Orientalism: A colonial Project

Laura Tibi


Different modes of representations in the Western world worked to advance a political and imperial agenda that foregrounded European dominance and superiority over the Oriental “other.” In the nineteenth century there were various novel ways in which the West could map out and organize the world as a visual spectacle, one that objectified Eastern cultures in order to emphasize and assert European power and progress.  This emphasis on the spectacle is not just engaged with the perpetuated representations of the East, but with the hierarchical social relationships mediated by these representations, defining social and cultural relations through the construction of otherness. Western representations and visual spectacles of the Orient consequently posit the East as a lesser paradoxical other in contrast to the Occident. It is further important to note the two phases of orientalism covered in the nineteenth century and their respective impacts; the first of which demonstrates the emerging interest in the fantasy of the orient born from the Romantic movement, while the latter pertains to European imperial interest in the late nineteenth century. These ideas will be discussed and critiqued using the 1855 and 1889 Paris World Fairs, romantic literature and poetry, travel accounts, and works by romanticists and orientalists, namely Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme, as case studies for evaluating and understanding the West’s simultaneous objectification and eroticization of the East. These examples further support the argument that European visual culture in the nineteenth century had consciously perpetuated harmful stereotypes in line with a larger colonial project not just to establish dominance, but also to impart false “objective truths” and create order within the world.

Orientalism:A Colonial Project. By Laura Tibi.


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