In Orientalism, Edward Saïd says that all discourse, especially cultural discourse, is inherently ideological, and therefore, regardless of the subject, historical discourse occurs in a given ideological structure. Orientalism, especially the academic study of, and discourse, political and literary, about the Arabs, Islam, and the Middle East that primarily originated in England, France, and then the United States actually creates (rather than examines or describes) a divide between the East and the West. The book’s examples situate the West as culturally superior to the East. This “Western superiority” became politically useful when France and Britain conquered and colonised “Eastern/Oriental” countries such as Egypt, India, Algeria and others.
The discourse surrounding these countries is coded, Said says, by a superiority that is not necessarily reflected in the realities of the concerned countries. When people in the West attempt to study the East they typically do so within this already coded discourse. Therefore, Said says, the study of someplace called the “Orient” and of some people known as “Arabs” fails to take into account the reality of the area as being the same place as the West (i.e., part of the Earth). Other countries and other people are not seen as the same within Oriental discourse, however, and therefore a study of these “others” must inherently be one of studying an inferior culture when Oriental discourse is used to describe them.