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How Much Is Enough Said? Some Gendered Responses to Orientalism

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Abstract

In the 35 years since the publication of Edward Said’s text Orientalism there has, of course, been debate and polemic around the agenda established by that text.1 Other sections in this volume explore a number of these avenues, but the focus of this piece will be on one of the most paradoxical aspects of Orientalism’s legacy: its engagement, or lack of it, with questions and categories of gender and sexuality.2 This paradox is rooted in the ways in which Orientalism both opened up and constrained gendered analyses of the modes of knowledge, representation and power used in ‘western’ depictions of ‘the East.’ Statements in the original text linked the cultural and ideological production of ‘the East’ by Europeans to concepts of ‘Oriental’ effeminacy and of European sexual opportunity in, and fantasy about, people and societies in the Middle East and North Africa.3 Yet the propositions about such links did not establish any systematic analysis of the gendered and sexualized character of modern ‘Orientalisms.’ While this may have been understandable in the 1970s when the impact of feminist thought in the wider academy was limited, it sits oddly with the dissident method, tone and content of Said’s text. Indeed, Said marginalized and dismissed the emergent discipline of women’s studies as vulnerable to the influence of ‘pressure group complicity.’

Keywords

  • Middle East
  • Middle Eastern
  • Turkish Woman
  • Gender Analysis
  • Dress Code

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  1. For example, James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature and Art (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1988), 255–76; Bryan Turner, ‘Outline of a Theory of Orientalism,’ in Orientalism, ed. Edward W. Said (London: Routledge 2000), vol. 1, 1–31; Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 182–267; Lila Abu-Lughod, ‘Orientalism and the Middle East in Middle Eastern Studies,’ Feminist Studies 27, no. 1 (2001), 101–13; Daniel Martin Varisco, Islam Obscured: The Rhetoric of Anthro- pological Representation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Much useful scholarship on Said is collected in Patrick Williams (ed.) Edward Said, 4 vols. (London: Sage, 2000).

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  2. See, for example, Lisa Lowe, Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1994); Deniz Kandiyoti, ‘Contemporary Feminist Scholarship and Middle East Studies’, in Gendering the Middle East, ed. Deniz Kandiyoti (London: I. B. Tauris, 1996), 1–28; Joanna de Groot, ‘“Sex” and “Race”: The Construction of Image and Language in the Nineteenth Century,’ in Sexuality and Subordination: Interdisciplinary Studies of Gender in the Nineteenth Century, eds. Susan Mendus and Jane Rendall (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), 89–128.

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  3. Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 2003), 6, 8, 62–3, 72, 103, 118, 146–7, 149, 166–7, 182–4, 186–8, 190, 206–8, 211–12, 244, 286–7, 311–12.

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  4. ‘Interview with Edward Said,’ in Edward Said: A Critical Reader, ed. Michael Sprinker, 221–64. (Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell 1992), 248–9; the piece of work in question is Joan Scott, ‘Gender: A Useful Category of Analysis,’ American Historical Review 91, no. 5 (1986), 1056–61.

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  5. The recent volume edited by Ghosh includes only one piece dealing with those themes, and Varisco’s recent extensive study does not really engage with them either. Ranjan Ghosh, ed., Edward Said and the Literary, Social, and Political World (London: Routledge, 2009); Daniel Varisco, Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2007).

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  6. See, for example, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism without Borders (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Zillah R. Eisenstein, Against Empire: Feminisms, Racism and the West (London: Zed Press, 2004); Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press, 2002); Mirinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).

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  7. Examples of the former are John M. Mackenzie, Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995) and Robert Irwin, For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies (London: Allen Lane, 2006). Examples of the latter include Michael J. Franklin, ‘Introduction’ to Representing India: Indian Culture and Imperial Control in Eighteen-Century British Orientalist Discourse (London: Routledge, 2000); Joanna de Groot ‘“Brothers of the Iranian Race”: Manhood, Nationhood and Modernity in Iran 1870–1914,’ in Masculinities in Politics and War: Gendering Modern History, eds. Stefan Dudink, Karen Hagemann and John Tosh (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 137–56; Nebahat Avcioglu, ‘Turquerie’ and the Politics of Representation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011); Zeynep Inankur, Reina Lewis and Mary Roberts, eds., The Poetics and Politics of Place: Ottoman Istanbul and British Orientalism (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2011).

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  8. Ali Behdad, ‘Orientalism Matters,’ Modern Fiction Studies 56, no. 4 (2010), 7711, which develops its general argument with reference to photography in and about the Middle East.

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  9. This concept has been productively used by Zeynep Celik in ‘Speaking Back to Orientalist Discourse,’ in Orientalism’s Interlocutors: Painting, Architecture, Photography, eds. Jill Beaulieu and Mary Roberts (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2002), 19–42, which deals in part with Osman Hamdi Bey.

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  10. Wendy Shaw, Possessors and Possessed: Museums, Archaeology and the Visualization of History in the Late Ottoman Empire (Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press, 2003); Ussama Makdisi, ‘Ottoman Orientalism,’ American Historical Review 107, no. 3 (2002), 768–96.

