Call for Papers – Through the Looking Glass: Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism and Beyond in Literature and Film

The influence of Edward Said’s Orientalism over the last four decades, both in its specific theoretical applications to Asia and the Middle-East, and in its more nebulous uses across a range of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, has been well documented and closely debated. Said’s central proposition—reinforced in subsequent commentaries such as The World, the Text and the Critic (1983) and Culture and Imperialism (1993)—that Occidental spheres of influence and imperialist policies produced not only physical colonisation but a construction of an imaginary “East” which robbed Asia of its agency in terms of self-representation is, though refuted by some, generally acknowledged across a number of academic disciplines. Whether one accepts this creed or is opposed to it there is little argument that, for better or worse, it invariably frames and at times overwhelms theoretical analysis of East-West interaction. Subsequent analysis of Western fictional texts located in Asia or representing aspects of Asia, and Asian texts either responding to Western canonical works and Western representations of Asia, or representing Western culture(s), has invariably been dominated by this binary of East-West power dynamics. Yet, while noting that these perspectives have (arguably) served as a useful ideological starting point in many such discussions, more recent processes of globalisation, transnationalism, and multimedia may render such binary polarities as superfluous.

As Said has argued across a number of texts, the West has historically dealt in cultural cliché and racial stereotyping as a means of reductive construction of the East as “other” and “lesser”. Yet in what ways, for example, have these clichés and stereotypes undergone a metamorphosis in contemporary Asian societies and cultures, and in light of greater cross-cultural interaction that bursts the parameters of their original intention? How do such tropes now function as sites of cultural inversion and subversion? It is, in particular, new directions such as this in the representation of Asian culture and society, emerging both from within its own borders and sensibilities, but also Asian representation of the West, with which this collection is concerned. Thus, this collection of essays, while acknowledging the overarching influence of such theorists as Said, Spivak and Bhabha, hopes to focus on new paths and interpretations of Asian culture in the globalised era. Its principal aims are to dismantle this epistemological framework in discussing texts in which representations of Occident(s) and Orient(s) are portrayed, but also to provide a platform for under-represented literature and film in this regard (particularly from Asia but also from Western countries) and to discuss the validity of these art forms as depictions of specific cultures and societal values of “otherness”.

Theoretically, and contextually, the collection of essays will offer a wide scope, providing incentive for representation and analysis from scholars across the globe. The editors are particularly interested in the articulation of cultural representation through multiple perspectives—for example, in new millennial Western interpretations of Asian society(ies) in literature and film, but also in underrepresented Asian portrayals and interpretations of Western cultures and societies. Related to this are discussions of the influence of the West on various Asian cultural values and, increasingly, the converse effects of Asian culture on Western societies, and contestations of the power dynamics and moral codes that underpin such cross-cultural representations. 

Thus, this collection seeks to broach the following interrelated questions:

Through the written text and the lens of the camera, what directions has this debate taken in the 21st century?

  • How has literature and film represented East-West and West-East flows and interaction during this time?
  • Are such binaries in any way relevant to the analysis of modern texts?
  • What elements of Asian cultures, societies and art forms influence Western artistic creativity and ways of thinking – and vice versa?
  • Does such literature continue to display essentializing tendencies? Does such literature now redress and repurpose the very clichés through which it was depicted under the traditional Western gaze?
  • Through what new ideological frameworks should such representations be viewed?
  • Do such representations indicate that globalisation, and the supposed cosmopolitanism it has provided, has reshaped binary dynamics or merely reinforced previous power discourses between East or West in a global community?
  • In what ways can the categories of “Asian” and “Western”, “East” and “West”  be open to contestation or reconfiguration?
  • Related themes would include the introduction of new perspectives and analyses of traditional Asian texts, the introduction of regional literature, film or animation previously lesser known in mainstream global terms but which exhibits some of the aforementioned tendencies, and Western influences on gender in Asia and their inverse equivalents.

Submissions Timeline and Contact Information

We will be approaching a leading academic publisher with this collection.

Please send abstracts of 200-300 words and an 80-100 word bio to editors Bernard Wilson and Sharmani Patricia Gabriel at and by February 28, 2020.

Accepted contributors will need to submit their chapter drafts to the editors by May 21, 2020.

Please contact the editors if you have any questions.