|Born||Edward Wadie Said
1 November 1935
Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine
|Died||25 September 2003 (aged 67)
New York City, New York
|Spouse(s)||Mariam C. Said|
|Occidentalism, Orientalism, the Other|
Edward Wadie Said (Arabic pronunciation: [wædiːʕ sæʕiːd] Arabic: إدوارد وديع سعيد, Idwārd Wadīʿ Saʿīd; 1 November 1935 – 25 September 2003) was a Palestinian 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 (1999) 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.
Edward Said died of leukemia in late September 2003, yet remained intellectually active late in life. In a September 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.”
- 1 Biography
- 2 Literary production
- 3 Politics
- 4 Music
- 5 Awards
- 6 Death and legacy
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Edward W. Said was born on 1 November 1935, to Hilda Said and Wadir Said, a businessman, in Jerusalem in the British Mandate of Palestine. Wadir Said, a native Jerusalemite like his forefathers, was a Palestinian man who soldiered in the U.S. Army component of the American Expeditionary Forces (1917–19), commanded by General John J. Pershing, in the First World War; that war-time military service granted Said père U.S. citizenship to him and to family. His mother Hilda was born and raised in Nazareth.
In 1919, after the war had ended, Wadir Said established a stationery business in Cairo, in partnership with a cousin. Like her husband, Hilda Said was an Arab Christian. Although the Said family practiced the Jerusalemite variety of Greek Orthodox Christianity, Edward was agnostic; his sister Rosemarie Saïd Zahlan (1937–2006) pursued an academic career, much like her brother.
Said described his early life as a boy’s life lived “between worlds”, in Cairo and in Jerusalem, until he was a young man of twelve years. In 1947, Said enrolled in the Anglican St. George’s School, Jerusalem; he would later describe the experience:
With an unexceptionally Arab family name like “Saïd”, connected to an improbably British first name (my mother much admired [Edward VIII] the Prince of Wales in 1935, the year of my birth), I was an uncomfortably anomalous student all through my early years: a Palestinian going to school in Egypt, with an English first name, an American passport, and no certain identity, at all. To make matters worse, Arabic, my native language, and English, my school language, were inextricably mixed: I have never known which was my first language, and have felt fully at home in neither, although I dream in both. Every time I speak an English sentence, I find myself echoing it in Arabic, and vice versa.— “Between Worlds”, Reflections on Exile, and Other Essays (2002) pp. 556–57
In the late 1940s, his latter school days included the Egyptian branch of Victoria College (VC), where one classmate was Michel Shaloub (later the actor Omar Sharif) whom he remembered as a sadistic and physically abusive Head Boy; other classmates included King Hussein of Jordan, and Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Saudi Arabian boys whose academic careers progressed to their becoming ministers, prime ministers, and leading businessmen in their respective countries. In that colonial time, the VC school educated a selection of Arab and Levantine young men to become the Anglicized ruling-class who, in due course of their careers, were to rule their respective countries, upon British decolonization. VC would be the last school Edward Said attended before being sent to school in the U.S.:
The moment one became a student at [Victoria College], one was given the student handbook, a series of regulations governing every aspect of school life — the kind of uniform we were to wear, what equipment was needed for sports, the dates of school holidays, bus schedules, and so on. But the school’s first rule, emblazoned on the opening page of the handbook, read: “English is the language of the school; students caught speaking any other language will be punished.” Yet, there were no native speakers of English among the students. Whereas the masters were all British, we were a motley crew of Arabs of various kinds, Armenians, Greeks, Italians, Jews, and Turks, each of whom had a native language that the school had explicitly outlawed. Yet all, or nearly all, of us spoke Arabic — many spoke Arabic and French — and so we were able to take refuge in a common language, in defiance of what we perceived as an unjust colonial stricture.— “Between Worlds”, Reflections on Exile, and Other Essays (2002) pp. 556–57
Despite acute intelligence and academic superiority, Said proved a troublesome student and was expelled from Victoria College in 1951, and was sent from Egypt to the eastern U.S., where he attended Northfield Mount Hermon School, Massachusetts, an elite college-prep boarding-school where he endured a psychologically difficult year of social alienation. Nonetheless, Said excelled academically, and achieved the rank of either first (valedictorian) or second (salutatorian) in a class of one hundred sixty students.
