Edward Saïd

& “Orientalism”

“Humanism is the only resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.”

Read “Orientalism”

Read the full review (& download a PDF copy) here:
BooksOrientalism.


Edward Saïd’s seminal work, Orientalism, has, according to one academic, “redefined our understanding of colonialism and empire.” If you come across the term post-colonial studies whilst u r reading or delving off on an internet-based, whimsical knowledge building journey, soon enough you’ll encounter Saïd. In Orienrltalism, Saïd surveys the history and nature of Western attitudes towards the East, and contends that “orientalism” is a powerful European ideological creation – a way for writers, philosophers and Western political powers (alongside their think tanks) to deal with the ‘otherness’ of eastern culture, customs and beliefs. Drawing on his own experiences as an Arab Palestinian living in the West, Said examines how these ideas can be a reflection of European imperialism and racism. He traces this view through the writings of Homer, Flaubert, Disraeli and Kipling, whose imaginative depictions have greatly contributed to the West’s romantic and exotic picture of the Orient.

Paraphrasing from the book’s introduction, orientalism is the amplification of difference, the presumption of Western superiority, and, “the application of clichéd analytical models for perceiving the Oriental world,” from the perspectives of Western thinkers and scholars. According to Said, orientalism is the key source of the inaccuracy in cultural representations that form the foundations of Western thought and perception of the Eastern world {نحن نعيش ، نموت}. The theoretical framework that orientalism covers has three tenets:

(1)
— an academic tradition or field [see, maybe my posts on: Wilfred Thesiger and Sir Richard Burton];

(2)
— a worldview, representation, and canon / discourse which bases itself upon an, “ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the Orient” and the West;

(3)
— as a powerful political instrument of Western domination over Eastern countries {عاشت فلسطين}.

Praise for the book

“Beautifully patterned and passionately argued.”

New Statesman

“Very exciting … his case is not merely persuasive, but conclusive.”

— John Leonard, New York Times

Them ‘n’ Us

“who knows which is which and who is who”

— Dark Side of the Moon

It’s an ‘Us & Them’ thing (I’m one of the ‘them,’ dear reader). The West may objectify us…

But, they do themselves too:

Le Sommeil (Sleep) by Gustave Courbet (1866).
Le Sommeil (Sleep) by Gustave Courbet (1866).

Jupiter in the Guise of Diana, and the Nymph Callisto, by François Boucher (1759).
Jupiter in the Guise of Diana, and the Nymph Callisto, by François Boucher (1759).
Et nous aussi nous serons meres, by Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1794).
Et nous aussi nous serons meres; car……!, by Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1794).


p.s.

Epistemology
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that focuses on ‘knowledge.’ It is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. It relates to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.


Humanism
[1]  A rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.   [2]  A Renaissance cultural movement which turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought.   [3]  (among some contemporary writers) A system of thought criticised as being centred on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the conditioned nature of the individual.
— From Latin “homo” – a person, “humanitas” – human nature.


Ontology
[1]  Ontology is the branch of philosophy that focuses on ‘the nature of being.’ It focuses on concepts that directly relate to being (in particular: becoming, existence and, reality.)   [2]  A way of showing the relations between the concepts and categories in a subject area or field of study.


Orientalism
[1]  Style, artefacts, or traits considered characteristic of the peoples and cultures of Asia.   [2]  The representation of Asia in a stereotyped way that is regarded as embodying a colonialist attitude.   [3]  “Orientalism,” as defined by Edward Said, is “the Western attitude that views Eastern societies as exotic, primitive, and inferior. Basically, an Orientalist mindset centers the Western (European/American) world and views the Eastern world as ‘the Other.'”

