Edward Said was one of the most important Palestinian intellectuals, a literary critic, and a strong political activist for the Palestinian cause. He was born in Jerusalem in 1935, within the context of the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1951, he went to study in the United States of America at Princeton and Harvard Universities, where he received Western academic training. He was a professor at Columbia University in New York, where he taught English and comparative literature. He was also a professor at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Yale universities. He died in New York of leukaemia in 2003.

Published in 1978, “Orientalism” is one of the fundamental texts for post-colonial studies, translated into 36 languages. The author relies not on an “exhaustive catalogue of texts" but on historical generalisations to argue that the West created a distorted view of the East as the “other” or even as a European invention.

Edward Said starts from the point of view of a French journalist on a trip he took to Beirut in the context of the post-civil war (1975–76) and notes the evident destruction and the fact that the East is disappearing as a birthplace of culture, “exotic beings," “evocative memories,” and “extraordinary landscapes and experiences." It is also the place of the largest, oldest, and richest European colonies and the source of European civilizations and languages. This unquestionable influence also points to a series of “images of the other." It is from this knowledge of the East that the author creates a critical view of what he will seek to define as Orientalism.

But to what extent is this “vision of the other” questionable? How far can we go when we approach the West-East relationship? Will we always be conditioned by where we are, by history, and by the way, we interact interculturally? Seeking to question Said's own text and trying to respond to these aspects, I turned to the text “Is it possible not to be an orientalist?" by Immanuel Wallerstein, with the aim of elaborating a small critique and a new point of view on the main question.

Throughout the book, there is a search for a definition of Orientalism as the creation of the East from the West and its formation as an entity with several dimensions.

There is in fact an awareness that the East is an integral part of European civilization and material culture (vocabulary, erudition, doctrine, bureaucracy, etc.) and that it occupies a “special place"—an” ntity—in relation to Western Europe, requiring limitations of authority imposed on thought and action. In this sense, the East was not and is not just an object but an entity with a network of interests behind it. However, there is a difference between the real East, which is merely there, and Orientalism, which is a “real constellation of ideas about the East." This cultural and ideological influence is not just based on a set of myths; it depends on a tension between force and power and ideas, histories, and cultures themselves.

Edward Said starts with four possible definitions of Orientalism, which are related to each other and allow us to better understand this tension and the idea that the East is not an inert fact in nature, that it is “merely there." It is more than a conceptual idea created by man; it is an academic, historical, political, and cultural reality or entity.

“All those who study and work on the Orient are orientalists," and all those who investigated it over time (Aeschylus, Victor Hugo, Dante, Karl Marx, etc.) created an academic corpus formed by orientalist ideas. Said considers that studying the East can be an “absorbing passion” and that this passion has developed a discourse that aims to manage it (politically, sociologically, ideologically, imaginarily, and scientifically).

The author uses Foucault and his works “Discipline and Punish” and “The Archaeology of Knowledge” to define this discourse that, in the post-Enlightenment period, effectively developed an administration over the East.

For these reasons, the East not only “discovered itself oriental," but could also be oriental since a representation of it was made (for example, when Flaubert describes the oriental woman, there is a force in the western discourse about the east through the creation of an image). Said concludes by stating that “the East is an idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, of images, and a vocabulary that gave it a reality and presence in and for the West.

Said thus argues that the East was created, that it was "orientalized," and that there is a complex relationship of power and dominance between the East and West, with a deep hegemony in which one wants to obtain more power than the other. From this comparatively greater strength of the West (America, France, and Great Britain) comes the enormous volume of Orientalist historical texts, and there is a continuous and productive investment in the East.