He would later say that, in retrospect, his parents' decision to send him so far from the Middle East was much influenced by “the prospects of deracinated people, like us, being so uncertain that it would be best to send me as far away as possible”. The realities of a peripatetic life — of interwoven cultures, of feeling out of place, and of being far from home — affected the schoolboy Said to the degree that, in adult life, the themes of dissonance continually arose in the academic, political, and intellectual works wrote. Said matured as an intellectual — a polyglot young man, fluent in English, French and Arabic, earning his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Princeton University in 1957 and 1960 respectively, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature from Harvard University in 1964. Despite his many intellectual achievements, Said's battle with his identity as it related to language (Arabic and English specifically) continued throughout his adult life. He discusses the battle with language in both Out of Place (1999) and Reflections on Exile (2002) by it describing as something he had to carry with him throughout his life and career. Many of his peers also examined this particular aspect of his identity as intellectual porter (of language, briefcases, among other things).
In 1963, Said joined Columbia University, as a member of the English and Comparative Literature faculties, where he taught and worked until 2003. In 1974, he was Visiting Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard; during 1975–76, he was a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Science, at Stanford University. In 1977, he became the Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and subsequently was the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities, and then in 1979 was Visiting Professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Said also worked as a visiting professor at Yale University, and lectured at other universities. Said lectured at over 200 universities in the Middle East, Canada, United States, and Europe. He has published more twenty books in his lifetime.  In 1992, Said was promoted to “Professor”, the highest-rank academic job at Columbia University. Editorially, Prof. Said served as president of the Modern Language Association, editor of the Arab Studies Quarterly in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on the executive board of International PEN, and was a member in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Royal Society of Literature, the Council of Foreign Relations the American Philosophical Society. In 1993, Said presented the BBC’s annual Reith Lectures, a six-lecture series titled Representation of the Intellectual, wherein he examined the role of the public intellectual in contemporary society, which the BBC published in 2011.
Said's first published book, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966), was an expansion of the dissertation he presented to earn his PhD; later, in Edward Saïd: Criticism and Society (2010), Abdirahman Hussein would remark that Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness (1899) was “foundational to Said’s entire career and project”. Afterwards, Said redacted ideas gleaned from the works of the 17th-century philosopher Giambattista Vico, and other intellectuals, in the book Beginnings: Intention and Method (1974), about the theoretical bases of literary criticism. Said’s later works include The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983), Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature: Yeats and Decolonization (1988), Culture and Imperialism (1993), Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures (1994), Humanism and Democratic Criticism (2004), and On Late Style (2006).
Like his post-modern intellectual mentors, the philosophers Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, Said was fascinated by how the people of the Western world perceive the peoples of and the things from a different culture, as well as the effects of society, politics, and power upon literature; these preoccupations led him to become a founding intellectual of post-colonial criticism. While Orientalism remains his principal cultural contribution, Said's influential critical interpretations of the works of Joseph Conrad, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, William Butler Yeats and others further bolstered his intellectual reputation.
Edward Said’s notability as cultural critic was established with his critique (description and analyses) of Orientalism as the source of the inaccurate cultural representations that are the foundation of Western thought towards the Middle East, of how The West perceives and represents The East. The thesis of Orientalism (1978) proposes the existence of a “subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo–Islamic peoples and their culture”, which derives from Western culture’s long tradition of false and romanticized images of Asia, in general, and the Middle East, in particular. Said argued that such perceptions and consequent cultural representations have served, and continue to serve, as implicit justifications for the colonial and imperialist ambitions of the European powers and of the U.S. Likewise, Said also criticized and denounced the political and the cultural malpractices of the regimes of the ruling Arab elites who have internalized the false, romanticized representations of Arabic culture that were created by Anglo–American Orientalists.
