Neo-orientalism? A critical appraisal of changing Western perspectives: Bernard Lewis, John Esposito and Gilles Kepel

Samiei, M. 2009. Neo-orientalism? A critical appraisal of changing Western perspectives: Bernard Lewis, John Esposito and Gilles Kepel. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages

TitleNeo-orientalism? A critical appraisal of changing Western perspectives: Bernard Lewis, John Esposito and Gilles Kepel
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsSamiei, M.

In order to justify and naturalise domination and exploitation of ‘others,’ some ideologies that theorise ‘they are less human’ have been invented and employed

throughout history. Among these ideologies is the ‘West‐and‐Islam’ dualism, which has been comprehensively and critically studied by Edward Said in Orientalism. Since Orientalism was published in 1978, however, the world seems to have become much

more interdependent and political interrelations between the West and Islam have changed dramatically. Consequently this dualism, though more or less in place, has been influenced by escalating waves of globalisation and redistributed and reshaped in a different form. To critically appraise this dualism in this new era, three prominent contemporary Western Islamologists, Bernard Lewis, John Esposito and Gilles Kepel, have been selected and different aspects of their perspectives, their methodologies, their views on Islam and modernity, their political propositions and Islamic belief and law in their vision, are closely compared and critically examined. These three scholars are used to describe parts of the fabric of what I call neo‐Orientalism; they are exemplars suggesting the existence of a larger whole. This dissertation aims to present the genealogy of some lingering traces of the West‐and‐Islam dualism in order to know how they were originated and how they can be replaced by an egalitarian perspective. This is particularly important in this new interdependent world, where we are very close to each other and any crisis anywhere can affect human beings everywhere. This thesis also aims to criticise the often unquestioned assumptions of Western works on Islam and to show through a comparative examination that there can be very different routes with healthier outcomes to look at other cultures. In addition to methods used by Said and to avoid his shortcomings, this research is informed by a Popperian

methodology, relying on his theory of the growth of knowledge, his situational analysis and his views on framework and ideology. In conclusion, this thesis suggests that if the West‐and‐Islam dualism is considered as a spectrum of views on Islam, Lewis is the most dualist, perfectly following all principles of dualism, Esposito is the least, and Kepel is (so to say) in between. Moreover, some promising changes in neo‐Orientalism as well as some additional dualistic tendencies that can define neo‐Orientalism are found in this new era. To portray a better future for our interdependent world some new approaches to identity, global ethics and global civil society are suggested. Eradicating the roots of Orientalism and Occidentalism alike and accepting, protecting and even promoting diversity are first steps towards countering devastating threats that endanger humankind as a whole.

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