'Gendering Orientalism': gender, sexuality, and race in post-9/11 global politics

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Edward W. Said's Orientalism, although written 34 years ago, remains relevant to understanding the ways in which the world is constructed along binaries of 'East' and 'West'. Its relevance to global politics is particularly relevant to the 'War on Terror', one of the most significant contemporary examples of state-inflicted violence in pursuit of political objectives. Feminist and postcolonial scholars have demonstrated that the practices of contemporary global politics are fundamentally gendered and racialised. Said's work allows us to uncover the practices of 'gendered orientalism' that inform mainstream 'Western' analyses of 'the Middle East'. That is, legitimacy, power, and authority (to define people, places, things, and to undertake or avoid particular actions) are discursively constructed through representations that are both orientalist and gendered. Official US 'War on Terror' discourse functions to (re)produce dominant regimes of 'truth' and 'knowledge' which enable certain possibilities and actions (such as military intervention) whilst excluding or limiting others. Focusing on the lead-up to and early months of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this article illustrates that the Bush Administration's 'War on Terror' discourse constructs and deploys a range of (hierarchically organised) binaries that situate the 'West' in opposition to the 'East' (good/evil, civilised/barbaric, rational/irrational, progressive/backward) and involve the (re)production of mainstream understandings of 'race', 'gender', and 'sexuality'. Said's conception of orientalism, and in particular, a feminist reading of it, allows us to undermine the apparent 'naturalness' of identities of race, gender and sex and their deployment in global politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalCritical race and whiteness studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • gender
  • orientalism
  • race
  • 'War on Terror'
  • global politics


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