Why is Orientalism so important to the people who live in the west? Is it because it brings new things to the west? or is it a reformation of their own heritage in relation to the east?
Orientalism if one may say is a sense of focusing on the way the west see the east and the people in it. Many writers, long ago, who really visited the east knew the truth about the Eastern people and how they acted out. but the ones who didn't even dare move out of their home lands, only could have imagined about our wondrous climates, and fantastic sites.
even though people may don't even know what we easterners have as a culture, whatever it is will surprise them beyond their imagination, whether it was our folk traditions, or our heritage in each sect of the country.
The reason that the east has interested so many westerners and made them come for a visit to the east is the way that long time ago the people behaved differently. first the trip from the west to the east took a long time, so in order for one to take the decision to go from the west to the east, one should have been up for a real challenge. trips used to take over than four months, and this was due to the lack of advanced technology back then.
Many great writers like Lord Byron who visited the east, and practically called it his home, knew all about our traditions and how hospitable the easterners were. by that, the stories that were interesting in the beginning, like for instance the Arabian nights that focused on the magic associations had to do with the was the Arabs lived, or the fact hat the desert was the most mysterious place ever, kind of dimmed the light in the scene, and shifted it to a new image of the east that many travelers and writers talked about.
One western female writer, whose name has skipped my mind right now, even had the chance of going into a Hareem and meeting with the women in there describing them as amazing, tall beautiful women. she saw the power they had, and the nonchalant attitude about being trapped all day in the same place; that is if one may call sitting all day by the pool, and someone mending to your every command, trapped than yes they were considered to be 'trapped'.
Anyway, not only did the orientalists focus on the way that people acted in the East rather than they tried to change the false ideas that Westerners had about the East.
Plus, many writers like Shakespeare mentioned Arabs in one of his plays, and so did Johanna Lindsey (a novelist).
In his book on Orientalism, Edward Said said: "To believe that the Orient was created-or as i call it, "Orientalised"- and to believe that such things happen simply as a necessity of the imagination, is to be disingenuous. The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony..." (p.5)
Edward Said also says: "Romantic writers like Byron and Scott consequently had a political version of the Near Orient and a very combative awareness of how relations between the Orient and Europe would have to be conducted." (p.192) As for the Orientalism view from the West now, in the book by Edward Said, Gibb says in his book 'The Near East and the Great Powers' that: "...we can no longer rely on that factor of prestige which seemed to play a large part in prewar thinking ...we have to learn about them so that we can learn to work with them in a relationship that is closer to terms of mutuality."(p.275)
As for the Oriental studies, they "were to be thought of not so much as scholarly activities, but as instruments of national policy towards the newly independent. and possibly intractable nations of the postcolonial world." (p.275)