So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab–Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have, instead, is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world, presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.— "Islam through Western Eyes" (1980) in The Nation
In Orientalism, Said contended that much Western study of Islamic civilization was political intellectualism meant for self-affirmation, rather than for objective intellectual inquiry and academic study. Thus, Oriental studies functioned as a practical method of cultural discrimination and imperialist domination; i.e., the Western Orientalist knows more about the Orient than do the Orientals. As such, Orientalism has exerted much impact upon the fields of literary theory and cultural studies, human geography and history, and Oriental studies. Parting from the philosophical works of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, and the works of the early Western critics of Orientalism — such as Abdul Latif Tibawi, Anouar Abdel-Malek, Maxime Rodinson, and Richard William Southern (Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, 1978) — Said argued that “Orientalism” and the derived perceptions of “The East” by "the West" purveyed in them are intellectually suspect, and cannot be accepted at their face value as faithful, true, and accurate representations of Oriental peoples and things. Said proposed that the history of European colonial rule, and its consequent political domination of the Eastern civilizations, distorts the writing of even the most knowledgeable, well-meaning, and culturally sympathetic Western Orientalists, transforming “Orientalism” into a pejorative term.
I doubt if it is controversial, for example, to say that an Englishman in India, or Egypt, in the later nineteenth century, took an interest in those countries, which was never far from their status, in his mind, as British colonies. To say this may seem quite different from saying that all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact — and yet that is what I am saying in this study of Orientalism.— Introduction, Orientalism, p. 11
For Said, "the Orient" has been represented since Antiquity in the Western literature, painting and sculpturein the form of stereotypes. As an example, he cites the Greek tragedy The Persians (472 BC), by Aeschylus, where the protagonist fails and falls because he misperceived the true nature of The East. Contemporarily, Europe has politically dominated Asia to the degree that even the most outwardly objective Western texts about “The Orient" are culturally biased to a degree unrecognized by Western scholars, who appropriated for themselves the intellectual tasks of studying, exploring and interpreting the languages, histories and cultures of the Orient; thereby implying that such (subaltern) peoples were incapable of speaking for themselves, and much less capable of composing their own cultural and historical narratives. Western Orientalists have written Asia’s past — therein constructing the modern identities of Asia — from a perspective that establishes "The West" as the cultural norm to emulate, from which the “exotic and inscrutable” Orientals deviate.
Orientalism concluded that Western writing about "The Orient" depicts the Oriental culture as an irrational, weak and feminized “Other”, an existential condition greatly contrasted with the rational, strong and masculine culture of the “West.” Said says this artificial binary-relation derives from the European psychological need to create a “difference” of cultural inequality between "The West" and "The East"; this inequality is attributed to immutable cultural “essences” inherent to “Oriental” peoples and things. In 1978, the intellectual, cultural and commercial success of the book Orientalism assumed historical resonance in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the OPEC petroleum embargo. These recent events had surprised Western countries: Europe and the U.S. did not expect pro-active, decisive and definitive actions from non–Western peoples, whom the ideology of Orientalism had defined as weak societies and impotent countries. For Said, the geopolitical reality of Israeli military and Arab economic warfare demonstrated the fictional nature of Orientalist representations and Western perceptions of the non–Western "Other".
Criticism of Orientalism
Orientalism (1978) provoked much professional and personal criticism. Traditional Orientalists, such as Albert Hourani, Robert Graham Irwin, Nikki Keddie, Bernard Lewis and Kanan Makiya, incurred what the historian Nikki Keddie said were unfortunate professional consequences of Orientalism upon the public’s perception of the intellectual quality of their Orientalist scholarship.
Nikki Keddie has stated that Said’s work on Orientalism, drawing on critical theory, had caused:
some unfortunate consequences ... I think that there has been a tendency in the Middle East [studies] field to adopt the word “Orientalism” as a generalized swear-word, essentially referring to people who take the “wrong” position on the Arab–Israeli dispute, or to people who are judged “too conservative”. It has nothing to do with whether they are good or not good in their disciplines. So, “Orientalism”, for many people, is a word that substitutes for thought, and enables people to dismiss certain scholars and their works. I think that is too bad. It may not have been what Edward Saïd meant, at all, but the term has become a kind of slogan.— Approaches to the History of the Middle East (1994), pp. 144–45
In “The Mightier Pen? Edward Saïd and the Double Standards of Inside-out Colonialism” (1993), the social anthropologist Ernest Gellner said that Said’s contentions that the West dominated the East for two millennia were unsupportable, because the Ottoman Empire had been a political and military threat to Europe until the late 17th century. In “Disraeli as an Orientalist: The Polemical Errors of Edward Said” (2005), Mark Proudman reported that Said incorrectly described the British Empire as extending from Egypt to India in the late 19th century, as the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire were simultaneously active in that geopolitical region.
In Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780–1870 (1996), Christopher Alan Bayly said that, at the height of European imperialism, European power in the Orient was not absolute, and much depended upon local collaborators, who often subverted the geopolitical strategies of the European powers with whom they collaborated against their own peoples. In For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies (2006), Robert Graham Irwin said that Palestine and Egypt were poor historical examples of Orientalism, because they were under European hegemonic control only for short periods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He believed that Said ignored better examples of Orientalism and imperialism, namely the British Raj (1858–1947) in India and Russia’s Asian dominions, because Said sought to score political points against the West's actions in the Middle East.
In the war of ideas that erupted from the book, Anglo–American Orientalist Bernard Lewis became a particular intellectual nemesis of Said and his thesis in Orientalism; Said had identified Lewis in the book as:
A perfect exemplification [of an] Establishment Orientalist [whose work] purports to be objective, liberal scholarship, but is, in reality, very close to being propaganda against his subject material.
For sheer heedless anti-intellectualism, unrestrained or unencumbered by the slightest trace of critical self-consciousness, no one, in my experience, has achieved the sublime confidence of Bernard Lewis, whose almost purely political exploits require more time to mention than they are worth. In a series of articles, and one particularly weak book — The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982) — Lewis has been busy responding to my argument, insisting that the Western quest for knowledge about other societies is unique, that it is motivated by pure curiosity, and that, in contrast, Muslims neither were able nor interested in getting knowledge about Europe, as if knowledge about Europe were the only acceptable criterion for true knowledge.Lewis’s arguments are presented as emanating exclusively from the scholar’s apolitical impartiality, whereas, at the same time, he has become an authority drawn on for anti–Islamic, anti–Arab, Zionist, and Cold War crusades, all of them underwritten by a zealotry, covered with a veneer of urbanity, that has very little in common with the “science” and learning Lewis purports to be upholding.— Orientalism (1978), p. 315; “Orientalism Reconsidered” (1985), p. 96
Bernard Lewis replied to Said’s characterizations, both of his (Lewis’s) works as political propaganda and of him as an anti-intellectual, with essays critical of Said and his works; Lewis later was joined by the academics Maxime Rodinson, Jacques Berque, Malcolm H. Kerr, Aijaz Ahmad and William Montgomery Watt, who said that Orientalism represents a flawed account of Orientalist scholarship. Said himself, in the "Afterword" to the 1995 edition of Orientalism, answered Bernard Lewis's criticisms against the first edition of the book. Critics argued that Said and his followers failed to critically distinguish among the varieties of Orientalism featured in Western popular culture and mass-communications media (e.g., Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984), and Oriental Studies of the languages, literatures, histories and cultures of the Eastern world.
In The Asiatic Society of Bengal and the Discovery of India’s Past, O.P. Kejariwal said that Said's opposition to the monolithic Orientalism of Western discourse prompted him to create a monolithic Occidentalism, failing to distinguish among the paradigms of Romanticism and the secular intellectual traditions of the Age of Enlightenment. Kejariwal stated that Said ignored the wide range and fundamental differences of opinion among Orientalists about the nature of Oriental peoples and things, failed to acknowledge that some Orientalists, such as the philologist William Jones, sought to establish "cultural kinship" rather than "cultural difference" between The East and The West, and that these scholars often made discoveries that later provided foundations for anti-imperial nationalism.
Robert Irwin has said in the Times Literary Supplement that the theoretical flaw of Orientalism is its failure to distinguish between the numerous Orientalist writers, who held different cultural perspectives on and experiences of the Orient — the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (who never traveled to the East), the French novelist Gustave Flaubert (who toured Egypt), the French geographer Joseph-Ernest Renan (who advanced racist theories of inferiority of "Semitic peoples"), and the British translator and lexicographer Edward William Lane (who was fluent in Arabic).
In Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism (2007), Ibn Warraq said that the varied origins and cultural attitudes of European Orientalists over-rode factual and historical considerations, which Said ignored in order to construct a stereotype of Europeans befitting his thesis about the nature of Orientalism. In For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies, Robert Irwin said that Said ignored the domination of 19th-century Oriental studies by German and Hungarian Orientalists, scholars from countries without imperial colonies in the Orient. Earlier critics said that the brief survey of German Orientalist scholarship limited the book, leading Said to counter in “Orientalism Reconsidered” (1985) that no one had demonstrated that the brief survey of German Orientalism limits the scholarly value and application of the thesis of Orientalism — the politics of discourse applied to the Eastern world in opposition to the Western world.
