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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  17,083 ratings  ·  955 reviews
More than three decades after its first publication, Edward Said's groundbreaking critique of the West's historical, cultural, and political perceptions of the East has become a modern classic.

In this wide-ranging, intellectually vigorous study, Said traces the origins of "orientalism" to the centuries-long period during which Europe dominated the Middle and Near East and,
Paperback, 25th Anniversary Edition, 395 pages
Published May 2003 by Vintage (first published 1978)
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Richard Thompson I think that you are misreading the book. He is very careful to avoid doing what you are saying that he is doing, although he acknowledges that almost…moreI think that you are misreading the book. He is very careful to avoid doing what you are saying that he is doing, although he acknowledges that almost any attempt to look at any culture from the outside is likely to have some of the same problems as Orientalism. As Madeleine points out in her comment, his 1994 afterword is the part of the book that deals with this issue most directly.(less)

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  17,083 ratings  ·  955 reviews

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Apr 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
The following is a true story:

Me, in a San Franscisco bar reading Orientalism.

The blonde girl next to me reading over my shoulder: "So what's Orientalism?"

I explain as best I can in a couple sentences.

Her: "There are so many isms in Asia - like Buddhism and Taoism. You know what book you should read? The Tao of Poo. It's sooo good. It's, like, the perfect way to teach Americans about Eastern Religion."

Horrified, I look back to my book and take a sip of beer.
J.G. Keely
Jan 07, 2013 rated it liked it
There's a curious double-standard between what we expect from White guy authors compared to authors of any other background. When an author is a Native American, for example, we tend to expect their books to deliver to us the 'Native American experience'. If the author is a woman, we tend to expect that her book will show us the 'female perspective'--to the degree that female authors who write stories about men are forced to take on a masculine or nondescript name, like J.K. Rowling.

So we get We
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinatingly interesting book. It is also a book that is virtually required reading if you are going to say anything at all about post-colonialism. Whether you agree or disagree with the central theme of the book is almost beside the point. This work is seminal and landmark – so it can be avoided only at your own cost.

I’ll get to the central idea of the book in a second, but first some advice for people thinking of reading it. I think, if I only wanted to get an idea of what the book
Sean Barrs
“Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn't trust the evidence of one's eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
An intelligent and insightful book about how the West has stereotyped and dehumanized the East through racist and oppressive representations of the East as backwards, uncivilized and in need of Western revitalization or aid. Edward Said writes at length about the origins and development of Orientalism throughout history and how it has culminated in and contributed to anti-Arab sentiments. He raises important and thought-provoking questions about interrogating how places are represented, who has ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
An amazing classic book from the late Edward Saïd about the origins of the Western view of the Orient that shaped literature and music in the 17th-20th century. It is a penetrating view of various racial stereotypes of Arab peoples (dressed in sheets smoking hookahs and generally under-educated and prone to laziness and violence) that pervades all levels of society and served the interests of colonialism to appease consciences of all the violence and subjugation that occurred in China, India the ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Thoughtful and comprehensive, Orientalism puts forth a biting critique of the West’s dehumanizing, essentialist representations of the East. Across three wide-ranging chapters Said tracks the history of Orientalism as an oppressive style of thought based on epistemological and ontological distinctions between the orient and the occident, in which the former is framed as despotic, hyper-sexual, and feminine and the latter as democratic, rational, and masculine. Said makes clear how modern Orienta ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: John of Segovia and all who sail in him
Shelves: favourites
Obviously this is a must read, which has been much drawn on and critiqued by later post/anti-colonial writers. I have just read the copious notes I made when I read it in 2007 (sort of ironic that I read a westerner's gloss rather than re-reading the original!?) and noted some points of particular interest...

John of Segovia proposed a conference with Islam designed to produce mass conversion 'even if it were to last ten years it would be less expensive and damaging than war'

To me this is a perfe
Jun 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Yes--- in many ways, Said's "Orientalism" is a classic. And he's right about some things: Western art and literature created a whole fantasy world about "the Orient" (which included the Balkans and Russia) over the last few centuries; Western scholarship about North Africa or the Middle East or India could be (and was) used by colonial powers. But as critics (especially Bernard Lewis and Robert Irwin)have pointed out, Said took a handful of serious ideas and created his own fantasy world of "Ori ...more
E. G.
Preface (2003)


Afterword (1995)
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Orientalism is a masterpiece of comparative literature studies and deconstruction, published in 1978 it is arguably Said's most rigorous piece but undoubtedly his most influential. This is a examination of the academic discipline of Oriental Studies, which has a long history most of the European universities. Oriental Studies is a pastiche areas of study which include philology, linguistics, ethnography, and the interpretation of culture through the discovery, recovery, compilation, and translat ...more
I think the problem with reading Orientalism today is that much of what he says (that was so revolutionary at the time) is so accepted now (at least among most academics). He's a brilliant writer, although he did irritate me at times (he constantly vilified anyone trying to represent anything, claiming, rightfully, that it is only possible to have a misrepresentation of anything built on one's own experiences and culture, and I did truly want to remind him that was what he was doing with Orienta ...more
Rob Salkowitz
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
Intellectual porn for self-hating westerners, shockingly became one of the most influential texts of the last 25 years. Said's pompous, self-important writing style papers over yawning gaps in scholarship and breathtaking dishonesty. Finally, some academics appear to be getting over their institutional infatuation with Said and the critical tide is starting to turn. None too soon.
Bryn Hammond
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-history
I’ve been ashamed I hadn’t read Orientalism, and now I know I had reason to be ashamed. It’s rightly a classic. Though its ideas have seeped out so that much was familiar, there was a lot of clarity in going back to source.

I expected a more ‘pugnacious’ book, to use a word from the back cover. But it’s not pugnacious in style or content. Perhaps in the first shock of publication it seemed so. It’s a fair-minded book, ‘humanist’ in a word he refuses to relinquish (that wins my heart). His point
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Inam by: Professor
Still the most influential book in Cultural, Near Eastern, Arab, Islamic, and Post-Colonialist Studies.

Interesting how everyone giving it a bad/ambivalent review is someone that simply can't acknowledge history - 200-300 years of colonialism which was then only replaced by neo-imperialism in the form of wars, economic exploitation, and political interference through force. Is the world any different even today? Obviously not. You're not hating the West by acknowledging this truth, Edward Said a
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Ever since its publication in 1978, this has been an iconic work, a book that is constantly referred to, be it in very divergent ways: it is praised in heaven by some and banned to hell by others. So, the least you can say is that this work gives a very own, original view of the way the West has looked and still looks to the East.

I immediately stress two fraught terms here: "West" and "East", because that is where it all starts, with that distinction. It is to the great credit of Said that he d
Liz Janet
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In a sense the limitations of Orientalism are … the limitations that follow upon disregarding, essentializing, denuding the humanity of another culture, people, or geographical region.”

I recently read Said’s “Culture and Imperialism”, which I adored for its study on the effects of imperialism on literature, and this one is equally at par. This work should’ve been read first though, as it explores orientalism as a Western-created concept in order to assimilate Eastern culture into a simple e
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I started to pick at this foundational work while I was still in Iraq (2007). Things I saw from both Americans and Iraqis began to remind me faintly of some half-remembered ideas from Said's pen. Said's stated purpose of writing was to show how an intellectual study such as Orientalism can not be viewed independently from the influence of power dynamics on an author. Orientalism, he stated, responded directly to the West's need to possess and control an East that it considered inferior, doing so ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
“My dear Kepler, what would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the pertinacity of the asp, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?”
- Galileo in his Letter to Johannes Kepler

The above quote had a huge impact on me when I first read it. I always thought that even if those learned men so faithful to the Christian ideas they were married to, would have looked through the telescope and saw how the Earth
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-east
Said was required reading in my Conflict Transformation graduate studies and this is the modern classic and standard on the concept of "othering". Yet I'd never read the entire work. Sections of this book are constantly utilized in the academic world, so it was about time to finally read it, and also timely as far as my current location (geographically and personally).

