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P r e f a c e ‘‘Orientalism’’ has been a buzzword since Edward Said’s eponymous book of 1978. Critics have pointed out that Said’s ‘‘Orient’’ is focused on the Arab world and excludes most of what Westerners mean by the word. A more recent history of Orientalism, Robert Irwin’s For Lust of Knowing, criticizes Said’s narrow view of orientalists as ‘‘those who travelled, studied or wrote about the Arab world’’ (2006:294) but goes on to use the same ‘‘somewhat arbitrary delimitation of the subject matter’’ (p. 6), which leaves out India, China, Japan, Tibet, Central Asia, North Asia, and Southeast Asia—in other words, most of what we mean by Asia and more than half of humankind. The term ‘‘Orientalism’’ also has many other connotations, for example, in the context of ‘‘oriental’’ fashions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries or the imitation of oriental styles in garden architecture and painting. The Orientalism whose birth process is examined in this book is modern Orientalism, that is, the secular, institutionalized study of the Orient by specialists capable of understanding oriental languages and handling primarysource material. Its genesis—and, more generally, the history of premodern Europe’s encounter with Asia—is still barely known. The present book does not claim to furnish a history of Orientalism as a whole. Its much more modest aim is to elucidate through relatively extensive case studies a crucial phase of the European encounter with Asia: the century of Enlightenment. The focus is on the European discovery of the regions east of Said’s and Irwin’s ‘‘Orient,’’ in particular on Europe’s discovery of non-Islamic Asian religions. The facets of Asian religions treated are, needless to say, determined by the interests of the protagonists of the included case studies. Unlike Immanuel Kant (App 2008a), they showed little interest in Tibetan religion; hence there is little discussion of it in this book. Why the focus on religion? Because the role of colonialism (and generally of economic and political interests) in the birth of Orientalism dwindles to insignificance compared to the role of religion. Modern Orientalism is the PAGE xi ................. 17751$ PREF 05-21-10 15:27:29 PS xii preface successor of earlier forms of Orientalism involving the study of Asian languages and texts. Christian Europe had been wrestling with Islam for many centuries; from the sixteenth century many of its universities prided themselves on having an ‘‘orientalist’’ professor who specialized in Hebrew and other Bible-related languages such as Aramaic, Syriac, and sometimes even Arabic or Persian. Such premodern academic Orientalism was generally a handmaiden of Bible studies and theology—which explains its almost exclusive focus on regions, languages, and religions that play a role in the Old and New Testaments. Studies of Oriental texts and languages beyond the ‘‘biblical ’’ region usually—though not exclusively—occurred in the context of Christian missions. The eighteenth century brought a momentous change that opened the door to a new kind of Orientalism, less shackled by theology, Bible studies, the frontiers of the Middle East, and Europe’s time-honored Judeo-Christian worldview. This new or ‘‘modern’’ Orientalism was prepared by a growing interest in India as the cradle of civilization, an interest that was promoted by Voltaire (1694–1778) in his quest to denigrate the Bible and destabilize Christianity (see Chapter 1). After the appearance of a number of purportedly very ancient texts of Indian origin in the 1760s and 1770s (Chapters 6 and 7), the idea of Indian origins of civilization gained ground. The research by early British Sanskritists in Calcutta and their articles in the Asiatick Researches added oil to the fire, and in 1795 Europe’s first secular institution for the study of Oriental languages was established: the École Spéciale des Langues Orientales Vivantes in Paris. Its first director, Louis-Mathieu Langlès (1763–1824), was inspired both by Voltaire’s idea of Indian origins and the new approach of the British gentlemen scholars, and he regarded the Bible as an imitation of the far older Veda (see Chapter 8). With the support of Constantin-François Volney (1757–1820), the noted Orientalist and author of the law expropriating the French Catholic Church, the École Spéciale officially sought to divorce the study of Asia, its languages, and its textual heritage from the realm of theology and biblical studies. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this school quickly became the Mecca of secular Orientalist philology, and...


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