An explicit connection between orientalism and racism or bigotry is a modern development. Until very recently, the word "orientalist" simply referred to someone from the West who had studied the languages, cultures, and religions of the East (by which was meant, in most cases, what is now referred to as the Middle East).

As Edward Said exposed, there were underlying assumptions of European cultural superiority which tainted the work of most orientalists, but in many cases these assumptions were subconscious parts of the scholar's own cultural training. Not every orientalist was a conscious, outspoken racist or bigot. In the end, however, the problem was severe enough that the whole field of study previously called orientalism has now been supplanted by the renamed field of Middle Eastern studies.

O`ri*en"tal*ist, n. [Cf. F. orientaliste.]


An inhabitant of the Eastern parts of the world; an Oriental.


One versed in Eastern languages, literature, etc.; as, the Paris Congress of Orientalists.

Sir J. Shore.


© Webster 1913.

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