Proceedings Journal Article — Discussant Commentary: Orientalism and the Poverty of Imagination — by Rajini Srikanth
In this introductory remarks on a panel on “Orientalism and Mass Media,” I return to the theme of the poverty of imagination. The Orientalistmind, the imperialist impulse, can only exist when the Arab, African, or Asian is construed as a blank, a void, to be filled with images of theWest’s fashioning. That the nations of the West moved beyond their geographical boundaries did not guarantee that they would also movebeyond the narrow boundaries of their imagination. The psychologists in the audience will probably attribute this reluctance to the Westernvalorizing of “a solid self,” a self that guards against infiltration by foreign elements. In contrast, an individual like Said spoke of the power ofthe shifting self, the special insights provided by the exile who lives a life of dissonance. The exile is blessed with an abundant and textured imagination. By contrast, the producers of mass culture flatten their imaginations in representing the African, Middle Eastern, and Asian. The papers on this panel defy Orientalist producers of mass culture and the productions that come from impoverished imaginings.
Srikanth, Rajini. 2005. “Discussant Commentary: Orientalism and the Poverty of Imagination.” Pp. 271-274 in Theories and Praxes of Difference: Revisiting Edward Said in the Age of New Globalizations: Proceedings of the Second Annual Social Theory Forum, April 6-7, 2005 (Discourse of Sociological Practice, Vol. 7, Issues 1&2, Fall/Spring 2005). Double-Issue Guest Editor: Mohammad H. Tamdgidi. Sociology Department, UMass Boston.