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East Versus West: Challenging The Binary And Stereotypes

1755 words - 8 pages

In many types of English literature as well as society itself, the idea of us versus them, or you are with me, and against them, come into play. This idea of there being a lack of a grey area creates this black and white dichotomous separations that pit people or groups against each other. However, the false dichotomous, or binaries come with consequences and negative stereotypes in areas where they are applied liberally and incorrectly. In addition, when there is a gray area, the people in the middle ground often ignored or marginalized by the extremes. This binary of east versus west has only increased in the years since the World Trade Center attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. However, while many look at the East and West as two mutually exclusive stories, both the East and West share an overlap in several major areas, including art, religion, religious and political freedom, and history.
Art has had a major influence in both Islamic, representing the East, and non-Islamic Christians, representing the West. In the book, My Name Is Red, author and famous Turkish novelist Orhan Pamukr, dissects the heart of 16th century Turkey as is straddles the edges of both Europe and Asia. Through his storytelling, Pamuk uses unusual perspectives to demonstrate the struggle against what some on the Turkish court considered a negative influence of the west creating the idea of the binary. While writing from unique outlooks, Pamuk also metaphorically uses red the color of love, describing Islam as the love between the Prophet Muhammad and Allah. This idea of a binary is exemplified between members of the Sultan’s inner circle or advisors and artists. In this tale of struggle, the book focuses on the court of Sultan Murat III, who reigned over modern day Turkey from 1574-95, and was responsible for attempting to celebrate the thousand-year anniversary of the Hegira. The central plot of the book focuses on a western offshoot to the classical Persian tradition of miniature art painting. One painter on the court, Elegant, objects to this new offshoot of art and painting and is murdered and thrown into a well (Pamuk, 1). This struggle demonstrates that in terms of art there was indeed a breakdown of the binary. Although with many forms of paintings, the East and the West also enjoyed poetry, examined greatly in Safi’s Memories of Muhammad, as well as fine architecture, In addition, to this the controversy surrounding the artwork, religious freedom was another topic.
Historically, during the same period Pamuk wrote his novel on, the Ottoman Empire had a system called the millet system. The millet system, according to “The Middle East and Islamic World Reader,” the millet system was, “was created to integrate the Christian population into the Ottoman Empire. More broadly, the state granted political autonomy to the protected communities of Christians and Jew (the dhimmi) living among Ottoman domain” (Gettleman, Schaar: 41). During this same period, in...

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