Horizons in Post-Colonial Studies
Pal Ahluwalia and Bill Ashcroft
Edward Said and the Post-Colonial
Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim (Editors)
ISBN 1-59033-157-5
Re-Imagining Africa: New Critical Perspectives
Sue Kossew and Dianne Schwerdt (Editors)
ISBN 1-59033-100-1
Narratives of Colonialism: Sugar, Java a11d the Dutch
G. Roger Knight
ISBN 1-56072-710-1
White and Deadly: Sugar and Colonialism
Pal Ahluwalia, Bill Ashcroft and Roger Knight (Editors)
ISBN 1-56072-814-0
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Printed in the United States of America
Pal Ahluwalia a11d Bill Ashcroft (Series Editors)
Bill Ashcroft a11d Hussei11 Kadllim
Patrick Williams
Patrick Brantli11ger
Bill Ashcroft
Li11da Hutcheo11
Susa1111e Za11top
Pal Ahluwalia
Elleke Boehmer
Mutapha Marrouclri
Pal Ahluwalia and Bill Ashcroft (Series Editors)
Post-Colonial Studies has undergone a meteoric rise in the past decade in
literature departments throughout the world. The aim of this series is to open
up various horizons in the field: to encourage the development of post-
colonial theory and practice in a wider spread of disciplinary approaches; to
promote conceptual innovation in the study of post-colonial discourse in
general; and to provide a venue for the entry of new perspectives. Many post-
colonialisms have emerged in actual practice in recent times, but the
fundamental thing they share is an interest in the ways in which colonized
people all over the world have engaged colonialism, and a desire to analyze
the effects of this engagement in contemporary cultural life. While the
predominant interest has been in the legacy of the British Empire this series
encourages the practical application of post-colonial theory into other
European and non-European forms of colonialism, to investigate the ways in
which the investigation of post-colonial discourse may illuminate present
global cultural relations.
Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
There are few public intellectuals today who demonstrate more
completely than Edward Said the paradox of identity in an increasingly
diasporic and culturally heterogeneous world. Whether this is because his
public profile is so high, his political advocacy so urgent and vociferous, or
his intellectual reputation so widespread, there hardly seems to be a cultural
critic more visibly caught up in a web of contradictions. We find
contradictions everywhere in his work and life: contradictions between his
beliefs and preferences; contradictions between his highly Westemised
professional persona and his Palestinian identity; contradictions between his
view of professional work and his place in the contemporary landscape.
Perhaps the most contradictory aspect of his place in contemporary theory
is his relationship with 'the post-colonial.' Although his pronouncements on
the subject have not been carved in stone, it is clear that he has neither a close
acquaintance with contemporary post-colonial theory, nor a clear
understanding of its goals. Claimed by many to be the originator of post-
colonial studies, he demonstrates little interest in this (or any) field of cultural
theory. In many respects this contradiction demonstrates better than anything
else his desire to act as a 'secular' 'amateur' intellectual. While his place in
post-colonial theory is so significant, his increasingly obsessive rejection of
any theory that appears to be 'academic' has meant that more often than not he
Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
has turned his back on what may be, educationally, his major constituency.
This paradox is symptomatic, not only of Edward Said, but also of post-
colonial theory. There is possibly no other contemporary movement beset by
such a range of definitions and interpretations, and, consequently, such a
multi-facetted collection of objections and controversies. In what other field of
study do we see greater confusion and anxiety about its very name; what other
theory experiences such complaint and condemnation from the very people
whose names have come to be associated with it? And yet, just as the
contradictions of Said's work are a sign of its vitality, so too, the paradoxes
and plurality characterising post-colonial studies are a sure sign of its
dynamism and strength.
In a field that demonstrates so well Said's own thesis in Beginnings that
all cultural and theoretical movements have many beginnings rather than a
single origin, a field with which he has had an ambivalent relationship, to say
the least, his Orienta/ism has been widely accorded the status of a seminal
text. One introduction after another puts Said at the beginning of a theory to
which he makes little mention throughout his career. It would be hard to find a
more desperate need for origins than this need to find a 'beginning' for post-
colonial theory. But if any 'beginning' is to found in this overdetermined
discourse it is to be found in the many beginnings of colonial occupation.
If post-colonial theory is to be described in general terms as the
intellectual engagement with the consequences of colonization, then it began
in the work of colonized writers as soon as they were forced into colonial
education systems. Systematic theorizing of colonization and its attendant
features such as race, language, resistance and representation first found in
Frantz Fanon, was long preceded by theory which could not claim the name
theory in the creative writing of colonial intellectuals. Said's Orienta/ism
stands as a reference point, a marker at an imagined junction of the many
tributaries that had been feeding the growing awareness of post-colonial
cultural production since World War II. Tributaries as disparate as
'Commonwealth' literary study; the cultural commentary ofC.L.R. James and
other Caribbean intellectuals; the phenomenon of the Heinemann African
Writers Series; Kwame Nkrumah's thesis of neo-colonialism and the growing
opposition to development theory; the establishment of institutes such as
Dhvanyaloka in India - all these flow into the overdetermined stream of
contemporary post-colonial studies.
As he expresses it, Said's view of 'secular criticism' is at odds with any
field of literary studies which employs a 'priestly' and abstruse specialization,
which ignores the injunction to 'criticize' in the pursuit of the theologies of
theoretical dogma. Who would not agree with this? But is there in this
vigorous amateurism a danger of doing exactly what Said warns against, of
ignoring the worldliness of theory? For 'criticism' exists no more in a vacuum
than does theory and when that theory pays urgent attention to the material,
how much more imperative is it to be driven by a systematic view of power
relations? This paradox is both symptomatic and central to Said's ambiguous
·relationship with post-colonial studies. For whatever his expressed opinion
' about post-colo. nial theory. (and what little there is seems contradictory) t ~ ~ r e
is no doubt that the recurring elements of his own theory are in fundamental
~ g r e e m e n t with the interests and trajectory of post-colonial critics.
Clearly, we intend this collection to draw away from the myth of origins,
the myth of Said's place at the beginning of post-colonial theory, for a more
critical, searching, and, in the end, more productive view of the value of his
work to the various branches of post-colonial studies. There is hardly a more
quoted source in this field, but almost always it is for the wrong reason. The
'great man' myth renders stagnant the very ideas for which he is celebrated.
Rather than providing a myth of origins, Said's work is capable of providing a
vigorous theoretical energy to the field. This volume demonstrates the
controversy surrounding his work as well as the different directions in which
his work can be taken, the ways in which it can focus critical thinking about
colonialism and power relations .
