... is a view of the emerging world best captured by the term ‘Orientalism’, associated with Edward Said. A Palestinian academic, Said’s writings on colonialism explored the caricatures, cliches and pre-conceptions that shaped Western perception and therefore relationships with Eastern nations. Said’s argument was that the West’s view of the East was shaped by political power and unequal commercial exchange.
Said’s work built on George Orwell’s criticism of colonialism. Writing in 1939, Orwell provided a vivid and stark view of the developing world that has rarely been equalled: “When you walk through a town like this – two hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom at least twenty thousand own literally nothing except the rags they stand up in – when you see how the people live, and still more, how easily they die, it is always difficult to believe that you are walking among human beings. All colonial empires are in reality founded upon the fact. The people have brown faces – besides they have so many of them. Are they really the same flesh as yourself? Do they even have names? Or are they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff, about as individual as bees as coral insects? They arise out of the earth, they sweat and starve for a few years, and then they sink back into the nameless mounds of the graveyard and nobody notices that they are gone. And the graves themselves soon fade back into the soil.”