CMU School of Drama

Friday, June 02, 2017

Re-Orienting How American Theatre Covers Islam

HowlRound: Edward Said begins his masterpiece Orientalism (1978) with a quote from Marx’s 18th Brumaire that is fundamentally about power and knowledge: “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” In this vein, Said dissects orientalism as an entrenched set of beliefs that rendered objectivity impossible since knowledge produced about the Orient has always been predicated on power, privilege, and the Western gaze. The phenomenon of orientalism thus reiterates recognizable stereotypes—often by well-intentioned outsiders and native informants with “insider knowledge”—such that the West could represent monolithic concepts like “Muslims” with certainty. Said emphasizes that this lopsided rationale is systemic and so entrenched in our beliefs that inequity (literal or figurative) would feel mollifying rather than malicious.

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