.\: The opening essay by Patrick Williams exposes the nature of the
contradictions surrounding Said's place in contemporary theory. Williams
takes issue with Said for the latter's ostensible disavowal of and indeed
negative, even superficial, assessment of post-colonial theory - distinguished
here from the main stream of Western theory - and for what amounts to an
offhand dismissal of the post-colonial intellectual on the part of Said. This is
not simply a critique of Said's lack of awareness of part of the worldliness of
his own text, but a demonstration of the kinds of methodological diversity and
definitional paradox that characterises post-colonial studies itself. In Said's
relationship with post-colonial theory we discover some of the more
problematic consequences of the secular critic, and indeed, his ambivalent
relationship with the field is the focus of this volume.
Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
A prominent factor in Said's relationship with the post-colonial lies in the
affinities he has with contemporary cultural studies, and nowhere is this more
obvious than in Culture and Imperialism in which Said gives credit to
Raymond Williams, who has a similarly complex relationship with a field of
study for which he is often held to be an originator. Patrick Brantlinger
stresses the intellectual affinities between Said and Raymond Williams and
points to the influence of Williams and of cultural studies on Said's thinking.
A refusal to acknowledge Williams' influence on Said, Brantlinger notes,
accounts for many Marxist critiques of Orienta/ism such as that of Aijaz
Said's prominence and his relentless advocacy of the rights of the
Palestinian people have made him the target of much criticism particularly
from ultra-conservative journals such as Commentary. The infamous
'Professor of terror• slur by Edward Alexander in that journal in 1989 has been
followed up most recently by Justus Reid Weiner's 'My Old Beautiful Home•
(1999)- to which Mustapha Marrouchi responds in the course of his reading
of Said's memoir Out of Place-- widely regarded as a politically-motivated
attempt to discredit the foremost spokesperson of the Palestinian cause. Most
criticisms of Said, however, have been triggered by the apparent
methodological and conceptual problems of Orienta/ism. One species of
critique is best represented by Aijaz Ahmad who, in his book In Theory
(1992), assails Said for the predominantly Western cultural apparatus of
Orienta/ism and also for the book's allegedly anti-Marxist stance.
In the tradition of Marxist critics such as Aijaz Ahmad, Arif Dirlik
expands his criticism of post-colonial studies to include Edward Said. Dirlik
chronicles the transformation of post-colonialism from radical beginnings (the
post-colonialism of national liberation movements), to what he perceives to be
a depoliticized post-colonialism marked by an abandonment of its initial focus
and by a preoccupation with issues of race and ethnicity (the contemporary
post-colonialism of identity politics). Contemporary post-colonialism's
overemphasis on cultural identity, Dirlik warns, has the effect of decentering
issues of political economy and amounts to possible complicity with structures
of political economy. Dirlik further argues that Said's affinities to and
positioning between both strains of post-colonialism account for the paradoxes
and contradictions that abound in his thinking.
Bill Ashcroft underscores the distinction between Said's professed
antipathy to post-colonial theory and the significance of his concept of
Introduction Xlll
"Worldliness" for a post-colonial agenda. This view of worldliness, although
it is inspired by literary theory, suggests that he may be closer to the
materialism of the Ahrnads and Dirliks than they realise (as is the project of
post-colonial studies). Ashcroft views Worldliness as Said's most "post-
colonial" and also most crucial contribution to critical theory. To the extent
that it emphasizes the materiality of the text, the concept of Worldliness (of
both text and critic) thus works to counter the unbridled textuality of much
poststructuralist theory. As such, Ashcroft argues, Said's key concept reflects
the aims of post-colonial criticism to represent and intervene in the world.
Moreover, despite the controversy surrounding Said's positioning within the
post-colonial, his insistence on the materiality of the text and his emphasis on
the necessity for criticism to be politically and socially engaged signal the real
convergence between Said and post-colonialism.
One of the keys to the vexed relationship between Said and post-colonial
studies is the fact that in interest and background, Said is concerned with the
broad impact of Europe's imperialism rather than the specifics of its
colonialism (and also, perhaps, rather than the specifics of resistance). In her
essay Linda Hutcheon, who views Orienta/ism as an act of historical
witnessing, proposes drawing a very useful distinction between "post-
colonial" and "postimperial" discourses. Locating the originary moment of
both discourses at the colonial encounter, she assigns to the former denoting
discourses that are concerned with the impact of that encounter over time on
the colonized. Postimperial discourses, however, are defined as those
discourses that address the impact of the encounter over time on empire and
its discourses. According to this scheme, and due to the book's primary focus
on the imperial discourses of the West, Orienta/ism falls within the category
of the postimperial rather than the post-colonial. Misdirected critiques of
Orienta/ism, Hutcheon notes, are attributable to Said's own positioning as
both a post-colonial and postimperial historian as well as to the overlap
between the postimperial (a theoretical focus) and the post-colonial (an
enunciative position) within Orienta/ism itself. Despite the overlap and
confusions, however, Hutcheon makes a convincing case for the
differentiation between the two modes of discourses: the postimperial
(Orienta/ism as well as Culture and Imperialism), and the post-colonial which
predominates in Said's works on Palestine.
Despite the ongoing controversy surrounding Said's work, the mode of
colonial discourse analysis initiated in Said's study of Orientalism continues
xiv Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
to be applied to a plurality of discourses with a view to identifying possible
linkages to imperialism. An instance of such application is Susanne Zantop's
proposal to expand the Orient-Occident dichotomy central to Said's study of
Orientalism. What this dichotomy fails to take into account, notes Zantop, are
the "discovery" of the Americas and the consequences of that "discovery" in
terms of producing multiple occidents. Focusing on European representations
of the "New World," Zantop argues that the inclusion of the Americas in the
debate is crucial to the decentring task of post-colonial studies. Pal Ahluwalia
outlines the way in which Said's Orientalist project can stand as a model for
many other examples of the cultural and political relationship between Europe
and its others. A significant case is African Studies. The discursive
construction of 'Africa' and 'the African' is a profound demonstration of the
link between knowledge and power, and reaches even more deeply into the
imagination of the West than does the Orient.
Orienta/ism's extraordinary currency has not impeded critical activity
aimed at extending, reformulating, and reorienting some of its key
assumptions. Elleke Boehmer, for instance, although she stops short of
suggesting "a knowing complicity" between the post-colonial and neo-
colonialism, nonetheless posits a certain relatedness between post-colonial
studies and the continuing hegemony of the Western metropolis. This
relatedness is apparent, inter alia, in what she terms "a neo-orientalist
rhetoric" that lingers on in post-colonial literary criticism from the West, its
oppositionality notwithstanding. Juxtaposing the critical reception of the
Indian woman poet, Sarojini Naidu in England in 1892 with the postcolonial
reception of another Indian writer, the novelist Arundhati Roy, in the West in
the 1990s, Boehmer discerns unsettling parallels between colonial discourse
and recent post-colonial literary criticism.
