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Edward Wadie Said (1935 - 2003)

Related: orientalism - literary theory

Edward Wadie Said

Orientalism (1978) - Edward Wadie Said [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Orientalism (1978) - Edward Wadie Said [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Edward Said and "Orientalism"
Despite this often mixed tradition, the word "Orientalism" carried no negative freight. Respected institutions like the Oriental Institute of Chicago carried the term without reproach. "Oriental" was simply understood as the opposite of "occidental" ('western'). The word began to develop negative connotations following the publication of the groundbreaking work Orientalism by the Palestinian scholar Edward Said. Following the ideas of Michel Foucault, Said emphasized the relationship between power and knowledge in scholarly and popular thinking, in particular regarding European views of the Islamic Arab world. Said argued that Orient and Occident worked as oppositional terms, so that the "Orient" was constructed as a negative inversion of Western culture.

Taking a comparative and historical literary review of European scholars and writers looking at, thinking about, talking about, and writing about the peoples of the Middle East, Said sought to lay bare the relations of power between the colonizer and the colonized in those texts. Said's writings have had far-reaching implications beyond area studies in Middle East, to studies of imperialist Western attitudes to India, China and elsewhere. It was one of the foundational texts of postcolonial studies. Said later developed and modified his ideas in his book Culture and Imperialism (1993).

Many scholars now use Said's work to overturn long-held, often taken-for-granted Western ideological biases regarding non-Westerners in scholarly thought. Some post-colonial scholars would even say that the West's idea of itself was constructed largely by saying what others were not. If "Europe" evolved out of "Christendom" as the "not-Byzantium," early modern Europe in the late 16th century (see Battle of Lepanto) certainly defined itself as the "not-Turkey." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism#Edward_Said_and_.22Orientalism.22 [Jun 2005] [edit]

Criticisms of Said
Critics of Said's theory, such as the historian Bernard Lewis, argue that Said's account ignores the many genuine contributions to the study of Eastern cultures made by Westerners during the Enlightenment and Victorian eras. While many distortions and fantasies certainly existed, the notion "the Orient" was a negative mirror image of the West cannot be wholly true because attitudes to distinct cultures diverged significantly. In any case it is a logical necessity that other cultures will be identified as "different", since otherwise their distinctive characteristics would be invisible, and that the most striking differences will hold up the mirror to the observing culture. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism#Criticisms_of_Said [May 2005]

Edward Said
Edward Wadie Said (November 1, 1935 - September 24, 2003) was a well-known literary theorist, critic and outspoken Palestinian activist. According to Columbia News (Columbia University), he was "one of the most influential scholars in the world," and "was undoubtedly one of the greatest minds of the 20th century."

Life
Said was born in Jerusalem (then in the British Mandate of Palestine) and raised in both Jerusalem and Cairo, Egypt. Until age 12, he lived between Cairo and West Jerusalem where he attended the Anglican St. Georges Academy in 1947.

His family became refugees in 1948 just prior to the capture of West Jerusalem by Israeli forces.

At age 14, Said entered Victoria College in Cairo, and then Mount Hermon School in the United States. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

He joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1963 and served as professor of English and Comparative Literature for several decades.

Said also taught at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Yale universities. He spoke English and French fluently, excellent colloquial and very good standard Arabic, and was literate in Spanish, German, Italian and Latin.

Said was bestowed numerous honorary doctorates from universities around the world and twice received Columbia's Trilling Award and the Wellek Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association.

Edward Said died at the age of 67 in New York after a long battle with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Orientalism
Said is best known for describing and critiquing "Orientalism"; what he perceived as a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the East.

In Orientalism (1978), Said decried the "subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture". [1] (http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/17/jan99/said.htm) He argued that a long tradition of false and romanticized images of Asia and the Middle East in Western culture had served as an implicit justification for Europe's and America's colonial and imperial ambitions.

Critiquing Said, Christopher Hitchens, who writes for Vanity Fair, wrote that he denied any possibility "that direct Western engagement in the region is legitimate" and that Said's analysis cast "every instance of European curiosity about the East [as] part of a grand design to exploit and remake what Westerners saw as a passive, rich, but ultimately contemptible 'Oriental' sphere". [2] (http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2003/09/hitchens.htm)

The British historian Bernard Lewis was perhaps Said's bÍte noire. The two authors exchanged a famous polemic in the pages of the New York Review of Books following the publication of Orientalism. Lewis' article, "The question of orientalism" was followed in the next issue by "Orientalism: an exchange".

[...] --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said [May 2005]

see also: culture

Orientalism

Orientalism is the study of Near and Far Eastern societies and cultures by Westerners. It can also refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists. In the former meaning the term is becoming obsolete, increasingly being used only to refer to the study of the East during the historical period of European imperialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because of this, the term "Orientalism" has come to acquire negative connotations in some quarters, implying old-fashioned and prejudiced interpretations of Eastern cultures and peoples. This viewpoint was most famously articulated by Edward Said in his book Orientalism (1978). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism [Jun 2005]

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