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Portugal has had a long tradition in travel writing ever since the Discoveries. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the first Western images of China and Japan were spread out across Europe through Portuguese writing, which would present those places as utopian societies. Since this period, the representation of the Far East – the so-called “Orient” – has been an ongoing topic not only in travel writing but also in painting, music, and other arts. Since the late 18th century, Europe has undergone an “Oriental Renaissance” which culminated in the 19th and early 20th centuries with the expansion of European empires into Asia. This imperial relationship reshaped Orientalism as part of the European material civilization and culture. Said’s Orientalism considers the artistic experience of British, French and American empires as a unit, which in our view could also comprise the Portuguese Empire.
The Portuguese colonial empire came to an end a few years ago, with the handover of Macau to China in 1999, so it is now possible to study Portuguese Orientalism from a postcolonial perspective. Macau represents an important topic in this research project in view of its past geographic relevance as interface between worlds (China, Japan, India, and Europe), but also given the symbolic meaning of “macau” as door/harbour (porta/porto) as explored by artistic achievements.
ORION – PORTUGUESE ORIENTALISM / LOCUS, FLUL, Portugal