The two readings done for today’s class involve the concepts of “the other” in the eyes of the class-ruling population of Caucasians during the 1800s and modern era. During both time periods, there is a distinct reference to the social and economical events in relation to the concept of “the other”; for the Shah reading, the weight falls on the shoulders of the Chinese community of San Francisco and its Chinatown during the nineteenth century while Said’s general focus is the Orient itself, collectively bundling the Asian and Eurasian communities into a whole representing foreignness, exoticism, and often times barbarism to the White and European realm.
Shah’s publication is written as a critical review, taking investigations, textual references (both medical and historic), and other captious materials in creating a world of the past for those of us in the modern day. Though it seems unclear who his exact audience is, the piece is appropriate for those interested in the public health sphere in general, as well as students, social science professionals and researchers intrigued with the issues of Asian communities as a target for racism, political scapegoating and oppression in the nineteenth century. The author chooses to present his arguments in a analytic manner seen in research papers, giving basis around the idea of dirty, diseased and inhuman Chinese immigrants and how they were victimized to direct problems of corruption and economic hardships unto them. We see government and elective roles using and abusing the Chinese population to fund their own ends and to create greater disparity between the average middle class whites and the immigrant lower class Asians, and the author asks us why they were able to get away with such clearly biased and discriminatory behavior during this time period. Comparative to today’s San Francisco, though I myself have never been there to be sure, it can be assumed that the communities of Asian Americans have been able to evolve passed the repression and disparities that once plagued the areas of Chinatown.
By the same token, we have Said who takes the concept of Orientalism, or the difference of everything cultural and historical from that of the Western world, and molds it into a view of the same foreignness as Shah, but with reference to its almost subsidiary nature in the eyes Westerners through its romanticism and standing as colonial properties to European oppressors. It should be noted that the author states this is not a state of total imposed oppression however because such concepts cannot stand for long periods of time without reinforcement from both institutions of higher learning, government policy and understanding, and a lack of rebuttal or ambivalence from the locations deemed the Orient itself. Said’s focus is on providing a guide of sorts for the scholar or student interested in the concept of the Orient, or that which is opposite to the Occidental’s perspective, as well as detailing a history and knowledge about what makes the construct of Orientalism real and functioning for the time he is writing about, the past into the late 1980s. He questions of why we have this abstract creation of the Orient to begin with and explains how he as an attempted “individual” tries to view the argument despite carrying political and slanted views that typically color an objective argument. He also poses many questions concerning the dynamic which drives the Orient into a setting of historic, lexicographic, biological, economical and political context, again in reference to the omnipresent Western perspective. Overall, these two works written are focused on the same idea of otherness to a reader and show inequalities that often times occurred within studies involving the communities of Asian and Asian Americans.