Peoples and places around the globe are continuously re-invented, re-produced and re-created as tourism marketers create powerful representations of them (Salazar:2009). As a result, these different ways how people and places are being represented has a huge impact or rather plays a big role on how the tourists imagine and form views and expectations about their future destinations. However, the use of Orientalist representations and images by tourism promoters especially through advertising has created orientalism discourses of the Eastern countries. (Salazar, 2009: 49) further explains that this [happens as a matter of] a competitive bid by potential destinations to obtain a piece of the lucrative tourism pie. Not only that , but also as a result of imperialism, industrial capitalism, mass consumption and tourism.
This essay will therefore aim at achieving an understanding of the complex dynamics between orientalism, modernization and the relationship between the West and the East (Orient). This will focus on the role that the tourism promotions and advertising play in creating these orientalist discourses and imagined realities of the Eastern countries and how these discourses form perceptions of how the tourists and foreign nations view and imagine these countries.
Firstly, it will discuss and analyse the chosen contemporary tourism advertisement for the Middle East and how it perpetuates the prejudices of Orientalism in the modern society. This will be in reference to the works of Brian Longhurst and his colleagues with specific focus on their chapter on “Topographies of Culture: Geography, Meaning and Power” from their Introducing Cultural Studies, Edward Said’s “Orientalism Once More,” and Derek Bryce’s “Repackaging Orientalism: Discourses on Egypt and Turkey in British Outbound Tourism. Secondly, it will discuss how this particular advert perpetuates the prejudices of orientalism and outlining the possible reasons for its orientation. Lastly, it will conclude by discussing William Sax’s argument in “The Hall of Mirrors: Orientalism, Anthropology, and the Other” with focus on the prejudicial processes of ‘othering’ and the implication of his assertion for the concept of Orientalism.
This research is important because it aims to show how tourism promotions and advertising perpetuate the idea of orientalism, giving a highlight on the impact or rather the role that these adverts play into shaping and instilling certain ideologies of imagined identities of what the “East” and its inhabitants are , with a specific focus on their history, culture and language.
According to a chapter in a book titled Introducing Cultural Studies, (Longhurst et al. 2016) talks about the Topographies of Culture: Geography, Meaning and Power and express the view that a nation is defined as a political economy “imagined” as both inherently limited and sovereign. Hence, one would find that even the largest nation imagines that it could include all humankind, exist in a world of nations, all similar but different.
Longhurst et al (2016) further explain how matters of meaning are bound up with spaces, places, and landscapes. Take for instance how the orientalist paintings and other forms of material culture form the meaning of exotic by rather racializing, feminizing and sometimes sexualizing the culture from a distant land. Secondly, how they claim to be an authentic glimpse of a location and its inhabitants. Take for example, a landscape painting could be created according to the principles of picturesque. This can be seen in a painting that represents the life of landowners, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews and their power during the 18th century in England. In this particular painting, these landowners are presented as corrupt and selfish and not according to the terms of their independence and objectively.
According to (Bryce, 2007), since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism book in 1978 much of academic discourses begun to use the term Orientalism to refer to a general patronizing attitude of the West towards the Middle East, Asian and North African countries. (Said:1978) further states that more than anything, knowledge is linked to the power to control or dominate in reality. Take for instance , how the existence of the Middle East is being perceived as an existence only to be set apart from the West and how the identity of the East is always shaped, influenced and controlled about what the West is not.
Furthermore, (Mora, 2009 : 418) agrees and expresses the view that the West is likely to place itself at the center of the world with a Eurocentric point of view which then allows it to exploit other countries and communities by inflicting cultural change and transformation on them.
Now turning to the tourism advertisement chosen for this assignment which is a recent artwork by iDigital pulse a Marketing company based in Lebanon (see attached). The advert was created in 2018 for Tania Traveling Agency for the promotion of the Middle East. In this particular advertisement, the Middle East is promoted as an exotic, natural, untouched and cultural destination. This particular advertisement is an advert that has been created in a way that perpetuates the prejudices of orientalism. In the advert one could see the phrase “The Kingdom of Culture which is written in bold amongst many of other orientalist representations and prejudices visible to grab one’s attention.
To begin with, in the advert one could see a number of orientalist images and representations, starting with the white horse, the sunshine in the background, the dessert, the pyramids, the camel, the open book (which carries the entire images of the middle east), the man wearing a cultural outfit releasing a falcon or a hawk, the palm tree and the black moist land underneath other layers of the land, which one could safely assume that it is a representation of the Middle East land which carries or rich in oil.
In this advert exotic images are used to present the Middle East. This is done to promote the Middle East region as the Kingdom of Cultures, and a unique destination of exotic culture and rich history. (Silver 1993: 303) implies that many of these images are used to feed into the Western Consciousness because tourists seek places that are different, authentic, indigenous and untouched by modernization.