Sod ’em

Where to begin? (Where to end?) Well to be blindingly clear (oh ox.) and to place my placard on the pedestal, I’m not a subscriber (and never have been) but I am a great believer in digging. Without further ado, I present to you:

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah was NOT about homosexuality
— Cameron Modisane (2014)

Modisane’s article is replete with biblical references and, low and behold — suffice to say — there literally is no mention of homosexuality in relation to either Sodom or Gomorrah. In Ezekiel 16:48-49, Jerusalem (a.k.a.: القدس العربي‎) is compared to Sodom:


Sodom never did what you and your daughters have done… She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.

A week or so ago I wrote Odd tales (#1) which introduced me to Lot and his daughters who were residents of Sodom — a wonderfully deviant and debauched tale. Lot’s lot is tied to this tale in a damning way (damning to those who seek justification for their homophobic views in the bible) because he offered his daughters to the men of the town to rape at their leisure (sounds rather heterosexual to me and whilst here: why the hell didn’t he simply ask the angels to fly away? One wonders, one really does). Moreover, we learn from the scriptures that the reason for the wrath meted out by way of fire and brimstone (or was it sulfur and salt) against Sodom and Gomorrah was:

(a)
The two towns’ residents had switched theocratic allegiances.
[Ezekiel 16:48-49]
~
(b)
The two towns’ residents were uncharitable towards strangers.
[Genesis 19].

But, dear reader, please don’t damn me now, I concede and submit to you that the bible’s stories have been a godsend in that they’ve inspired so many classical paintings and formed the basis of so many fantastical works of fiction.

e.g.,

e.g.,
Dante’s Inferno
Shakespeare (especially sonnets XXIV & XXXIII).

But hold on too, I’ve read ‘n’ written about:

(a)
Winterson’s Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
— Repression as a consequence of religion.
~
(b)
Dawkins’s The Magic of reality
— Suppression of science as a result of religious superstition.
~
(c)
The pro-lifers (oh ox.) blessing of the most righteous Judge Kavanaugh.
— bashed barminess

But anyway, whenever did homo sapiens base fiat on fact. From the tail of Sodom we got words like sodomy and sodomite, phrases like “sod off” and, century after century of homophobic diatribe. This word, ‘sodom,’ is also part of the title of Sade’s notorious (😈), The 120 Days of Sodom which, like D. H. Lawrence’s titillating tale, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was long banned (forbidden fruit, as it were). Oh the irony, now it’s but a mundane Penguin Classic [sic].

Sade's Bedroom guide
^ now we are touching the subject of x, I’ll point you to another post of mine: Anaïs Nin’s “Delta of Venus”

Butt, back now to the now. The Marquis de Sade was born in Paris in 1740. He was imprisoned several times for his scandalous behaviour, and wrote The 120 Days of Sodom while in prison … By 1796 he was a ruined man … fittingly (perhaps), Sade died in an insane asylum in 1814.

According to Will McMorran, writing in The Guardian, the book — 120 Days — tells the tale of four libertines (a grand old duke, a bishop, a judge and a banker) who lock themselves away in a castle in the Black Forest with an entourage that includes two harems of teenage boys and girls specially abducted for the occasion. Four ageing brothel madams are appointed as storytellers for each of the four months, and their brief is to weave a 150 “passions” or perversions into the story of their lives.

woof woof
Woof, woof, what on earth’s going on here then!!

Thrill seekers beware though for, according to Lisa Hilton, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, anyone dipping into this intensely disturbing novel in the hope of quality erotica will be disappointed for Sade is a rotten pornographer. According to Hilton, Sade is entirely unconcerned with sensuality or erotica: his theme is power, and the violence by which power demonstrates its superiority. And I now quote Hilton verbatim:


Concealed by the shock tactics and the satire, there is an inconsistent, yet serious and often extremely funny thinker peeking from beneath the bedclothes.

0028827D-7575-4D72-996B-FAD0159BC07B

Dust & Shadow

“Pulvis et umbra sumus”

— We are but dust and shadow.

Horrace
Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.”

Ode I, 5: To Pyrrha


What slender youth, bedew’d with liquid odors,
Courts thee on roses in some pleasant cave,
Pyrrha? For whom bind’st thou
In wreaths thy golden hair,
 
Plain in thy neatness? O how oft shall he
Of faith and changed gods complain, and seas
Rough with black winds, and storms
Unwonted shall admire!
 
