The terminology Sustainable Orientalism is inspired by the classic Edward Said’s book Orientalism. This publication is an eclectic study of how the Western colonial powers of Britain and France (among other European societies) represented and ruled North African and Middle Eastern lands from the eighteenth century. The term Orientalism refers to the sum of the West’s representations of the Orient, a cultural and political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (Europe, the West, “us”) and the strange (the Orient, the East, “them”). This work is also a theorisation and manifestation of how colonial discourses might operate, specific to particular historical and colonial contexts. For Said, despite the formal decolonisation of many countries the persistence of Orientalist representations reinforces the point that the imaginative machinery of colonialism does not quickly disappear as soon as once-colonised lands achieve independence and can indeed endure in refreshed forms. Since contemporary sustainable discourses contemplate the human values-practices that regard the control, exploitation and management of raw materials, food and energy throughout specific habitats, it is important to analyse those discourses as a method of control and possession. The aim of introducing the term Sustainable Orientalism is to meditate about the discourses of sustainability that are shaping the political debate about a sustainable development in the world and their multifarious consequences.
The idea of a Sustainable Orientalism helps to examine a current dilemma for the emerging territories around the world: whether to follow or interrogate the representations, visions, discourses, practices and values towards a sustainable development originated on the countries with very high standards of human development indicators, most of them in Europe and in Anglo America (United States and Canada).