Posted by: asmith60 | April 18, 2011


Before I suggest possible solutions to the problem of Orietalism, I would like to first define my opinion of a “solved” situation. It is unrealistic to hope for a solution that eradicates all stereotyping between societies. As I said in a previous blog post, stereotyping is, to some degree, part of the human condition. By saying that I mean that all humans at some level are going to stereotype just because they are human. So a solution to this situation would entail reducing the amount of stereotyping and giving people a more educated view of the world.

The first step to solving this situation is to better inform the people. I believe that the cause of such widespread Orientalism is irrational fear. It is reasonable that people are slow to accept another society that is different from their own. The problem is rather than learning about this different society, many people choose to believe whatever they hear and spread it. This fear is has a virus-like effect. The more people fear Middle Easterners, the more likely they are to tell others. The solution is to stop encouraging the fear and start better educating the masses. This would require cooperation from the mainstream media. If I had to guess, I would say that most people derive their opinion of Islamic people based off of what they hear by word of mouth and what they see on the news. I believe it would make a huge difference if the news would just do a 180 and start portraying people from the Middle East as our friends.

Again, I don’t think Orientalism can ever be truly done away with. However, I do believe that it can be reduced to a minor societal problem as opposed to a widespread, insurmountable obstacle.

Posted by: asmith60 | April 12, 2011


Besides Orientalism and mark of the plural, both of which I have already discussed, other terms that apply to this situation are dehumanization, subaltern, usurper, Eurocentrism and self-assertion. Dehumanization applies to this situation because each party is stripping the other of basic human rights when they stereotype each other. When an American believes all Iranians are mysterious, exotic and irrational just because they are from the Middle East, that American is dehumanizing the Iranian people. This concept also ties in with the application of the term usurper. American and Iranian society are taking away (usurping) one another’s identities when they stereotype each other.

Self-assertion also pertains to this situation. I believe that American society stresses things that are “American” to affirm our culture. I had not really thought about the Eurocentrism being relevant to my topic until I read Mara’s blog. It makes perfect sense that the origins of Orientalism could be rooted in Eurocentrism.

I can’t yet speak intelligently about the Iranian society as a whole. That is why most of my examples concern American society. I plan on researching more into Iranian society.


Posted by: asmith60 | April 5, 2011


The international situation I’m focusing on is the current state of affairs involving the United States and Iran.  Mainstream media coverage of the conflict focuses mainly on Iran’s presumed intention to make nuclear bombs. Iranian authorities seem determined to continue with their nuclear program claiming they are not going to use it to make bombs. United States policy makers, on the other hand, are convinced that Iran’s nuclear program is, in fact, planned on being utilized to make bombs. In my opinion this dispute has caused American society to shift into a heightened state of Orientalism. In all probability, it has also caused Iranian society to experience more intense anti-American sentiments.

United States – Iran relations have been rocky ever since the mid-1950s. In 1953 the United States and Britain organized an operation in which Iranian military officers dethroned Prime Minister Muhammad Mussadeq, a leading proponent of nationalizing the oil industry.  Then in 1979 the American supported Shah of Iran was forced to leave the country due to widespread demonstrations and protests. The infamous Iran hostage crisis occurred in the same year. Iranian students seized sixty-three hostages at an American embassy in Tehran, igniting a lengthy crisis that led to the severing of diplomatic ties and many United States sanctions against Iran. The last of the hostages were finally released in 1981 after serious diplomatic activity. They were held for 444 days.

This is just a brief history of the relationship between the United States and Iran. As you can see there is a lot of room for the societies to subject one another to the mark of the plural. It seems to me that stereotyping is, to some degree, part of the human condition, meaning that everyone is apt to do it just because they are human. For this reason I would like to concentrate less on why the societies are stereotyping each other and more on why each specific stereotype has been chosen. For example, why is it a stereotype that all Middle Easterners are exotic and mysterious or that all Americans are reckless and vain?

Posted by: asmith60 | March 27, 2011


I was originally planning to analyze the situation caused by widespread Orientalism in America. Upon further research of the topic I would like to broaden my focus. While I was researching Orientalism and its causes, I began to wonder why America’s view of the Middle East was important enough to get its own special word. Orientalism doesn’t seem overly heinous or prominent in comparison to America’s view of other groups of people. In my experience America’s view of most other regions in the world is as equally skewed as its view of the Middle East. For that matter, I believe that most regions’ (including the Middle East) views of America are as equally skewed as America’s view of the Middle East. I have caught glimpses of many misguided foreign views of America just from sitting in class and listening to everyone recall stories about travelling abroad. To take an example from last class period, all Americans settle their differences with old-west style shootouts. A view like that is, of course, ridiculous. This is only one instance of a plethora of times I have heard someone just in our class recall a time that they personally experienced one of the many stereotypes of America. It seems to me that foreign people place the mark of the plural upon Americans just as much as Americans place the mark of the plural upon foreign people. To clarify, I am not justifying anyone’s actions. In my opinion it is wrong to apply the mark of the plural to a group of people regardless of whether or not they have subjected you to the mark of the plural. I just believe that the observation deserves to be made that everyone is equally guilty in this respect. It’s not just Americans. So for my paper I would like to shift my focus to include America’s and the Middle East’s view of each other rather than just America’s view of the Middle East.

Posted by: asmith60 | March 21, 2011


The aspects of colonialism that I find most interesting  are mark of the plural and orientalism. Mark of the plural can be defined as applying the same traits and characteristics to all individuals within a group. An example of this in the context of colonialism can be found in The Colonizer and the Colonized by Albert Memmi. In the book the colonizers think that all of the colonized are lazy. It does not matter which specific colonized it is, or for that matter whether the colonizer has even met the specific colonized. The colonizer believes all of the colonized are lazy just because they are the colonized. After being subjected to the mark of the plural for long enough, the colonized begin to believe that they actually are lazy.

Orientalism can be defined in many ways. It is simply defined as a viewpoint held by someone in the West, in which Asia, or specifically the Arabic Middle East, is seen as exotic, mysterious, or irrational. Orientalism is similar to mark of the plural. In both cases beliefs about a group of people are being unfairly applied to all individuals within that group. The difference between the two terms lies in the specific groups and beliefs being referenced. Mark of the plural can apply to any group of people, whereas orientalism refers specifically to the West’s beliefs about the Orient (Asia, especially the Middle East).

For my paper I would like to focus orientalism while applying characteristics of mark of the plural to my analysis. I believe that by looking at past examples of mark of the plural we can shed light on many of the mysteries that surround the current situation caused by widespread orientalism. I hope to propose possible theories as to how orientalism originated, why it is so widespread in the West, and how it can be controlled.