Orientalism and the Fear of Traveling



“Mom. Dad. I’d like to go to Morocco!”

“What? No, no no nononononnonoonooooooooo. It’s too dangerous.”

“You could be killed.”

“Didn’t an American just die over there?!”

The decision to travel to Spain and Morocco for a study abroad opportunity was not met with an open mind by many of my friends and family.  Many were only capable of viewing Morocco through a lens shrouded in ignorance and stereotypes.  Through continuous education and discussion, both on my own and with my parents, I was able to enlighten my parents on the true society and culture of Morocco, rejecting stereotypes and the persistent remnants of orientalism still present in Western society.  However, while my parents have become educated, most of Western society, including peers and friends, continue to hold uninformed stereotypical perspectives pertaining to Morocco and much of the non-western world.  This has opened my eyes to orientalism and the problems that continue today despite the modern society we live in.


Orientalism is a framework in which the West perceives Arab people to make them seem threatening.  While this framework can be explicitly exemplified through depictions of Arab people throughout historical media, film, art, and literature as barbaric, backwards, and exotic, there continues to be an instillation of orientalism within today’s society.  This is most evident in the way the West presents the Arab world in the media and how the West discusses and speaks about the Arab world.  This instillation of orientalist thought within society has created, promoted, and established racism, stereotypes, ignorance, and lies about the Arab people that is present in many Western individuals’ beliefs.  This is related to power and how the West is able to maintain it, as well as maintains firm “us versus them” mentality in a global society that needs and demands community and acceptance.


When thinking about the hopes and goals for this trip, educational opportunities are at the top of the list.  These educational opportunities include becoming more educated about cross cultural reconciliation, diverse cultures, and traveling in general, as well as becoming educated enough to inform others about important problems that need to be addressed in our society.  Therefore rejecting orientalism and making strides toward a more unified, accepting society. Hopefully through my participation in the Spain and Morocco study abroad trip I can begin to inform my friends and family about the humanity, individuality, and lives present in the Arab world often missed through the installation of orientalism that causes racism, stereotypes, and misinformation to remain.


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