Occidentalism: The West since 1945 (proposals by 15 November)

Subject Fields: Area Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Geography, Diplomacy and International Relations, Popular Culture Studies


Occidentalism: The West since 1945

Slightly Revised Version

This conference will examine the notion of “Occidentalism”, which is defined by The Dictionary of Human Geography (5th edition, 2009) as “The systematic construction of ‘the West’ (‘the Occident) as a bounded and unified entity.” This construction exists among those who consider themselves as “Western” and those who do not. The term is obviously envisaged as the counterpart of “Orientalism” by Edward Said (1978). The idea of the “West”, in opposition to the “East”, is an ancient one, although this conference will focus on the period since the Second World War, using a perspective that is pluricultural and interdisciplinary.

A major objective of this conference is to analyze certain key terms and their continuing pertinence. To begin with, although the definition above speaks of the “West” as a “bounded” entity, the exact boundaries are far from clear. It is often understood as comprising Western Europe and countries where a majority of the population are of Western European origin (notably the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). However, the position of Latin America is different. How do they see the “West” and how do they see themselves in relation to this “West”?

The ambiguity of Latin America’s place may relate to the link often made between being a “Western” nation and economic development. What, for example, is the situation of countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan which are economically similar and share democratic values? What are the characteristics that tie them to the “West”? What makes a society perceive itself as partially or majoritarily “Western”?”

A further consideration is how “unified” an entity is the “West”?  How do individual “Western” nations perceive themselves and other “Western” nations? What is the place of the “Judeo-Christian” tradition in this definition? What is the role of immigration and diasporas? How do “non-Westerners” living in the “West” see their identity and what is their sense of belonging?   What is their attitude to “Westernization” as a global phenomenon?

To what extent is the historical East/West split being transformed into a North/South one? Is the “West” likely to remain a relevant notion?

A particularly important part of this conference is to explore how people who identify themselves as being from other cultures view the “West”. Edward Said identified the frequency of stereotypes in how “Westerners” see the “Orient”. Is the reverse also true? On what do they base their image? How do these people define the “West” and what are their attitudes to the “Westernization” of their own country? To their colonial or former colonial power? Does the situation vary according to regions or nations? In many countries, the question of “Westernization” has political, social and cultural connotations. Some régimes are seen as “pro-Western” and others as “anti-Western”. Some people are qualified as “Westernized” because of their way of life or thought.

Finally, how can “narrations” be linked to popular representations? How do the media participate in the construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of these representations?

We would welcome submissions on all geographical regions on the following subjects, including (but not limited to):

– Occidentalism as a counter discourse to Orientalism, including Said’s critique of “Occidentalism”

– The imaginative geographies of non-Western cultures

  – The populist sense of Occidentalism that arose following 9/11 and 7/7 and the privileging of the West and global Modernity as subjects in such accounts

–  Analyses of the reflection on the West in particular genres

·   How the foreign policy elite views the West (both those who consider themselves Western and those who do not)

·   The presentation of Western elites and the lives of ordinary citizens

·    Political or social movements that span the West and the global South (for example the communist party or LGBTQ movements). How do the Western members view themselves and how do their non-Western allies see them?

·    Perceptions of race, gender, age, religion or social class

·    The reception of Western TV series, music, video games and movies in the global South, including those aimed at children

·     The impact of censorship, whether official or self-imposed

·     Commercials, public service announcements and documentaries

·     Changes in discourses and stereotypes about the West


Manuel Burga Dìaz, Emeritus professeur of history and former rector of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Peru

Alastair Bonnett, Professor of social geography at the University of Newcastle and author of the book, The Idea of the West : Culture, Politics and History

The conference will take place from 10 to 12 June 2020 at the University of Paris 8. The language of the conference will be English and French. Because of the large amount of work that has already been done in literature, notably in post-colonial studies, the conference will focus on the social sciences. Contributions are invited by specialists in history, politics, geography, visual studies, sociology and anthropology. Please submit an abstract of 250 to 300 words and a short CV by 15 December 2019 to  https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=occ2020


Contact Info:

Lori Maguire

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