Imagining the Other. Orientalism and Occidentalism in Tamil-European Relations in South India

Jouhki, Jukka (2005) Imagining the Other. Orientalism and Occidentalism in Tamil-European Relations in South India. Doctoral thesis, University of Jyväskylä.

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The theoretical approach of this study concentrates on the images of the Other manifested in Orientalism and its counterpart Occidentalism. Orientalism as a discourse was first described by Edward Said who in his book Orientalism defined it as hegemonic Western popular and academic discourse of “the Orient.” Said analyzed the relationship between European colonialism and the intertwined discursive formations constructing the European experience of “the Orientals.” Occidentalism, respectively, is a more recent field of study of the discourse constructing Europe or “the West.” My study of Orientalism and Occidentalism is based on ethnographic fieldwork during which I collected material on the relationship between Europeans and Tamils in Auroville, a multinational intentional community and Kuilapalayam, a rural Tamil village in India. According to the material gathered, the Europeans of Auroville followed the traditional Orientalist discourse in desribing their Tamil neighbors. In accordance with Said’s findings, I found Europeans emphasizing certain key elements of “being Tamil,” namely the ancientness of Tamil people and the image of Tamil culture as a significantly confining entity. On the other hand, in the discourse images of Tamil intuition, spontaneity and freshness were applauded although they were seen viewed as in opposition with Western qualities like organizational capabilities. The Occidentalism of Tamil villagers, in which “the West” was interpreted mainly through observing the behavior of other Tamils living in Auroville, constructed an image of Europeans as a highly financially oriented group with little or no spiritual qualities. The cultural impact of Auroville was lamented but its economic impact was welcomed. On the whole the two discourses seemed to produce a simplified and exaggerated image of the Other. The traditional Orientalist binary ontology was visible in European discourse whereas in Tamil discourse perhaps the lack of Occidentalist tradition and thus the significantly limited archive in the Foucauldian sense was reflected in less binary views of Europeans and Tamils.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Conflict and Human Unity > Conflict and Human Unity (General)
Culture and Diversity > Culture and Diversity (General)
Depositing User: Admin User
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2020 06:09
Last Modified: 21 May 2020 04:50

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