Type: Review
Pages: 3 | Words: 622
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

In the Scope of Orientalism, Edward Said aims to disclose the myths about the Orientals, which were made up by the Western “superior” people and provided the latter with a sufficient basis for conquering the Orient. Firstly, Said argues that the distorted knowledge of the Orientals and the Orient, which has developed into a tradition, stems predominantly from the distorted depiction of reality by the Europeans, who created their own untruthful and beneficial exclusively to them vision of the “inferior” Orientals. Secondly, according to Said, this “profound knowledge” was used to justify and empower colonialism since the inferior Orientals could not themselves understand that what they really needed was the benefit of the Western conquest. In the third place, in Said’s opinion, the Europeans used their prejudice against the Orientals to create their identity as directly opposite to the Orientals, which endowed them with an exclusive right to subdue the static and ignorant Orientals. Therefore, it can be reasonably claimed that Orientalism highlights western misconceptions about the Orientals, which represent the West as completely different and superior to the Orient and exist as a solid background for American and European imperial and colonial ambitions.

The fact that draws meticulous attention in Said’s work is the concept of knowledge of the Orient. Said refers to Balfour, who mentions that knowledge of something goes together with the right to dominate it; that is why Balfour corroborates the inevitability of British conquest of Egypt: “We know the civilization of Egypt better than we know the civilization of any other country. We know it further back; we know it more intimately. It goes far beyond the petty span of the history of our race”. As Said reasonably remarks, Balfour associates superiority not with economic or military power but “our” or European knowledge of Egypt. It follows from this that if England knows everything about the Egyptian civilization, the former is superior to the latter.

Furthermore, Said proceeds with another Balfour’s argument, which proves the Orientals’ inferiority: “Western nations as soon as they emerge into history show the beginnings of those capacities for self-government”¦having merits of their own;” in the East, one would “never find traces of self-government” (qtd. in Said 33). That is why the superior western countries should exercise the Oriental “absolute government,” and the uncivilized Orientals should be grateful for colonial occupation of their countries. Such Balfour’s claims cannot but highlight a scornful attitude of the West to the East and his firm belief that the latter is meant to be dominated by the former. Balfour’s far more disparaging remark concerns the Orientals’ inability to recognize and appreciate the benefits of colonization. In his view, the colonial population has no “real and genuine memory of all the loss of which we have relieved it”. This remark seems quite ironical since Balfour is likely to disregard intentionally the fact that conquered countries lose their independence. Likewise, an Egyptian who would try to advocate the independence of his country and put under question the obvious “advantages” of colonial occupation seems to become “the agitator [who] wishes to raise difficulties”.

Finally, it is essential to consider the European biased perception of the Orientals, which again emphasizes the inferiority and doom of the latter. Said refers to Cromer’s description of the Orientals: they are “gullible, devoid of energy and initiative, cunning, prone to fulsome flattery, intrigue, and unkind to animals;” they fail to understand that the clever Europeans made pavements and roads for walking and “in everything oppose the clarity, directness, and nobility of the Anglo-Saxon race”.

Taking into consideration the abovementioned facts, it can be argued that the Scope of Orientalism discloses the Western “knowledge” of the Orientals as a subject race, which serves as a “cultural” prerequisite for colonization.

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