SOAS University of London

School of Arts

Orientalism on Screen

Module Code:
155901413
Status:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
Credits:
15
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

The degree, of which this course forms a core module, is predicated on the fact that in the global and political world of the twenty-first century the image is becoming increasingly significant as a communication system through which we understand society, the world and our place within it. Within that world, it also becomes increasingly important that we look at the ‘images’ that we hold of each other and of the Other: notions of Orientalism are therefore far from having lost relevance.

Orientalism on Screen aims to provide students with a broad overview of the principal concerns and themes of Western films set in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and indigenous films dealing with other nations in the region. Through an engagement with film and with film theory, its focus is on the dominant and stereotypical views and (mis)representations of modern Asian, African and Middle Eastern societies and how they view themselves. The course will look at the significance of the external, visual perspective on the region; the encounter between Western characters and those of local origin; and the dramatic dilemmas that face the foreign traveller/visitor to, or adventurer in, the region. In doing so it will introduce students to the theoretical and critical perspectives of orientalism and postcolonialism. Each of the films selected for viewing and discussion will in addition provide scope for the discussion of key issues pertinent to understandings of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and the most significant events in its political history.  

Prerequisites

Pre-requisite course:  Introduction to Cinema (BBK): FFME00254ACS

The course Global Screen Industries: 155901412 is a co-requisite course.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  1. an awareness of the basic features of orientalism and postcolonial theory
  2. an understanding of the nature of the problems and nuances of studying Asia, Africa and the Middle East as a cultural Other from an ‘outside’ perspective, in comparison with the study of the other from ‘within’ the region
  3. an understanding of the impact of colonial and imperial power relations on the construction of cultural perspectives 
  4. a knowledge of film theory and film viewing from a critical perspective
  5. a background knowledge of the political and historical issues raised in Western films set in Asia, Africa and the Middle East
  6. a knowledge of indigenous productions dealing with other countries of the same region

In terms of generic skills, students will have had further tuition and feedback on essay writing and will have learned how to extract and process information from cinematic and secondary sources, and to combine the two. As a result of the emphasis on group discussion of the cinematic texts explored in this course, they will learn how to contribute constructively to debates, how to accommodate the views of others in the learning group and how to present their own views orally.

Workload

This course will be taught over 10 weeks with a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar/tutorial classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

Orientalism on Screen aims to provide students with a broad overview of the principal concerns and themes of Western films set in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and indigenous films dealing with other nations in the region. Through an engagement with film and with film theory, its focus is on the dominant and stereotypical views and (mis)representations of modern Asian, African and Middle Eastern societies and how they view themselves. The course will look at the significance of the external, visual perspective on the region, the encounter between Western characters and those of local origin; and the dramatic dilemmas which face the foreign traveller/visitor to the region. In doing so it will introduce students to the theoretical and critical perspectives of orientalism and postcolonialism. Each of the films selected for viewing and discussion will in addition provide scope for the discussion of key issues pertinent to understandings of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and the most significant events in its political history.

As it core to the second year of the BA Global Cinemas and Screen Studies, it provides foundation for understanding ‘Otherness’ beyond simplistic concepts of Us and Them on screen.

Lectures and tutorials will be based on film screenings of films set in a selection of the following locations: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, (British) India, Nepal, Japan, China, Egypt, the Congo, South Africa.

Method of assessment

An essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week after reading week, term 2 (30%); an essay of 4,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (70%).

Suggested reading

  • Matthew Bernstein and Gaylyn Studlar (eds.), Visions of the East. Orientalism in Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Chowdhry, Prem. 2000.  Colonial India and the making of empire cinema: image, ideology and identity.  Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Penguin Books.

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules