What is Orientalism?

The Middle East, oriental specialities, oriental kebabs, Oriental Nights scented shampoos – the word “Orient” is very present in our everyday language. But unlike a purely geographical designation, the term conveys much more. Camels, the smell of spices, desert landscapes, veiled women, exotic sounds – in short, a foreign world and way of life. 
Most of us do not realise that these ideas and images express a clear hierarchical divide. The presence of the “civilised West”, which talks about – and not with – the “original East” and thus decisively shapes its representation, is not an absolutely new phenomenon. 
At the end of the 1980s, the literary scholar Edward Said analysed the construction of this narrative of the Orient in English and French sources from the colonial era. His thesis is that “the Orient” is above all an essential part of European culture and power politics rather than a real image of the region itself. Our ideas about “the Orient” therefore have nothing to do with what life and the people there are really like. 
Nevertheless, this orientalism, as Said calls this mind-set, continues to play a major role, especially in our media world. It not only has an impact on our Western societies, but also on societies in West Asia and North Africa. 
Why do we still seem to need this counter-concept “Orient” to our “Occident”? And how do and did people in West Asia view this term? Together with Ayşê, chairwoman of the dis:orient association, we go in search of clues in this episode – in history, in the present, in East and West. 
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