Edward Said may omit the German tradition from his ground-breaking study of Orientalism (1978), but it is clearly appropriate to describe Nietzsche as Orientalist in outlook. Without ever having left Western Europe, or even having read very widely on the subject, he indulges in a series of undiscriminating stereotypes about "Asia" and "the Orient", borrowing from a range of contemporary sources. His is an uncommon Orientalism, though, for his evaluation of supposedly "Oriental" characteristics is generally positive, and they are used as a means to critique European decadence and degeneration. Because he defines the type "Oriental" reactively in opposition to the "European", though, it is contradictory. Furthermore, on Nietzsche's analysis "Europe" itself is less a type or a geographical designation than an agonal process of repeated self-overcoming. He reverses the received evaluation of the Europe-Orient opposition only in turn to deconstruct the opposition itself. Europe first emerged out of Asia in Ancient Greece, Nietzsche claims, and it has remained a precarious achievement ever since, repeatedly liable to "re-orientalisation". He argues that "Oriental" Christianity has held Europe in its sway for too long, but his preferred antidote is a further instance of European "re- orientalisation", at the hands of the Jews, whose productive self-difference under a unified will he views as the best model for the "good Europeans" of the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-203
Number of pages26
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


  • Orientalism
  • Edward Said
  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Christianity
  • Jews
  • good Europeans

Cite this