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The issues of Orientalism by Edward Said and post-colonialism by Homi K. Bhabha are regarded to be the similar views o geo-politics, philosophy, history and culture of the Eastern region. The fact is that, these views represent similar ideas, however they contradict each other in some moments, that are essential for the clear interpretation and implementation of these considerations. Both emphasize the shared cultural and national identities, however the suggestions to overcome the consequences of colonial past are different in the very basis. “Orientalism” and “Nation and Narration” both touch upon the historical origin of Oriental cultures, however “Nation and Narration” by Bhabha gets much deeper in history and aims to analyze the pre-colonial period. The key concept of geo-political approaches here is in the realization of neo-Marxist view of the world structure: the states should aim to be the center, while most of them stay in the semi-periphery of the world system.
To begin with, it is necessary to mention, that the studies of Orientalism and post-colonialism often differ, and contradict each other in some particular moments. Originally, Orientalism is the division of philosophical, historical, cultural and political studies, that relate the place and the role of the Eastern countries in the world politics, and the lives of the other countries all over the world. This approach mainly regards the Eastern countries as the former colonies of the European states, and argues on the matters of the contemporary Islamic culture, that plays significant role in shaping the security principles, fuel price politics and the military regulation processes.
Homi K. Bhabha’s position stands for the post-colonial issues, and claims that former colonies is the homogeneous block of the states, that should unite, and act jointly. The key principle of his studies is that all the national differences of the ex-colonies are artificial, and should be eliminated. He makes the particular emphasis on the antagonism between the colonizers and the colonized.
Originally, the historians, and the other scholars who are linked with history, base most of the premises and principles on the Said’s Orientalism, that was issued in 1978. Still, it stays actual, and it is claimed, that in some measure it is forecasting. Edward Said mainly concentrates on the issues of Occident and Orient, that he regards as the key concepts of the Europe and East relations. Occident is the term used for the West – the States that are linked the most with the Middle East (France, Great Britain and the USA). Orient is the romantic and misunderstood Middle East and Far East.
Said argues that the Western states have shaped the specific attitude towards the East, and this attitude is featured with racism and prejudice. These states are often backward and absolutely unaware of their history and culture. To fill this hole, the West has shaped a culture and potential promise. This is the key premise not only for the studies of the Orient, but also for the issues of political imperialism of Europe in the East.
Edward Said once stated the following: Unlike the Americans, the French and British–less so the Germans, Russians, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, and Swiss–have had a long tradition of what I shall be calling Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western Experience. The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other. In addition, the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience. Yet none of this Orient is merely imaginative. The Orient is an integral part of European material civilization and culture. Orientalism expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles (Said, 1979).
This Orientalist approach claims, that there is continual Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic nations and their culture. Said stated, that the tradition of European imagining of the Eastern countries in the romantic viewpoint served as the essential justification of the European and American colonial and imperial ambitions. Said equally denounces the Arab historians, philosophers and political scientists, who internalized the American and European Orientalist ideas of pan-Arabic culture, as the object of colonial ambitions. Thus, in 1980 Said accused the world (particularly the Western world) in poor realization of the Arab culture:
So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression (Said, 1979).
Bhabha is one of the leading scientists of political philosophy, and the Orientalist sphere who supports the postcolonial theory. His work of Oriental post colonialism is essentially impacted by the post structuralism. Thus, in his “Nation and Narration” Bhabha challenges the trend to support the claim, that post-colonial States should be regarded as the homogenous block. Consequently, it leads to the notion, that ex-colonial region should share the same identity.
Bhabha claims, that the nationhood of the Oriental countries is mainly artificial. This viewpoint is explained in the concept, that the colonial dominance is ambivalent, as on the one hand the colonizers benefited from the colonies, and on the other hand they were afraid of the concealed power and might of the Oriental peoples. This explains the dilemma of most post-colonial states: they have enough resources to start living independently; however, they got used to live under someone’s regulation, and feel like a nestling that learns to fly.
One of his central works “Nation and Narration” challenges the realities of the notion of nationhood as it is lived in the essential ambivalence of some approaches, that are used to explain the central concepts of post colonialism, and define the reasons of the shared identity. Originally, these ambivalences cause the most contradictions with the Edward Said’s views on the Oriental national identity and post-colonial traditions (Bhabha, 1990).
