Edward Said

Edward Wadie Said (, ; 1 November 1935 – 25 September 2003) was a Palestinian-American literary theoretician, professor of English, history and comparative literature at Columbia University, and a public intellectual who was a founder of post-colonial studies. A Palestinian Arab born in Jerusalem in the days of Mandatory Palestine, Edward W. Said was an American citizen by way of his father, Wadir Said, a U.S. Army-veteran of the First World War; having moved from Jerusalem as a young boy, Said would later advocate for the political and human rights of the Palestinian people. As a cultural critic, Said is known for his 1978 book Orientalism, a critical analysis of what he believed to be the culturally inaccurate representations that are the bases of Orientalism—the Western study of the Eastern world that presents how Westerners perceive and represent Orientals. Said argued that because Orientalist scholarship was and remains inextricably tied to the imperialist societies that produced it, much of the work is inherently political and servile to power, and so is intellectually suspect. The thesis of Orientalism is the politics of discourse applied to the Middle East, namely that the Orientalist discourse arises from a particular culture—defined by the presuppositions of that political culture—which, in turn, shape the political culture and the political culture of the subject area. In his book, Said shows how European imperialists thought about people in their colony, and by doing so, he shows how the political culture of imperialists shapes that of the colony. The analytical model of Orientalism much influenced the humanities (e.g., literary theory and literary criticism) and especially the field of Middle Eastern studies, where it transformed the academic discourse of the researchers—how they examine, describe and define the cultures of the Middle East. Some academic historians disagreed with his thesis, especially the Anglo–American Orientalist and historian Bernard Lewis. Orientalism derived from Said’s knowledge of colonial literature (such as that of Joseph Conrad), the literary theories of [[R. P. Blackmur]] and Raymond Williams, the post-structuralist theories of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, and the critical works of Giambattista Vico, Antonio Gramsci and Theodor Adorno. Educated in the Western canon at a British school in Egypt and in the U.S., Said wrote in his autobiography Out of Place that he applied his education and cultural heritages to narrowing the perceptual gaps of political and cultural understanding between The West and the Middle East, improving Western understanding of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and telling how a decade-long membership in the Palestinian National Council made him a controversial public intellectual. Drawing from the experiences of his family as Palestinian Christians in the Middle East at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, Said argued for the establishment of a Palestinian state to ensure equal political and human rights for the Palestinians in Israel, including the right of return, by way of U.S. political pressure upon Israel to recognize, grant and respect human rights. In that vein, Said also criticized the political and cultural policies of the Arab and Muslim regimes who acted against the national interests of their peoples. Said remained intellectually active late in life, before dying of leukemia in September 2003. In a 2001 interview, Said summarized his oppositional role to the status quo, the remit of which is „to sift, to judge, to criticize, to choose, so that choice and agency return to the individual. ” He stated his ideal community does not exalt „commodified interests and profitable commercial goals”, but values „survivability and sustainability in a human and decent way”, while acknowledging that „those are difficult goals to achieve. But I think they are achievable. „

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