Essay On Orientalism, Power & Knowledge University Political Science Essay

2140 words - 9 pages

Orientalism & The World Bank
In Edward Said’s Orientalism, Said explore the intricate relationship between knowledge, power and practices of domination. This essay will use Said’s insights to explore the ways in which the continue to influence and characterise contemporary discourses of development. First, this essay will examine the Said’s observations on the ways in which systems of representations are constructed by the dominant groups through the use of knowledge and power. Using a World Bank Report (2000) on education development as a case study, this paper will examine how these systems of representations fortify a global hierarchical divide, which privileges the West and subordinates the developing nations. Next, this paper will assess the unequal power relations implicated in the production of knowledge, using the consequences of the reinvention of the World Bank into a Knowledge Bank as an example. Finally, this paper will critique the narrative of modernity inherent to discourses of development and evident in the World Bank’s privileging of Western education
Orientalism, defined as a “political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (…the West, ‘us’) and the strange (the Orient… ‘them’)”, (Said, 1978: 44) is deeply implicated in contemporary discourses of development (Kothari, 2006: 12). The ‘Orient’ identity was constructed in the minds of the European powers as a negative inversion of the West (Hall, 1992: 308), based on stereotyped distinctions such as the ‘intelligent’ versus ‘unintelligent’. The latter referring to and describing the observable characteristic of the ‘Orient’ (Hall, 1992: 308). This dichotomy, between the colonised and the colonisers, relied on the Western cultures as the primary reference point, through which everything situated outside the European realm could be observed, defined, judged and controlled (Said, 1978: 45). Orientalism and discourses of development constitute a body of knowledge and framework through which the world is represented as reality (Blaut, 1993: 25). The world is a complex assortment of heterogeneous people, with diverse socio-historical, cultural and political backgrounds (Andreasson, 2005: 972). Yet, our social world is one in which the rich complexities have been collapsed and condensed into simplified, oppositional halves (Hall, 1992: 308). These divisions originated through the observations of the European colonial powers as they interacted with societies different from their own (Said, 1978: 36). They transformed from mere observations to factual evidence due to an archive of knowledge (Said, 1978: 41), left behind by the European explorers, philosophers and writers that reined before them (Hall, 1992: 298). This archive “provided them with a vocabulary, imagery, rhetoric and figures” (Said, 1978: 41) with which they could understand and describe the foreign ‘other’; as Said boldly states: “to have knowledge of such a thing is to dominate it,...


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