3) The idea of orientalism, as articulated by
Edward Said, emerges from the study of Eastern societies, including their
culture and language, by Western scholars, writers and artists, and helps us
understand the relationship between the East and the West. Said writes that the
idea of orientalism stems from the European colonization of the East. Having
come into contact with lesser developed countries of the East, the West
established the concept of ‘orientalism’ that was based on the study of people from
the orient- an exotic civilization. Edward writes, “The orient was almost a
European invention”. In Orientalism, Edward further explains
how the orientalists begin to view the orientals as non-human beings. He says: “Arabs, for example, are thought of as
camel-riding, terroristic, hook-nosed, venal lechers whose undeserved wealth is
an affront to real civilization. Always there lurks the assumption that
although the Western consumer belongs to a numerical minority, he is entitled
either to own or to expend (or both) the majority of the world resources. Why?
Because he, unlike the Oriental, is a true human being.” This view/assumption led
to the development of an imaginary geographical line that was drawn between the
East and the West, defining the orients as uncivilized people, whilst people
from the West were superior and cultured, and it was their ‘duty’ to civilize
the orients. Edward analyzes the speech delivered by Lord Arthur Balfour in
1910 regarding “the problems with which we have to deal in Egypt” and explains
how the colonizers justified the colonization of the East by the West through
the ideas of supremacy. Balfour said, “We
know the civilization of Egypt better than we know the civilization of any
other country. We know it further back; we know it more intimately; we know
more about it.” Hence, orientalism transformed into a powerful political
instrument of domination, as Edward puts it: “Orientalism as a Western style
for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” and “helped
to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality,
experience.”, as by associating the orients with qualities such as uncivilized,
uncultured and crude, the European automatically became civilized, cultured and
sophisticated.

Dominant oriental framing of social
issues in today’s world continues to shape our understanding of various ongoing
issues. In The Western Imposition of
Sectarianism on Iraqi Politics by
Reider Visser, the author focuses on the history of Iraqi Politics and the way
the West continues to impose a sectarian master narrative upon it. He argues
that the true nature of current political situation in Iraq would unveil if
sectarianism was not ‘invented’ as a lens to view the events unfolding in Iraq.
The author further writes about how this imposition comes forward in various
forms. In some instances, “It is the result of deliberate efforts by Western governments
to manipulate and exploit sectarian identities in order to further their own
interests……because it is the only conceptual tool they have available as they
try to navigate waters of which they have limited knowledge.” This connects to
the same idea of orientalism, as articulated by Edward. Despite having limited
knowledge of the orient, the West generalizes certain behaviors and writes
about them as they perceive them,
rather than what they truly mean in the East. Furthermore, the author also
argues that the concept of looking at Iraq through its
three dominant communal groups, Sunni Arabs, Shi’i Arabs and Kurds, is laden
with orientalist overtones, as he writes: “Malik Mufti called on history to
create an image of “three very disparateOttoman provinces,” described as
having been “fused” together by British forces after World War I. Or rather,
according to Mufti, they were not only “disparate”, but also had their own
individual sectarian characteristics.” The author further says that the most
critical consequence of this oriental sectarian reading of Iraqi politics in
the West would relate to Iraq’s future, as “Westerners consider sectarianism as
the most viable basis for a future Iraqi political system.” Hence, he believes
that it is important that “this invented matter were subtracted” in order for a
more realistic picture of Iraqi politics to emerge, as “a good portion of what
Westerners think about sectarianism in Iraq has no empirical foundation.”

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Similarly,
in Colonizing
Egypt by Timothy Mitchell, the
author talks about nineteenth century Egypt’s encounter with Europe by stating
how Europe believed there is a need of ‘tanzim’ within Egypt, and how this is
achieved through restricting individuals and their actions. Moreover, the
author argues how the belief of the colonizing power that the remedy for lack of
“social order” in Egypt is education leads to the establishment of modern
school system which is an example of a system of perfect discipline. Hence, the
European idea of ‘discipline’,
‘bringing order’ or ‘structure’ to a society in context of Egypt’s colonization
strong resonate with the concept of orientalism. Through the author’s argument,
it is clear that the West viewed itself as superior and felt a duty towards
fulfilling Egypt’s need for “tanzim”. However, this brings one to the question,
what is ‘tanzim’? What might be perceived as order in some cultures, might be
seen as disorder in others. The concept of being “civilized” is subjective and
hence, the author’s argument helps one understand how the West’s political
domination of the East was dominated by an orientalist approach, as they
dictated that Egypt was in need of ‘tanzim’, regardless of what the Egyptians
felt. Therefore, the author’s is critical of the colonization of Egypt as it puts
into perspective the adverse impact of colonization on not only the traditions
and customs of the Egyptian citizens, but their true identity.

