In recent years, social and cultural geography has drawn inspiration from postcolonial studies in order to analyze and interpret the workings of colonial domination. The work of the literary theorist Edward Said showed how the discourse of Orientalism dominated (and continues to dominate) academic and artistic work on the countries of the Middle East. The concept of the Orient extends to broader general parlance; within the concept of “Oriental Studies,” Central, South, and East Asia are also included. It legitimizes and enables the continual colonial domination of “the West” over “the Rest.” Partly inspired by the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926–84), Said coined the notion of Orientalism to refer to Eurocentric (and later US) ideas, thoughts, cultural depictions, military reports, and claims to superiority over the Middle East. Orientalism is a style of thought that produced the image of the Orient as a threatening, inferior, and underdeveloped “Other” as compared to the Western powers. Said emphasizes that the Orient is not a free subject of action and thought, but rather, a created and imaginary geographical entity constructed in the context of colonialism and Western dominance. This imaginative geography works by dramatizing geographical distance and difference between what is close and what is far away. Said's work has influenced scholarship in a variety of fields and disciplines, including geography, despite critiques of his conceptualization of Orientalism. Today, critical approaches toward cultural essentialism in geopolitics remain a central topic for both academic discourse and political activism.
|Title of host publication||International Encyclopedia of Human Geography|
|Publication status||Published - 2020|