Even an essential part of the Western literary tradition.

Even before the
discourse of  “West and the rest”  became common, there always existed the
concept of ‘splitting’ which divided this world symbolically into good-bad,
us-them, attractive-disgusting, white-black, civilized-uncivilized,
developed-undeveloped, and this very concept
later led to the discourse of  West-Rest. The
origin of ‘WEST-THE REST’ refers to the so-called western construction of
knowledge about peoples in the Middle East and Asia that existed pre-colonially
which later came to become as a monolithic and unified notion of Orientalism
during the colonial era. This system of representation had been drawn upon
archive of many other discourses that existed such as from classical knowledge,
religious knowledge, mythology and travelers tales such as this one by Plato;

“…. Now in this island of
Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power,
which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts
of the continent.” (Plato)

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The
dialogues claim to quote Solon, who visited Egypt between 590 and 580 BC;
they state that he translated Egyptian records of Atlantis which many early
explorers set out to find. Another discourse was the mythology that depicted the
other part of the world as ‘Earthly Paradise’. The idea of an
earthly paradise located in the west was an essential part of the Western literary tradition. The Garden of Eden
from the Genesis
is the most well-known version of this
mythology, but the other lost lands of plenty appear as far back as Plato’s
description of the sunken island Atlantis.

In order to bring home how
these very different discourses, provided with cultural framework through which
inhabitants, land, and things of the other world were seen in the West. German
text summarizes such voyages’
stories that were sketched upon religious authority and authenticity. One such
tale mentioned in Howard Newby work of 1975 is:

 

In
the land of Indians there are men with dogs’ heads who talk by barking and)
… feed by catching birds …. Others again have only one eye in the forehead
…. In Libya many are born without heads and have a mouth and eyes….. Many
have such large underlips that they can cover their whole faces with them ….
In the land of Ethiopia many people walk bent down like cattle, and many live
four hundred years. Many have horns, long noses and goats’ feet. … In
Ethiopia towards the west many have four eyes… and in Eripia there live
beautiful people with the necks and bills of cranes. (Newby, 1975, p. 17)

 

The discovery of a New
World in the 15th century definitely stimulated the quest for unknown land and
peoples. Explorers brought home fantastic tales, turning reality to myth and
myth to reality. The purpose of these exaggerated accounts was not just about
showing the superiority of the West, rather, it was to explain that the other
world –the Rest was in contact with something that the West was not – The Nature,
not necessarily better. Another reason of idealizing them connected to
perfection and nature, which the West had to leave in order to go through the
process of progress that they believed is irreversible by drawing a parallel with human life, was to justify
that development had to single out the nature and paradise aspect of their
state. Thus, the Europeans started to
define themselves in relation to the existence of these new worlds that were
different from their world. The ‘other world’ was considered to be the
negation of the West, i.e. the other side of rationality, science, development,
economic growth, prosperity, and so forth. Which is to say, everything that was
prized as the elements of the superiority
of the West was missing in the Rest.

A renowned example of
the construction of the Other is the discourse of Orientalism – a style of thought
based on the distinction between the Orient and the Occident. Islamic areas
were mainly ruled by the British and the French colonial powers who accompanied
an army of scholars, pet by these empires other than the military, to represent
a certain image of the East to the West. 
Orientalism has been a dominant feature to the identity of the West. It
is more than the matter of dividing the world into civilized or the uncivilized,
but as a matter of fact, it was a way to conceal the differences, eliminate
them and subordinate that to their identity. It was basically an approach towards
the construction of self through maintaining the otherness and justifying that
it lost the nature in a good sense to the enlightenment and modernization.  Edward Said in his book Orientalism stresses
that the discursive construction of the Oriental serves a vital purpose: it
subtends the exclusionary process upon which European identity is predicated, that
is, the”idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all
the non-European peoples and cultures. The result is an “idea of Europe, a
collective notion identifying ‘us’ Europeans as against all those
non-Europeans”. (Said, 1978) The
Orient was assumed to be stationary in time and place. It was perceived as
being eternal, constant and lacked the ability
of of defining itself. This was in contradiction to the West which saw
itself as being dynamic, innovative, and expansionist. As Timothy defines Orientalism
as three features:

Three
features define this Orientalist reality: it is understood as the product of
unchanging racial and cultural essences; these essential characteristics are in
each case the polar opposite of the West (passive rather than active, static
rather than mobile, emotional rather than rational, chaotic rather than
ordered); and the Oriental opposite or Other is, therefore, marked by a series
of fundamental absences (of movement, reason, order, meaning, and so on). (Mitchell, p.
455)

 

Various Greek authors
in the classical era helped in forming the framework of Orientalism, which
later was implemented in Edward Said and Timothy’s work to define the
relationship between East and West.

Moreover,
the oppositions of ‘noble-ignoble’ and ‘rude-refined’ were the consequence of
the same discursive formation and greatly influenced the Enlightement thinking.
This became a criterion of progress and a feature of the new ‘social sciences’
that resulted in the era of Enlightement. The West was a model, the prototype
and the measure of social progress in Enlightenment  discourse. Only western progress and
development was celebrated and thus far, all of this rested on the discourses
of ‘noble-ignoble’ and ‘rude-refined’ that were the result of ‘West and The
Rest’ discourse; in other words, West was constructed on the basis of the
concept of Orientalism.

19th
century – the time period of enormous development in the institutions and the
content of Oreintalism corresponds exactly to the time period of unparalleled
European expansion. The notion of European expansion and
colonialism are two sides of the same coin in modern history. Among the process
that was set in motion in colonization as result of this discourse was the
appropriation of land, whose extreme form was the extermination of what is
referred to as the native population and exploitation of labor, whose extreme
form is slavery. (Fogel, 1989)

Today
Orientalism continues to influence various aspects of human life and its
outcomes still exist. According to researchers, Orientalism was originated in the
colonial period, but today it “continues to shape attitudes, images and
knowledge” (Merryfield & Subedi 288). Even Edward Said criticizes Western
Orientalism because it reflects many trends found in Asian works of art created
by Indian, Chinese, and Japanese artists and writers (Said 60). In the 20th
century, various Western cultural themes were found in Asian art and culture. Further,
Orientalism shaped cinema, theater, photography and music. In
the modern-day time period, Orientalism has taken on a different meaning, for
though there is still an East vs. West mentality, in regards to the “other,”
the primary “other” as viewed by the West, is the Middle East, specifically
Arab Muslims. For instance, After
9/11, orientalist influence on US foreign policy led to a Manichean view of
“good West versus bad Islamic world” becoming dominant. The
existence of anti-Muslim feelings lay emphasis on the way people within Western
society have come to view the Middle East through an orientalist outlook.

However, in the present
day, the social sciences have become free from being empirical and very
“scientific” which suggests that by highlighting the commonalities shared
between different groups rather than the differences, various groups can truly
begin to understand just how alike “the other” is to themselves.

( ?
1400 words)