Mustapha Marrouchi's wide ranging discussion of Said's memoir Out of
Place reveals how Said's sense of displacement, a sense exacerbated and
ironically demonstrated by the most recent attack by Justus Weiner, is a
function of both the most personal and the most global trajectories of cultural
displacement. This memo ire itself leaves us with a very clear sense of the link
between the personal and the cultural, a sense of the materiality and specifics
of exile and displacement. Ironically, it is these specific features of the
experience of the displaced Palestinian academic that best demonstrate the
paradox of the contemporary post-colonial intellectual. Ultimately this
paradox can be seen to be a matter of reading. How we read Said's work, how
Introduction XV
his work is used, may differ from the way he reads it. But ultimately, the
political meaning of Said's cultural theory emerges in the use to which it may
be put, in the project of liberation and transformation lying at the centre of the
Chapter 1
Edward Said is an intellectual of many paradoxes. His work over the last
three decades has articulated the most cogent and sustained critiques of
Eurocentrism, and yet he retains an intellectual and personal commitment to
the values of European humanism, and the products of its high culture. He
owes much of his political and moral stature to his commitment to the
Palestinian cause, at the risk of personal abuse and danger, and yet he is a
relentless critic of nationalism, including Palestinian nationalism. He has
written incisively about the complicity of academic institutions in domination
and hegemony, and yet is ready to rush to the defense of the American
university against its critics from the left and the right. He is a thorough
professional who is critical of professionalism in the name of the public
obligations of intellectuals. While his work has inspired new theoretical
departures in literary and cultural criticism, he disclaims theory as a major
concern of his work. The list could go on-almost indefinitely.
Said himself has been explicit in acknowledging his paradoxes, and
commentators on his work have been quite aware of the ways in which these
paradoxes inform his cultural and literary analyses. Interestingly, Said's
paradoxes or, more strongly, contradictions, rather than undermine his
credibility, have served to empower his work, and enabled him to retain his
autonomy as a critic against pressures to conformity of changing intellectual
and political fashions, including those for which his own work may be
responsible. Said's credibility is due in part to an intellectual integrity that
refuses to disavow the many pasts, and the cultural baggage, accumulated in
the course of a complex personal itinerary that has traversed a variety of
historical and cultural situations; from Jerusalem through Beirut and Cairo to
New York. He has been quite open about the ways in which his "Western"
and "elite" education have shaped him, about his love for the EuroArnerican
writers whose works he subjects to criticism, and even the ways in which his
background and education have divided him intellectually and esthetically
from the Palestinian and Arab societies he speaks for. Referring to other Third
World intellectuals, more hostile than he to the products of European
humanism, he states in his interview with Jennifer Wicke and Michael
Sprinker, with a note of defiance, that "there's no reason for me to perform
acts of amputation on myself, intellectual, spiritual, or esthetic, simply
because in the experience of other people from the Third World, a black
novelist from Nigeria like Achebe or your West Indian friend, can make my
Proust or Conrad into someone who is only despicable" (Wicke and Sprinker
1992: 253, emphasis mine). He stands out among so-called postcolonial
intellectuals for his honesty in aclmowledging the ways in which his class
background have both shaped and limited his political choices (253). His
honesty extends to an unwillingness to suppress in ideological generalizations
the political dilemmas facing the Third World, and the Third World
But there is more to the empowerment than personal attributes. Said has
rendered personal experiences into method as he has brought his own diverse
and conflicting cultural allegiances into play against one another. He writes in
his introduction to Culture and Imperialism that "this book is an exile's book.
For objective reasons that I had no control over, I grew up as an Arab with a
Western education. Ever since I can remember, I have felt that I belonged to
both worlds, without being completely of either one or the other" (Said 1993:
xxvi). He describes the "perspective" his experience of exile produced as
"contrapuntal," which refers both to a way of thinking about people, and a
method of analysis and reading texts; the method suggesting, to this writer
anyway, a decoding of a text, a culture or whatever with the aid of its
aclmowledged or suppressed Other, while recognizing the integrity of both.
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 3
While Said on occasion uses the fashionable postcolonial term "hybridity"
with reference to both himself and his analytical perspective, his is what M.
Bakhtin wrote of as "intentional hybridity," that sets different voices against
one another without denying their (at times) irreconcilable differences
(Bakhtin 1981: 35 8-359). Rather than submerge difference into an opaque
hybridity, Said, as Mustapha Marrouchi observes, inhabits "a space of
multiple allegiances," or perhaps even more accurately, multiple spaces, that
are not always easily reconciled, but provide him with a multiplicity of
interpretive locations (Marrouchi 1998: 209).
Most discussions of Said with which I am familiar focus on the spatialities
that these paradoxes represent, or produce; at the most fundamental level, the
cultural "in-betweenness" that informs his self-image and his work. I would
like to turn here to a paradox that is temporal, that has been suppressed in the
preoccupation with cultural spaces: Said's location in the unfolding of the
postcolonial. One of the more intriguing paradoxes in Said's career is the part
he has played in the emergence and legitimation of contemporary postcolonial
criticism, with its preoccupation with the culture and politics of identity. On
the other hand, Said has drawn insistently on an earlier, more politically
oriented, postcolonialism preoccupied with questions of national liberation,
revolution, and Third World alternatives to capitalism and existing forms of
socialism; and objects to the postcolonialist preoccupation with identity, its
repudiation of metanarratives, and even the term postcolonial itself (Said
1998/9: 92). These different versions ofpostcolonialism also pervade much of
Said's writing in tense co-existence, raising questions about his work among
contemporary postcolonials who feel uneasy about Said's continued
willingness to affirm "binarisms" and even "essentialisms." That Said has
nevertheless played an important part in the emergence of this contemporary
postcolonialism also raises questions concerning his departures from an
earlier, politically radical, postcolonialism, that need to be queried for closer
assessment of some of the more problematic aspects of his thinking. Benita
Parry has recognized Said's complex positioning in the field of
postcolonialism in observing that,
A critique of culture and imperialism that situates itself on the borders and
boundaries of knowable communities, intellectual systems, and critical
practices, celebrating the unhoused and decentred counter-energies generated
by the displaced critical consciousness, enacts a theoretical mode
symptomatic of a postcolonial cosmopolitanism which proclaims its multiple
detachments and occupancy of a hybrid discursive space. It is a precarious
position for a politically aligned theorist to maintain, and a demonstration of
Said apparently contradicting himself is when in the same breath he
acknowledges the importance of moving from one identity to another, and
afflilllS that "[O]ne of the virtues of being a Palestinian is that it teaches you
to feel your particularity in a new way, not only as a problem but as a kind of
gift" (Parry 1992: 19-20).
