Orientalism in America during the latter half of the nineteenth century: Portrayals of marriage guides

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Abstract

This study Challenges Edward Said and examines the nature of America's Orientalism, focusing on marriage guides during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Three marriage guides that represent the three modalities of this period-the medical, the religious, and the pseudo-scientific-reveal that American Orientalism portrayed Europe as well as the Arabs, Islam, the Africans, and the American Indians as the others. Rendering others in these marriage guides took the form of bestowing unique but distorted types of femininity upon the Orient and Europe. In particular, physical deformities, abnormalities in women's sexual organs, the moral corruption of women, and influences on woman's bodies that hindered the preservation of pure American race, were emphasized to signify the characteristics of the Orient. American Orientalism determined the characteristics of American women as well as those of the Orient, justifying the inferiority of both. The examination of marriage guides reveals that American Orientalism was neither a mere extension of European Orientalism, nor a product of American Zionism. It was rather a product of the formation of American identity, whereby non-mainstream persons had to be first defined as others, so as to define the mainstream.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalAsian Journal of Women's Studies
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies

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