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date: 25 May 2022

Abstract and Keywords

During the nineteenth century, Americans encountered Asia through a number of exchanges. Drawing on the work of Edward Said, this chapter surveys the development of American Orientalism across three areas: academic Orientalism, representative Orientalism, and Orientalist discourses of power. Academic Orientalism first developed in the United States as the work of British Orientalists in India filtered into the country. Later, Americans such as William D. Whitney placed American Orientalism on par with its European competitors. Meanwhile, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, imagined Asia as a land of Oriental mysticism and contemplation in contrast to American materialism and reason. Finally, the World’s Parliament of Religion in 1893 used representations of the Orient to bolster claims of American cultural supremacy. Through all of these examples, Orientalism collapsed the line between religion and race such that the Orient always represented racial and religious inferiority to white Christian America.

Keywords: Edward Said, Orientalism, Transcendentalism, Indology, world religions, Asian religions

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