By Vijay Prashad

About Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad is Professor of International Studies and George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History at Trinity College. His most recent books include The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South and Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today.

Orientalism

In 1849, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Behold the difference between the Oriental and the Occidental. The former has nothing to do in this world; the latter is full of activity. The one looks in the sun till his eyes are put out; the other follows him prone in his westward course” (1849/1985, 120). Thoreau’s “Orientals” included the people of India and China, although his contemporaries often added the people of the Arab world. At the same time, Thoreau and other Boston Brahmins used the even more vaguely defined term “Occidental” to refer to Anglo-Protestant civilization (and only rarely included Catholics and non-Anglos). The point they made was simple: the world had to be sundered between East and West. The former once had a great history, but it had since descended into timelessness and stasis; the latter remained dynamic and cultivated wisdom. Thoreau, being a pacifist, forswore the values of conquest, …

Collectivities, Disciplinarities, Embodiments, Ideologies
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