The Orientalist Debate

Module titleThe Orientalist Debate
Module codeARA3189
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr William Gallois (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The scholarly study and conventional understanding of the Middle East was, and has been, dramatically challenged by the appearance of Edward Said’s seminal work, Orientalism. Ever since its publication, the discipline of Middle Eastern Studies has debated the validity of its critique, applied it to many case studies, challenged it in return, and continues to ponder its implications for the future study of the area. This module introduces you to the origins of this debate within a general context of scholarly developments in the field of Middle Eastern Studies in the twentieth century. It then follows the vicissitudes of the debate to its present phase and attempts to assess its future influence on the field. An additional aim is to familiarise you with questions of power and knowledge through a concise reading of some of the major theoretical influences on Said himself. Finally, Said’s close association with Palestine will be discussed and forms of self-Orientalization in the modern Arab world will be studied.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce you to the single most important intellectual debate in the study of the Modern Middle East. In doing so, it aims to enable you to understand the ways in which knowledge about the Middle East has been constructed from the pre-modern period to the present, and to present you with opportunities in terms of situating your own scholarship within the canon of theorists and writers who have supported or critiqued the theses of Said’s work. It aims to develop your capacities in close reading and your abilities in terms of applying concepts and theories to both primary and secondary sources, which will be of broader value across your studies.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. understand the nature and importance of scholarly debates in terms of the construction of knowledge and the shaping of a discipline;
  • 2. reflect critically on the cultural and epistemological underpinnings of Orientalist discourse;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. analyse and identify Orientalist forms and tropes across a range of texts and media;
  • 4. demonstrate an understanding of the interdisciplinary methods upon which Area Studies and Middle East Studies are based;
  • 5. appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of types of history and forms of historical evidence;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. demonstrate close reading, critical and analytical skills through readings, class discussions and presentations; and
  • 7. organise data effectively to produce a coherent argument to a deadline, both orally and in writing.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

It is envisaged that the syllabus will include the following topics in the following order although precise content and order may vary.

  • Past Debates in Middle Eastern Studies
  • Intellectual sources of Orientalism
  • The Essence of the Arguments of Orientalism
  • The Counter Critique
  • Subaltern Studies and Post Colonialism
  • Orientalism in Art
  • Applications in Case Studies
  • Said’s Palestine
  • Middle Eastern Studies in the 21st century
  • Future Prospects

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2211 x 2 hour classes. Students will need to complete all readings prior to class and be ready to participate. On some occasions students will be asked to make presentations.
Guided independent study130Reading and research.
Guided independent study74Completing assignments.
Guided independent study74Preparing for assessments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Submission of detailed essay plans1,000 words1, 2, 3, 5, 6Tutorials in and outside class.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1403,000 words1-7Written and oral
Essay 2603,000 words1-7Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay 1 (3000 words)1-7August/September reassessment period
Essay 2Essay 2 (3000 words)1-7August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, London: Penguin Classics, 2001.
Ranjit Guha (ed.), Selected Subaltern Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Ibn Waraq, Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism,
New York: Prometheus Books, 2007.
Robert Irwin, For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies, London: Penguin, 2007.
John M. MacKenzie, Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.
Paul Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader, London: Penguin books, 1986.
Mary Roberts (eds.), Edges of Empire; Orientalism and Visual Culture, Oxford: Blackwell 2005.
Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, New York: Vintage Books, 1986.
Edward Said, Orientalism, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1978.
Edward Said, Politics of Dispossession, London: Chatto and Windus, 1994.
Ziaudin Sardar, Orientalism (Concepts in Social Science), London: Open University Press.
Murgey Gursoy Sokem and Basak Ertur (eds.), Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward Said, London: Verso, 2008.
M. Sprinker (ed.), Edward Said: A Critical Reader, London: WilleyBlackwell, 1993.
Robert Young, White Mythologies, London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

History, Middle East, Orientalism, Imperialism, Post-colonialism, Subaltern Studies, Culture

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date