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  The systematic construction of representations of \'the West\' (\'the Occident\') as a more or less unified entity. Occidentalism is often treated as the inverse of Orientalism: just as western cultures systematically construct(ed) stereotypes of \'the Orient\', so non-western cultures produce(d) their own stereotypes of \'the Occident\' (for a collection of these, see Carrier, 1995). Hence scholars have described Occidentalism as an inversion of the western imaginary, \'the world turned upside down\' (Carrier, 1992), or as a \'counter-discourse\' to Orientalism (Xiao-me Chen, 1995).

Against these seemingly commonsensical readings, however, Edward Said, one of the principal architects of the modern critique of Orientalism as a system of power-knowledge, insisted that \'no one is likely to imagine a field symmetrical to [Orientalism] called Occidentalism\' precisely because the images produced by non-western cultures were not bound into a system of power-knowledge comparable to the tensile strength and span of western colonialism and imperialism (Said 1978, p. 50). For Said, the distinctive quality of the discourse of Orientalism was thus its implication in globalizing projects of domination and dispossession. Hence Coronil (1996) explains that

The study of how \'Others\' represent the \'Occident\' is an interesting enterprise in itself that may help counter the West\'s dominance of publicly circulating images of difference. Calling these representations \'Occidentalist\' serves to restore some balance and has relativizing effects. Given Western hegemony, however, opposing this notion of \'Occidentalism\' to \'Orientalism\' runs the risk of creating the illusion that the terms can be equalized and reversed, as if the complicity of power and knowledge entailed in Orientalism could be countered by an inversion.For this reason Coronil prefers to treat Occidentalism not as \'the reverse of Orientalism but [as] its condition of possibility, its dark side (as in a mirror)\'. Accordingly, he defines Occidentalism as \'the conceptions of the West\' that underwrite its representations of nonwestern cultures, a tactic that switches attention to the ways in which \'Occidentalist\' modalities of representation simultaneously construct and privilege the West-as-Subject (see Eurocentrism). Coronil claims that this change of focus reveals the asymmetries of power that tie together western conceptions of its \'others\' and its own self-conception, and hence shows how these modalities of representation \'present as the internal and separate attributes of bounded entities what are in fact historical outcomes of connected peoples\' (see also post-colonialism).

These considerations suggest a further important qualification. Occidentalism in any of the senses described above constructs \'the West\' as a unified entity, but the existence of connections between diverse peoples maps a heterogeneous space in which diverse conceptions of \'the West\' originate from multiple positions inside and outside its contours, so that, at the limit, \'the West\' becomes not so much a bounded, centred and homogeneous physical space as an imaginative space of dispersion. (DG)

References Carrier, J.G. 1992: Occidentalism, the world turned upside down. American Ethnologist 19: 195-212. Carrier, J., ed., 1995: Occidentalism: images of the West. Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press. Coronil, F. 1996: Beyond Occidentalism: toward nonimperial geohistorical categories. Cultural anthropology 11: 51-87. Said, E. 1978: Orientalism. London: Penguin; Xiao-me Chen 1995: Occidentalism: a theory of counter-discourse in post-Mao China. New York: Oxford University Press.



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