I would like to pursue this contradiction a bit further, in the perspective of
the history of postcolonialism; which requires a diversion from the subject at
hand, but is necessary nevertheless to place what I have to say in historical
context. As Aijaz Ahmad has pointed out, the idea of the postcolonial itself
has a history (Ahmad 1995: 1 ). In its initial, more or less literal, temporal
sense, it referred to newly liberated colonies, and was quite radical in its
social, economic and political implications: breaking with the colonial past to
create new societies economically, politically and culturally. Integral to the
postcolonial vision of this early period (peaking in the 1960s) were ideologies
of national liberation that sought national autonomy in all realms from the
colonial past as well as the neo-colonial present. National liberation
movements of this early period were informed for the most part by socialist
programs of one kind or another; which also explains the affinity between
ideologies of national liberation and Third World socialisms such as the
Chinese. Against an earlier scholarship infused with colonial or neo-colonial
assumptions, the radical postcolonial vision fostered both at home and abroad
a new anti-colonial scholarship.
These beginnings are largely forgotten in contemporary conceptions of
postcoloniality, which not only have turned their back on these origins, but
indeed may be viewed as a negation of the original sense of the postcolonial
of which they are products. The ambivalence produced by this dialectical
positioning is visible in the works of Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak and Stuart
Hall who today are hailed as originators of postcolonial criticism as we have it
now, but whose works are nevertheless deeply marked by their points of
departure in an earlier sense of the postcolonial, connected to its radical social
programs even as they articulated a new discourse of culture that would
ultimately negate those origins. It is not that culture was missing from earlier
discussions of postcoloniality; but it is a long ways from the "cultural
revolutions" of national liberation movements in which culture appeared as
part of a broader political program to the contemporary disappearance of
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 5
radical social, economic and political programs into the problematic of
cultural discourse.
The postcolonial in its contemporary appearance is shaped by the retreat
from revolution with the reconfiguration of global relations in the eighties.
This retreat is most readily visible in the abandonment in postcolonial
criticism of two categories that were fundamental to earlier revolutionary
discourses: nation and class. There are complex reasons for the increasingly
problematic nature of these two categories in our day, some of which I have
discussed elsewhere. Here I will speak briefly to those aspects of the problem
that are directly pertinent to the issues at hand.
Ironically, in our day, when formal political colonialism has all but
disappeared, it is the nation and nationalism in their claims to homogeneous
cultural identities that appear as the greatest foes of cultural and historical
diversity, and the free play of individual and group identities-including those
that are the legacies of colonialism. Whereas an earlier generation experienced
colonialism as erasure of real or imagined native identities, and set out to
recover those identities through the agency of the nation, postcolonial self-
identification with hybridity, in-betweenness, marginality, borderlands, etc.,
represents in some fundamental ways the revolt against claims to authentic
national identity of those whose very cultural formation was a product of the
colonial encounter at home and abroad. While postcolonial criticism devotes
much effort to the critique of the ideologies of colonial domination (chief
among them, Eurocentrism), it ironically also represents an affirmation of the
colonial past-at least of the colonial past in the postcolonial. The postcolonial
celebration of hybridity and in-betweenness is a celebration against nationalist
cultural claims of a culture which includes the culture of the colonizer as a
constituent moment; that also reasserts the claims to cultural priority of those
groups in society shaped by the colonial encounter.
The failure of postcolonial national liberation regimes to deliver on their
political, economic and cultural promises is no doubt an important factor in
this tmnabout. But so is the proliferation of diasporic populations that has
accompanied economic and political globalization, whose demographic
dispersal has created a situation in which it is no longer possible to identify
cultures with national boundaries. One of the important by-products of this
situation-encompassed in slogans of globalization-is increased porosity of the
boundaries that earlier separated the colonizers from the colonized; which may
account for the receptivity to postcolonialism among the intellectuals and
6 ArifDirlik
institutions of metropolitan centers (unlike, say, in earlier largely negative
responses to third-worldist separatism).
There is also a reminder here, however, of the need for caution in
generalizing the postcolonial experience, which was historically the most
significant for those who experienced colonialism as a transformative cultural
force. Even in those cases, there is much that is problematic. The questioning
of authenticity to nationalist claims has had as an underlying purpose the
recognition of equal "authenticity" to those who were products of the colonial
"borderlands," whose cultures include the cultures of colonialism.
Unreflective promotion of "borderlands," however, has gone beyond such
demands for recognition to the erasure of all alternatives to the borderlands,
and "borderlands" that were products of encounters other than the colonial. At
a time when claims to ethnic authenticities proliferate, the preoccupation with
"borderlands" makes for a blindness to other ways of perceiving cultural self-
identification that have as much claim to their self-identifications as diasporic
intellectuals and populations. Indeed, diasporic populations are hardly
homogeneous, but deeply divided socially; against the insistence on cultural
hybridity of diasporic elites, large sections of these populations appear to be
more adamant about their cultural authenticities-traditions-than the
populations at their places of departure. That the "border" claims of
postcolonialism are taken more seriously at first world locations than in third
world origins also point to the power context for contemporary discussions of
culture. There is little that is puzzling about the receptivity in metropolitan
centers to postcolonialist arguments in favor of "border" cultures, as those
arguments confirm that metropolitan cultures have become inevitable
components of the colonized.
While the retreat from class presents its own problems within the context
of globalization, it is not entirely unrelated to the question of the nation. One
of the fundamental premises of earlier national liberation movements, that
distinguished them from other forms of Third World nationalism, was
conviction in the necessity of a social revolution as a prerequisite of national
liberation and autonomy, which also explains their affinity to socialism. The
reason was fairly straightforward from the perspective of a Leninist (if not just
a Leninist) appreciation of the contradictions of imperialism: that colonial or
imperialist domination required for its effectiveness and perpetuation the
complicity of native classes-"feudal" classes bent on preserving their power
against new nationalist forces, or "bourgeoisies" who were products of the
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 7
importation of capitalism through the agency of colonialism and, in spite of
their resentment of imperialist domination, also shared common interests with
the latter. Given the ties of these groups to imperialism, national liberation
must be unsuccessful so long as they retained their power. Much the same
pertained to nation-building as a cultural project: that the recovery of authentic
national traditions also required the "re-nationalization" of those who had
come under colonial cultural hegemony. The Chinese Cultural Revolution in
the sixties may be seen as one eloquent testimonial to the coincidence of
economic, political and cultural projects in a situation of obsessive concern
with national autonomy, where the necessity of purging the culturally
"contaminated" classes appeared as a primary task. Such extremist nativism
was not restricted to China, needless to say, but entered in various ways
speculation over the future of national cultures in all national liberation
movements. It is not difficult to appreciate why the revolt against claims to
national cultural authenticity on the part of those disenfranchised culturally by
nativism should tum "class" itself into an undesirable category.• On the other
hand, the abandonment of class issues deprives analysis of a major intellectual
instrument in evaluating differences in claims to marginality, nourishing
pretensions to ethnic unity and homogeneity.
