The Orientalism As A Discourse

If we look at the history of Europe especially before the 18.century, we can look easily that there is always otherization and differentiation between citizens who live European states. For examples, in Antique Greek people were separated like natives and stranger, Greek and barbarian, citizens and not citizens (slaves, women) and these distinctions were perceived naturally in Roman period as well. To give another example, Christians considered Muslims like lower people in middle age and they showed that in the Crusades, and also they scorned Jewish people in these times. Then, white and black people are separated in geographical discoveries like white is best, strong, beautiful and black is ugly, bad, weak etc. So, this otherization has been continued until today and Europeans who have always otherization in their history come up with concept of orientalism. I will try to analyze in this article that view of Edward Said about orientalism, view of other intellectuals for this concept and their critics, and also I will show representation of orientalism on İstanbul Timeless City presentation film and I will give some examples about how we internalize orientalism from our country and Indian.

First of all, to define orientalism, I think this concept is so complicated in terms of expressing eastern culture. This ideology was begun to be formed like structure of thought of Europeans bourgeoisie about east, how the west see the east, how the west interpret the east and a collection of general statements about western culture. According to orientalists, west is subject and east is object that was transformed by west like information object through various discourses and theories. Briefly, orientalism is east understanding that is controlled, managed and defined by west. But, in that point we can see easily that otherization is key concept of orientalism. According to Edward Said who criticized the orientalism in pessimist way intellectual people of Europe use this ideology against east regions in order to be acceptable reasons in colonialism in east of world. He described the orientalism as exertions of Europe, which contribute its hegemonic desires on eastern societies. For this reason, west generated own description of east and presented a negative image of the eastern in its movies, academic studies, art works etc. According to orientalist for his thought, they believe that west represents itself most advanced stage of humanity and the eastern is represented by western like devoid of using mind, numbness, sinfulness, addicted to sex, underdevelopment, uncivilized etc. European societies always say that it is necessary to develop and domesticate when they assault and interfere in order to exploit resources of east.


However, although Edward Said described this concept in a pessimist way, there is also intellectual people who approach that orientalist is not like Edward Said’s representation completely like İlber Ortaylı, Mustafa Akyol etc. According to their ideas and I agree with them as well, we don’t need to approach in pessimist way like Edward Said, because there is some of orientalists who don’t have any insulting thought about eastern culture and they really admire eastern culture in terms of works of literature, art, science etc. instead of vilifying eastern. Also they believe that they contributed culture studies about eastern with their researches and discover unknown things literally and historically that are really important about way of eastern life. If we look at the situation in this term, we can see and absolutely know that almost every important invention passed western culture from the eastern like compass, gunpowder, scientific explanations, information about medicine and physic etc. and we can see easily that some of orientalists have respect and some of them ignore it and humiliate the eastern. In addition, Hasan Bülent Kahraman who is professor at Kadir Has University states that Edward Said benefited from Michel Foucault discourse ideology and he explain orientalism like relation between discourse which is generated by western and reality which is supported by people or intellectuals who don’t support orientalism. Also, that is really important point that orientalism as a discourse appeals in eastern states like Occidentalism that mean to aggrandize the western culture in terms of being modernity and having positive values in society life and this mission is undertaken by western bourgeoisies and they want to seem like west as modern and also they see the west as source of liberation.

After all these explanation about orientalism, if I specify this ideology my own words briefly, it is generated by western as negative and positive way as well and also presented us as a discourse in our all aspect of life or media but most of us don’t realize it. I strongly agree with İlber Ortaylı and Mustafa Akyol about orientalism and I think we don’t need to be pessimist in this issue but we should realize negative ways, which serve for desire of western in colonist and capitalist way on society. In addition, we can see easily that orientalism generate some discourse in our society like we have perception about that Europeans have everything and we don’t have them and ‘when we will have human being?’ and these discourse are supported by media and group of power in our country. WE can see like this situation in Indian society that they look themselves inferior in front of western and they emulate and aggrandize the western culture. For example, Indian women use making up products, which make them whiter than others. Also, their media and TV channels have western style of programs.


To analyze ‘İstanbul Timeless City’ presentation movie in terms of orientalism, we can see some orientalist representations and there is two parts in movie that first represented east and second one represented west and it try to give message about distinction between western and eastern culture. If we think that Ministry of Tourism of Turkey prepared this video for presentation of our country in abroad, we can realize easily how we see eastern in front of western. There is sultan and his women in boat and they have fun with music, some of guy don’t have clothes on part of body, women are dancing with traditional clothes and women are used like having sexuality and beauty and all these representation is used and generated like reflecting eastern generally. Also, there is second part of movie that there is man and women who seems from western with their clothes in modern way (whom for it is modern that can be discussed). I watched this presentation movie of Turkey in almost every channel, and I welcome it naturally in terms of representing of own culture and us before I don’t know anything about orientalism. I believe that there are millions of people who don’t see and realize concept of orientalism in this movie. This situation is showing us that we internalize distinction between western and eastern culture without consciousness of orientalism. Also this situation show us that we have occidenalism ideas in our social life which is generated by orientalism as Hasan Bülent Kahraman say about it. To give an example like this orientalist movie, I have seen like these representations in Around The World In 80 Days, which is directed by Frank Coraci and product of U.S.A and Germany in 2004. In this movie, when Phileas Fogg who is main character of movie went to eastern region where is Ottoman Empire States he met with sultan and he faced with his exasperation and violence. Also, people who live in İstanbul were represented like rude, barbarian, womanizing and also their clothes are represented like in İstanbul Timeless City presentation movie. There are a lot of examples for this situation, which are reflected and used by Hollywood and European film institutes for imposing way of orientalism thinking.

I would like to say one of the interesting example before ending the this article about orientalism, which is given by Hilmi Yavuz in video about orientalism which happened in İstanbul between two women in ticket order for Hagia Sophia Museum. One of women who has short hair, short skirt, blouse and short jacket said other one who has sheets clothes that:

  • Is this order ticket for museum?’ other woman who is really surprised and said that:
  • ‘Are you Turkish? Woman who is short hair felt disturbed a little bit and responds her:
  • ‘ Yes, I am Turkish’. Other one said:
  • ‘ Wow, you don’t seem Turkish, I supposed you are foreign people.’ The other woman responded other one quickly:
  • ‘You don’t seem Turkish women too, I supposed you are Arabic’. Woman who has sheet clothes responded other one:
  • ‘Alhamdulillah, I am Muslim and Turkish as well.’ Other one:
  • ‘Yes, me too. ‘

We can find out from this example that there is otherization of women for each other and this is product of orientalism I think. There is differentiation like west and east in our society like theme of presentation movie of Turkey and we don’t realize that it’s part of orientalism. We can see a lot of examples like this conversation.

            As a result of this article, to point out orientalism briefly according to depending on Edward Said ideas about it, we can see that this ideology is produced by western as a discourse in order to manage, and invade eastern culture and manipulate eastern culture in bad way like rude, lack of using thought, weak and stupid society etc. But also, this concept is used for academic studies and discipline in order to find out and recognize eastern culture in 19.century in Europe. Some of thinkers use it in bad way and racialist as well and some of them not. Also, otherization is origin of orientalism and it produced otherization, which contributes differentiation in eastern society. We can clearly see these explanations in the İstanbul Timeless City presentation movie as an example of representation of orientalism.

Mustafa Yılmaz


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