Orientalism (1978) is a book by Edward Said that established the concept of "orientalism", which refers to the Western depiction of aspects in the Eastern world.

Is there an equivalent to Orientalism in Eastern scholarship of the West? With "Eastern" I’m referring to modern e.g. Arab or Chinese scholarship.

I wonder if there might be an equivalent umbrella term for the East's scholarship of, and relationship with, the West.

  • 3
    Occidentalism? But of course, neither the Arabs or the Chinese tried to colonise Europe. You may wish to scope your question to a specific culture or country instead leaving the choice to the answerers. Or perhaps the Ottoman view on Europe.
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 7, 2022 at 11:30
  • Thank you, this is very helpful. I left open in which culture this type of discourse may exist because I don't know which one would be the logical place to start. That said, I would expect such a perspective to have developed in particular in cultures with significant economic and political clout (e.g. China) or which were not colonised by Western powers (e.g. Iran).
    – sba222
    Jan 7, 2022 at 14:46
  • Uh… what research can you show? Jan 8, 2022 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


The counterpart to the term "orientalism" is, rather unsurprisingly, occidentalism, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

Occidentalism refers to and identifies representations of the Western world (the Occident) in two ways: (i) as dehumanizing stereotypes of the Western world, (broadly defined as consisting of Europe, Northern America, Australia and New Zealand); and (ii) as ideological representations of the West, as applied in the works: Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China (1995), by Chen Xiaomei; Occidentalism: Images of the West (1995), by James G. Carrier; and Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (2004), Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. Occidentalism is often a counterpart to the term orientalism as used by Edward Said in his book of that title, which refers to and identifies Western stereotypes of the Eastern world, the Orient.

The terms "orientalism" and "occidentalism" are not as symmetrical as the similarity in word formation suggests. The West to some extent "invented" a specific view the Orient, often simplifying its diversity, sometimes romanticising it, but very often also betraying a sense of superiority towards cultures that were seen as less developed. Many of these views date from times when travelling to Asia was still quite an undertaking, information travelled much more slowly and journalism as we know it today did not exist; this made the distribution of accurate information about cultures in Asia fairly difficult.

The concept "occidentalism" is more recent. In fact, the entry on "orientalism" in the third edition of J. A. Cuddon's Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (1982) could still claim that "there is no counterpart in the East about the West". (Of course, this reference to "the East" still collapses the wide diversity of cultures in Asia into a single concept.)

"Eastern" image of the West are not always negative. For example, in Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China (emphasis mine),

Xiaomei Chen offers an insightful account of the unremittingly favourable depiction of Western culture and its negative characterization of Chinese culture in post-Mao China from 1978-1988. (…) Going beyond Edward Said's construction in Orientalism of cross-cultural appropriations as a defining facet of Western imperialism, Chen argues that the appropriation of Western discourse—what she calls "Occidentalism"—can have a politically and ideologically liberating effect on contemporary non-Western culture. (…)
(Description published by Oxford University Press.)

Anti-Western views, especially from the Islamic world, are the subject of Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit.

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