'It must be recalled, however, that Orientalism was not just about representations or stereotypes of the Orient but about how these were linked and integral to projects of domination that were ongoing. This raises an uncomfortable question about all our work of the combating-stereotype sort — and I would include here not just these books but many others that show how active, practical, powerful, and resourceful (as opposed to passive, silent, and oppressed) Middle Eastern women are or how complex gender relations are, including my own ethnography of the Awlad ‘Ali, Writing Women’s Worlds: Bedouin Stories. First, we have to ask what Western liberal values we may be unreflectively validating in proving that “Eastern” women have agency, too. Second, and more importantly, we have to remind ourselves that although negative images of women or gender relations in the region are certainly to be deplored, offering positive images or “nondistorted” images will not solve the basic problem posed by Said’s analysis of Orientalism. The problem is about the production of knowledge in and for the West. As [Meyda] Yegenoglu puts it, following Said’s more Foucauldian point, the power of Orientalism comes from “its power to construct the very object it speaks about and from its power to produce a regime of truth about the other and thereby establish the identity and the power of the subject that speaks about it”**. As long as we are writing for the West about “the other,” we are implicated in projects that establish Western authority and cultural difference.’
- Lila Abu-Lughod, “‘Orientalism’ and Middle East Feminist Studies,” Feminist Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 2001).
** ‘… if we admit that the power of Orientalism does not stem from the “distortion” of the “reality” of the Orient, nor from the dissemination of ”prejudiced” or “negative” images about other cultures and peoples, but from its power to construct the very object it speaks about and from its power to produce a regime of truth about the other and thereby establish the identity and the power of the subject that speaks about it, then it becomes a peripheral concern whether the images deployed to this end are ”positive” or “negative.”’
- Meyda Yegenoglu, Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism, Cambridge, 1998.