Ever since the publication of Edward Said’s book Orientalism2 in 1978, studying Asia in the Western academy has become a contentious enterprise. This was not always the case. Asia has long figured quite comfortably as a generalized topic in the Western academy, and since the late eighteenth century it has come under sustained scrutiny as a distinct field of investigation. Its place was cemented during the Enlightenment as an academic discipline under the heading of “Oriental Studies” or “orientalism.” Often underpinned by philological scholarship, orientalism was understood to be a rigorous and properly disinterested inquiry into the histories, geographies, cultures, art practices, religions and institutions of the Orient. It was a scholarship that involved often-conflicting motivations. Romantic and rationalistic world-views portrayed the Orient as an object of everything from exotic curiosity to scientific inquiry. As historian J. J. Clarke notes, for romantically inflected scholarship, the Orient was taken to offer an opportunity for a “flight from reason” in which the Orient’s supposed irrationality was seen to offer solace from the materialist and mechanistic tendencies of Enlightenment Europe. Alternatively, for rationalists, for whom Enlightenment Europe embodied a flawed and incomplete rationality, the Orient affirmed the values of rationality and science in a more profound and thorough way.3 “[T]he ‘discovery’ of Buddhism in the Victorian period,” for instance, “resulted from the belief that it represented, by contrast with superstitious Christianity, a religion compatible with the basic assumptions of science.”4 These various, often conflicting, intellectual colorings and tendencies were mobilized, in turn, by an assumed higher-order scholarly ethos that saw the Orient as a relatively uncharted terrain that, now “discovered,” was freely available for, and indeed required, description, documentation and study. The publication of Said’s book effectively revoked this licence.