Melani McAlister

Culture and history are interdependent concepts that have always influenced and determined the path of human societies as time progressed.  The power of culture in determining the prevalence of an ideology or a specific society has never been most evident than when the human societies were progressing towards accelerated development in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Melani McAlister’s “Epic Encounters” and Edward Said’s “Orientalism” demonstrate human societies’ preoccupation in uncovering the ‘truth’ and reality behind the seemingly accelerated progress of ‘developed’ nations over other ‘developing or underdeveloped’ nations.  The two authors expressed particular interest in understanding what set apart Western nations from Middle Eastern or Oriental nations, as conceptualized by McAlister and Said, respectively.

In their discussion of the Western society and the ‘otherness’ of Middle Eastern and Oriental nations, the authors conducted researches utilizing different methodologies.  In understanding McAlister’s analyses of the otherness of Middle Eastern nations from the United States, she conducted research based on cultural artifacts, primarily mass media artifacts that chronicle the history of the US-Middle East relationship.  Said, meanwhile, looked into the history of the creation and development of Orientalism based on a meta-analysis of historical and cultural documents that can provide greater understanding and additional perspective in determining the specific point from which Orientalism sprang from.

The central focus of this proposal is to provide a comparison of McAlister’s and Said’s respective concepts of “otherness,” as ascertained by their (1) conceptualization of the societies under study, and (2) methodologies adopted by the researchers (McAlister and Said) in coming up with their generalizations.  In effect, the researcher proposes a meta-analysis by looking closely into the two authors’ conceptualization and operationalization of the concept of “otherness,” in the context of Middle Eastern, Oriental, and Western societies.

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The first phase of the proposed study is to uncover how McAlister and Said developed their respective concepts of otherness, applied in the context of Middle Eastern and Oriental cultures, respectively.  The rationale for determining this first step of the meta-analysis study is to first determine whether the authors developed similar criteria in developing the concept, “otherness.”

It is interesting to note that upon closer study of their works, McAlister’s concept of otherness is more culture-based, while Said’s was centered on history.  These differences in perspectives made their analysis radically different, while still maintaining one focus: the theme of Other versus Western society.  However, in the conduct of the meta-analysis of the otherness concept, it is vital to note that both authors subsisted to analyzing cultural products—mass media artifacts for McAlister, and historical documents for Said.

A major influence that helped determine “otherness” in the authors’ works was the methodology they used in analyzing the different societies under study.  Analyses of their methodologies would provide more depth in the research’s interpretation of “otherness.”

In fact, combining a meta-analysis on the concept of “otherness” and methodologies used to understand “otherness” provides triangulation in the study, giving the researcher more direction in determining which between McAlister and Said provided a more accurate and objective conceptualization of “otherness.”  The last phase of the proposed study will integrate the findings from the first two phases of the study, giving an overall picture of the authors’ basis for focusing on the concept of otherness as determined by history and culture.


McAlister, M.  (2001).  Epic Encounters: culture, media, and US interests in the Middle East.  University of California Press.

Said, E.  (1979).  Orientalism.  NY: Vintage.

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