Reorientalism' is finding a new East

'Reorientalism' is a much-needed, multidimensional reframing of western misperceptions of the East
Middle East Eye | November 9, 2015

Mischa Geracoulis writes: ... Jordan Elgrably, founder of the Los Angeles, California-based Markaz Arts Centre, told MEE: “We live in a consumer culture; ideas are consumed as readily as products. And so we have to ask, who are the idea producers? After the fall of the Soviet Union, the West needed another bad guy. We’ve had the war on drugs, and the war on terrorism, which breeds fear in the form of Islamophobia, for instance.”

In a 2014 Pew Research Centre survey Americans were asked to rate various religions on a “feeling thermometer,” the warmer the feelings, the higher the number, 100 being the highest.HuffPo/YouGov poll conducted a similar survey in 2015. Results of both were on par with revealing that approximately half of the American population holds the least favourable view of Islam. Moreover, those expressing a negative outlook seemed not to be basing their opinions on actual knowledge of, or friendship with, Muslims. Implied is that lack of understanding and fear are the source of an “us against them” mentality.

“So, we need museums and cultural venues to counter the consumer culture, to encourage social engagement. What we [The Markaz] offer is the opposite of talking heads telling you what to think," Elgrably said. "Here we have non-Muslims meeting Muslims, starting conversations and relationships. The Markaz makes a space for cultural curiosity, which encourages empathy and compassion, and ultimately gives us tools to interact with others. Reorienting ourselves requires us to open up.” Read more.