Thus, it is necessary to mention, that the imitation of the authority and power of colonial conversation is rather deep. The ambivalence that features the strategy of explaining the power of colonial authority in Bhabha’s works is rather obvious. Thus in Locke’s Second Treatise, that reveals the restrictions of freedom in the double use of the term ‘slave’: first use is descriptive as the position of a genuine form of possession, then as the trope for an unbearable, illegitimate implementation of power. Consequently, the term power may be used in different senses, and this encourages the ambivalence in the interpretation of the central terms of the studies.
Bhabha argues, that all the nation with colonial history should act jointly, and share the only aims in the internal and external politics. The key concept of the study, that all the national differences are artificial is supported by the Alexander Humboldt’s geo-political work of creating the buffer states in the Oriental region. Thus, Humboldt offered to create Pakistan in order to separate India and the Arab world (Zimmerer, 2006). Another thesis is that the most states share the only culture (either Hindu or Arab), that should unite the peoples, end encourage the joint action on the world arena. The fact is that, these conclusions have the rational ground, however the cultural similarity is not enough for the unification, as even the Latin American states do not wish to share the national identity ideas, while the issues of pan-Americanism are better developed, then the issues of pan-Orientalism (Bhabha, 1994).
Taking into account the key premises of Said’s Orientalism and Bhabha’s post-colonialism it is necessary to mention, that originally these two views are similar. It is stated, that the ideas of pan-Orientalism are not essentially developed, and the authors do not claim to develop them. However, they try to shape the powerful national identity, based on the clear realization of culture and history of the Oriental states, and overcoming of colonial remains, that are sometimes met in the minds. They both accuse the elites of their cultural regions in shaping the national identity on the colonialist views, though, they contradict each other in the use and explanation of the term power. Bhabha describes it from the viewpoint of slavery, while Said argues on the meaning of influence (explaining, that colonizers just heavily influenced the policy of the colonies).
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From the historical point of view it is necessary to mention, that Bhabha claims to address the periods of Roman empire, that united the Oriental territories (contemporary Turkey) and Europe. He argues, that the empire united the nations, and was the sample of strict order and discipline. From his point of view, this model should be transmitted to the contemporary Eastern region, and the peoples should unite. Said, in his turn, claims, that the there is no necessity to unite, as the national identity is not the most essential factor, however, it is necessary to shape the self realization of the Arab world and undermine the colonial ways of thinking, and self identification as an ex-colony.
Taking into account the geo-political matters of Orientalism and post-colonialism, it is necessary to mention, that the creation buffer states and the unification under the ideas of pan-Orientalism are regarded to be the extremely opposite ideas, that may equally harm the successful development and the welfare of the countries. However, Bhabha, in his Nation and Narration argues, that the shared identity is the future of the Eastern world, as Europe split the colonies in order to weaken them, and benefit from the sever exploitation. Said, in his turn, argues, that the in spite of the shared identity and common colonial history, the countries should live their own lives, as the attempt to unite is just the attempt to correct the mistake of half millennium remoteness. This is absolutely unnecessary, as the history goes ahead, and there is no time to correct these mistakes.
It is necessary to emphasize, that both Orientalists forget about the Wallerstein’s neo-Marxist world structure, that regards the world as the center, semi-periphery and periphery. The states will never be able to unite (neither politically, nor economically) while they are in different spheres of this structure (Kasaba, Wallerstein, 1991).
In conclusion it is necessary to emphasize, that the views by Homi K. Bhabha and Edward Said can not be regarded as too different. The extent to which they contradict each other is related only to the issues of overcoming the colonial remains in the minds, policy and ambitions of the countries. The fact is that, both emphasize the necessity to live for the future for the welfare of the countries, however different are only the measures and tools of achieving this welfare. The issues of Orientalism touch upon the relations with Europe all over the history, while post colonialism is associated only with the sorrows and weakness, that featured the States of Middle and Far East during the colonial period.
- Bhabha, H.K. (1990) “Nation and narration” Routledge publishing
- Bhabha, H.K. (1994) “The Location of Culture” Routledge publishing
- Brody, D. (2003). The Shifting Lens: Orientalism and Representations of Chinatown. Art Journal, 62(3), 107
- Kasaba, R. & Wallerstein, I. (Eds.). (1991). Cities in the World-System: Studies in the Political Economy of the World-System. New York: Greenwood Press.
- Said. E (1979) “Orientalism” Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition
- Zimmerer, K. S. (2006). Humboldt and the History of Environmental Thought. The Geographical Review, 96(3), 456