In the article “Who is Afraid of Edward Said?”, Biswamoy Pati said that in establishing ethnicity and cultural background as tests of authority and objectivity in studying the Orient, Edward Said drew attention to his own ethnic and cultural identities as a Palestinian man and as a colonial Subaltern from the Mandate of Palestine, the British Middle East. In the article “Orients and Occidents: Colonial Discourse Theory and the Historiography of the British Empire”, D. A. Washbrook said that Said’s Anglophone education (British and American) disqualified him from writing about the Orient by virtue of his own arguments in Orientalism; Said had lived most of his adult life in the U.S. as a university professor, but argued that: “any and all representations . . . are embedded, first, in the language, and then in the culture, institutions, and political ambience of the representer . . . [and are] interwoven with a great many other things besides ‘The Truth’, which is, itself, a representation”. That excessive cultural relativism had trapped the academic Said, and his post-colonial theorist followers, in a “web of solipsism”, which limits him and them to speak only of cultural “representations”, whilst simultaneously allowing Said and cohort to deny the existence of any objective truth about the Orient.
Influence of Orientalism
Since Orientalism's publication in 1978, Said has been praised as an “intellectual superstar” for his range of inquiry, drawing on literary theory, comparative literature, history, political commentary, cultural criticism and music criticism. Orientalism became a foundational text in the field of Post-colonial studies for what Terry Eagleton called its "central truth ... that demeaning images of the east and imperialist incursions into its terrain have historically gone hand in hand." One of the most influential book in this area is Postcolonial Theory written by Leela Gandhi, where the author explains from basic introduction about Postcolonial-ism to how it can be made and shaped in the real history with wider philosophical and intellectual context of it.
Said’s academic friends and foes acknowledged the transformative influence of Orientalism upon scholarship in the humanities; critics argued that the thesis is an intellectually limiting influence upon scholars, whilst supporters said the thesis is intellectually liberating. The fields of post-colonial and cultural studies attempt to explain the "post-colonial world, its peoples, and their discontents"; for this, the investigational validity and analytical efficacy of the propositions in Orientalism continue to resonate, especially in the field of Middle Eastern studies.
The analytical scholarship of Orientalism is especially applicable to literary criticism and cultural studies, including reviews of the post-colonial history of India by Gyan Prakash, Nicholas Dirks and Ronald Inden, modern Cambodia by Simon Springer, and the literary theories of Homi K. Bhabha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Hamid Dabashi (Iran: A People Interrupted, 2007).
In Eastern Europe, Milica Bakić–Hayden developed the concept of Nesting Orientalisms (1992), derived from the ideas of the historian Larry Wolff (Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, 1994) and Said’s ideas in Orientalism (1978). The Bulgarian historian Maria Todorova (Imagining the Balkans, 1997) presented the ethnologic concept of Nesting Balkanisms (Ethnologia Balkanica, 1997), which is derived from Milica Bakić–Hayden’s concept of Nesting Orientalisms.
Lorenzo Kamel, a Middle Eastern historian, presented the concept of 'Biblical Orientalism’ through his historical analysis of the simplifications of the complex local Palestinian reality which occurred through the 1830s up to the early 20th century. He notes that selective usage and simplification of religion in approaching the 'Holy Land' created a view that the 'Holy Land' is devoid of any history but only Biblical richness.
It also impacts on theological studies. Said's post-colonial discourse impact on appearance of post-colonial theology and post-colonial biblical criticism, in which the reader approach the scripture with a perspective of colonial reader. For more information, see the book named "The Bible and Zionism: invented traditions, archaeology and post-colonialism in Palestine-Israel" 
After the 1967 Six Day War, Said entered the public sphere to counter what he perceived as the stereotyped misrepresentations in which the U.S. news media explained the Arab–Israeli wars; he claimed this reportage was divorced from the historical realities of the Middle East, in general, and Palestine and Israel, in particular. To address, explain, and correct the issue, Said published “The Arab Portrayed” in 1968, a descriptive essay about images of “the Arab” that are meant to evade specific discussion of the historical and cultural realities of the peoples who live in the Middle East, featured in journalism and scholarship.
