Graduate Students Publish, Network Through Orientalism Conference

Graduate Students Publish, Network Through Orientalism Conference

Four UC Merced graduatestudents expanded their curriculum vitae after publishing essays in a book that builds on Orientalism, an idea from literary and culture critic Edward Said, who was critical of the way Western countries viewed the East.

The book, "One World Periphery Reads the Other: Knowing the 'Oriental' in the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula,"was edited by UC Merced Professor Ignacio López-Calvo. Cambridge Scholars Publishing released the 405-page book in January. It's also been published as an e-book.

The students read their essays at a UC Merced conference about Orientalism organized by López-Calvo last year. The international conference, "East Reads West; West Reads East: The Near and Far East in the Western World,"was the second conference on Orientalism he planned. A third conference, organized with Professor Cristián H. Ricciand Professor Kevin Fellezs, is scheduled for April 2011.

The UC Merced doctoral students published in the book are:

  • Carlos Miguel Bazua Morales, who is working on ethnographic research about the contemporary Maya diaspora in Northern California.
  • Marco Valesi, who is in cultural studies with a focus on postcolonial productions and transmodern society.
  • Michael Barba, who is investigating the formation of the American Literature canon.
  • Malgorzata Skorek, who is studying the impact of mass media and advertisements on perceptions and behavior.
  • López-Calvo's conference and book reflects UC Merced students' opportunity to engage and collaborate with world-class faculty in an atmosphere that promotes collaboration in scholarship.

Cover of One World Periphery Reads the Other

Said, in his seminal study, argued that Western culture created an inaccurate, romanticized and all-encompassing depiction of the Orient. The interpretation helped Western imperialists justify conquering countries. The study of Orientalism has mainly focused on the attitudes from the French, English and German perspectives.

López-Calvo wanted to take Said's ideas and see how they can be applied to countries in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, where the stereotypes toward the East haven't been studied as deeply. Essays in the book focus on philosophy, literature, music, film, painting, mass media and advertising.

Malgorzata Skorek, a doctoral student in social and cognitive sciences, saw a poster seeking entries and decided to submit a paper because she liked the idea of comparing the West and East.

She wrote a paper titled "Portrayal of Asian Americans in U.S. magazine advertisements," which analyzed 620 ads in Men's Health, Women's Health, CIO, Popular Science and Maximum PC.

Skorek found that "Asian Americans were overrepresented in magazines focusing on business, science and technology and predominantly found in advertisements of personal and office electronics." Such portrayals can be harmful to Asian Americans by buttonholing them into particular roles and reinforcing stereotypes, she wrote.

Beyond expanding her curriculum vitae, Skorek said the conference was great for networking across disciplines.

"Once you meet faculty and other students, there are always opportunities to collaborate," she explained. "There's a good chance you could work with them later on."

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