Is East East and West West?

  • Bülent Somay
Part of the Studies in the Psychosocial Series book series (STIP)


There are three main themes insistently pursued throughout the course of this book, in an endeavour to provide evidence for a critique of the seemingly self-evident and ‘essential’ East/West dichotomy. The first is that there is no such thing as the Orient (a variation on/perversion of the famous/notorious Lacanian statement that ‘La femme n’existe pas’ [‘The Woman does not exist’]); the second is that insofar as the Orient ‘exists’, it is, just like its inevitable opposite twin, the Occident, nothing but a performative (a variation on/perversion of Judith Butler’s assertion that ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ as genders are performatives); the third is that the Oriental and Occidental performatives chronically create a third one, that of the Oriental Transvestite, akin to that of the child or, alternatively, the drag, also a variation on Butler’s assertion of the drag as a transgressive (although not necessarily a subversive) performance. As becomes instantly apparent, these claims seem to rely heavily on a categorical analogy between the Orient and femininity (and the West and masculinity), which is already present in the germinal critique of Orientalism, namely, in Edward Said’s path-breaking book, Orientalism:

The Orient was Orientalized not only because it was discovered to be ‘Oriental’ in all those ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be—that is, submitted to being—made Oriental.


Gender Identity Dualistic Structure Marriage Ceremony Material Circumstance Performative Utterance 
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  1. 5.
    The ‘Not-Only-But-Also’ approach or methodology as an alternative to ‘either/or’, has been mostly overlooked by Marxist thinkers and critics, except for Darko Suvin, who insistently sets it forth as an indispensable methodological tool for a Marxian/Brechtian aesthetics. See, for example, his ‘Not Only but Also: Reflections on Cognition and Ideology in Science Fiction and SF Criticism’ (with Marc Angenot), in Science Fiction Studies #18, Volume 6, Part 2, July 1979; and his paper submitted to University of Chicago ‘After Postmodernism’ Conference (14–16 November 1997), entitled ‘On Cognitive Emotions and Topological Imagination’ (,Google Scholar
  2. as well as throughout Patrick Parrinder’s compilation dedicated to him, Learning from Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition and the Politics of Science Fiction, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    By the same token, nuclear physics until Heisenberg and Bohr was befuddled by the particle/wave dichotomy, since it was unable to think outside of the either/or epistemology. It was only with the advent of quantum mechanics, and especially with Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’ that contemporary physics came to terms with the concept of ‘not only (particle), but also (wave)’. The introduction of the not-only-but-also approach in quantum physics also did away with the deterministic structure of the law of causality, which was a direct corollary of the either/or epistemology and the bedrock of what Foucault calls ‘the Western ratio’: ‘But what is wrong in the sharp formulation of the law of causality, “When we know the present precisely, we can predict the future,” is not the conclusion but the assumption. Even in principle we cannot know the present in all detail’ (Werner Heisenberg, ‘The Uncertainty Paper’, in Quantum Theory and Measurement, eds. John Archibald Wheeler & Wojciech Hubert Zurek; Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bülent Somay 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bülent Somay
    • 1
  1. 1.Istanbul Bilgi UniversityTurkey

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