Edward W. Said (b. 1935)
Significant political figure in the advocacy of the rights of Palestinians, apart from a prominent figure in literary criticism and theory
- thus somehow incarnates Gramsci's organic intellectual
- understands role of intellectual as someone who eschews orthodoxies
- he analyzed emerging poststructuralist theorists such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida
- argues for a socially engaged criticism
focuses on imperialism and the interplay between the dominant West and the Middle and Far East
the West's literary and cultural representations, academic disciplines and public perceptions foster biases against non-Westerns
- Orientalism reveals more about the west and its fantasies than about the actual people, culture and history of the East
the discourses participate in the conquest and subjugation of the east
- scholarship is informed by racism and intellectuals have been complicit in the assertion of imperial power
considers the political dimensions of literature and culture
- texts are always in the world and have social resonances
- the West's literary and cultural representations, academic disciplines and public perceptions foster biases against non-Westerns
- method of archival research
- focus on cultural and historical knowledge as a system of discourse
but knowledge is not only embedded in "power", for Said it directly served the interests of European imperialism
- but discourse is more personal and individual for Said
- interrelation fo power and knowledge
- critique of concepts such as center and margin, and self and other
- Said criticizes Derrida's linguistic focus, intends to apply poststructuralist theory to real-world policits
- great influence on postcolonial studies
- disregard for traditional academic boundaries such as that between history and literature
- concern for the societal effects of literature and culture
- Sympathy with the left but also criticizes leftist literary criticism for not being politically involved enough
- calls for oppositional criticism, opposed to every form of tyranny, domination and abuse and producer of noncoercive knowledge with the goal of human freedom (secular criticism)
- advocacy of Palestinian state
in his literary studies:
- residual humanism
- belief in individual will
- liberal views rather than radical
- inattention to feminism
- focus on the canon
- the European invention of the Orient
a way of coming to terms with the Orient, based on the Orient's special place in European Western experience
- carried out specially by the French and British (less so by other central European countries)
Significance of the Orient for Europe:
- is adjacent to Europe place of the oldest and richest of European colonies
- source of its civilizations and languages
- cultural contestant
- deep and recurring image of the Other
- helped define Europe by contrast
- part of European material civilization and culture
- expressed culturally and ideologically as mode of discourse, with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scolarship, etc.
- American understanding of the Orient is less dense but that is changing
- thus Orientalism means several interdependent things
Meanings of Orientalism
- Orientalism's most accepted designation is academic
in relationship to this meaning there is also a more general one, a style of thought based upon the distinction between the Orient and the Occident
- these distinctions have been the starting point of many literary works, theories, political accounts, etc.
- The interchange between these two meanings is constant
- more historically and materially defined
- since the 18th cent.
corporate institution of dealing with the Orient: as Western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient.
- Foucault's notion of discourse is useful: without examining Orientalism as discourse it is not possible to understand how European culture managed and produced the Orient in its many facets after Enlightenment
- Europe strengthened itself and its identity by setting itself off against the Orient
- Mainly French and British enterprise, but since the WWII America has dominated the Orient and approache sit simlarly
Said studies Orientalism and its ideas despite or beyond its correspondence with or lack thereof with the real Orient
The Orient was Orientalized because it could be submitted/made Oriental
Orientalism is not just a fantasy but a created body of theory and practice on which continued investment has been made. It cannot be dissipated just like that.
Gramsci: distinction between civil (voluntary or consensual affiliations) and political (institutions which exert domination on the public) society
- culture, in a non-totalitarian society, is to be found in the first
- there are cultural forms which lead over the others, these constitute hegemony
- Hegemony gives Orientalism its strength and durability
the major component of European culture is its identity being superior to the non-European offense
- this is what made European culture hegemonic in and outside Europe.
- In addition, hegemony of European ideas about the Orient: European's superiority over Oriental backwardness
- Orientalism depends on this superiority: many possible relationships between the West and east, but never losing the upper hand.
- Gramsci: distinction between civil (voluntary or consensual affiliations) and political (institutions which exert domination on the public) society
individuality versus general and hegemonic context.
