Exploring Depictions of Bedouins in Travels in Arabia Deserta by Charles Doughty

Alaa Ahmed Alzahrani


The discourse of Orientalism has often been explored from a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) perspective in fiction works and news media published in the 20th and 21st centuries. What remains a largely unexplored area is Oriental views in non-fiction Western writings of the 19th century. One of the key books describing the people of Arabia from this era is Charles Doughty’s (1888) Travels in Arabia Deserta. For this reason, this study analyzed one chapter from this book to explore Doughty’s representation of the Arabian Peninsula Bedouins. By drawing on CDA and the Appraisal framework, this study identified evaluative lexical items used by Doughty to describe the Bedouins and related these lexical choices to three Oriental themes identified in the literature: (1) Oriental inferiority, (2) Oriental barbarity, and (3) Oriental untrustworthiness. An examination of the Oriental themes in Doughty’s book highlights two characteristics of the discourse of Orientalism. One is the underlying cultural superiority of the West and the other is the interdependence of texts describing the people of Arabia. As such, this paper supports the idea that what is encompassed by the label “discourse of Orientalism” can include even seemingly neutral descriptions of people of Arabia, and that existing representations of Arabs are a product of an accumulated body of work rather than from one specific text.


Orientalism, Orientalist Stereotypes, Critical Discourse Analysis, Appraisal Framework, European Discourse, Travel Writing, 19th Century Literature, Arabia

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