Theories of Area Studies
Prof. Kyu Young Lee
Week 6 - October 8 2007
Yuri Liman, Milena Dobranova, Jung Ah Kim
Who is Edward Said?
Edward Wadie Saïd, (1 November1935 – 25 September
2003) was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and
outspoken Palestinian activist. He was University
Professor of English and Comparative Literature at
Columbia University, and is regarded as a founding figure
in postcolonial theory
He referred to himself as a "Christian wrapped in a Muslim
culture." According to Saïd's autobiographical memoir, Out
of Place (excerpted in London Review of Books article
"Between Worlds"), Saïd lived "between worlds" in both
Cairo and Jerusalem until the age of 12
His autobiographical memoir Out of Place won the 1999 New Yorker
Prize for non-fiction. He was also a member of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the
Royal Society of Literature, and the American Philosophical Society.
Said's writing regularly appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, the
London Review of Books, Le Monde Diplomatique, Counterpunch, Al
Ahram, and the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. He gave interviews alongside
his good friend, fellow political activist, and colleague Noam Chomsky
regarding U.S. foreign policy for various independent radio programs.
Edward Said died at the age of 67 in the early morning of September
25, 2003, in New York City, after a decade-long battle with chronic
myelogenous leukemia
What`s Orientalism?
Orientalism is the study of Near and Far Eastern
societies and cultures, languages, and peoples by
Western scholars. It can also refer to the imitation or
depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West
by writers, designers and artists.
In the former meaning, the term Orientalism has
come to acquire negative connotations in some
quarters and is interpreted to refer to the study of the
East by Westerners shaped by the attitudes of the
era of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th
centuries. When used in this sense, it implies oldfashioned and prejudiced outsider interpretations of
Eastern cultures and peoples.
Kolluoglu-Kirli, Biray., The New Centennial Review. 3:3 (Fall 2003),
pp. 93-111
Yuri Liman
Changing in relation Western vs. onWestern in the discourse of
9/11( evoking such categories as
good/evil, civilized/uncivilized,
1)area studies should in relation
With its relation with Orientalism in
Relation of being heir to this discipline
Heritage and similarities between A.S.
And Orintalism under geopolitics of
The post-World War II era
Distinctive and disruptive places
Withing organization of social
Social science disciplines started t take shape in the second half
of XIX century:
3.Political science
Three of them correspond to the division of life spheres in capitalist
society and its dominant ideology, liberalism
4.Idiographic history, began to understood as the study of “ what
actually happened”
At first sight it seems that the subject matter was geographically
defined, but it is not space, but time that is the key to the
epistemology of social science. Social sciences mad euniversal
claims valid over time and space:space being the universalized
West, time being modern-capitalist temporality
5. Anthropology-study of the history of
societies and cultures without writing
Not necessarily the study of non-Western world.
In other words, anthropology is the study of
the childhood of mankind
6.Orientalism, subject geographically
determined: non-Western world. Orientalist is
a complex-knowledge scientist. But after
World War II Orientalism gave its way to area
Area studies defined by geography and
classifies the world according to the
economic and political interests and
priorities of the USA, under guidance
and support of government agencies
Area studies played 2 disruptive roles in
the organization of social knowledge:
structural and epistemological
The first: by challenging the literary and textual orientation of
Orientalism, area studies initiated the flood of
interdisciplinarity :emergence of women`s studies and ethnic
studies,which subjects matters “should be handled with an
interdisciplinary approach: (Wallerstein 1995)
The second:radical epistemological critique that emerged in
reaction to knowledge produced under area studies
Area studies operated with conceptual frame-work of the
modernization approach, and were development-orientednew
approaches to “Third World development” such as
“dependency school” and the world system perspectives
According to Said(1978) Orientalism can be analized
as “the corporate institution dealing with the Orientdealing with it by making statements about it,
authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it,
settleng it, ruling over it: in short, Orentalism as a
Western style for dominating, restructuring, and
having authority over Orient”.
Orientalism as an academic discipline, a tradition, a
tradition of discilined learning whose studies revolve
around Oriental culture, histories, and languages.
O. is organically linked to European capitalist
expansion and the colonization that accompanied it
History of Orientalism
On the initial stage, religious ambitions and interests
were more influential that political and economic ones
( Christian missioners and travelers played an
important role)
1312-Church Council of Vienna establishes a series
of chairs in Arabic, Greek, Hebrew at Paris, Oxford,
1632 and 1636 –establishment of Arabic studies in
Cambridge and Oxford respectively
1784-Asiatic Society of Bengal
1795-the Ecole de Languages Orientales in Paris
1815-1914 European colonial domination expended
from 35% to up to 85% (Said 41) expansion of
Orientalist institutions.
Turning point was Napoleon`s Egyptian Campaign,
because Orientalism reached its maturnity as a body
of knowledge, that coukd be directly used for both
conquest and colonial administration.
