Orientality: Cultural Orientalism and Mentality
In September 2012 Christie’s will present ‘Of Sand and Silk’, the first European solo-exhibition of the prominent Russian artist Alexander Volkov (1886-1957). The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue. Volkov was born in the Fergana valley into the family of a Russian military doctor. He achieved significant lifetime recognition for his depictions of Central Asia, his paintings uniquely combining cutting-edge Western painterly styles with the inspiration he drew from traditional Central Asian craftsmanship. Volkov loved his homeland passionately and often repeated: “One does not need the whole world. A small part will suffice”.
The book discusses the principal aspects of description of the East in the Western scholarly discourse as well as in art and literature. An analysis of the interpretations of the East by the West (and vice versa) and their historical evolution has emerged as especially important in the light of ongoing globalization, which has triggered the intensifi cation of ideological, religious, economic and cultural differences between the East and the West. The goal of the book is to distill a critical understanding of Orientalist / Occidentalist discourses and to question cross-cultural assumptions.
Orientalism can be defined as a historical and cultural event, which has been uniting various aspects of cultural life for a number of centuries—literature, fine art, architecture, music and philosophy. A "vision" of the East—positive or negative—based on imagination or historic facts, it has generated an exotic image in our consciousness, which has its own right to existence. At a crucial and timely moment in the history of relations between the West and Islam, this book provides the context and essential background to understanding this part of the world and the intense debate on this theme. The art-biographer of the XVIII-century Ottoman Empire Franco-Flemish artist Jean Baptiste Vanmour (1671–1737) left a very important legacy—pictorial evidences which can be considered as historical illustrations of all the aspects of XVIII-century Ottoman life: from diplomatic ceremonies in the Ottoman court to everyday events of Istanbul multinational society. It will be of strong interest to scholars of Middle East studies, anthropology, history, cultural studies, post-colonial studies, and literary studies.
A major international conference, “Orientalism / Occi dentalism: The Languages of Cultures vs. the Languages of Description”, took place from September 23–25, 2010, in Moscow under the aegis of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research. The goal of the Conference was to discuss the principal aspects of description of the East (fi rst of all Asian but also African cultures) in the Western scholarly discourse as well as in art and literature. The idea of the Conference belonged to the current author who, in the Fall of 2008, enlisted the support of Prof. Kirill Razlogov, Director of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, as a result of which the Institute played a crucial role in the following two-year preparations
One of the most popular travel destinations among nobles, wealthy merchants, travellers and diplomats during the sixteenth century was the world of the Ottoman Empire, as European–Ottoman relations pervaded the centuries, combining cultural, political and economic interests. So there was increasing demand for pictorial as well as written records of life in the Ottoman world. Travellers and diplomats commissioned artists as an essential part of their duty to bring back to their countries as much information as possible on all things Turkish. One such record is an album dated 1590 and commissioned by Bartholomäus Schachman, mayor of Danzig (Gdan´sk), traveller and explorer, art patron and collector, benefactor and connoisseur. His journey through the Ottoman Empire lasted two years (1588–89), and his album, conveying the tale of his adventures, became one of the greatest travelogues of the sixteenth century.
In Chapter 5 Steiner offers the understanding of the 19th-century Orientalism as a European form of the quest for cultural difference and for molding the notion of the otherness. Japanese pictures made an uproar in Europe and inspired Japonisme, as well as an aesthetic revolution of Impressionism and Art Nouveau. Steiner, in this important chapter, suggests that European Orientalism in arts and letters is methodologically fruitful and heuristically interesting to see as a multifaceted expression of globalization. In the guise of Orientalism, it appeared as the beginning of the systemic crisis of the Occidental civilization that grew into the feeling of the limits of its own self-sufficiency (on the cultural, artistic, religious and philosophical, as well as economic levels). The West needed its Other. The early stage of Orientalism was Romantic and Academic: largely it was exotic Oriental motives and subjects depicted with the help of the Western pictorial idioms. In other words, the traditional European formal language had not been basically changed. The next wave – Japonisme of the Impressionism and Art Nouveau – has been much more advanced transcultural phenomenon. It can be called a tectonic shift – when not only motives or subjects, but also formal means of expression were borrowed, mutatis mutandis, from the East. Farther on there came the Primitivism of the Avant-garde and of Surrealism with their interest to and appropriation of African and tribal art. Still later, after the Second World War, the marginalization of the Western artistic discourse was inspired and fed by the language of expression of liminal groups like the “naïve art” or the art of mentally challenged persons. Together, all this can be seen as successive stages in broadening (shattering and at the same time in-feeding) of the European cultural paradigm – which paved the ways to globalization of the Western worldview and cultural practices. Orientalism, in Steiner’s analysis can be viewed as the Ur-phenomenon of globalization, or as the process of making the West less Western.
This special publication for the 2012 New Delhi Summit is a collection of articles by government officials from BRICS countries, representatives of international organizations, businessmen and leading researchers.
The list of Russian contributors includes Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia, Maxim Medvedkov, Director of the Trade Negotiations Department of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, Vladimir Dmitriev, Vnesheconombank Chairman, Alexander Bedritsky, advisor to the Russian President, VadimLukov, Ambassador-at-large of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, and representatives of the academic community.
The publication also features articles by the President of Kazakhstan NursultanNazarbayev and internationally respected economist Jim O’Neil, who coined the term “BRIC”. In his article Jim O’Neil speculates about the future of the BRICS countries and the institution as a whole.
The publication addresses important issues of the global agenda, the priorities of BRICS and the Indian Presidency, the policies and competitive advantages of the participants, as well as BRICS institutionalization, enhancing efficiency and accountability of the forum.