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  11. For a general context see M. Sükrü Hanioğlu, A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008); Suraiya N. Faroqhi, The Later Ottoman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Halil Inalcik and Donald Quataert, Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire 1300–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

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  12. See Selim Deringil, The Well Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimating of Power in the Ottoman Empire 1876–1908 (London: I. B. Tauris, 1997); Fatma Müge Gôçek, Rise of the Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire: Ottoman Westernisation and Social Change (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

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  13. See Serif Mardin, The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000); Nazan Cicek, The Young Ottomans: Turkish Critics of the Eastern Question in the Late Nineteenth Century (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2010).

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  14. See Deniz Kandiyoti, ‘Woman as Metaphor: The Turkish Novel from the Tanzimat to the Republic,’ in Urban Crises and Social Movements in the Middle East: Proceedings of the CNRS-ESRC Symposium Paris, May 23–27th, 1986, eds. Kenneth Brown et al. (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1989), 140–52; Zehra F. Arat, ed., Deconstructing Images of ‘The Turkish Woman’ (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000); Gocek, Rise of the Bourgeoisie.

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  15. Afsaneh Najmabadi, Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards (Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press, 2005); Massad, Desiring Arabs.

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  16. See photos at http://osmanhamdibey.tumblr.com/and http://www.definegizemi.com/forum/arastiralim-tartisalim/karakus-tumulu-ve-nemrut-tumulu su-t16738.html [accessed 15 January 2012], and Wendy Shaw, Ottoman Painting: Reflections of Western Art From the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011), 81–3.

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  17. Joanna de Groot, ‘What Goes Around Comes Around: “Veiling,” Women’s Bodies, and Orientalisms Past and Present’ (paper presented at the International Congress of Historical Sciences, Sydney, 2005).

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  18. For comment see Lila Abu-Lughod, ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others,’ American Anthropologist 104, no. 3 (2002), 783–90.

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  19. The terms hidjab/hijab (Arabic term for head-covering), voile (veil), tchador/chador (the Persian language term for the head-to-foot covering worn by Iranian women) and foulard (scarf) all appeared in French media coverage. See Diana R. Blank, ‘A Veil of Controversy: The Construction of a “Tchador Affair” in the French Press,’ Interventions 1, no. 4 (1999), 536–54; see also Joan Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).

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  21. See Elizabeth Ozdalga, The Veiling Issue: Official Secularism and Popular Islam in Modern Turkey (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 1998), 40–8.

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  22. See Fadwa El Guindi, Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance (Oxford and New York: Berg, 1999); Arlene Elowe MacLeod, Accommodating Protest: Working Women, the New Veiling and Change in Cairo (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

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  24. See Camron Amin, The Making of the Modern Iranian Woman: Gender, State Policy, and Popular Culture, 1865–1946 (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2002); Beth Baron, Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender and Politics (Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press, 2005); Yesim Arat, ‘Nation Building and Feminism in Early Republican Turkey’, in Turkey’s Engagement with Modernity: Conflict and Change in the Twentieth Century, eds. Celia Kerslake, Kerem Öktem and Philip Robins (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 38–54; Marnia Lazreg, The Eloquence of Silence: Algerian Women in Question (New York and London: Routledge, 1994).

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  25. See, for example, K. Pelin Basci, ‘Shadows in the Missionary Garden of Roses: Turkish Women in American Missionary Texts,’ in Deconstructing Images of ‘the Turkish Woman,’ ed. Zehra Arat (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), 101–25.

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  26. See Najmabadi, Women with Mustaches, 132–55; Amin, Making of the Modern Iranian Woman, 25–37; Lisa Pollard, Nurturing the Nation: The Family Politics of Modernizing, Colonizing, and Liberating Egypt (Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press, 2005), 100–31; Baron, Egypt as a Woman.

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  27. See, for example, Muhammad Karim Khan Kermani, ‘Nasiriyya’ (c.1870), in his Collected Persian essays, ed. Kerman, 1967–9, 395–6, quoted in Mangol Bayat, Mysticism and Dissent: Socio-Religious Thought in Qajar Iran (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1982), 85.

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  32. See Saba Mahmood, The Politics ofPiety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).

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  35. Fatmagül Berktay, ‘Looking from the “Other” Side: Is Cultural Relativism a Way Out?’ in Women’s Studies in the 1990s: Doing Things Differently, eds. Joanna de Groot and Mary Maynard (Basingstoke and New York: Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press, 1993), 110–31.

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  36. Developed by feminist thinkers on law and sociology, ‘intersectionality’ is a term used for conceptualizing and investigating the multi-faceted relations of power and difference which are simultaneously shaped by gender, ethnic, class, sexual, colonial, age or other distinctions and connections. Early formulations include Kim Crenshaw, ‘Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Policy,’ in Feminist Legal Theory, ed. D. Kelly Weisberg (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1993), 383–95 and ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Colour,’ Stanford Law Review 43 (1991), 363–77. Later contributions include Leslie McCall, ‘The Complexity of Intersectionality,’ Signs 30, no. 3 (2005), 1771–800; and Jennifer Nash, ‘Rethinking Intersectionality,’ Feminist Review 89, no. 1 (2008), 1–15.

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© 2013 Joanna de Groot

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de Groot, J. (2013). How Much Is Enough Said? Some Gendered Responses to Orientalism . In: Elmarsafy, Z., Bernard, A., Attwell, D. (eds) Debating Orientalism. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137341112_11

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