Defining This Space
What Do We Mean By 'Privilege'?
Before delving into any discussions within this platform, it is important to understand the key concepts and themes that are continuously raised and discussed throughout.
Words are powerful and can hold significant value and representation within them. As a result, language can be considered contentious; like the title of this platform and the use of the word 'privilege'.
Who is to say what privilege really is and how can we legitimately define who has it?
In the context of this platform, when privilege is discussed, we are referring to not only 'white privilege' but also a number of other privileges, such as gender, sexual orientation, able-bodiness, class and religion.
White privilege is defined as:
"The inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterised by racial inequality and injustice".
How Do We Define Development?
A bit like the word 'privilege', 'development' can also be considered a contentious term to use.
Again, questions are raised around what really determines what is considered as 'developing' and 'developed'. Often these terms are coined and used by the West through limited perceptions. As a result, these terms can often undermine a population of people to align with the West's dominant and superior predisposition.
Descriptive terms such as 'developing countries' and the 'global south' have replaced backward terms such as the use of 'third world'. However, as we progress within the 'development field', our terminology is ever-evolving to represent populations more ethically.
Who Is The West?
The Western world, also known as the 'West', refers to various nations depending on the context, involving Western Europe, Australasia, and North America. Within the context of this blog, the 'West' is viewed as a dominant force within development and various other socio-political contexts.
"It is the rich governments in North America and Western Europe who largely control international agencies and the effort to transform poor nations."
- William Easterly
In comparison to this, we see descriptive words such as the 'Global South' or the 'Eastern World' to represent countries seen as low and middle-income nations. The 'Global South' is a term which categorizes countries such as Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. These nations are often described as newly 'developed' or in the process of 'developing'.
Defining Ethnocentrism and the 'Orient'
Ethnocentrism is defined as: "the view that one's own culture is better than anyone else's culture".
As a practice, it consists of evaluating another culture through the perspective of one's own. Ethnocentrism is the act of judging another culture based on predispositions that are formed through values and standards of one's own culture; such values involve language, behaviour, customs, and religion.
Palestinian professor, Edward Said's concept of 'Orientalism' was born in 1978 and drew heavy controversy due to its confrontation on how both the 'East' and the 'West' was being portrayed in academic literature. Edward Said particularly focused on the Western structuring and values towards the 'East' and how often these values have been misrepresented and stereotyped.
Said describes the 'Orient' as the category in which the entire 'East' is confined; such a category is made up of the Middle East and East Asian cultures. We see this similarly with the grouping of the entire African continent also. Through such a broad categorisation, Said suggests that bias perceptions have hindered a true understanding of these differing cultures. Through an ethnocentric lens, these cultures have been portrayed as destinations filled with 'exotic' and 'curious' tales for the 'West' to explore and exploit.