Strong traces of the origins of the postcolonial in the colonial persist in the
preoccupation with questions of race and ethnicity. And in its ideological
effects, the generalization of the postcolonial has resulted also in the
generalization of the problematics of ethnicity and race above all other
questions. The meaning and politics of postcoloniality have been transformed
as postcolonial criticism has suppressed important elements that earlier
structured the concept of the postcolonial; ethnicity and race have been the
The historical context for these developments is the renunciation by national liberation states
of their own pasts. Nevertheless, this does not eliminate the contradictions generated by past
legacies. Thus, a state such as the Chinese, has abandoned its earlier commitments to national
autonomy in the economic realm; but it continues to pretend that cultural boundaries can and
should be policed. This is less convincing than ever before in its contradictions with the
economic policies of the regime. Arguments in favour of borderlands cultures are obviously
of important critical significance in the critique of such policies. On the other hand, such state
policies and postcolonial criticism may be contemporaries, especially with regard to a
compartmentalized isolation of various realms of life from one another. As the Chinese state
wishes to concentrate on the economic realm, and is reluctant to speak to issues of culture( or
even politics), postcolonial criticism focuses on issues of culture and relegates issues of
political economy to the background. Such compartmentalization betrays the legacy of
chief beneficiaries of the retreat from nation and class-especially in the
homelands of the new version of the postcolonial in metropolitan institutions.
In the academic discourse of the early to mid-1980s, ethnicity and race
appeared mostly in conjunction with class and gender, which pointed to a
discursive conjuncture between feminism and the postcolonial in it original
sense as a problem in culture and ethnicity as well as in the structures of
political economy. Class was the first casualty as the postcolonial in its
unfolding tmned its back on structures of political economy. Issues of gender,
too, were quickly infiltrated by issues of race and ethnicity. By the time
postcolonialism in its contemporary guise appeared in the nineties, ethnicity
and race had moved to the center of the discourse. Conceived to combat
ethnocentrism and racism, postcolonial discourse ironically contributes
presently to the racialization and ethnicization ofthe languages of both critical
intellectual work and politics-with liberal intentions, no doubt, but at the risk
on the one hand of covering up proliferating problems of social inequality and
oppression whose origins lie elsewhere, and, on the other hand, of
contributing to the consolidation of the very ethnic, national and racial
boundaries that it is intended to render porous and traversible. Both risks are
visible plainly in that slogan that has become dear to a an emergent multi-
ethnic globalist establishment: multi-culturalism.
I have no wish here to go in any depth into a problem that I have
discussed at length in a number of places; namely, the relationship between
globalization and postcolonialism. Suffice it to say here that postcolonial
concerns resonate with questions concerning the status of the nation-state,
classes, identities, etc. in a world where globalization real or imagined has
also captured the imagination of many; and it is hardly coincidental that the
two have gained in intellectual popularity in tandem. If globalization for its
promoters represents a break with an older world of colonialism, nationalism
and revolution, that requires a re-writing of the past, postcolonialism offers
valuable tools for doing so. Postcolonialism, in other words, enjoys wide
appeal because it has something important to say about the contemporary
world. This also is its predicament as a critical discourse. What is intended as
a critique turns into a legitimation of a new ideology of globalization when it
is mobilized in service of the latter. The failure of most so-called postcolonial
critics to position themselves critically vis-a-vis the ideology of globalization-
functionalism, which ignored that the economic is also social, political and cultural, just as the
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 9
a product largely of a refusal to address questions of structure and totality-has
facilitated such ideological use of postcolonial ism. Such questions of structure
include the legacies of colonial spaces which persist beneath the appearances
of globality and continue to shape not only the configurations of power and
political economy, but also diasporic motions and cultural formations. An
excessive attention to free-floating cosmopolitans conceals that most diasporic
motions are regulated by conditions of political economy and, in the case of
migrations out of former colonies, follow paths that end up in the "mother"
On the other hand, the projection of the postcolonial argument to the past
has rendered the colonial past into just one more phase on the way to
globalization, while erasing the revolutionary pasts that, for all their failures,
envisioned alternatives to capitalist globality. The criticism of the nation, that
does not distinguish between different kinds of nationalism, also serves to
erase the revolutionary movements that took the nation as their premise. So
does the obliviousness to questions of class. In light of what I have observed
above with reference to the re-evaluation of class formations in earlier
national liberation movements, it may be understandable why postcolonial
critics from formerly colonial societies should be reluctant to speak to issues
of class, as they hail for the most part from classes that were (and are) suspect
in the eyes of nativists. This makes it all the more imperative to speak to
issues of class, however, as postcolonial elites are increasingly entangled in
the transnational class formations produced by global reconfigurations. In the
process, the postcolonial argument is mobilized to serve as an alibi for a
cultural colonialism that is so thorough that it is nearly impossible to speak
about it, as colonialism itself loses its meaning where it proceeds by consent
of the colonized. However diluted in its dissolution of social differences into
generalities about marginality or subalterneity, the postcolonial argument even
in its later phase initially retained a concern for the underdog; as witness the
affinity postcolonial critics have expressed with the Subaltern historians. By
now, however, postcolonial criticism has become absorbed into institutions of
power, its arguments appropriated by those who may feel marginal in certain
ways, but represent new forms of power in others. It may be indicative of this
assimilation to transnational power that any call to disentangle
postcolonialism as an intellectually and politically critical strategy from its
cultural is at once social, political and economic.
service to new structures of power provokes censorial charges of "left-
conservatism," racism, and more colorfully, if in language reminiscent of
politburo commissars, monsters arising from the netherlands.
It may also
explain why first-world muchacho postcolonials should be even more adamant
than third world postcolonial intellectuals in the defense of postcoloniality. It
is even arguable that within the discourse of postcoloniality, the literally
postcolonial are increasingly marginalized as the postcolonial is abstracted as
"method," and appropriated for first world concerns that have little to do with
the colonial per se.
Said inhabits both worlds of the postcolonial; the postcolonialism of
radical national liberation movements, which informs his writing and his self-
image, as well as the postcolonialism of identity politics, to the articulation of
which he has contributed significantly. What I referred to above as his
dialectical positioning between these worlds helps account for the paradoxes
and contradictions in his thinking. On the other hand, what we might perceive
as his quite apparent will to contradictoriness has provided him with an
autonomous intellectual identity that enables him to re-read past ideologies
with present concerns, while avoiding entrapment in the ideologies of the
present, because he continues to invoke the past against the present;
contrapuntal reading temporalized, so to speak. Contrapuntal reading,
however, is not the same as a dialectical resolution of the questions raised by
the history of the postcolonial, and the self-conscious will to contradiction,
however powerful as a critical tool, in the end exacts its own price in
substituting for political utopia the utopianization of the itinerant intellectual.
Said perceives his work as heir to, and continuous with, the critique of
colonialism by an earlier generation of intellectuals who played seminal roles
in articulating the tasks of anti-colonial politics and culture in the process of
national liberation. Commenting on the ways in which culture has been
I am referring here to the distempered remarks by Stuart Hall with reference to an earlier
critique of mine of postcolonialism: "We always knew that the dismantling of the colonial
paradigm would release strange demons from the deep, and that these monsters might come
trailing all sorts of subterranean material," (Hall 1996: 259). The "we always knew" part
suggests that postcolonial criticism emerged as some premeditated strategy devised by an
UMamed group, but Hall does not tell us what the occasion was for the "conspiracy." That a
distinguished intellectual should be so oblivious to the history in postcolonial criticism is
indicative of the pitfalls in postcolonialist thinking. I, for one, appreciate Hall's readiness to
jump to the defense of his fellow-"conspirators," but such name-calling avoids the issues
involved-with which he would seem to agree, and which coincide with theoretical and
political positions he has adopted elsewhere.
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 11
utilized in European writing since the Renaissance to inform and invigorate
"the economic and political machinery that...stands at the center of
imperialism," he writes that,
... if it is embarrassing for us to remark that those elements of a society we
have long considered to be progressive were, so far as empire was concerned,
uniformly retrograde, we still must not be afraid to say it. When I say
"retrograde" I speak here of advanced writers and artists, of the working
class, and of women, whose imperialist fervor increased in intensity and
perfervid enthusiasm for the acquisition of and sheer bloodthirsty dominance
over innumerable niggers, bog dwellers, babus and wogs, as the competition .
.. also increased in brutality and senseless, even profitless, control. What
enables us to say all of those things retrospectively is the perspective
provided for us in the twentieth century by theoreticians, militants, and
insurgent analysts of imperialism like Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, C.L.R.
James, Aime Cesaire, Walter Rodney, plus many others like them, on the one
hand, and on the other hand, by the great nationalist artists of decolonization
and revolutionary nationalism, like Tagore, Senghor, Neruda, Vellejo,
Cesaire, Faiz, Darwish ... and Yeats (Eagleton, Jameson and Said 1990: 72-3).
These anti-colonial writers' names and works (with Fanon holding a
special place) appear repeatedly in Said's work, and so do the issues that they
raised; it is possible to detect in Said's writing on occasion even the language
in which they raised those issues. He remarks in his interview with Jennifer
Wicke and Michael Sprinker that, "what Fanon calls the conversion, the
transformation, of national into political and social consciousness, hasn't yet
taken place. It's an unfinished project, and that's where I think my work has
begun" (236). He is willing to condone, at least as a "tactical" necessity, the
advocacy of redemptive violence by Fanon, and "the extraordinary intensity"
of Cabral's "mobilizing force, his animosity and violence, the way
ressentiment and hate keep turning up-all the more evident against the
particularly ugly backdrop of Portuguese colonialism" (Said 1993: 274-5). He
is equally unwilling to condemn the Marxist (especially Leninist) inspiration
that informed ideologies and cultural products of national liberation
movements. While Said confesses to an inability to "identify with Marxism"
because of its totalizations, its tendencies to orthodoxy, and the less than
savory careers of Marxist parties, Marxists from G. LukAcs to A.Gramsci, T.
Adorno and R. Williams (especially Gramsci and Williams) are among his
acknowledged inspirations.
Such claims may not mean much, as these various writers and literary
figures are claimed by most contemporary postcolonial intellectuals in their
re-readings of the past, but unlike in the case of the latter, Said interestingly
readily confesses to "limitations" of background in his ambivalent relationship
to Marxism (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 260-261).
His involvement with the
Palestinian cause is no doubt a central element in the way he reads national
liberation and Marxist texts, as the Palestine liberation movement in the 1960s
and 1970s was widely perceived by friends and foes alike as one of the many
anti-colonial national liberation struggles of the time. If Said's "Palestinian
nationalism" drives him to the texts of national liberation for answers, the
texts themselves, read with due regard for their integrity, compel attention to
the politics and theories that inform them. Palestinian nationalist though he is,
Said acknowledges nevertheless that "[I] draw out patterns from my peculiar
background, not so much my ethnic background, but the non-European
background" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 230).
This background also plays an obvious part in Said's ambivalence on the
question of nationalism. Over the last decade in particular, criticism of "the
fetishization of national identity," for its oppressive consequences as well as
its destructive divisiveness, has been a constant theme in Said's writing (232).
In one of the series of lectures that comprise his 1994 volume,
Representations ofthe Intellectual, Said devotes a few pages of his discussion
to the use of pronouns such as "we" and "our" in political language, which
refer not only to the writer or the speaker, but suggest "a national corporate
identity" (1994: 29). He observes in elaboration that "there seems to be no
way of escaping the frontiers and enclosures built around us either by nations
or by other kinds of communities (like Europe, Africa, the West, or Asia) that
share a common language and a whole set of implied and shared
characteristics, prejudices, fixed habits of thought" (30). On the other hand, he
is quite obviously wary of the implications of such "corporate thinking,"
which makes it "only too easy to repeat collective formulas, since merely to
use a national language at all (there being no alternative to it) tends to commit
you to what is readiest at hand, herding you into those stock phrases and
popular metaphors for 'us' 'and them' that so many agencies, including
journalism, academic professionalism, and expedient communal intelligibility,
See, also, pp. 227-229, for the influence of his class background on his response as a young
man to Nasserite socialism.
