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Edward Said
August 2008

Edward Said, who died in September 2003, was professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, and the author of more than 20 books on cultural, literary, and political subjects. In many of them, such as The Question of Palestine, The Politics of Dispossession, and Peace and Its Discontents, he defended the Palestinian cause with passion and rage.

But by far his most influential work was Orientalism (1978), which gave birth to entire new disciplines, such as postcolonial studies. Universities round the world heaped honours on Said. One can see Said's influence at work in all the humanities, almost negating centuries of Western scholarship.

Islamologists have long been aware of the disastrous effect of Said's Orientalism on their discipline, which has resulted in a fear of asking and answering potentially embarrassing questions - ones that might upset Muslim sensibilities. Indeed, Said's influence has made cross-cultural judgments well-nigh impossible.

Orientalism had the attraction of an all-purpose tool, which his eager acolytes could apply to every cultural phenomenon without having to think critically and without having to conduct any real archival research requiring mastery of languages, or research in the field requiring the mastery of technique and a rigorous methodology. It displays all the -laziness and arrogance of a man of letters who does not have much time for empirical research or, above all, for making sense of its results.

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August 16th, 2008
10:08 PM
Billie wrote: "...what of divided loyalties here?..." Stated pejoratively, of course, but if Billie had more understanding he/she would realize that multiple loyalties, and multiple identities, are the norm rather than the exception. Said himself was a second generation American, as well as a Palestinian nationalist. Is Billie against him for being both?

August 2nd, 2008
9:08 AM
I quite agree with Stuart. Standpoint has an overtly anti-Arab anti-Muslim agenda running through many or most of the pieces, which detracts from its overall intellectual pretensions. It gives it a nauseatingly propagandist feel. At least Encounter was far more diverse, subtle and high calibre! We have the obvious pro-Israeli pieces, such as Julie Burchill's ecstatic knicker-wetting over the Trafalgar Sq rally for Israel (and lauding demonstrators carrying Union jacks in one hand and the Israeli flag in another - what of divided loyalties here?)and then the pieces including the interview with Simon Gray where it is de rigeur to have a dig at Muslims or Arabs. Anyway, what Ibn Warraq is saying is nothing new; the anti-Said backlash has been under way for at least a couple of years now.

August 1st, 2008
5:08 PM
Psst, Stuart: You're commenting on the wrong article, mate. Mosey on over to "Islamophobia". You just put them to rights about 'Religion of Peace': give 'em all those facts about peace-lovin' old Mo and all those 'defensive' wars and those poor, misguided folk 'misunderstanding' their own ideology, er, religion. Just remember, Said Said So.

July 31st, 2008
12:07 PM
oh please. does every single article in this magazine have to crowbar in a reference to evil muslims?

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