by Vivek Chibber published in Catalyst
Read original on Catalyst's website
Edward Said's famous book "Orientalism" posited th...Show description
Posted 773 days ago
I am very happy to have read Chibber's critique of Orientalism. Without it, I would have probably accepted Said's second argument, that Orientalism was itself responsible for colonialism. Specifically, I would have bought the weak version, that latent Orientalism was necessary, but not the primary factor, of colonialism. It seems rational, as it fits well into modern, cultural theory that we are all taught in school, but it does have its holes.
Specifically, the idea that all cultures hold a porochial view of other cultures implies that culturalism can't be the determining factor. Western culture is just like all other cultures in seeing the "others" as different. It takes an economic advantage and reason for actually pursuing imperialist goals. The opportunity must be there to seize, it's not fomented by some cultural belief.
I do buy the idea of latent Orientalism. But the West could only pursue imperialism when they had the materials to do so, meaning it's the primary and really, only explaining factor. Latent Orientalism is an interesting thing to study, and surely could affect the degree to which a society either enables or opposes imperialism, but I agree with Chibber that the justification of colonialism was a reactionary view based upon economic circumstances.