By Yasar Ohle LL.M. Law and Gender
In response of my article on the ‘Aladdin Musical’ in the December edition of the SOAS Spirit, I received a comment on the online addition of the website that read: “Who is being misrepresented??? Agrabah is a fictional city you nonce.” In light of this comment I wish, not to go into detail about the persuasiveness of the argument presented in this online comment, rather to share some thoughts I had after reading this comment.
Just to make one thing very clear: ‘fiction’ is constituent part of popular Orientalist images and fantasies, just as ‘reality’ is. To put it in the words of Edward Said from the introduction to his seminal publication Orientalism, it’s not about “the correctness of the representation nor its fidelity to some great original”. Evidence can also be found in “openly imaginative” stories which
appears to be quite obvious to me, since the whole concept of Orientalism is about fantasies and images… Upon being asked by the editors to give my take on the criticism, I felt rather reluctant to do so at first. Why should I use my resources to explain something (which I perceive to be rather simple) to someone who probably did not even take time to think their comment through? Especially when having in mind that people are often asked to explain everything as soon as it is about their own discrimination, be it men expecting to get explanations about sexism or white people on racism etc.
Before writing the initial comment I was uncertain if this was actually interesting to anyone at SOAS. I thought, it’s SOAS, everybody is aware of what I was going to say about the Musical anyway, so what’s the point of me mansplaining it to people? Assuming that the Spirit is mostly read by people at SOAS and therefore the comment was written by someone here, I see my decision to write it notwithstanding my doubts confirmed, and my assumption that everybody at
SOAS is aware of the mechanisms that shape our lives anyway proven wrong. This is the reason why I decided to also clarify the ‘misunderstanding’ of the commentator – someone might learn something out if this.