This can be seen on how the middle east is often represented in tourism adverts, literature and in media. Take for example, the use of images of the pyramids, deserts, camels and objects or activities that forms part of the country’s history, culture and language. This may often be seen through its oriental representation of fascinating heritage, exotic culture and historical sites. All in all, this advert does perpetuate the prejudices of orientalism as it promotes monarchy and the ruling of communities and kingdoms.
Take for example, how the tourism promoters for the Middle East countries often present Egypt as a country that offers an attractive blend of wonderful sights of natural beauty and everlasting sunshine. This can be seen in the chosen advert, where the sunshine has been used to create an image that the sun is always shining in the Middle East, which gives the advert the beautiful image that the Middle East is a beautiful country of endless warmth, light and sunshine.
This can also be seen in the advert through the use of golden pyramids, ancient treasures, and beautiful landscapes. However, this is not the ultimate truth of what the Middle East countries, societies, communities and inhabitants are all about. Some of the countries in the Middle East and other Orient countries have gone under tremendous transformations and have become more modernized. Take for example, Turkey, Singapore, Dubai, and Japan to mention few. These countries have a lot more to offer than just historical sights and authenticity as they have delightful sights, modernized buildings, markets, sea resorts, sandy beaches and beautiful colorful mountains.
The use of a palm tree in the advert as part of the representation of the middle east. The palm tree is a symbol or rather a representation of a country at peace, and as can be seen in the advert, the sun is shining bright, colourful, inviting, exciting and has a delightful sight. This is regardless of the bloodshed from the past colonial history of the Middle East countries and the famous civil wars of Lebanese.
The advert also make use of topographies of culture, what (Longhurst, et al. 2016) describe as the physical appearance of the natural features of an area of land especially the shape of its surface. This can be seen in the advert through the use of desserts, soft sands and moist land.
In other words, these symbols and orientalist representations do perpetuate the idea that the Middle East is still what it was from the ancient period of the 18th and the 19th century regardless of all the technological advancements and modern constructions that might have taken place following that period. Take for Instance, even at this day, the Middle East is somewhat still represented as if no change had taken place.
According to the article “Repackaging Orientalism: Discourses on Egypt and Turkey in British outbound tourism” (Bryce, 2007) states that Orientalism generates discourses that essentialize and culturalize other cultures and societies to present certain countries as superior and unique, which then allows the West to dominate the East. Furthermore, (Bryce 2007: 166) argues that the promotion of “packaged” tourism to Egypt and Turkey to the British market is used by these places to market themselves through tourism adverts because such marketing strategies work for them.
Longhurst et al (2016) explains that there is no ultimate truth in these discourses of orientalism as they are only systems of knowledge produced by people to explain what is out there in the world. In addition, (Ooi, 2005) states that the tourism authorities formulate these sets of orientalist discourses to present certain Eastern countries in a superior light as compared to its regional neighbours. However, it is worth keeping in mind that a country can also create its own oriental discourse in order to highlight the country’s uniqueness in that particular region.
Furthermore, (Ooi,2005) states that Orientalism and orientalists' imagination of countries can be understood as set of knowledge resources for the construction of local identities to enhance the uniqueness and attractiveness of the destination. Not only that but to also draw more revenues and visitors into the country. Moreover, (Said ,1978) points out that the western writers and academics who study the “orient” have misrepresented and still misrepresent the Middle Eastern Islamic world in a manner that has eased the way for the West to dominate the Orient.
Take for instance, scholars in the West who studies the orient present and show images of the East that are rather centred on how the East is different from the West. According to (Said ,1978) these representations create images that do not correspond to the empirical reality of the Orient, which then lowers the significance of the variety of language, culture , social forms and political structures of the Orient. Hence, the Orient countries are often seen as inferior and uncivilised. In this particular advert, orientalist images are used to influence the minds of tourists. This is achieved in a way that these promotional adverts are designed and prepared according to what the tourism promoters think may be what tourists would like and expect to see.
In addition, (Ooi, 2005) expresses the view that these images are abstract, one sided and superficial in such a way that many of these images are wrong, outdated because the foreigners do not have the same opportunities as the locals to cultivate the local knowledge and deep understanding of the place. Take for instance, a region may have many countries with a population of hundreds of different ethnic communities with people believing in hundreds of different religions and speaking different languages.
In conclusion, (Sax , 1998: 293) states that focusing on human differences is itself a human universal, and for anthropologists a methodological necessity. Sax (1998) further states that the recognition of difference, whether by anthropologists or natives does not always or necessarily involve an interiorization of the Other. Furthermore (Sax, 1998) argues that difference-making involves a double movement, where the Other is simultaneously emulated and repudiated, admired and despised, and that the source of this ambivalence is the recognition of Self in Other. Moreover, (Sax,1998) explains that paradoxically, our tendency to focus on the things that divides human beings from each other, the difference, is something that all humans share. Highlighting the implication of power dynamics in different countries, stating that people cannot help noticing that other people different from the other as they speak different languages, observe different customs and that they are different which then leaves us stranded in what Sax refers to as the hall of mirrors, with no way out.
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