soft Skull Press, New York, 2009.
Not without my daughter, video recording, Gilbert B., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, New York, 1991.
Seib, PM, New media and the new Middle East: the Palgrave Macmillan series in international political communication, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009.
- PM Seib, New media and the new Middle East: the Palgrave Macmillan series in international political communication, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009, p. 51.
- J Luyendijk, People like us: misrepresenting the Middle East, Soft Skull Press, New York, 2009, p. 63.
- Not without my daughter, video recording, Gilbert B., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, New York, 1991.
- YR Kamalipour, The U.S media and the Middle East: image and perception, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, Connecticut, 1997, p. 180.
- Not without my daughter, loc. cit.
- Kamalipour, op. cit., p. 181.
- W Hamamsy & M Soliman, Popular culture in the Middle East and North Africa: a postcolonial outlook, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York, 2013, p. 62.
- DM Haugen, The Middle East: opposing viewpoints, Greenhaven Press, Detroit, 2009, p. 73.
- Not without my daughter, loc. cit.
- Haugen, loc. cit.
- Not without my daughter, loc. cit.
- Kamalipour, op. cit., p. 185.
- Seib, op. cit., p. 67.
- Haugen, op. cit., p. 83.
- Seiba, op. cit., p. 77.
- ibid., p. 79.
- Hamamsy & Soliman, op. cit., p. 64.
- Luyendijk, op. cit., p. 85.