Genealogies of Orientalism: History, Theory, Politics

Publication Year



Co-editor Edmund Burke, III, Ph.D. 1970.

Orientalism, as explored by Edward Said in 1978, was a far more complex phenomenon than many suspected, being homogenous along the lines of neither culture nor time. Instead, it is deeply embedded in the collective reimaginings that were—and are—nationalism. The dozen essays in Genealogies of Orientalism argue that the critique of orientalism, far from being exhausted, must develop further. To do so, however, a historical turn must be made, and the ways in which modernity itself is theorized and historicized must be rethought.


According to Joan W. Scott, author of The Politics of the Veil, the essays in this collection “develop a remarkable perspective on Edward Said’s Orientalism, placing it in a long historical context of critiques of colonial representations, and deepening our understanding of the very meaning of modernity.” Looking beyond the usual geography of colonial theory, this work broadens the focus from the Middle East and India to other Asian societies. By exploring orientalism in literary and artistic representations of colonial subjects, the authors illuminate the multifaceted ways in which modern cultures have drawn on orientalist images and indigenous self-representations. It is in this complex, cross-cultural collision that the overlapping of orientalism and nationalism can be found.


Table of Contents




Introduction: Genealogies of Orientalism 

Edmund Burke III and David Prochaska


Part 1. History

1. Orientalist Empiricism: Transformations of Colonial Knowledge 

David Ludden

2. The Command of Language and the Language of Command     

Bernard S. Cohn

3. The Sociology of Islam: The French Tradition

Edmund Burke III

4. Scientific Production and Position in the Intellectual and Political Fields: The Cases of Augustin Berque and Joseph Desparmet     

Fanny Colonna


Part 2. Culture

5. The "Passionate Nomad" Reconsidered: A European Woman in l'Algérie française (Isabelle Eberhardt, 1877<EN>1904)     

Julia Clancy-Smith

6. The Unspeakable Limits of Rape: Colonial Violence and Counterinsurgency   

Jenny Sharpe

7. Telling Photos

David Prochaska

8. Ethnography and Exhibitionism at the Expositions Universelles

Zeynep Çelik and Leila Kinney


Part 3. Power

9. Orientalist Counterpoints and Postcolonial Politics: Caste, Community, and Culture in Tamil India

Nicholas B. Dirks

10. Taboo Memories and Diasporic Visions: Columbus, Palestine, and Arab-Jews 

Ella Shohat

11. Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism  

Arif Dirlik

12. Profiteering Women and Primitive Communists: Propriety and Scandal in Interwar Japanese Studies of Okinawa     

Alan S. Christy


Source Acknowledgments 



Reviews and Endorsements

“This collection offers a heretofore unavailable genealogy of the global through the prism of orientalism. The result is both a primer for students, and a provocation to History—as a discipline and as an instrument of imperial power.”—Antoinette Burton, author of Burdens of History and Dwelling in the Archive

“A terrific group of essays. And the introduction is magisterial.”—James Clifford, author The Predicament of Culture and Routes

“This book responds critically to the influence of Said's Orientalism, assessing its achievements and limitations. It makes a valuable contribution to the debate on orientalism.”—Talal Asad, author of Genealogies of Religion and Formations of the Secular

“These essays develop a remarkable perspective on Edward Said’s Orientalism, placing it in a long historical context of critiques of colonial representations, and deepening our understanding of the very meaning of modernity.”—Joan W. Scott, author of The Politics of the Veil

"Genealogies of Orientalism remains an interesting and extremely valuable addition to the growing oeuvre of collections devoted to orientalism and its critical interrogation."—Michael S. Dodson, Journal of World History

University of Nebraska Press