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Internal orientalism: The construction of American national identity through the othering of the South
Pennsylvania State University.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5123-1357
2001 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Edward Said’s construct of Orientalism describes and explains how an external “othering” of the Orient contributed to the development of the national identity of the imperialist Western European states within the context of unequal power relations between the Occident and the Orient.  This paper explores the existence of “internal Orientalism,” whereby an ongoing internal othering of the South contributes to the development of an American national identity that reflects and reinforces the superior power position of the non-South vis-à-vis the South.  I analyze W.J. Cash’s influential book The Mind of the South as an exemplar of the internal Orientalist discourse.  The negative Southern characteristics that Cash enumerates stand in direct opposition to the traits of the archetypal American, and I explore this contrapuntal relationship in other popular and scholarly works in order to demonstrate the hegemonic status of this discourse.  The American identity thus created is related to nationalism in the United States, for casting the South as backward and intolerant enables the view of the American nationalist project as a force of modernity and enlightenment.  The American case illustrates the role of regions in the formation of a national identity and shows that the power relations between the regions is an important factor in determining in what manner the regions contribute to national identity construction.  I also consider the applicability of this theoretical framework to other countries and discuss the possibility that internal Orientalism is a general phenomenon with particular manifestations.

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Human Geography
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-287561OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-287561DiVA: diva2:922919
Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers
Available from: 2016-04-25 Created: 2016-04-25 Last updated: 2016-04-25

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Jansson, David
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