As some have said, the ideas in this book are often acknowledged by many intellectuals (with various degrees of acceptance depen
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just cannot believe that this book existed out in the world and I did not read it until now. I've had it on my bookshelf for years, but I guess I figured I knew what it contained. I did not. This book was revelatory and also so familiar. It explained and contextualized all of my issues with the way the western cannon has talked and still talks about Islam and the east. It's been fetishized. I'd love an update now that the east is no longer "female" and sexual, but it's male and irrationally an ...more
Stef Rozitis
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1971-1980
The way this book was explaining the prevalence ond logic of Islamophobia I had to check the date, expecting it to be a very current book. Frightening that although it was written in the 70s the sort of racism and terror-mongering described in it is if anything more wide-spread than ever. This book very eloquently shows how orientalism works- it makes no parallels to things like the male/female binary (who speaks, who describes whom, who is exoticised as "other", less and deficit) but to me read ...more
Bob Newman
A Seminal Work for Cultural Understanding

Relations between people of different cultures is a vital part of today’s world, not only for culture’s sake, but in terms of diplomacy, business, travel, military action, and even just general knowledge for daily life. Unlike in previous eras, we are extremely likely to find ourselves living and working with those “others” who used to inhabit unknown spaces “out there”. Governments have to deal intimately with foreigners in a variety of ways. So, intercu
Kaelan Ratcliffe▪Κάϊλαν Ράτκλιφ▪كايِلان راتكِليف
God Bless Edward Said

For those who may ask why one should pick up and read Edward Said's Orientalism, my response would be a difficult one to articulate. This was a book I knew I had to tackle; Orientalism started a whole intellectual counter-movement in the 1970's after all. However, the work I just finished reading was one I wrestled with intellectually throughout. The subject raised by Said is one that I agree with whole-heartedly; that wasn't the point of contention when reading this.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Let me say first that this will be a very gross summation of this classic that I first encountered through literary theory, in particular, postcolonial theory, but it is an attempt that I nevertheless will make. If I could I would make the entire world read this book, extremely relevant as its subject matter remains today.

Edward Said’s Orientalism is a treatise on the cultural construction that is Orientalism, which, far from merely an academic and scholarly discipline, is inextricably bound wit
This is a great example of a paradigm shift in the social scientist's perspective. Something like "orientalism" was so taken for granted over the centuries that it took someone like Said to simply take a step back and say "dude, what the fuck." As I read it, I found myself trying to step back from the orientalizations in my own life and in the cultural/social life around me. For the life examined.
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jul 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-loathe
Edward Said is a whiner! He got the best education from the West and when he was able to stand on his own feet he bit the hand that fed him and started sounding more and more nasty about the Western culture. I can't stand this guy, or even the mention of his name. He is hailed as hero among worshippers of Arabism, and that repulses me.
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a seminal postmodern postcolonial work of critical theory and cultural studies, deconstructing one of the most dominant grand narratives of our civilization, that continues to fuel xenofobia and wars.
Did not finish. A tone more for scholars than general readers like myself. May try again.
Sense Of  History
A Pioneering Study in Intellectual History
Make no mistake: this book is not about the East at all - no matter how you fill in that geographical-political-cultural term - but about the West, Western culture in the broad sense of the word (including its political, social and economic dimension). The essence of Said’s thesis is that in Western culture an image of the East was created very early on as the fundamentally different: mysterious, strange, exotic, somewhat attractive, but above all differ
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Oriental/Russian/Non Europe medieval or recent history books 2 21 May 18, 2016 11:52PM  
All About Books: Week 8 (1978) - Orientalism by Edward Said 23 39 Apr 12, 2016 08:06AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect publication year 3 13 Jul 25, 2014 02:49PM  
help 3 87 Nov 20, 2013 03:52AM  
نادي فكر للقراءة: مناقشة كتاب: الاستشراق 13 263 Jul 01, 2013 05:25PM  
Middle East/North...: "Orientalism" by Edward Said(Jan/May 2011) 163 205 Oct 11, 2012 05:15AM  

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(Arabic Profile إدوارد سعيد)
Edward Wadie Said was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies. A Palestinian American born in Mandatory Palestine, he was a citizen of the United States by way of his father, a U.S. Army veteran.

Educated in the Western canon, at British and American schools, Said applied his ed

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In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
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“The Orient and Islam have a kind of extrareal, phenomenologically reduced status that puts them out of reach of everyone except the Western expert. From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing th orient could not do was to represent itself. Evidence of the Orient was credible only after it had passed through and been made firm by the refining fire of the Orientalist’s work.” 55 likes
“Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn't trust the evidence of one's eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest mission civilizatrice.” 54 likes
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