In the essay “Zionism from the Standpoint of its Victims” (1979), Said argued in favour of the political legitimacy and philosophic authenticity of the Zionist claims and right to a Jewish homeland; and for the inherent right of national self-determination of the Palestinian people. Said’s books about Israel and Palestine include The Question of Palestine (1979), The Politics of Dispossession (1994), and The End of the Peace Process (2000).
In 1985, Said suffered personal consequences for his political activism when the Jewish Defense League (JDL) traduced Said’s public statements about the state and nature of Arab–Israeli relations, and officially said that Said was a Nazi, because of his anti–Zionism statements, which the JDL viewed as anti-Semitism; an arsonist set fire to his office at Columbia University, and he and his family were continually subjected to intimidations and “innumerable death threats”.
Palestinian National Council
From 1977 until 1991, Said was an independent member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). In 1988, he was a proponent of the two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict (1948), and voted for the establishment of the State of Palestine at a meeting of the Palestinian National Council meeting in Algiers. In 1993, Said quit his membership to the Palestinian National Council, to protest the internal politics that lead to the signing of the Oslo Accords (Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, 1993), because he thought the accord terms unacceptable, and because they had been rejected by the Madrid Conference of 1991.
Said was displeased that the Oslo Accords would not produce an independent Palestine, and that they were politically inferior to a plan that Yasir Arafat had rejected — a plan which Said had presented to Arafat on behalf of the U.S. government in the late 1970s. Especially troublesome to Said was his belief that Yasir Arafat had betrayed the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their houses and properties in the Green Line territories of pre–1967 Israel, and that Arafat ignored the growing political threat of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories that had been established since the conquest of Palestine in 1967. By 1995, in response to Said’s political criticisms, the Palestinian Authority (PA) banned the sale of Said’s books; however, the PA lifted the book-ban when Said publicly praised Yasir Arafat for rejecting Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offers at the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David (2000) in the U.S.
In the mid-1990s, Said wrote the Foreword to the history book Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years (1994), by Israel Shahak, which presents the cultural proposition that Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians is rooted in a Judaic requirement (of permission) for Jews to commit crimes, including murder, against Gentiles (non-Jews). In his Foreword, Said said that Jewish History, Jewish Religion is “nothing less than a concise history of classic and modern Judaism, insofar as these are relevant to the understanding of modern Israel”; and praised the historian Shahak for describing contemporary Israel as a nation subsumed in a “Judeo–Nazi” cultural ambience that allowed the dehumanization of the Palestinian Other:
In all my works, I remained fundamentally critical of a gloating and uncritical nationalism. . . . My view of Palestine . . . remains the same today: I expressed all sorts of reservations about the insouciant nativism, and militant militarism of the nationalist consensus; I suggested, instead, a critical look at the Arab environment, Palestinian history, and the Israeli realities, with the explicit conclusion that only a negotiated settlement, between the two communities of suffering, Arab and Jewish, would provide respite from the unending war.— “Orientalism: an Afterword” (Raritan, Winter 1995)
In 1998, Said made In Search of Palestine (1998), a BBC documentary film about Palestine past and Palestine present, in which he returned to the country from which he had emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. In the company of his son, Wadie, Said revisited his places of boyhood, and confronted the Israeli injustices (social and cultural) meted out to ordinary Palestinians in the contemporary West Bank. Despite the social and cultural prestige usual to BBC cinema products in the U.S., the documentary was never broadcast by any American television company.
