I remember using Edward Said’s ideas of cultural imperialism in my own undergraduate study on Filipino rock music in the Cebuano regional language. Indeed, a serious handicap in Said’s work on Orientalism is the relegation of real social investigation and class analysis to the background, thus making his criticism blind to the vicissitudes of oppression and exploitation between the rulers and the ruled among a people subjugated by imperialism as well as, clearly put in this writeup, between non-Western racial and ethnic groupings. An idealist intellectual edifice that priveleges discourse and ideas over material realities is primary at fault here, thus the insane proposition that orientalist scholarship drove imperialist expansion rather than the former serving and intertwining with the latter. Ironically, in writing Orientalism Said is also speaking of the so-called Colonial Other from the position of a privileged intellectual schooled in the metropolitan centers. Discussions like this is a good way of putting the limitations of such discourses into perspective. Thank you very much for sharing.
Originally posted on salamamoussa:
Next week will be the tenth anniversary of the passing of Edward Said, the American-Palestinian intellectual most noted for his book “Orientalism” published 35 years ago. Few books regarding the troubled history of Western-Arab interaction have had as many worshipers and detractors. There is little that can be added to the controversy at this point, except perhaps a look at it from a rarely considered point of view; that of those who look at the Arabs not as victims of Western imperialism, but as imperialists themselves.
I was familiar with Edward Said’s work long before I read “Orientalism”, due to an interest in Joseph Conrad, on which he wrote an elegant and penetrating study. Conrad is a beguiling figure to those who speak English as a second or third language, and who can no longer write with facility in their mother tongue. His work transcends what he continually felt to be his limitations with English, if only because it offered insights of a sympathetic outsider.
I read “Orientalism” at the recommendation of a friend who jokingly noted that Said wouldn’t approve of my reading of Flaubert’s “Salammbo”, an entertaining, high calorie, low nutrition work. It is difficult not to admire the erudition and passion of Said, yet I could never muster enough interest to either like or dislike the work, and certainly not with any passion. Several things seemed troubling about the work, and I attributed these to Said’s sad predicament as a dislocated Palestinian.