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date: 31 January 2023



  • Amélie Kuhrt


Orientalism is the title of a study by the distinguished Palestinian literary critic, Edward Said; published in 1978, its impact has been enormous. The central thesis is that the concepts ‘Europe’ and ‘Orient’, as polar opposites, have been created by Europeans, particularly in the context of European imperialism, to provide a positive, strong image of Europe, with which eastern civilizations (especially the Muslim world) can be negatively contrasted. The ‘Orient’ is thus presented as lacking all desirable, active characteristics: it is effeminate, decadent, corrupt, voluptuous, despotic, and incapable of independent creative development. This pervasive perception of ‘the east’ underlies most studies of Middle Eastern history and culture and has profoundly shaped scholarly analysis. Although most of Said's study is devoted to the 18th to 20th cents. he argues that Oriental stereotypes derive much of their imagery from early Greek literary works (e.g. *Herodotus(1); *Aeschylus' Persae). This has led several classicists and ancient historians to refocus their work and explore consciously the assumptions made in some traditional areas of study. As a result, standard approaches to several subjects are now being scrutinized and radically reassessed. Most prominent among these are: the development of Greek art, in particular the ‘*orientalizing’ phase, Greek tragedy, and Achaemenid and Hellenistic history.


  • Near East

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