1873 The Iternatonal Congress of Orientalists,
formed the most vital and dynamic institutional
settings for Orientalists from various European
What happened with Orientalist
According to Abdel-Malek there are 3
reasons to account for the crisis that
shook traditional Orientalism:
-emergence of national liberation
-appearance of socialist states
But to most american scholars World
War II was the prime reason for
emergence of area studiesaccording
to Palat (2000) war made explicit the
need for personal with wide knowledge
of different regions of the world and
their languages, and expert with
technical skills and regional knowledge
with “technical proficiency”
As a result msny training programs emerged
during WWII: Army Specialized Training
Program, Civil Affairs Training
Schools(although demobilized after the war)
1946 Social Science Research Council set
the Committee on World Area Research “to
determine the extent to which the facilities in
the universities could meet the anticipated
government requirements”
SSRC recommends the government to invest in
language and area studies:
1958 National Defense Education Act`s(NDEA): $ 34
mil for non-Western academic programs, $ 11mil –
language profciency programs, $7 mil for
development and research, $16mil for student
stipends (from 1958-1973 around $ 206 mil)
Besides governmental support, lots of financial funds
came from various organizations:
-Rockefeller Foundation($1 Mil)
-Carnegie Foundation($2.5 mil)
-Ford Foundation( $278 mil!!!! For area studies)
Said, Edward W., New York: Vintage Books, 1978, pp. 1-28
Yuri Liman
Edward Said's book Orientalism is a critical summary of
Western conceptions and underlying thoughts commonly
associated with the Orient. He highlights common
misconceptions, which are now interwoven with the thought
process of a "westerner" with regards to the orient. He chastises
Western historical, social and religious studies of the Middle
East and North Africa. Said accuses Western science of being
biased; not on purpose however, but rather inherently, due to a
self imposed superiority complex. A state which is perpetuated
by associating technological superiority with social superiority.
As a result, Oriental cultures and religions, when compared to
their Western counterparts are painted as exotic, different,
traditional, sensual, and fanatic...in an ignorant sort of way.
Said describes Orientalism, as a means through which the West
comes to terms with the Orient. This is based on the Orient's
special place in European Western Experience. It has helped to
define the West as its opposing image, concept and personality
placing it in a position where it exist as an integral part of
Western material enlightenment and culture. The most common
classification for Orientalism is an academic one, which still
serves in a number of academic establishments. Anyone who
teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient regardless of
whether he/she is an anthropologist, sociologist or historian is
an Orientalist, and what he/she says or does is Orientalism.
Said's critique lies heavily on the Western belief of
'knowledge is power'. Throughout his book
references are made to the ability to study the 'Orient',
and how this confers authority and dominance to the
students which are predominantly western scholars
"Two great themes dominate his remarks here and in
what will follow: Knowledge and power, the Baconian
theme. As Blafour justifies the necessity for British
occupation of Egypt, supremacy in his mind is
associated with "our" knowledge of Egypt and not
principally with military or economic power."
He describes the desire for knowledge about the orient as being
spawned from the desire to colonialise effectively not to decipher the
complex nature of a society which is inherently different, thus bound to
do things a little differently. By comprehending the Orient, the West
justified a position of ownership. The Orient became the subject, the
seen, the observed, the studied; Orientalist philosophers were the
apprentices, the overseers, the observers. The Orient was quiescent;
the West was dynamic.
This is a rather unfortunate position both for the West and the 'Orient'.
The students used their position of perceived understanding to further
compel 'Oriental' people into subservience while simultaneously
justifying their actions. They protected their conscience by convincing
themselves that the 'Orient' was incapable of running itself, thus their
territory must be administered for them.
"It dose not occur to Balfour to let the Egyptian speak for himself, since
presumably any Egyptian who would speak out is more likely to be the
"agitator [who] wishes to raise difficulties"
Said makes some vivid, passionate and striking points however, he
seems to be lacking of a little objectivity. The general tone of his book
"Orientalism" depicts western Orientalists as persistently reinventing
the near and Middle East in self-serving, eurocentric terms; as seen
through Western eyes, "the Orient" emerges as a passive, backward
world, monolithic in nature and exotic in its alienism, a realm ideally
created to sustain the West's daydream of supremacy. Said brutally
charges Western scholars for perpetuating the notion that the Orient
should not be taken seriously but rather be seen as a subject of study.
It is in this line that Said builds his argument. Totally oblivious to the fact
that the sheer passion in his discourse may be equated to favouritism
by readers. He makes many hard hitting and vivid points, but the
repetitive hammering on the same point posses the ability to transform
a great piece of work into an opus which skates around a diluted form
of reverse racism. As progress is made through "Orientalism" several
instances are depicted which provoke negative attitudes from the
"The European is a close reasoner; his statements of fact are devoid of
any ambiguity; he is a natural logician, albeit he may not have studied
logic; he is by nature very sceptical and requires proof before he can
accept any proposition...the mind of the oriental on the other hand, like
his picturesque streets, is eminently wanting in symmetry. His
reasoning is of the most slipshod description. Although the ancient
Arabs acquired in a somewhat higher degree the science of dialectics,
their descendants are singularly deficient in logical faculty..."
Excerpts with similar themes are found all over Said's "Orientalism".
They generate feelings which cannot be considered to be catalyst to a
sound and logical comprehension. It is this model of argument,
employed by Said, which reduces the effectiveness of his contention. In
Said's blueprint of Orientalist discourse, the argument fell, inadvertently
but ultimately, into the same binary logic it desired to criticise. He
essential conveyed the impression that, there is justifiably, a "real"
Orient; whose essential contrast remains incomprehensible by
Occidental reasoning
Orientalism was a distinctively European
enterprise. I emerged with European
capitalist expansion and reached its maturnity
at the point when Europe`s expansion was
being consolidated with colonialism.
Area studies is distinctivey American
enterprise. It emerged with WWII, which
witnessed the US`s ascent to a hegemonic
position in the world-system
The approach of Orientalism towards the
non-west is inherited by area studies. This
knowledge is shaped by the ontological
distinction drawn between “us” and “them”.
However, contrary to Orientalism, which
exclusively focused on the frozen past, area
studies is an approach to the study of the
contemporary non-Western world