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Symbols 5, 6 and 7

Symbol 5
Symbol 6
Symbol 7
These symbols are grouped together because they are related as depictions of daily life or labor. They are distinguished from each other, however, because ofsome unique qualities about them specifically. We have three figures, one clearly younger than the rest and actively laboring by handling a largebasket in the river, one seemingly older and possibly aiding or observing the labor of the figure in thewater, and one atop a camel.

The imagery has been referred to as “orientalist” by more than one of our consulted experts. But, what exactly does orientalist mean? Herewe will need to consult some reference materials to get a handle on this term and its significance to our research. We will locate these resources through theonline reference page at our university’s library, Fondren Library, but you can use a similar process at your library.

The oxford reference online core

The Oxford Reference Online Core Collection is a fully-indexed, cross-searchable database of over a hundred dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by OxfordUniversity Press. To access these resources, you or your institution must have a subscription. You can either access them directly , or find them via your library's listing of online reference tools. (Note that you can get to the Oxford Reference Online Core Collection via any work that is part of the collection, such as The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs.)

Let's enter the word "orientalist" in the quick search box.

Search Results for orientalist from Oxford Reference Online Core Collection
We have several results to choose from, all found in different works. The first, from the Oxford Dictionary of Islam , seems most related to our research project:
"Orientalists: Term designating those who study classical texts in Asian languages (Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Sanskrit, etc.), requiring rigorous specializedtraining. Flourished in Western scholarship from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Sought to uncover allegedly essential features of Asian civilizations through the criticalphilological study of cultural texts. Became associated with the romantic, exoticizing impulse of nineteenth-century European culture, influenced by ethnocentrism and imperialism.Because of the negative connotations of this association, developed in the late twentieth century, scholars no longer use the term." ("Orientalists." Oxford Dictionary of Islam . John L. Esposito, ed. Oxford University Press Inc. 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Rice University. 28 August 2005. (External Link)&entry=t125.e1797 )

Let’s explore this term a little as it relates to our project with a search for orientalist art or imagery, as we did in our Following a Subject Thread section.

Our search provides many interesting results, such as Roger Benjamin's Orientalist Aesthetics (2003) and Jill Beaulieu's Orientalism's Interlocutors (2002). By scanning the indices of these and related works, we also find that one of the most referenced critical works in the study of Orientalism is Edward Said's Orientalism (1978).

Depictions of the “Orient,” or that which is to the East of Europe, as exotic and corrupt by “Western” artists date back to Medieval andRenaissance art. In the nineteenth century "Orientalism" in the arts became an established genre. In our works that deal specifically with this genre we findnumerous depictions of the pyramids, including many of those we discovered in our section on the pyramid symbol in the Souvenir of Egypt. We also discoverthat laboring figures along the river in the foreground of the pyramids appear quite often in the paintings and photographs. Here are just a few.

We find evidence of Orientalism--connotations of “otherness” or the exotic and unfamiliar-- in the Souvenir of Egypt, so a potentially fruitful area for further study would beto use critical and historical works on Orientalism to explore this artifact. The Souvenir of Egypt is, among other things, a representation of that which doesnot exist at home--the strange and exotic “others” in far away Egypt. We might also investigate further the social structures that are suggested by the three figures.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Understanding material culture: deciphering the imagery of the "souvenir of egypt". OpenStax CNX. Oct 08, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10301/1.7
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