Occidentalism  

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"As we will see in Chapter 3, an equally reductive and distorted representation of the West emerged in some Arab Middle Eastern sources. We have conveyed this through the concept of occidentalism, by which we mean any reductive representation of the West that takes the East as its starting point." --The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations


"Occidentalism is a wide-ranging, learned offering to a Western readership baffled by the intensity of hatred it has inspired among Islamic radicals. It is salutary to be reminded that loathing of what we might call the fruits of the Enlightenment has its origin in Europe, as expressed, for example, by the German social scientist Werner Sombart, with his scorn of bourgeois "Komfortismus"." --The Tablet

1872 photograph of the western face of the Greek Parthenon
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1872 photograph of the western face of the Greek Parthenon

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Occidentalism refers to and identifies representations of the Western world (the Occident) in two ways: (i) as dehumanizing stereotypes of the Western world, Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Israel, usually from the Muslim world; and (ii) as ideological representations of the West, as applied in Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China (1995), by Chen Xiaomei; Occidentalism: Images of the West (1995), by James G. Carrier; and Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (2004), Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. Occidentalism is often counterpart to the term orientalism as used by Edward Said in his book of that title, which refers to and identifies Western stereotypes of the Eastern world, the Orient.

Occidental representations

In China "Traditions Regarding Western Countries" became a regular part of the Twenty-Four Histories from the 5th century CE., when commentary about The West concentrated upon on an area that did not extend farther than Syria. The extension of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries established, represented, and defined the existence of an “Eastern world” and of a “Western world”. Western stereotypes appear in works of Indian, Chinese and Japanese art of those times. At the same time, Western influence in politics, culture, economics and science came to be constructed through an imaginative geography of West and East.

Occidentalism debated

In Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (2004), Buruma and Margalit said that nationalist and nativist resistance to the West replicates Eastern-world responses against the socio-economic forces of modernization, which originated in Western culture, among utopian radicals and conservative nationalists who viewed capitalism, liberalism, and secularism as forces destructive of their societies and cultures. That the early responses to the West were a genuine encounter between alien cultures, many of the later manifestations of Occidentalism betray the influence of Western ideas upon Eastern intellectuals, such as the supremacy of the nation-state, the Romantic rejection of rationality, and the spiritual impoverishment of the citizenry of liberal democracies.

Buruma and Margalit trace that resistance to German Romanticism and to the debates, between the Westernisers and the Slavophiles in 19th-century Russia, and that like arguments appear in the ideologies of Zionism, Maoism, Islamism, and Imperial Japanese nationalism. Nonetheless, Alastair Bonnett rejects the analyses of Buruma and Margalit as Eurocentric, and said that the field of Occidentalism emerged from the interconnection of Eastern and Western intellectual traditions.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Occidentalism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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