930006 Gender, Interculturality in Cultural Studies

winter semester 2013/2014 | Last update: 07.05.2018 Place course on memo list
Gender, Interculturality in Cultural Studies
SE 2

The course examines European imaginations of the so called “Orient” which Edward Said described as discourse of Orientalism. Here we focus on the relevance of gender and sexuality for Orientalist discourses and imaginations. On the one hand we will analyse gender images and on masculinity and femininity on the other hand we examine the special contributions of European women to colonial discourse and their involvement in Orientalist cultural production and the special dynamics are at work here. Here the interconnectedness of different social and symbolic categories should be made clear as well as the close relation between images of self and other and its interdependency. So the durability of specific conceptions in Western imagination becomes obvious and students shall be able to reflect on the relevance of scientific theories and concepts for their present situation. Another aim is a critical and autonomous approach to scientific texts.

For many centuries the so called “Orient” exerted major attractiveness on Europeans, being a symbol for a highly exotic and romantic space of mystery and glamour. Here especially male fantasies of the exotic resp. erotic female other seemed to come true, which manifested itself in the figure of the Odalisque. Edward Said in his groundbreaking publication “Orientalism” has delivered a profound analysis of the West’s perception of the East, which aimed at the domination and subordination of the orientalized other. Orientalism, as a colonial discourse, was outlined by him as a “male province”, notwithstanding that gender, gender images and sexuality are crucial for European imaginations and discourses of the Orient.

So we first focus on feminist critics on the „Gender blindness“ of Said’s conception. It can be shown, that not only for male travellers the Middle East was highly attractive, but also a great number of female Europeans visited this region, and today we dispose of a big corpus on travel literature produced by them. So we also have to explore the contributions of these women to the discourse of Orientalism, especially in respect to female travel writers beginning with the 18th century up to present writings. Here the question has to be raised in which way they contributed to colonial discourses which resulted in the subordination of colonized peoples. We will analyse which possibilities the Orient opened to European women especially considering their position as only authentic western eyewitness in Turkish baths and harems, which Meyda Yegenoglu called “Supplementing the Oriental lack”. Here special dynamics of colonial discourses can be traced, which are closely linked to gender as well as other categories such as class or nationality.

Furthermore we will examine European ideas and conceptions on oriental women, which manifested itself in paintings and later on in photography or postcards up to filmic present day representations. Here also a gendered focus has to be adopted: a great deal of these painting especially from French Oriental artists depict sceneries of highly sexualized motives, often showing naked women subordinated to men. In respect to the creators of these pictures we can delineate here different aspects of male dominance in respect to the orientalized Other. But we will also ask for female painters or those from the Orient itself: What were their contributions to the popular field of visual Orientalism and which kind of (re)presentations can be found in their works?

A special focus of the course lies on the perpetuation of these Western images and imaginations. We will take a critical look at the positions and debates of European feminists concerning women from/in the East, which Rommelspacher called “hegemonic feminism”. Here it can be shown that gender hierarchies in Western societies are externalized by being “ethnicized”. On the other hand we will trace neo-Orientalist imaginations in public and media discourses as well as visual representations such as photographs in newspapers especially after 9/11 and the “War on Terror” which not only was pursued in the USA but also in Europe especially in Germany. Here we can also trace “gendered representation” of masculinities and femininities which shall justify Western military interventions in Eastern countries.

Lectures, core readings, paper presentations, discussions, group works, film and media analysis.


  • Active participation
  • Core readings
  • Paper presentation with handout
  • Final paper

Czarnecka, Miroslawa/Ebert, Christa/Szewczyk, Grazyna B. (Hg.): Der weibliche Blick auf den Orient. Reiseberschreibungen europäischer Frauen im Vergleich, Bern et al.: Peter Lang, 2010. Graduiertenkolleg Identität und Differenz (Hg.): Ethnizität und Geschlecht. (Post-)Koloniale Verhandlungen in Geschichte Kunst und Medien, Köln et al.: Böhlau, 2005. Lewis, Reina: Gendering Orientalism. Race, femininity and Representation, London/New York: Routledge, 1996. Lewis, Reina: Rethinking Orientalism. Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem, London/New York: L.B. Tauris, 2004. Melman, Billie: Women’s Orients: English Women and the Middle East, 1718–1918. Sexuality, Religion and Work, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1992. Mills, Sara: Discourses of Difference. An Analysis of Women’s Travel Writing, London/New York 1991. Said, Edward: Orientalism, New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. Ueckmann, Natascha: Frauen und Orientalismus. Reisetexte französischsprachiger Autorinnen des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler, 2001. Yegenoglu, Meyda: Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.


not applicable

Readings partly in English. The two courses of the module are thematically linked.

Group 0
Date Time Location
Sat 2013-10-19
09.00 - 14.00 SR I (Theologie) SR I (Theologie) Barrier-free
Thu 2013-11-28
14.30 - 19.30 SR 13 (Sowi) SR 13 (Sowi) Barrier-free
Sat 2013-12-14
09.00 - 15.45 UR 3 (Sowi) UR 3 (Sowi) Barrier-free
Fri 2014-01-24
09.00 - 13.00 SR 1 (Sowi) SR 1 (Sowi) Barrier-free