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.


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


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.


An oriental experience in the west

2. Everyday forms of orientalism – does this include yoga and martial arts in the West?

As addressed in lecture four Evans (2015) stated that the term ‘orientalism’ was originally meant to be a description for anyone who studied the Eastern cultures. However, it’s progressed into the concept meaning the representation the West gives the East in a stereotypical manner. Keeping this in mind, in today’s society we practice yoga martial arts on a daily basis. We walk past signs that read ‘mandarin oriental yoga and wellness’. The irony with this was mentioned in lecture 4 and is that these images of the East are in in fact generated by the West. This makes me think when we encounter yoga do we experience it in an oriental form or the way that the west wishes to represent it? Throughout this blog I’m going to address four stages of the way I believe the relationship between the West and oriental yoga works.

As the consumers are we aware that there is direct  marketing of oriental ‘yoga and wellness’ targeting us in the west? Nazrul (2012 p220) calls this ‘aggressive marketing for ‘wellness and spa culture’. His research focuses on the Indian ayurvedic medicine system and how it is portrayed in western media. He claims ‘many advertisements and web pages for such health tourist resorts use Western actors and actresses and show Westerners enjoying healthy lives. Nazrul (2012 p220)’. That’s just it, stage one the target, westerners wanting to enjoy a ‘healthy life’.


Oriental remedies are practiced throughout the West every single day

The western views of oriental health and wellbeing are evident in just one Google search. The search finds thousands of oriental relax melodies, oriental luxury spas and resorts, acupuncture, martial arts and oriental yoga Facebook pages. Following stage one we reach stage two the marketing tool. Western marketing focuses on the target to market what is assumed to be an oriental experience in the west. It is argued by Aull and Lewis that ‘medical discourse produces a discourse of background assumptions and constraints that negatively stereotype the patient and disproportionately benefit the medical community.’ (Aull and Lewis 2004 pg 91) There’s stage four the benefit to the producer. Consumers get drawn in by the marketing of the product and this benefits the producers, in most cases the medical community.


The Ayurvedic approach to an illness is holistic and therefore after an Ayurvedic treatment a person will find an improvement in their physical, mental and psychological conditions. 

As a regular yoga class attendee and a training gym instructor I can argue that most people would not be engaged with the ideologies of Indian culture associated with yoga. I can admit I’ve always tried my best to understand the origins of yoga but have never gone into depth with researching it. Western society has adopted this practice and turned it into that of our own. Very rarely in a general yoga class do the instructors go into depth to inform the class of the origins of yoga, perhaps focusing more on the health benefits associated with it. To conclude on Ayurveda, Nazrul argues that ‘as part of the New Age Movement in the West, a commodified version of Ayurveda has been popularised as an alternative remedy to satisfy middle class health consumers’. (Nazrul 2012, pg230) This argument is exactly how I, as a consumer, feel why the orient is present in Western society, that is to ‘satisfy’ those who wish to believe in something to consume from the East.

Aull, Felice, and Bradley Lewis. ‘Medical Intellectuals: Resisting Medical Orientalism’. Journal of Medical Humanities 25.2 (2004): 87-108. Web.

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

Islam, Nazrul. New age orientalism: Ayurvedic ‘wellness and spa culture’ [online]. Health Sociology Review: The Journal of the Health Section of the Australian Sociological Association, Vol. 21, No. 2, Jun 2012: 220-231. Availability: <;dn=740929710850414;res=IELAPA&gt; ISSN: 1446-1242. [cited 15 Apr 15].

Google’s watching, always watching

1. The ethics of Google maps, Googleearth

As stated in lecture three maps are ‘instruments of powerful elites’. They live up to this statement as they show their power by making things happen. Google, as one of the biggest multinational corporations in the world observed this power and wished it as part of their own. As we know, knowledge is power and Google achieved this by the development of Google maps in 2007.

Google developed a new and improved way of using the power associated with maps by incorporating an interactive nature when compared to a traditional map on paper. This is because ‘users can look up driving directions and search for businesses on Google Maps. Google Earth provides flying simulation to view satellite imagery and maps’. (Lee 2010 pg 911) This idea increases Google’s corporate-political power as they build their digital-empire.


Google street view car that receives the images to update the map

However, with this technological advancement comes the ethics associated with it. Google has previously been involved in an ethical dilemma of ‘showing the faces of passers-by in the Street View photographs of Google Maps’(Lee 2010 pg 910). The fact I was able to walk out of my house recently and witness the passing by of the Google Maps street view car getting images is one example of how invasive this concept is. Another case where this occurred was when ‘Kevin Bankston, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was surprised to see his face in a street-level image on a now defunct online map a few years ago’ (Mills, 2007). Even worse, the man was caught in the photo smoking which was a habit he was trying to hide from his family. A minor incident, however one that shows Google’s threat to the privacy of an individual.

The lists of ethics doesn’t stop at privacy threats to the individual. As shown in the above Youtube video other ethical considerations and places that have lead to blurring on the map include ‘the possibility of being a terrorist target, presence of nuclear weapons, military installations, the highest level prison in New York, the site of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program and the central point for “Operation Iraqi Freedom”,

These main ethical issue associated with Google maps is that it is based predominantly on the profits it receives from advertisements so there are biases. Some businesses are even said to be visible at higher scales than others. Strom (2011) tested this theory by deleting all his cookies on his computer so that Google had no information about him and with this found that the prime point ‘fell in an empty field just outside the golf courses of Coffeyville Country Club, Kansas, which also happened to be a Gmaps advertiser’. In this case, this shows more evidence to Google’s strategy to gain power.

The fact that we don’t look at a maps in a scrutinising way is evidence of how dangerous they can be. Since we now know Google’s motivation behind Google maps was based purely on profit then we are able to see the geopolitical force which drives the company. Ethics will always be an important aspect to this tool as it is interactive which means it constantly evolves with new technology and effects every one of us.

Evans, N. 2015, ‘Global Visions: Mapping the planet’, Lecture Week 3, BCM232: Global Media and Social Justice, UOW, 16/03/2015

Lee, Micky. ‘A POLITICAL ECONOMIC CRITIQUE OF GOOGLE MAPS AND GOOGLE EARTH’. Information, Communication & Society 13.6 (2010): 909-928. Web.

Mills, E. (2007). Google’s street-level maps raising privacy concerns. 04, 2007.

Strom, T. E. 2011. ‘Space, Cyberspace and Interface: The Trouble with Google Maps’, M/C Journal, vol. 14, issue 3, pp. 3