4.621
Orientalism, Colonialism, and Representation

Prerequisites: 
Permission of instructor
Enrollment: 
Limited to 16
Required of: 
MArch & SMArchS/AKPIA students

For empires as for literatures, perhaps it will not be too long before the Orient is called upon to play a role in the Occident.

-Victor Hugo, Les Orientales, 1829

This is a seminar on the politics of representation. It examines how po­litical, historical, ideological, and religious notions influence — and sometimes dictate— the production, representation, and codification of knowledge. The focus is on Orien­talism, a discursive, learned tradition formed over the long history of en­counter between the “West” and the Islamic “Orient” from Antiquity to the present. The seminar explores se­lect instances of the encounter and re­views associated texts, images, archi­tecture, and institutions, that shaped Western knowledge about the Islamic world and informed modern Islamic self-representations as well. Exam­ples include Greek views of the “Bar­barians,” Crusaders’ perceptions of the “Saracens,” the Renaissance conceptions of the “Turk,” and the colonial classifications and depictions of the “Indigenous” or “Native.” Finally, the seminar investigates how these accumulated representations still affect the image of the “other” today. The aim is to gain a historically grounded awareness of the complexities of cultural identities, which, though appearing to be fixed, always defy and sometimes subvert the representations that purport to depict and define them.

Research paper required.