Solved with the help of three aspects of author's own contemporary reality:
Distinction between pure and political knowledge:
- liberal consensus assumes that humanists' work is unlikely to have political effect
- and that overtly political knowledge is not true knowledge
- however, how can the scholar be detached from their beliefs and circumstances? how can they produce nonpolitical knowledge?
no production of knowledge within humanities can ignore its author's relationship to their circumstances.
- An American or European researcher comes to the Orient as such first, then as a subject. They belong to a power with interests in the Orient.
The Orient is a distribution of geopolitical awareness into different kinds of texts (aesthetic, scholarly, economic, etc.).
- These texts create and maintain an elaboration, not only of a basic geographic distinction but also of a series of interests.
- Intention to understand (and control, manipulate, incorporate) what a different world
- Orientalism is an important aspect of modern political-intellectual culture. It does not have as much to do with the Orient as with our world.
- Because Orientalism is both cultural and political, what is said and done about it cannot escape its context.
- Literary studies in general, specially American Marxist theorists, have not been able to bridge the gap between the base (production forces) and the superstructure (all other aspects of society) in textual, historical scholarship
- For Said, imperialism governs an entire field of study, imagination and scholarly institutions, it cannot be avoided. The specialist argument: a literary scholar is not trained in politics, therefore they cannot treat the political aspect of a subject.
- every 19th century writer was aware of imperialism, and their opinions on subjects like the empire and race are not difficult to find
- because imperialism exerts its influence in cultural productions, it does not mean that culture is denigrated
Said studies Orientalism as the dynamic transaction between individual authors and the large political concerns shaping three empires in whose intellectual/imaginative territory the writing was produced.
- Interest is focused on details, on how writers work to represent what they believe is true. Not the verity of such truth.
- tension between willed human work and the alliance between that cultural work, political tendencies, the state and the realities of domination.
- A humanistic study can thus responsibly address both politics and culture
- each humanistic study must specifically work out the nature of the connection between culture and politics
- Distinction between pure and political knowledge:
- Solved with the help of three aspects of author's own contemporary reality:
The methodological question:
- there is no given starting point, each project requires a specific starting point which enables what follows from them
a beginning requires delimitation
- for example, Althusser's idea of the problematic
Orientalism presents the difficulties of delimitation of a point of departure and also delimitation of the objects of study:
- no encyclopedic study
the British, French and American experience of the Orient as a unit > of the Arabs and Islam
authority is man made, said wants to describe the authorities of Orientalism. Said studies authority with two main methodological devices:
- strategic location: author's position in a text re. the Oriental material they discuss
- strategic formation: relationship between texts. Way in which groups, types and genres of texts gain mass and referential power among themselves and in the culture at large
in these devices, exteriority is important. Orientalists always write from the exterior, existentially and morally.
Representations that are made from this position are not "natural" depictions, but representations.
- in at least written language, there is no delivered presence, but a re-presence
- therefore a written statement about the Orient relies very little on the Orient itself
- Orientalism depends on the West more than on the Orient and relies on Western representation techniques
- in Modern Orientalism, the representation range grows
- Attention to style, figures of speech, setting, narrative devices, etc. NOT the correctness of representation
- Exteriority of representation suggests that the Orient cannot represent itself, thus the West must
- hybrid perspective, variety of texts
Said does believe in the individual writers' imprint upon a collective of texts (unlike Foucault), so authorship is important in his analysis
- texts refer to each other
- his analysis is not a complete account of orientalism, and cannot be, but other studies are to come
- written with several audiences in mind: literary scholars, contemporary orientalists, general public, people of Third World countries
- Representations that are made from this position are not "natural" depictions, but representations.
The personal dimension
- Gramsci: the starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, this consciousness is the product of a historical process which leaves traces without leaving an inventory, it is necessary to compile such inventory.
- Said's investment in the study comes from his awareness of being an oriental himself. His study is also an attempt to compile his inventory of the traces of the culture which has been so powerful in the lives of Oriental subjects.
- desire to advance the process of "unlearning" of the "inherent dominative mode" (according to Raymond Williams)