Orientalism, Culture and Representation:
In this lesson we will be looking at the following things:
i) ‘Orientalism’ and the western ways of understanding and classifying ‘other’ cultures
ii) Representation and its role in the meaning-making processes
iii) The relationship between culture and representational practices
iv) Different kinds of representation
We shall try to understand the concept of Orientalism and its implications and consequences on notions of culture. It also examines the somewhat fraught issue of representation—what it means, and what are the factors that complicate it. We shall also try to understand what kind of relationship exists between culture and representation and how it contributes to our ways of making sense of the world in which we live.
What is at stake when a person from one culture describes another culture? What kind of meaning-making processes are at work in such a context? We will begin by reading an excerpt from a book called Orientalism by Edward Said and try to understand how he establishes a relationship between ‘culture’ and ‘politics’ within the colonial context. Said gives a great deal of importance to a process called ‘representation’. What is this representation? What has it got to do with culture? What are the ways of analysing ‘culture and representation’? We shall try to understand the role played by ‘representation’ in giving sense to cultural practices and figure out a way of trying to make sense of the various kinds of representations that we encounter in our everyday life.