Techno-orientalism: honouring oriental fashion in a western and expensive way

3. New forms of orientalism – techno orientalism

As globalisation contributes to our society we are adapting more to orientalism. Orientalism being the images and stereotypes of the East generated by the West. However, orientalism itself has adapted into new terms including the term techno-orientalism. Techno-orientalism is said by Ueno to be ‘set up for the West to preserve its identity in its imagination of the future. (Ueno 1999 pg95)’ So therefore, as an Australian when we think of techno-orientalism we think of images of the exotic East.

As mentioned by Evans (2015) we consider Western society as modern and developed whereas Eastern society is seen as traditional and underdeveloped. It is difficult to understand that with the development of techno-orientalism the West also developed the idea that in our future we imagine it as Japanese or Chinese. The main theory behind this as stated by Evans (2015) is that the West’s future is imagined as East’s past in order to put East back in it’s oriental place. We see this regularly in pop culture films. For example, Disney’s Mulan is America embedding China as a primitive culture into children’s minds. We see this in the littlest of ways by forms of chopsticks or in the biggest of ways by forms of traditional aspects like familial sacrifice.

“A girl can bring her family
Great honor in one way
By striking a good match
And this could be the day”

Evidence of the oriental imagery associated with a woman in China

There is a clear link to power with orientalism and the West as there is evidence of the fight to maintain democratic power. The irony is that in some parts of the East for example China and Japan are outselling the West in forms of cars, music and technology. This is seemingly what is threatening to the East and why this has led to development of the term techno-orientalism.

Nonetheless, the West has gone further than just film to embed techno-orientalism into our minds. Pham argues that the West is demonstrating ‘clothing’s significance as a virtual technology, as well as a technology of racial virtuality’. (Pham 2013, pg 2)  Within the clothing industry we are also seeing a movement towards oriental fashion. Pham has identified this in forms of ‘tunics and caftans as well as ‘hobble skirts’ with his most confronting observation being ‘a half- naked negro, draped in Bokhara silk’(Pham 2013, pg 2. It is argued by Nicholas Mirzoeff, a visual culture theorist and professor to be a ‘virtual experience’, ‘experiencing the outside on the inside.’ (Mirzoeff 1998 pg 181) A delicate concept at the least.

caftan2

Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian wear Roberto Cavalli caftan, available at Neiman Marcus for $1625.00. Seems a little pricey for something once worn in the late 16th century

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Traditional 16th century caftan

It is not difficult to see that this idea of techno-orientalism is a stereotypical and negative way for the West to belittle the East in hope to maintain power. In my eyes I vision Asia’s future as modern and highly technological, rather than the West’s way of seeing it as traditional Asian. Asian culture is embracing both traditional and technological advancement, which I believe the West should allow this flow to occur instead of trying triumph their achievements.

Evans, N. 2015, ‘East Vs West: Orientalism’, Lecture Week 4, BCM232: Global Media and Social Justice, UOW, 24/03/15

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Visual Culture Reader (New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 181.

Pham, Minh-Ha T. ‘Paul Poiret’S Magical Techno-Oriental Fashions (1911): Race, Clothing, And Virtuality In The Machine Age’. Configurations 21.1 (2013): 1-26. Web.

Ueno, Toshiya. ‘Techno‐Orientalism And Media‐Tribalism: On Japanese Animation And Rave Culture’. Third Text 13.47 (1999): 95-106. Web.

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One thought on “Techno-orientalism: honouring oriental fashion in a western and expensive way

  1. You give an interesting perspective on techno-orientalism and its prevalence in society, whether it is in films or the way we dress. This is occurring more and more as people continue to view the east as ‘exotic’. I also agree with you in the sense that in the future, Asian culture will evolve with elements of both modernity and its traditional roots.

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