- Deploying Orientalism in Culture and History: From Germany to Central and Eastern Europe ed. by James Hodkinson and John Walker with Shaswati Mazumdar and Johannes Feichtinger
This well-edited volume is the first publication of the International Occident-Orient Research Network, established in 2008 by Anil Bhatti and James Hodkinson. The book contributes in significant ways to diversifying the orientalist discourses by covering German, Austrian, and, for the first time, Eastern European orientalisms. Edward Said’s authoritative study of colonial orientalism is used critically as a reference point. On the one hand, Germanophone, Hungarian, Czech, and Russian orientalisms since the 1750s often reinforce Said’s Foucauldian analysis, which criticizes the complicity of oriental studies in supplying useful “knowledge” to legitimize colonial “power.” On the other hand, the contributors present a variety of orientalisms that enrich and complicate previous debates around orientalism. The chapters no longer take British orientalism as the “standard orientalism” (192), rather as just one variation. Similar to Andrea Polaschegg’s Der andere Orientalismus (2005), this book attempts to develop a pluralistic “post-Saidian concept of orientalism” (192).
Germanophone orientalist discourses provide the focus of eight of the twelve chapters. The introduction by James Hodkinson and John Walker gives an excellent overview of existing scholarship on German orientalism by Susanna Zantop, Russell Berman, Nina Berman, Todd Kontje, Andrea Polaschegg, Suzanne Marchand, and Sarah Colvin. The chapters complement and expand upon these studies and also to some degree support Said’s claim of German orientalism’s “philological orientation” (193). John Walker examines Wilhelm von Humboldt’s comparative study of language and his influence on Jürgen Habermas’s idea of translation as the key to intercultural communication. The suggestion of cultural interdependency challenges Said’s paradigm of orientalism as invested in a dichotomy between the European and the non-European, the civilized and the barbaric. Michael Dusche focuses on Friedrich Schlegel’s romantic and nationalist engagement with Sanskrit and his “internal orientalism” that reimagines Germany as the “true” oriental self of Europe. This “positive” or “reverse” orientalism (42) differs from traditional orientalism with its negative connotations of the East as passive, mysterious, degenerate, exotic, and barbaric. Schlegel’s real intention, however, lies in praising Germanic supremacy over the French. Using a similar methodology as in his book German Orientalisms (2004), Todd Kontje critically deals with Germany’s “local orientalism” by considering the history of the Teutonic Knights and Germany’s Jews, and by interpreting the use of orientalist motifs in Fatih Akin, Kafka, Thomas Mann, and Goethe. This intra-European orientalism undermines fixed boundaries of the Occident and Orient. [End Page 409]
The works discussed in Deploying Orientalism in Culture and History often inevitably resort to orientalist stereotypes and Eurocentric rhetoric, yet the contributors point out an ambivalence that characterizes many of the writings. James Hodkinson uses Germanophone travelogues on the Maghreb from the 1840s by an Alsatian pastor and an Austrian military conscript in the French army as examples to show how these writers both resisted and perpetuated orientalist tropes. Their dependence on as well as resentment toward the French colonial government determined their ambiguous roles in the colony and their perception of Muslim Algerians. Shaswati Mazumdar examines the portrayals of three representative oriental figures—the Jew, the Turk, and the Indian—by primarily looking at German-language press reactions to three historical events: the antisemitic Damascus Affair in 1840, the Crimean War between Russians and the Ottoman Empire (1853–1856), and the anticolonial Revolt of 1857 in India. The press gave space to competing voices about the Orient and orientals, clearly demonstrating conflicting interests among imperial powers and within their respective societies.
Chapters six and seven again portray a more positive orientalism. Jon Keune brings to awareness an eighteenth-century “disenchanted” (entzaubert) orientalism that Matthias Christian Sprengel’s political, historiographical, and empirical writings on India embody. This chapter strongly attests to the limitations of Said’s orientalist theory by presenting “an alternative form...