Who now enjoys thee credulous, all gold,
Who, always vacant, always amiable
Hopes thee; of flattering gales
Unmindful. Hapless they
 
To whom thou untried seem’st fair. Me, in my vow’d
Picture, the sacred wall declares t’have hung
My dank and dropping weeds
To the stern god of sea.


— Translated by John Milton

^ Horace’s “Ode to Pyrrha” can be interpreted in many ways… Read more about the life and works of Horace, including some pretty detailed literary analysis of the ode above:

PoetsHorace

📙 The Devil Drives

: A Life of Sir Richard Burton

— biography by Fawn Brodie (1967)

Burton
Sir Richard Burton (1821–1890), a man of distinction.

Sir Richard Burton was a British explorer, writer, orientalist, cartographer, spy, poet and diplomat. According to the publishing house, Eland:


Richard Burton was one of the greatest Victorian explorers as well as being an innovative translator, a pioneer in the fields of anthropology and sexual psychology and a publisher of erotica.

The Devil That Drives, is an excellent biography, first published in 1967, which covers comprehensively the life of Sir Richard Burton. Fawn Brodie, the talented writer of this biography, creates — in my own opinion — a really vivid and captivating portrait of Burton. By way of her pen, he emerges vividly from the richly textured fabric of his time. His travels to Mecca and Medina dressed as a Muslim pilgrim, his witnessing of the human sacrifices at Dahomey and his unlikely but loving partnership with his pious Catholic bride are all treated with warmth, scholarship and understanding.

Praise for the book

“A first class biography of an exceptional man … Buy it, steal it, read it.”

— J.H. Plumb, New York Times

“The latest, far the best and surely the final biography of Sir Richard Burton, one of the most bizarre characters whom England has ever produced.”

— Graham Greene, The Observer


Burton’s passion was not only for geographical discovery but also for the darker and more deviant side of humankind. His enormous erudition on the sexual customs of the East and Africa, long confined by the prudishness of the Victorian era, are now publicly available. His translations include:

1. Arabian Nights

Read the full review (& download a PDF copy) here:
BooksArabian Nights.

2. The Perfumed Garden

Read the full review (& download a PDF copy) here:
BooksThe Perfumed Garden.

3. Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana

Read the full review (& download a PDF copy) here:
BooksKama Sutra of Vatsyayana.


p.s.

autobiography
An account of a person’s life written by that person.


biography
An account of someone’s life written by someone else.

📙 Guns & Germs

: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond, an American geographer, anthropologist and author.
Guns, Germs, and Steel is the widely read and well received book by Jared Diamond. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction In 1988. In summary, it sets out an explanation for why Eurasian civilizations have survived and conquered others, while critically, arguing against the idea that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral, or inherent genetic superiority.

In supporting his thesis, Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate primarily in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. When cultural or genetic differences have favored Eurasians — e.g., written language or the development among Eurasians of resistance to endemic diseases — these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures; not because of genomes.

Read the full review (& download an editable PDF copy) here:
BooksGuns, Germs, and Steel.

📙 Sapiens

: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens, the 2014 book by Yuval Noah Harari, is written in a very readable way. It provides a very well thought out survey of the history of humankind from the evolution of our species of human in the Stone Age up to the 21st c. This is how the book begins:

About 13.5 billion years ago, matter, energy, time and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang. — The story of these fundamental features of our universe is called physics.
 
About 300,000 years after their appearance, matter and energy started to coalesce into complex structures, called atoms, which then combined into molecules. — The story of atoms, molecules and their interactions is called chemistry.
 
About 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms. — The story of organisms is called biology.
 
About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. — The subsequent development of these human cultures is called history.

Read the full review (& download an editable PDF copy) here:
BooksSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

Sapiens
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014)