I admire Said's originality but not his myopic criticism and total westernization of the intellectual and visual phenomenon called Orientalism.
Orientalism, in my view, is the dynamics that exist between the East and the West, the Orientals and the Occidentals, and the spectacles and the spectators. Gauguin would not be painting the naked brown women of Polynesia if those women were, well, not naked, brown, and Polynesian. What if a Polynesian artist painted the same thing Gauguin did? Would we be seeing the work of the local painter as Orientalist?
Is the painting above Orientalist the way Said defined it? I'm not just talking about the western lens or view, but also the demonization of the West and the Whites. If these women were Tahitian nuns in a convent, Gaugin definitely exploited and objectified them.
How about the Kama Sutra temple sculptures of Khajuraho in India? Were the ancient Indian artisans Orientalist? Had it been designed by a white man or sculpted by a white artist, would we consider the temple an Orientalist specimen? I still wonder until now why Said did not include the Khajuraho temple in his list of erotic and exotic visual examples. I suspect because it is the anti-thesis of his thesis. It was the local not the colonial that eroticised and exoticised their own culture.
Sometimes intellectuals think too much and use their fertile imagination wildly. Using the image on the cover of Said's book, such image of exoticism and eroticism existed in the West because there was such an image of performance and spectacle practiced in the East.
I don't like how Said disempowered the Orientals and boxed them within the sphere of victimhood, colonialism, and exploitation. A dialectical approach is needed to finally revisit and redefine Said's Orientalism; empower the peoples of the Orient by recognizing the power of their view, gaze, performance, and spectacle; and lessen the burden of the white men in the narrative played out by both performers and audience who are equally important in the play or performance we obscurely call Orientalism.
Said could have bridged the gap between the East and the West, at least in visual cultures and media, and played the role of a fair referee in the current incarnation of Orientalism: globalization.