The two-days 'International Orientalism Symposium' in Istanbul wrapped up yesterday with a range of scholars offering their views on topics such as Turkey's European Union bid, post-orientalism, Ottoman modernization, postcolonial theory, secularism, and the relation between civilizations.
Istanbul, the meeting point of the East and the West, seemed the most appropriate place to discuss the issue. The symposium, organized by Istanbul Greater Municipality, was conducted in Cemal Reþit Rey Congress Hall.
Nearly 900 people followed the debates, which especially focused on Turkey's membership bid to the European Union.
Yesterday's sessions generally focused on Islam, and observing some harsh criticism of Edward Said was interesting, as the symposium was organized in memory of the renowned Palestinian-American thinker, whose most important work is seen as 'Orientalism'.
The criticism was based on the claim that 'it is not possible to understand the East, without understanding Islam', and Said was 'trying to secularize Islam'. Turkey's modernization criticised:
The highlight of Saturday's session was Prof. Dr. Gayatri C. Spivak's speech, in which he defined orientalism as 'the project of the West, to control the East'.
Spivak, a Columbia University professor of Indian origin, added that today orientalism is not capable to achieve this aim, thus the West is hard pressed to control the East.
Spivak, pointing out a new tendency in Europe, the tendency to reproduce the image of the East, continued: 'They reproduce you in their own understanding: First apologize, according to the Christian culture, and then reestablish. Such is the case of the Armenian genocide; a case rebuilt according to the political agenda of the 'other'".
Spivak lashed intense criticism at Turkey's modernization process also, and claimed that Turkey has been stripped of its history.
The symposium, brought together intellectuals who have done extensive research on orientalism. Hasan Hanafi, Reine Lewis, Pervez Manzoor and Boby S. Sayyid were among the foreign speakers; while from Turkey Þerif Mardin, Ýlber Ortaylý, Jale Parla, Fuat Keyman, Turgut Cansever and Korkut Tuna were among the participants.