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American Orientalism  

Osamah F. Khalil

Orientalism is an established academic discipline as well as a discourse. In Europe and the United States, Orientalist discourse was reproduced in academic studies, literature, popular culture, and policy circles. American Orientalism shares a number of characteristics with its European progenitors. The persistent representation of the broader East as an inferior, irrational, and emotional “other” reflected and reified disparities in power that then informed the production of knowledge about these vast regions and their inhabitants. American missionaries, social scientists, and counterinsurgency experts used Orientalism to justify their attempts to reshape the broader East in the image of the United States. In his seminal work, Orientalism, Edward Said examined the vast “Orient” as a geographic imaginary of the “Occident.” While he largely focused on Britain and France, Said also discussed American Orientalism and its manifestations in the academy, political discourse, and popular culture. In the decades since Said published Orientalism, scholars have embraced, critiqued, and expanded on its assertions. Yet American Orientalism as a discourse and practice persists and has proven resilient to challenges.