"Orientalism was a European enterprise from the very beginning. The scholars were European; the audience was European; and the Indians figured as inert objects of knowledge. The Orientalist spoke for the Indian and represented the object in texts. Because the Indian was separated from the Orientalist knower, the Indian as object- as well as its representation- was construed to be outside and opposite of self; thus,both the self and the other, the rational and materialist British and the emotional and spiritual Indian, appeared as autonomous, ontological, and essential entities. Of course, the two essential entities, the spiritual India and the materialistic West, made sense only in the context of each other and the traces of each in the other, which suggested that heterogeneity and difference lay beneath the binary opposition, although the process of rendering India into an object external both to its representation and to the knower concealed this difference. It also made the colonial relationship- the enabling condition of British Orientalism- appear as if it was irrelevant to the production of knowledge. As a result, although colonial dominance produced the East-West construct, it looked as if this binary opposition not only pre-dated the colonial relationship but also accounted for it. In other words, Orientalist textual and institutional practices created the spiritual and sensuous Indian as an opposite of the materialistic and rational British,and offered them as justifications for the British conquest."
— Gyan Prakash, Writing Post-Orientalist Histories of the Third World: Perspectives from Indian Historiography (via sitaronse)
I was talking with my mother and other family members today about our family units in conjunction within our tribe, and it really struck me on how my particular family’s unit (this sounds like such colonialist language!) has never always been the South Asian archetype ”patriarchal” unit.
My grandfather’s mother, was the matriarch. It is possible that it came about because she became a widow relatively early in life, but I personally doubt it. Even in her absence, my grandfather’s sisters held a lot of sway and power over the affairs of the family. See? Not your typical patriarchal South Asian family.
That doesn’t mean that many overall ideas were not influenced by patriarchal ideas in the larger society. But I am just starting to realize how much I analyze my own culture/society/family through the Oriental induced patriarchal society lenses, and I have to continuously re-evaluate my own thinking to make room for the reality that is, not the reality that Orientalist paint the whole of South Asia with.
There is a lot of learning I have to do.
"When desis come to the United States in large numbers, I argue, they sign a social contract with a racist polity by making a pledge to work hard but to retain a social life at some remove from U.S. society (one that is sanctified as specially spiritual and thus an acceptable, even if lesser, lifeworld). When the desis find that the racist polity simply wants their labor but does not care too much for their lives, the social retreat sanctioned by U.S. orientalism provides a space to develop a life, even if this is a space under constant threat from educational and other institutions. The claim to a higher spirituality (and civilization) allows desis to be positioned in such a way that they are seen as superior to blacks, a social location not unattractive to a migrant in search of some accommodation in a racist polity. The tragedy of this social compact is that it perpetuates and reproduces antiblack racism."
Vijay Prashad in the preface of The Karma of Brown Folk
[bold emphasis added by me/indigocrayon]