Orient, Occident, and the Constitution of Subjectivity

  • Prasad Pannian


This chapter investigates the notions of subject formation and subjectivity implicated in Edward Said’s groundbreaking work Orientalism. Focusing on this seminal work, I explore the construction of a particular subjectivity of the Oriental, which also implicates the Occidental and proceeds to examine the subject formation of Said himself. As the huge corpus of Said’s subsequent writings evolves out of the questions, themes, and conceptualizations of Orientalism, this chapter examines in detail in what ways Said (as author and as subject) engages with the discursive legacy of Orientalism. Since the politics of colonial experience resonates through and gives shape to the entire corpus of Said’s work, my attempt here is to recover, despite the plethora of criticisms raised against Orientalism, the possibility of rethinking our understanding of his work in our own time. After tracing the personal dimension of Said’s work—subject formation— the chapter proceeds to explore the multidimensional discursive strategies of Orientalism, and how it constructs the Orient and Orientals as objects of knowledge. In the course of this exploration, I will examine concepts such as power, knowledge, imaginative geography, and ideology in relation to Said’s “rethinking of what had for centuries been believed to be an unbridgeable chasm separating East from West” (Orientalism 352). I will also consolidate some of the important criticisms of Orientalism that have emerged since its initial publication.


Middle East Subject Position Entire Corpus Subject Formation Colonial Subject 
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© Prasad Pannian 2016

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  • Prasad Pannian

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