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 13
keep in currency" (32) (emphasis mine). Even in the case of "defensive
nationalisms" such as those of the Third World, it is imperative for the
intellectual who seeks critical independence not to put solidarity ahead of
criticism, as these nationalisms, too, perpetuate oppression of "disadvantaged
populations locked inside ... unrepresented or suppressed" by the "status quo
powers of the national state," which "provides the intellectual with a real
opportunity to resist the forward march of the victors" (39). By the time Said
concludes his discussion, there is little doubt left in the mind of the reader that
the public intellectual must at all times resist incorporation into the collective
''we" if s/he is to maintain critical autonomy against pressures of culture and
language, or the political demands for loyalty.
The reader of these lectures is likely to be surprised, then, by Said's
prolific use of "we" and "our" a few years earlier in what may be his most
personal work, After the Last Sky. He writes there, with reference to
Palestinian identity, that:
Identity-who we are, where we come from, what we are-is difficult to
maintain in exile. Most other people take their identity for granted. Not the
Palestinian, who is required to show proofs of identity more or less
constantly. It is not only that we are regarded as terrorists, but that our
existence as native Arab inhabitants of Palestine, with primordial rights there
(and not elsewhere), is either denied or challenged. And there is more. Such
as it is, our existence is linked negatively to encomiums about Israel's
democracy, achievements, excitement; in much Western rhetoric we have
slipped into the place occupied by Nazis and anti-Semites; collectively, we
can aspire to little except political anonymity and resettlement; we are known
for no actual achievement, no characteristic worthy of esteem, except the
effrontery of disrupting Middle East peace ... We have known no Einsteins, no
Cbagall, no Freud or Rubinstein to protect us with a legacy of achievements.
We have had no Holocaust to protect us with the world's compassion. We
are "other," and opposite, a flaw in the geometry of resettlement and exodus
(Said 1986: 16-17).
It will not do to ascribe these contrasting stances to the nostalgic tone of
this earlier work against the more analytical orientation of the lectures, or a
passage of time that has witnessed a transformation of the author's views.
While there may be a tone of nostalgia in After the Last Sky, to view it as
merely nostalgic would be to trivialize both the work and what Said has to say
there. And if there have been shifts in Said's emphases over the years,
ambivalence toward nationalism has been one of the persistent traits of his
It may be more productive, therefore, to read one statement against
the other, so as to bring out the tensions that have animated Said as an
intellectual, and lent his work cultural and political complexity. While it is not
quite clear how it applies to him, his insistence on the pronoun "we" with
reference to Palestinians resonates with his remarks in his lecture about the
confmement of the intellect by national language, and even by geographical
Said's lecture may also enable us to read After the Last Sky
deconstructively. After the Last Sky is in a fundamental sense a skillful work
of propaganda (in a positive sense of that term), if not just a work of
propaganda. It was written for Western readers, to impart to them a sense of
Palestinian life in all its variety in order to humanize Palestinians against their
de-humanization in a hostile environment. It is also a deeply "place-based"
work, thanks largely to Jean Mohr's photography which seeks successfully to
capture Palestinian life in its concrete everydayness.
Said, who at the time of
writing had been away from Palestine for almost four decades, in his
commentary reflects on these photographs which recall for him memories of
Palestine, but also serve as reminders both of the varieties of Palestinian life,
and his own distance from the immediacy of Palestine. If he essentializes
being Palestinian against his recognition throughout the text of the diversity of
Palestinian life in Israel/ Palestine and in exile, it is only partially out of
nostalgia; for without the self-identification he reads into the photographs, the
work would have lost much of its propaganda value. These considerations
may not make the writing any the less essentialist (in a way that contrasts with
the place-based diversity implied by the photographs), and Said's self-
identification any the less real, but they suggest a need for reading the text in
more complex ways, with due attention to its politics, the distance between the
author and the text, and the ambivalence that peeks through its homogenizing
nationalism. Said's self-identification as a Palestinian in this text is an
imagined if not a willed self-identification; or, as he puts it, a "metaphorical"
one. He writes of several photographs of rural life in Palestine that,
For the persistence of cenain questions in Said's work over the years, see, Tim Brennan
(1992: 74-95). Said himself continues to use "we" insistently with reference to Palestinians,
most recently in an interview on the Serbian crisis on the BBC show, "The World Today," 16
April 1999.
I am unable to expand here on the idea of the "place-based," which appears funher in the
discussion below. For an elaboration of the idea, readers may be referred to Dirlik ( 1999).
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 15
A significant segment of Arab Palestinian history has been made up of
peasant farming and agricultural life ... Pastoral and rural fonns of existence
dominate in our society. The chances are today that one out of every two
Palestinians you meet is descended from farmers or shepherds, and has deep
roots in a land descended from farmers or shepherds, and has deep roots in a
land worked by small rural communities. It is therefore very tempting to
think of this life as essentially timeless and anonymously collective. I am
perhaps an extreme case of an urban Palestinian whose relationship to the
land is basically metaphorical, I view the Palestinian community at a very
great remove (1986: 88).
In contrast to a depoliticized postcolonialism that dismisses the nation
with deceptive ease, Said's political alignment leads him to reaffirm
nationalism even as he remains suspicious of it on both political and cultural
grounds. He writes in Culture and Imperialism that "[N]ationalism's disabling
capacities have been lingered over and caricatured quite long enough by a
large army of commentators, expert and amateur alike, for whom the non-
Western world after the whites left it seems to have become little more than a
nasty mix of tribal chieftains, despotic barbarians and mindless
fundamentalists" (1993: 275-6). This affirmation in tum is informed by a
recognition of the deep inequality in power that persists between the First and
the Third Worlds, which is suppressed in contemporary postcolonial criticism
in the preoccupation with identity politics, politics of location, or the
negotiability of cultural identities; in other words, in the separation of culture
from politics. While quite contemporary in his recognition of multiple
complicities in the making of colonialism as well as postcolonialism, Said
insists nevertheless that,
An entire massive chapter in cultural history across five continents grows out
of ... collaboration between natives on the one hand and conventional as well
as eccentric and contradictory representatives of imperialism on the other. In
paying respect to it, acknowledging the shared and combined experiences
that produced many of us, we must at the same time note how at its center it
nevertheless preserved the nineteenth century imperial divide between native
and Westerner. The many colonial schools in the Far East, India, the Arab
world, East and West Africa, for example, taught generations of the native
Said's willful ambivalence on the question of the nation has a parallel in Stuart Hall's
ambivalence on the question of ethnicity. Hall, too, is critical of essentialized ethnicity, even
as he recognizes the importance of ethnicity to the political identity of the oppressed. See,
Hall (1996: 110-121).
16 ArifDirlik
bourgeoisie important truths about history, science, culture. And out of that
learning process millions grasped the fundamentals of modem life, yet
remained subordinates of a foreign imperial authority ( 1993: 263-4 ).
