| Thinking Orientalism | American Popular Culture
The first time I was introduced to Edward Said was during my undergraduate years in Mills College in a class on American Images of China and Japan by one of my favorite professors Dr. Wah Cheng. Ever since, I have been undeniably inspired by Edward Said's narratives and I have begun seeing the world the way he saw it. The same concepts spoke to me throughout undergraduate years and later in life too.
Now, at SOAS, thinking again about the role of media in society and how it contributes to shaping our thoughts, I find myself turning back to the writings of Edward Sa
id and Gramsci's concepts of hegemo
ny and Foucault's understanding of power he has related to in his work. For a class on Mediated Culture of the Middle East, I decided to work on a presentation covering Orientalism in American popular culture with regards to the ima
ges of the Middle East.
Some of you may not be aware of the term "Orientalism" or the idea of "the other" that Said turned our attention to. I have explained Edward Said's concept of
Orientalism in the presentation before moving on to the vastly pictorial presentation. But before you go to the presentation, I wou
ld like to clarify a few concepts:
What does "Mediated" mean: mediated is any thing which is not directly seen or heard by one. It has been mediated through the accounts of others, through text, images, audio, books and mass media.
Edward Said's concept of Orientalism traces mostly the roots of the concept in French and British colonialism. Towards the end of his book "Orientalism" he does however devote some time to the American emergence as the Orientalizing power. He argues that because colonial rule began to diminish and America began to emerge as the super power in the late 19th century, the role of Orientalizing the Oriental was transfered from the colonial powers on to America. This is where my interest in American popular culture's images of the Arabs, Persians, Turks and the Middle East became of interest to me.
Further, I have taken a great deal of inspiration from the exhibition arranged by UCLA on "Seducing America" a few years ago and the display collection of things that reflected Orientalism in America.
To check the video out on youtube - click here