The Orient

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Oriental redirects here. For information on the financial institution, see Oriental Financial Group, Inc.

The Orient is a term traditionally used in Western culture to refer to the Near, Middle, and Far East.


[edit] Derivation

The term "Oriental" is derived from the Latin word oriens, which is the present participle of "orior": to rise. The implication is that it refers to the rising sun, hence the use of Orient to describe the "land of the rising sun", i.e. the Far East, and is exactly analogous with the Chinese term for Japan. Comparable terms are the French-derived "Levant" and "Anatolia" from the Greek anatole, two further locations for the direction in which the sun rises. The opposite term "Occident" - derived from the Latin word occidens, from the verb "occido": I fall - was once used to describe the western world, i.e. the "land of the falling (setting) sun", but is slowly falling into disuse.

The creation of a polarity oriens/occidens originated in Roman imperial administration from the time of Diocletian and was taken up in Christian Latin literature, but the term Orient did not enter Western European languages until the time of the Crusades<ref>Walter Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age (Harvard University Press) 1992 p. 1 and note.</ref>

[edit] Usage of term

Traditionally, the Orient referred primarily to the cultures and countries of what are now considered the Middle East. This particularly included regions that used to be known as Persia, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Egypt. As awareness of the countries of Eastern Asia grew in Western European and American consciousness in the late 19th century, the term came to refer to China, Japan, and surrounding nations. Remnants of the older conception of the Orient still exist in the English language in such collocations as Oriental rug and Oriental harem, but these days the word Orient typically refers to that part of Asia where both Dharmic religons are dominant and the majority of natives have an epicanthic fold.

"Oriental" has been used by the West as a term to describe cultures, countries, peoples and goods from the Orient. Some usages of Oriental are still common, for example, Mizrahi Jews (native to the Middle East) are often referred to as Oriental Jews and it is common in older Universities: the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute and Oxford University's Faculty of Oriental Studies all focus on the Middle East, East Asia and South Asia. The American Oriental Society remains the premier body for the study of Oriental societies.

Oriental is also used as an adjective akin to "eastern", especially in the Spanish-speaking world. For example, the Philippine island Mindoro is divided into two provinces whose titles include the words "oriental" and "occidental" respectively. Uruguay used to be known as the República Oriental del Uruguay because it was located to the east of the Rio de la Plata.

[edit] Perceptions & Connotations

Although oriental is generally considered a neutral term in the UK and other parts of the Commonwealth, there is some disagreement as to whether the word oriental has come to possess negative connotations in North America. It's not difficult to find discussion groups on the net debating the connotations from and perceptions implied by the term oriental. In Washington State it is illegal to use the word oriental in legislative and government-related documents because of the term's negative connotations<ref></ref>. But the opposing viewpoint seems to be supported by the fact that the term is not barred from use in 49 other states and the District of Columbia. The term is used on hundreds of thousands of government and state websites and documents across in the USA describing place names <ref></ref>, medicine<ref></ref><ref></ref>, wildlife <ref></ref><ref></ref> plants<ref></ref>, food<ref></ref><ref></ref> and people <ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref> or communities.<ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref> The term is even found on Equal Opportunity Employment<ref>|34644|</ref> and Fair Housing <ref></ref> documents. According to the FBI, some Asian gangs refer to themselves as oriental. <ref></ref><ref></ref> Prominent Filipina commentator Michelle Malkin's official site uses the term repeatedly.<ref></ref> <ref></ref> <ref></ref><ref></ref>

It is purported that there has been a gradual shift in academia toward alternative terminologies that supposedly are more politically proper than the term "Oriental"[citation needed] and that many American Universities will no longer accept the official use of the term "Oriental"[citation needed]. But there is obviously some disagreement as to whether the term has negative connotations as the American Oriental Society and others remain unconcerned about the usage of the terms in its publishings.

In non-academic circles there seem to be even fewer changes. This is evidenced by the fact that conservative commentators regularly employ the term in current usage<ref></ref>. Businesses such as Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, Mandarin Oriental, Oriental Financial Group, Inc.,Orient Thai Airlines, Orient Steam Navigation Company, Orient Watch Co., Neptune Orient Lines are just a few of many successful enterprises to share this term as a part of their name.

Although the terms nigger or nigga have few parallels with the term "Oriental", there is a similarity in usage in that both words can take on a derogatory tone when used improperly or by someone who is not familiar with the subject. For this reason, the term "Oriental" is perhaps most awkward when used by someone who has little knowledge of the Orient and who might not perceive the differences between various Asian regions or cultures. "Oriental" is always considered offensive when it is used to imply that an Asian American is somehow "less American" than other Americans.<ref></ref>

[edit] Regional Variations

Major objections to the use of the word "Oriental" are chiefly limited to certain elements in North America. Its use is not controversial in Europe, where the word is neutral and in widespread usage as evidenced by its usage on the online British Monarchy Media Centre.<ref></ref> In France the terms "l'Occident" and "l'Orient" are used without any negative associations in academic contexts. In Europe the term is often used to describe such things as the East's cuisine and goods, ancient culture, and religions, at times to denote an exotic quality with upmarket or mildly positive connotations. In Europe the term "Asian" has become almost exclusively tied to the Indian subcontinent, as evidenced through BBC Asian Network, a radio station of the BBC devoted to the British Asian community.

[edit] Alternative terminology

While the term oriental is not uncommon outside of academia and the media, it is increasingly common use more neutral geographical terms for people and places referred to by oriental, e.g., South Asia, East Asia, and South-East Asia. The term Far Eastern has occasionally been favored over oriental, but East Asian is more . The terms Asia and the Pacific or the Pacific Rim or the Pacific Basin are coming into favor as alternatives.

With regard to the now antiquated sense of the Orient, referring to the wider Islamic region, the Orientalist Marshall Hogdson tried to introduce several terms[citation needed], including Nile-to-Oxus. None of these have stuck, however.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes


[edit] References and further reading

bs:Orijent de:Orient es:Oriente fr:Orient ja:オリエント no:Orienten sv:Orienten

The Orient

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