What I am Reading: Orientalism by Edward Said

“What I do argue also is that there is a difference between knowledge of other peoples and other times that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study and analysis for their own sakes, and on the other hand knowledge-if that is what it is–that is part of an overall campaign of self-affirmation, belligerency, and outright war.  There is, after all, a profound difference between the will to understand for purposes of coexistence and humanistic enlargement of horizons, and the will to dominate for the purposes of control and external dominion.” (Said, xix)

“In analyzing spiritual appropriation as a form of sexual violence, I start with what may seem a strange source: the Bible.  The Hebrew word YDH, which translates as “to know a person”, carnally, or sexual intercourse, is used frequently in the Hebrew scriptures to connote sexual relations. . . Consensual sexual relationships require the loosening of the boundaries of one’s physical and psychic space–they involve not only allowing another person to become close to you physically, but allowing her or him to know more about you.  Sexual violence then suggests that the violation of these boundaries operates not only on the physical but on spiritual and psychic levels as well.  In addition, sexual violence is ultimately structured around power relations–its entails establishing the power to control someone’s life.  Similarly, “knowledge” about someone also gives one power over that person.  Withholding knowledge, then, is an act of resistance against those who desire to know you in order to better control you.

It is with this understanding of sexual violence that I wish to explore how the “New Age” movement and other forms of indigenous spiritual/cultural appropriation constitute a form of sexual violence.”–Excerpt from Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andre Smith (119-120).

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