Edited By Hyunseon Lee and Naomi D. Segal
The Reversal of Exoticism: Ahmed Essyad’s Le Collier des Ruses [The Necklace of Tricks]
Exoticism is a question of viewpoints, territories, cultures, politics and the imagination. It consists, first and foremost, of a double difference, geographical and human, both developed by the west. There is a geographical binary between a concept of here (generally meaning Europe) and a concept of elsewhere; and there is a human binary which distinguishes us from the others.
Exoticism is a European gaze directed at a more or less defined ‘other’ and ‘elsewhere’. This gaze is not just an act of observation; it is also an intellectual construction, an artistic creation and a phantasmatic projection. Above all, it is the manifestation of a position of power. Edward Said showed in 1978 how orientalism is, at one and the same time, an idea, a representation and an act of taking possession. It is a form of domination and authority. Based on an extreme process of generalization – or grotesque simplification – of the other and the elsewhere, it describes ‘the Orient’ in dramatic terms. Said notes, for example:
Orientalism overrode the Orient. As a system of thought about the Orient, it always rose from the specifically human detail to the general transhuman one; an observation about a tenth-century Arab poet multiplied itself into a policy towards (and about) the Oriental mentality in Egypt, Iraq, or Arabia. Similarly a verse from the Koran would be considered the best evidence of an ineradicable Muslim sensuality. Orientalism assumed an unchanging Orient, absolutely different (the reasons changed from...
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