In 'Latent and Manifest Orientalism', Edward Said distinguished between the terms latent and manifest Orientalism in an attempt to support his overall thesis that Eurocentricity and racism had created a body of knowledge regarding the East that was not only false, but the inverse of what the East held as its own superiority. Although this is not a novel opinion since others (cf. Butterworth, 1980; Guha, 1983; Kopf, 1983; Minear, 1983), after having read Said, have also made similar claims and observations about other Western dominated Asian cultures, it was Said who began the conversation. He contextualized the concept of Orientalism as an academic discourse and explained that it was a ´manner of regularized...writing, vision, and study dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient═ (202). But he broadened the term to reach beyond the academy into travel, commerce, and military expeditions (203). Said saw the basis of Orientalism as ´a political doctrine willed over the Orient [by Occidentals] because the Orient was weaker than the West═ (204). In other words, Said contended that this broadened view of Orientalism as a way of describing, characterizing, and criticizing the Orient was so bound in Eurocentricism and the political climate of the non-Orient, that it distorted the true Orient. As Michael Dalby (1980) said more clearly, ´the Orient subsists in fact only as a structural relationship in contrast to Us═ (488).
With this said, Said═s purpose in this chapter was to argue that latent Orientalism, the ´textual and contemplative═ (210), unchanging, and single-minded view of the Orient in terms of its distinctiveness from the West (205-206), was distinct from manifest Orientalism. He hypothesized that manifest Orientalism, caused by ´a spatial and geographical═ (210) change in the attitude of the West which grew to see the Orient as ´a geographical space to be cultivated, harvested, and guarded,═ (219), was an acknowledgment of the modern Orient and its own power and force within the world which needed to be ´administer[ed]═ in ´economic═ or ´military═ (210) terms. This acknowledgment came, as Robert Kapf stated, from the result of how Orientalism was represented:At first Orientalists had represented Islam, had represented Egypt to their own country═s readers... [but now] the accumulation of Orientalist lore reached a point where the lore created the Orient (482).
And when the Orient became thusly real, when it became an actual geographical and spatial arena in the eyes of the Occident, manifest Orientalism occurred. This paper will attempt to summarize Said═s perception of that distinction.
Early on in the chapter, Said outlined the assumptions upon which he based his hypothesis. These assumptions included his belief that fields of learning ´are constrained and acted upon by society, cultural traditions, ...worldly circumstance, and...stabilizing influences═ (201). It is important to keep these in mind as one looks at his later argument for it is this assumption that it seems he is trying to prove.
Said spent an inordinate amount of time detailing his perception of latent Orientalism. He defined it as ´an almost unconscious (and certainly untouchable) positivity═ (206) that embodied an inaccurate yet unchallengeable ´body of ideas, beliefs, clich│s, or learning about the East═ (205). These ideas were then distilled into what came to be widely known as the essential ideas characterizing the Orient--═its sensuality, its tendency to despotism, its aberrant mentality, its habits of inaccuracy, its backwardness═ (205). Said also explained his view of latent Orientalism as ´a racist, ...imperialistic,...[and] ethnocentric═ (204) product. In addition, he explored the uses of Orientalism and asserted that its mere existence was dependent upon another culture═s perception of the East═s unimportance to the world in general.
To corroborate his assertions, Said cited the writings of Renan, Marx, Lane, Sacy, Flaubert, Nerval, Cuvier, Gobineau, and Knox, each of whom he said kept ´intact the separateness of the Orient, its eccentricity, [and] its backwardness... in a framework constructed out of biological determinism═ (206-7). He cited additional sources as well. Looking at Orientalists and their works, Said saw Noldeke, Waardenburg and others as ´denigrating═ the Orient with their ´tendentious ...even hostile view═ (209) of the East.
However, it was the emphasis on the Orientalists═ view of the Orient as being unimportant as an area in and of itself, of being a place ´whose principal worth was uniformly defined in terms of Europe═ (221) that became the pivotal point in Said═s explanation of Orientalism. For once the readers had been made utterly familiar with examples Said used to support his view of Orientalism as a product of Western ideals and viewpoints, and latent Orientalism as a form of reporting on this viewpoint, Said moved on to discuss the shift to manifest Orientalism.
>He noted that latent Orientalism was ´essentially hermeutical═ (22), that it was a reportage of the Westerner═s version of the East from a distance. However, as the sociopolitical climate changed and more interactions occurred between the East and West, the distance was lessened and people from the West traveled to the orient.
Said outlined the behavior and attitudes of the French and English ´emplacement in the Orient═ (212) and asserted that this new governmental and administrative interaction with the people of the Orient, in the Orient itself, transformed the latent Orientalism into manifest Orientalism. In this incarnation of Orientalism, the Orientalist, on the turf of the Orient, had the power to say what was significant about [the Oriental], classify him among others of his breed, put him in his place. This facility extended...to explaining Orientals to themselves, and even saving them from themselves (Dalby, 489)...... (more)