4) The
anthropological concept of structure and agency resonates with the idea that whilst
agency is the capacity of an individual to act independently, structures are institutions
more powerful than an individual himself that limit choices and opportunities
and act as forces that have the power of influencing human behavior and social
structures. In Creative Reckonings by Jessica Winegar, the author focuses her
argument on what it entails to be an artist or to practice art in a
postcolonial setting. Jessica understands the idea of post-colonialism and
nationalism as a lens through which artistic practices are defined and
perceived in the Egyptian society. The author writes that “To be an Egyptian
artist was to manage a set of values (and tensions) produced through the
history of colonialism and nationalism.” The author argues that the formation
of an Egyptian artists identity did not depend on the artist themselves, but
rather it was the system that created the possibility for this talent to be
seen or respected as “learnable”.  Previously, the “system had been geared
towards the scientific, industrial, and technological development of the
country.” However, “Nasser’s educational reforms created a situation some
forty-five years later where people from lower and middle classes came to
attain a college degree in the visual arts.” In this manner, the author argues
how structure, namely the government, had the power to influence the opportunities
available to one and how the society viewed them. Prior to Nasser’s reforms,
art was largely viewed as an elite activity. However, the 1962 decree, having
abolished tuition, and art exhibitions helped show art’s usefulness to society
and nation, influencing the society’s view regarding this profession. Moreover, the author further argues
how

culture in Egypt continues to be
dominated by its colonial past, and the way an agency, namely the colonial power,
can leave a drastic impact on social institutions. This leads to the
understanding of the concept of cultural authenticity in Egypt and how the
societal view on art continues to dominate how artists presently live their lives
and establish their careers. Winegar writes about how “teachers lectured on the
importance of “searching for Egyptian identity” or “Egyptian roots” while
working.”, and how “Yes, they were studying a topic that was a Western import,
they were told, but they could use it to help make the masses more cultured, to
decorate the home, or to beautify the decaying city.” Hence, in this manner,
art students learned their role in
the society, rather than what they truly considered the function of art. As
Winegar writes, “recognition and exploration of specific cultural roots and
contexts was necessary to being an artist who was “true” to her-or himself and
who did “real” art that was “good”. Therefore, above individual ideals,
structures, such as the state, helped shape many aspects of an artist’s work. “From
choosing subject matter and materials and theorizing about those choices, to evaluating
art, to representing themselves to their colleagues, critics, and the anthropologists”
ideas of cultural authenticity continued to hold precedence.

On the other hand, in Joyriding
in Riyadh by Pascal Menoret, joyriding is seen as a phenomenon that resulted
from the state’s actions of enforcing a stricter check over the population, and
marginalizing a certain part of it based on socio-economic background. Social
suffering was intense amongst Saudi rural migrants and the lower-class youth
had a harder time acquiring education and making a living, with the drifters
holding the society guilty for marginalizing them, as the urbanization of the
city of Riyadh was based on the expulsion of rural elements of the society.  In
this manner, the state’s policies led to the oppression of a certain part of
the population, shaping their development and access to opportunities. Moreover,
the state’s effort to control the population led to the politicization
of joyriding, as “repressed by the state and their behavior constructed as a
political problem, joyriders in turn politicized their activities, and
transformed a suburban pastime into an open challenge to the police and the
preachers.” In this manner, joyriding allowed drifters to upset Saudi Arabia’s
global image as a deeply religious nation, and portray that the city was not in
control of its public spaces. Hence, from an innocent hobby to a wider revolt
against the state surveillance, joyriding turned into a political problem. Hence,
in this manner, Joyriding in Riyadh helps one understand the power that structures,
such as the state, have over an individual. The state’s actions not only led to
the oppression of the population, but helped shape and dictate their actions in
their daily lives.

5)
The idea of
categorization in anthropology refers to the grouping of people into categories
that are social. This categorization occurs in the context of relationship
between individuals, groups, and the wider society. In Sectarianism
as Counter-Revolution: Saudi Responses to the Arab Spring by Madawi Al
Rasheed, the author delves
into the heart of the events that took place during the Arab Spring and ‘how
the Saudi Regime used sectarian divisions to widen the gap between the two
communities- Shia and Sunni.’ The author explains how sectarianism as a regime
policy not only politicized religious differences through the categorization of
people based on religious identities, but also created a rift between the
majority Sunnis and Shia minority. Hence, this state strategy of categorizing
the population and depicting protests as a Shia conspiracy helped hide the
weaknesses of the authoritarian rule and pushed the Sunnis to renew their
allegiances to the regime.

 On another
hand, in The Clash of Civilization by Huntington, the author argues that
prior to the Cold War, societies were divided by ideological differences, namely
democracy and communism. However, he hypothesizes that in the post-Cold War
world, “the most important
distinctions among peoples are no longer ideological, political, or economic.
They are cultural”. Hence, in order to create the understanding of the
post-Cold War world, the author categorizes populations based on cultures and
divides the world into eight major civilizations. Moreover, the author also
elaborates on the increased role of religion in world politics. He writes how
individuals “need new sources of identity, new forms of stable community,
and new sets of moral precepts to provide them with a sense of meaning and
purpose”. As religion is able to meet these needs, replacing politics with
religion can result in increased communication between societies and cultures. However,
Huntington goes on to predicts the conflict between Islam and the West and,
hence, categorizes societies based on religion. This categorization aids one in
the comprehension of the conflictual nature of Islam and Christianity.