The modern project is replete with such fissures…. To think through openings and fissures, to give exclusions and silences an active presence, to resuscitate what the central domains have rendered marginal and irrelevant—these are ultimately the only true meanings of critique [JB1].
This sense was later exacerbated by the knowledge of his impending death, which seems to have haunted his late writings in a different way. As its title suggests, the book is an extended meditation on the very nature of what it means to undertake an intellectual or creative project. For Said, championing the former—and with it, a true humanist vision—is the primary vocation of the critic. The book collects several lectures that Said presented at Columbia University in Therefore as much as the West itself, the Orient is an idea that has a history.
On the other hand, he remains deeply committed to crucial aspects of traditional humanism, going so far as to link himself with arch-conservative figures such as Matthew Arnold and T. This is all quite unfashionable stuff. Said, of course, was famously impatient with all forms of orthodoxy, Marxist or otherwise. There is the danger, therefore, that like that other great and difficult writer of liberating texts, Frantz Fanon, Said might become someone to be name-checked without being read closely, or at all.
Now perhaps more than before. Michael Sprinker Cambridge: Blackwell, , See Edward W. For western academics, the book emerged as the manifesto of theoretical decolonisation — but how was his intellectual legacy received in the Arab world? Markus Schmitz has the answers. Said remains a highly influential figure. The Palestinian-American intellectual Said overstepped the boundaries of his academic and national origins, his critique thus achieving recognition across the disciplines and around the world.
Think of the line that starts with Napoleon, continues with the rise of oriental studies and the takeover of North Africa, and goes on in similar undertakings in Vietnam, in Egypt, in Palestine and, during the entire 20th century, in the struggle over oil and strategic control in the Gulf, in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Afghanistan. LitFlash The eBooks you want at the lowest prices. In my memoir Out of Place I described the strange and contradictory worlds in which I grew up, providing for myself and my readers a detailed account of the settings that I think formed me in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon. To discuss the question of Orientalism, it is helpful to look at the word itself and how Said uses and understands it. Given the time in which Said was writing and the proliferation of such forces this does not seem acceptable.
Yet although his significance in bringing together previously separate debates is undisputed, it proves extremely difficult to determine Edward Said's precise cultural, political or theoretical locus. While numerous introductions, special editions and readers outline his significance in various fields and his politically engaged public persona, the Arab reception of Said's work has been little studied. This is a surprising paradox, as Edward Said was a prominent party in local debates in Cairo, Beirut or Ramallah from the early s on.
In the early s, the Egyptian political scientist Ahmed Abdalla called the western concept of "the other" — a very common term in postcolonial theory — to the attention of his Arab readership, pointing out that it did primarily refer to Arabs and Muslims. So it was interesting to see how readers in the Arab or "Islamic" world would react to the interventions claiming to lead the fight for cultural decolonisation from inside the western metropolitan centres.
His significance in the Arab world was initially restricted to a group of literary theorists, most of whom had studied in Europe or the USA. It was only with Orientalism that he reached a larger audience.
Translated into Arabic in by Kamal Abu-Dib, the key text of colonial discourse analysis did not elicit purely positive reactions from intellectuals in the Middle East, however. From the outset, there were selective attempts to canonise and instrumentalise the study, in which Said aimed to integrate his political life into academic praxis by integrating the themes of eurocentrism, colonialism and racism into western literary theory.
Orientalism has been used both to strategically maximise cultural difference and to categorically negate that difference.
To this day, the book and its author are exploited as a canvas for projecting Islamomaniac and Islamophobic positions. Marxist and liberal Arab intellectuals in particular view the renunciation of the western modernity model by local academic elites as an intellectual cul-de-sac, partly blaming Said for this trend.
There are many critics who bemoan the absence of ideas on dependence theory and class issues, suspecting Said of inverse Orientalism. But religious scholars too find it difficult to relate the power relations Said analysed to their own cognitive procedures. Many overlook the fact that Said's decentering of European avant-garde theory not only reveals colonialism and racism as constitutive correlates of western truth discourses, but also calls for the formation of a critical and self-critical Arab discourse.
Until well into the s, the majority of his Arab critics regarded Said as a representative of the American and western cultural industry. Initially, Orientalism was barely used as a source for provincialising western patterns of the past, identity and politics, nor as an instrument for deconstructing Arab narratives of the self. Instead, Said was accused of disregarding Arab standpoints and perspectives in his analysis.
The contrapuntal procedure formulated in Culture and Imperialism in was only a limited response to this accusation, the essential frame of reference still consisting of the classics of European cultural history. Said's critique deals with the western centres as a privileged locus of critical decolonisation. Many Arab critics experienced this postcolonial discourse as an instrument of exclusion. Said's direct presence in the local debates of the s led to a growing interest in his work as a whole on the part of an Arab readership.
Having been active on Palestinian issues since the late s and played a part in the PLO's change of strategy in the s from armed struggle to non-violent resistance and conflict resolution by diplomatic means, he now adopted an almost anti-national position.
While he continued to represent the collective claims of the Palestinians in the western public sphere, Said directed his inner-Arab critique against internal repression. A supporter of the intifada and a two-state solution at the end of the s, he now criticised the Oslo Interim Agreement as a betrayal of civil resistance, the demands of the refugees and the diaspora.
As a Palestinian dissident, Said became the target of defamation and censorship. When an opposition critical of Arafat formed in the mids, protesting against the modalities of the "peace process", he accepted the role of spokesperson for the secular Palestinians disillusioned by the repressive implementation of the Oslo Agreement.
A member of the civil society-based movement Al-Mubadara al-Wataniya al-Filastiniya Palestinian National Initiative , he was active against the occupation and the suppression of basic democratic rights by the kleptocratic regime. At the same time, he became an active commentator and participant in the expanding Arab debate on civil and human rights, gaining an influence over democracy movements in the civil societies of other Arab states. Thus, Said gradually took on the role of a high-profile intellectual in the Middle East during the s.
This new status laid the ground for his theoretical writing, which was now translated into Arabic. Yet the question of his identity remains controversial to this day. The reaction to his memoirs, Out of Place published in Arabic as kharig al-makan in is an impressive illustration.
To a large extent, these reactions were a re-reception of the attempt by western critics to contest the validity of Said's personal narration. Others recognised their own feeling of alienation and exclusion from the dominant Arab discourse in Edward Said's autobiography. The concept of being an Arab by choice, however, encountered some resistance. Whereas Said explains the process of his personal formation and his solidarity with the Palestinians as a conscious decision rather than a return to an authentic origin, this model appears less than suitable for Arab intellectuals, in view of the repressive conditions of their everyday work.