Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs


Omran Doaa

Publication Date



This study aims to examine nineteenth-century Occidentalism on which little research has been done. Understanding how the East views the West is not just an end in itself, but it can help us better understand post-colonial theory, which has always been more skewed towards Western views. The study will look at some of the tenets of modern Occidentalism, among them powerless discourse, knowledge, ambivalence, emancipation of women and the use of religion in legitimizing the discourse. I will also investigate the erroneous conception that Occidentalism is the opposite of Orientalism. Even though both fields of post-colonial theory share some common features, the stance of each school is different due to the political situation from which it emanates. I will be focusing on the travel narratives written in the nineteenth century by Egyptian travelers who visited France after the French Campaign in Egypt. I will examine two seminal works representative of al-Nahḍa (The Arab Renaissance) movement which was beginning to take place in the first half of the nineteenth century and then was stifled towards the end of the century with the advent of British colonization. These works are by two reformers with a religious background: Rifāᶜa Rāfiᶜ al-Ṭahṭāwī, who wrote a travel memoir entitled Takhlīṣ al-Ibrīz fī Waṣf Bārīz (literally, The Extract of Gold in the Description of Paris), and translated as An Imām in Paris: Al-Tahtawi's Visit to France (1826-1831) and ᶜAlī Mubārak’s ᶜAlam al-Dīn (1882), never translated into English or French. Minor writers to be discussed are ᶜAbdel-Raḥmān al-Gabartī, Qāsim Amīn and Muḥammād ᶜAbdou. These Arab Occidentalists refer to a Middle Eastern world totally different from that which one encounters in the Orientalist discourse that Edward Said addresses in his Orientalism. These reformers were trying very hard to make their countries catch up with Western modernism. The reforms of which they dreamt had to be based on modern European standards that were in keeping with Islamic teachings. Their intention was one of borrowing rather than of mimicry. That very tenet of Occidentalism challenges Bhabha’s notion of ambivalence leading to mimicry, then mockery, in Orientalist discourse. These reformers were challenging the cultural hegemony of European superior powers by calling instead for a modern Arabic identity that borrows only what suits its religious beliefs and culture. I will also be tackling questions such as: How did these reformers view the relationship of the two poles of the globe? How valid are depictions of the East in works written by Orientalists and the West in the writings of the Occidentalists? Is there a meeting ground between Oriental and Occidental writings, and, if so, what is it? How can one understand the theory of Orientalism in terms of Occidentalism? It will become apparent by the end of this research that we cannot depend on the tenets of Orientalism when looking at Occidentalism because despite their sharing certain tenets, a handful are peculiar to each one as the two enterprises had different purposes in the first place. When Occidentalism is put next to Orientalism, that comparison definitely improves our understanding of post-colonial theory, but one must always be aware that one is dealing with different matrices altogether.


Occidentalim- Orientalism- power- discourse-ambivalence-feminism-religion-Islam-Egypt- Postcolonial- travel literature

Document Type




Degree Name

Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

First Committee Member (Chair)

Harrison, Gary

Second Committee Member

Bishop, Steve