Orientalism and orientalism in reverse by Sadik Jalal al-’Azm

The author of the article “Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse” is the Syrian scholar and political thinker Sadiq al-Azm. He is also professor emeritus of modern history in the university of Damascus and in 2007 has been a visiting professor in the Princeton University. The author is often associated with socialism, since it can be argued that Marxism has shaped many of his works.

The article tries to analyse different points. First, it is a critique of the work done by Palestinian-American literary theorist Edward Said, in relation to the Middle East. Al-Azm denounces Said of failing to recognise how some generalisations on the Middle East, made by Orientalists, actually correspond to reality. Another criticism that al-Azm makes is that in his work, Said indirectly encourages generalisations amongst Western Culture, thus, contradicting himself.

It is clear that even though al Azm defends Orientalism against Said’s critiques, the author does not agree with the Orientalist thesis. He explains that in order to fully understand the region’s problems, you cannot only read the evaluations made by Western scholars – it is essential to explore the point of view of Islamist scholars and Middle Eastern thinkers as well. By doing this, you would have the knowledge to understand the deep-rooted quarrels and problems that are affecting the region.

In conclusion I believe al-Azm makes some good points in expressing how the evaluation of the Middle Eastern situation is not something that can be understood just by analysing modern problems; it is indeed embedded in history and scholars who would like to understand it, should not only appeal to Western thinkers but also Eastern. Moreover he explains how the history of the East is inevitably entrenched with the one of West, for this reason, the Orientalist approach of treating the two as different entities is wrong