Edited by Nicoletta Vallorani and Emanuele Monegato
In 1978, Edward Said publishes Orientalism. This essay marks a turning point in postcolonial and cultural studies especially because it radically questions the western perspective on the Orient. Examining the diachronic process that led to the European
perception of its oldest and richest colonies, Said is straightforward in stating that
“Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological & epistemological distinction
made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident’” (Said 1978: 3). In this
distinction, the Occident has tacitly acquired the role of the hegemonic culture which,
putting forward its partial and incomplete vision of the Orient, has literally “created” it
(Said 1978: 40), through the selective accumulation of notions biased by a single
assumption: the burden of white men is unchanged, and as democratic as western
democracy may be, it remains substantiated by the practice of a power with confused
though unquestionable origins. Frantz Fanon, in drawing his “white mask”, reports the
same concept: the Occident claims its possession of reality, language and thought, and
labels as inferior everything that does not resemble it. In a Foucaultian way, the Occident
proposes a discourse that justifies and authorizes the power of the White Man and
reverses the cognitive process, putting interpretation before cognition. In this way, far
from critically interpreting a symbolically and historically alien space, the Occident has
transformed the Orient into a colonial territory whose assumed aporias are to be
emendated by simply overlapping a symbolic and political universe made in the west.
More than thirty years later and in the light of a historical and cultural climate that
has determined a deep revision of many established positions on the Orient, the aim of
this work is to photograph the progressive multiplication and fragmentation of what was
once a unitary and unitarily reductive vision. The need to revise the traditional perspective
– already explored in Panza’s recent volume (Orientalismi, 2011) – has reasons and results
from very different epistemological fields, from philosophy to sociology, from cultural
studies to postcolonial and anthropological theories. Our reflection stems from a
contemporary history in which the Orient has taken up different and at times opposite
shapes, which are no longer identifiable according to just one aspect, whatever this may
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N. 6 – 11/2011 324
No matter how differing the critical perspectives adopted, they are all based on the
same uneven ground: the perception of a radical yet inalienable alterity, not
standardizable according to traditional categories. The mystery of the east, in other words,
seems to have become more articulated in time, though maintaining all its revolutionary
connotation as reported in Said, and has produced diversified profiles of the Orient.
Plurality has not reduced alterity. On the contrary, these many “orients” seem to have
multiplied the fear of what is other and thus incomprehensible.
Within this horizon, Issue 8 of Other Modernities intends to develop, both from a
theoretical and an applied perspective, the following research lines:
- The concept of Orient in contemporary times: Geographic and symbolic spaces
- Orientalisms and imperialisms
- Orientalisms and globalization
- Orientalisms and the fear of the other
- Colonization reversed: The Orient conquering the Occident
- The cultural exportation of oriental models
- and oriental worlds
Naturally, the Scientific Committee will thoroughly evaluate any different proposals on the
subject that may be put forth by potential contributors, with the objective of widening the
exploration undertaken with this issue to include any articulated and original suggestions.
The editorial board has established the following deadlines.
Authors should send in their proposals in the form of a 10 (min.)-20 (max.) line
abstract with a short biosketch to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than 10 February 2012.
The editorial office will inform authors whose contributions are accepted by 20
Contributions must be received by 20 June 2012.
The issue will be published by the end of November 2012.
Reviews or interviews to authors or researchers dealing with the issue’s subject will
also be welcome. In order to make the contributions as consistent as possible, the editors
are fully available to be contacted by authors by email or through the editorial office
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