On 3 July 2000, whilst touring the Middle East with his son, Wadie, Said was photographed throwing a stone across the Blue Line Lebanese–Israel border, which image elicited much political criticism about his action demonstrating an inherent, personal sympathy with terrorism; and, in Commentary magazine, the journalist Edward Alexander labelled Said as The Professor of Terror, for aggression against Israel. Said explained the stone-throwing as a two-fold action, personal and political; a man-to-man contest-of-skill, between a father and his son, and an Arab Man’s gesture of joy at the end of the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon (1985–2000):
It was a pebble; there was nobody there. The guardhouse was at least half a mile away.— A Stone’s Throw is a Freudian Slip (NYT, 10 March 2001)
Despite having denied that he aimed the stone at an Israeli guardhouse, the Beirut newspaper As-Safir (The Ambassador) reported that a Lebanese local resident reported that Said was at less than ten metres (ca. 30 ft.) distance from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers manning the two-storey guardhouse, when Said aimed and threw the stone over the border fence; the stone’s projectile path was thwarted when it struck the barbed wire atop the border fence. In the U.S., despite objections by some student groups at Columbia University and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith International (Sons of the Covenant), the university provost published a five-page letter defending Said’s action as academic freedom of expression:
To my knowledge, the stone was directed at no-one; no law was broken; no indictment was made; no criminal or civil action has been taken against Professor Saïd.— Columbia Debates a Professor’s ‘Gesture’ (NYT, 19 October 2000)
Said still endured political repercussions, such as the cancellation of a February 2001 invitation to Austria to give a lecture to the Freud Society. The President of the Freud Society justified withdrawing the invitation by explaining to Said that “the political situation in the Middle East, and its consequences” had rendered an accusation of anti-Semitism a very serious matter, and that any such accusation “has become more dangerous” in the politics of Austria; thus, the Freud Society cancelled their invitation to Said in order to “to avoid an internal clash” of opinions, about him, that might ideologically divide the Freud Society. In Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward Saïd, Said likened his political situation to the situation that Noam Chomsky has perdured as a public intellectual:
It’s very similar to his. He’s a well-known, great linguist. He’s been celebrated and honored for that, but he’s also vilified as an anti–Semite and as a Hitler worshiper. . . . For anyone to deny the horrendous experience of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust is unacceptable. We don’t want anybody’s history of suffering to go unrecorded and unacknowledged. On the other hand, there’s a great difference, between acknowledging Jewish oppression and using that as a cover for the oppression of another people.— Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward Saïd (2003) pp. 85, 178.
- Under surveillance
In 2003, Haidar Abdel-Shafi, Ibrahim Dakak, Mustafa Barghouti, and Said established Al-Mubadara (The Palestinian National Initiative), headed by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a third-party reformist, democratic party meant to be an alternative to the usual two-party politics of Palestine. As a political party, the ideology of Al-Mubadara is specifically an alternative to the extremist politics of the social-democratic Fatah and the Islamist Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement). Said’s founding of the group, as well as his other international political activities concerning Palestine, were noticed by the U.S. government; in 2006, the anthropologist David Price obtained 147 pages of the 283-page political dossier that the FBI had compiled on Said, begun in 1971, four years into his career as a public intellectual active in U.S. politics.
Besides having been a public intellectual, Edward Said was an accomplished pianist, worked as the music critic for The Nation magazine, and wrote four books about music: Musical Elaborations (1991); Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society (2002), with Daniel Barenboim as co-author; On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain (2006); and Music at the Limits (2007) in which final tome he spoke of finding musical reflections of his literary and historical ideas in bold compositions and strong performances.
Elsewhere in the musical world, the composer Mohammed Fairouz acknowledged the deep influence of Edward Said upon his works; compositionally, Fairouz’s First Symphony thematically alludes to the essay “Homage to a Belly-Dancer” (1990), about Tahia Carioca, the Egyptian terpsichorean, actress, and political militant; and a piano sonata titled Reflections on Exile(1984), which thematically refers to the emotions inherent to being an exile.
In 1999, Edward W. Said and Daniel Barenboim co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which is composed of young Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab musicians. They also established The Barenboim–Said Foundation in Seville, to develop education-through-music projects. Besides managing the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Barenboim–Said Foundation assists with the administration of the Academy of Orchestral Studies, the Musical Education in Palestine Project, and the Early Childhood Musical Education Project, in Seville.
Besides honors, memberships, and postings to prestigious organizations world-wide, Edward Said was awarded some twenty honorary university degrees in the course of his professional life as an academic, critic, and Man of Letters. Among the honors bestowed to him was the Bowdoin Prize by Harvard University. He twice received the Lionel Trilling Book Award; the first occasion was the inaugural bestowing of said literary award in 1976, for Beginnings: Intention and Method (1974). He also received the Wellek Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association, and was awarded the inaugural Spinoza Lens Prize. In 2001, Said was awarded the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2002, he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, and was the first U.S. citizen to receive the Sultan Owais Prize. The autobiography Out of Place (1999) was bestowed three awards, the 1999 New Yorker Book Award for Non-Fiction; the 2000 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction; and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award in Literature.
