Orientalist Fantasies: Reclaiming the Middle East in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran

Anahit Behrooz

Edited by Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo

Art by Christina Thomas https://www.behance.net/gallery/47755703/Portfolio-Strong-women

Over the years, I have read numerous novels, short stories, and poems in which I have seen myself reflected in characters, events, and language, but it wasn’t until a class on Orientalism (1978), Edward Said’s seminal text, during my masters that I saw my experiences echoed in a work of cultural criticism. In Orientalism, Said posits that the West’s complicated relationship with the Middle East is rooted and exacerbated by its reductive framing of the “Orient” as a backward, barbaric, and exotic space. Said argues that these attitudes are irrevocably linked to the West’s history of imperialism in these geographies, meaning that these perceptions are the product of a power play over the governments and peoples of these diverse countries, an attempt to criticise and diminish their cultures and identities in order to justify the conquest of their land.

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