Death and legacy
On 25 September 2003, after enduring a twelve-year sickness with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Edward W. Said died, at 67 years of age, in New York City. He was survived by his wife, Mariam C. Said, his son, Wadie Said, and his daughter, Najla Said. The eulogists included Alexander Cockburn ("A Mighty and Passionate Heart"); Seamus Deane ("A Late Style of Humanism"); Christopher Hitchens ("A Valediction for Edward Said"); Tony Judt ("The Rootless Cosmopolitan"); Michael Wood ("On Edward Said"); and Tariq Ali ("Remembering Edward Said, 1935–2003"). In November 2004, in Palestine, Birzeit University renamed their music school the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.
The tributes to Edward Said include books and schools; such as Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward W. Said (2008) features essays by Akeel Bilgrami, Rashid Khalidi, and Elias Khoury; Edward Said: The Charisma of Criticism (2010), by Harold Aram Veeser, a critical biography; and Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representations (2010), essays by Joseph Massad, Ilan Pappé, Ella Shohat, Ghada Karmi, Noam Chomsky, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Daniel Barenboim; and the Barenboim–Said Academy (Berlin) was established in 2012.
- Edward Said bibliography
- List of Columbia University people
- Projects working for peace among Arabs and Israelis
- Z Communications
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Edward W. Saïd (1935–2003) was one of the most influential intellectuals in the twentieth century.
- Zamir, Shamoon (2005), "Saïd, Edward W.", in Jones, Lindsay, Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition 12, Macmillan Reference USA, Thomas Gale, pp. 8031–32,
Edward W. Saïd (1935–2003) is best known as the author of the influential and widely-read Orientalism (1978) . . . His forceful defense of secular humanism and of the public role of the intellectual, as much as his trenchant critiques of Orientalism, and his unwavering advocacy of the Palestinian cause, made Saïd one of the most internationally influential cultural commentators writing out of the United States in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
- Joachim Gentz (2009). "Orientalism/Occidentalism". Keywords re-oriented. interKULTUR, European-Chinese intercultural studies, Volume IV. Universitätsverlag Göttingen. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-3-940344-86-1. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
Edward Saïd’s influential Orientalism (1979) effectively created a discursive field in cultural studies, stimulating fresh critical analysis of Western academic work on ‘The Orient’. Although the book, itself, has been criticized from many angles, it is still considered to be the seminal work to the field.
- Richard T. Gray, Ruth V. Gross, Rolf J. Goebel, Clayton Koelb, eds. (2005). A Franz Kafka encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 212–. ISBN 978-0-313-30375-3. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
In its current usage, Orient is a key term of cultural critique that derives from Edward W. Saïd’s influential book Orientalism.
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[Edward Wadie] Saïd was of Christian background, a confirmed agnostic, perhaps even an atheist, yet he had a rage for justice and a moral sensibility lacking in most [religious] believers. Saïd retained his ethical compass without God, and persevered in an exile, once forced and now chosen, affected by neither malice nor fear.
- John Cornwell (2010). Newman’s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 128. ISBN 9781441150844.
A hundred and fifty years on, Edward Saïd, an agnostic of Palestinian origins, who strove to correct false Western impressions of ‘Orientalism’, would declare Newman’s university discourses both true and ‘incomparably eloquent’. . . .
- Joe Sacco (2001). Palestine. Fantagraphics.
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- Martin Kramer said that “Fifteen years after [the] publication of Orientalism, the UCLA historian Nikki Keddie (whose work Saïd praised in Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World) allowed that Orientalism was ‘important, and, in many ways, positive’”.
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- Kaizaad Navroze Kotwal, "Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as Virtual Reality: The Orientalist and Colonial Legacies of Gunga Din," The Film Journal no. 12, April 2005.
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Milica Baki–Hayden built on Wolff’s work, incorporating the ideas of Edward Saïd’s "Orientalism"
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The idea of "nesting orientalisms", in Baki–Hayden 1995, and the related concept of "nesting balkanisms", in Todorova 1997. . . .
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Edward W. Said (1935–2003) was one of the most influential intellectuals in the twentieth century.
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- The Edward Said Archive
- Edward Said at the Internet Movie Database
- Review of Reflections on Exile and Other Essays and Edward Said: The Last Interview, in Other Voices, vol. 3, no. 1.
- Works by Edward Said at Open Library
- Appearances on C-SPAN