How this was achieved is the subject of Orienta/ism which, for all its
shortcomings, is likely to remain as Said's most lasting contribution to
postcolonial thinking. It is in many senses a pivotal work; a cultural product of
a transition between the two senses of the postcolonial.
Terry Eagleton, citing Raymond Williams, points to an "impossible irony"
of nationalism; that "it is .. .like class. To have it and to feel it, is the only way
to end it. If you fail to claim it, or give it up too soon, you will merely be
cheated, by other classes and other nations" (1990: 23). To overcome
nationalism, he remarks, it is necessary first to go through it. The problem to
which he points is not a philosophical or a theoretical problem but a historical
With some qualification, there is some of this same sense of irony in
Said's approach to nationalism. Said, following Fanon, draws a distinction
between "independence" and "liberation": "If I have so often cited Fanon, it is
because more dramatically and decisively than any one, I believe, he
expresses the immense cultural shift from the terrain of nationalist
independence to the theoretical domain of liberation" (1993: 268). This shift
entails a transformation of national into social and political consciousness,
transcending the nation in its compass, and aiming at some kind of universalist
humanism. The necessity of national consciousness on the way to liberation,
that appears in Fanon's work as an immediate historical necessity, and for
Eagleton and Williams, as irony, however, appears in Said's thinking also as
tragedy: "It's the tragedy, the irony, the paradox of all anti-imperial or
decolonizing struggles that independence is the stage through which you must
try to pass: for us independence is the only alternative to the continued horrors
of the Israeli occupation, whose goal is the extermination of a Palestinian
national identity" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 236-237).
I will comment below on the possible significance of this addition of
"tragedy" to irony and paradox. More immediately here, very much in the
tradition of earlier writers on national liberation, Said continues to invoke
class as a problem both for independence and liberation. I have noted above
Said's frequent references to his own class background, that in his view
"disadvantages" him on some political issues. He is also sensitive to
differences in experience of exile or migration between those like himself, and
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 17
the great majority of the displaced, when he writes that, "there is a great
difference ... between the optimistic mobility, the intellectual liveliness, and
'the logic of daring' described by the various theoreticians on whose work I
have drawn, and the massive dislocations, waste, misery, and horrors endured
in our century's migrations and mutilated lives" (1993: 332). Politically, he
complains of "the extent to which, at least outside the Occupied Territories,
the [Palestinian] movement is dominated by class interests that are not at all
progressive. There is a tremendous confluence of the high Palestinian
bourgeoisie in the PLO, and with it an ideological dependency upon the
United States viewed as the private fiefdom of whichever administration
happens to be in office" (1993: 332). The issue of class in his thinking is not
merely a tactical one, but a persistent problem of oppression and liberation, as
when he writes, with reference to the periodical, Subaltern Studies, that,
The resonances of the word subaltern derive from Gramsci's usage in the
Prison Notebooks in which, ever the astute political analyst and theoretical
genius, he shows how, wherever there is history, there is class, and that the
essence of the historical is the long and extraordinarily varied socio-
economic interplay between ruler and ruled, between the elite, dominant, or
hegemonic class and the subaltern and, as Gramsci calls it, the emergent
class of the much greater mass of people ruled by coercive or sometimes
mainly ideological domination from above (Said 1988: vi).
While Edward Said, to my lmowledge, has not spoken extensively and
systematically to the problem of revolution that to an earlier generation
seemed to be inextricable from questions of national liberation and class
struggle, he has not repudiated it either. I noted above the ways in which he
seems on occasion to condone the violence advocated by national liberation
thinkers and theorists. But the issue of revolution is not merely one of
violence. Fanon also perceived in the process of revolution the process of
creating a new national culture, that would ultimately transcend nationalism to
create new cultural forms on the way to liberation. On a rare occasion, Said
sounds quite like Fanon when, discussing the Palestinian intifada, he observes
... we should present the intifada as an alternative, an emergent formation, by
which on the simplest level Palestinians under occupation have decided to
declare their independence from the occupation by providing different, not so
much models, but different forms for their lives which they themselves
administer, develop and have in fact created .. .lt's a cultural movement which
says that we are not going to cooperate, we can't any longer live under the
occupation, and therefore we must provide for ourselves ... So what has
happened is that now with the expropriation of land, with a domination of the
network of settlements defended by the Israeli army, there is the possibility
for the Palestinians to provide an agricultural alternative to that one. That is
to say, the use ... of private gardens and houses and the creation of a food
delivery service through the collectivization of bakeries ... places on the West
bank ... have become in effect liberated zones (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 237-
There is an interesting elision in Edward Said's work of the difference
between genealogy and history. Said has been insistent on the centrality of
history to literary and cultural analysis.' And he has been sensitive in his
analyses to the changing environment of both culture and politics, as in his
concluding chapter to Culture and Imperialism, where he discusses the
problems thrown up by a changing world situation. On the other hand, in a
great deal of his work, most notably in Orienta/ism, as critics have pointed
out, the genealogy of ideas seems to take precedence over history and
historical context (which need not be linear, but concretely historical, with
attention to diversity in time and space). This is true in some respects for the
genealogy he establishes for his own work. While Said is quite justified in
stressing his genealogical affinities with an earlier generation of postcolonials,
he has had little to say on how his historicity separates him not only from
contemporary postcolonials, but also from this earlier generation. It is
important to read Said's work, in other words, not only in its continuities but
also with an eye to the ways in which he breaks with the past, which account
for some of his affmities with a contemporary postcolonialism.
While Said may quite justifiably point to the commitment in his work to
the liberationist utopianism of an earlier generation of national liberation
theorists who perceived national independence as one phase of a more
transcendental historical project of liberation, he would be more hard put to it
to claim them for his feeling of disconnectedness to the nation (or the ethnic
or racial group), or his fragmented vision of the nation; which in the last
analysis may rest upon different conceptions of history. There is an
See, for example, "Reflections on American 'Left' Literary Criticism," in (Said 1983: 158-
177; 167-168), where he complains of the obliviousness to history of new trends in literary
criticism, and compares revisionist work in history favourably to that in literary criticism.
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 19
immediacy in much of this earlier writing to the need to create and/or invent a
national culture to fulfill the urgent task of national independence and
liberation, that is missing from Said's work. While a thinker such as Fanon
was quite aware of the heterogeneity and fragmentedness of being black, he
retained a faith nevertheless that a new historical narrative could be
reconstructed in the process of the struggle for national liberation. Said, on the
other hand, while he frequently refers to a Palestinian identity (against his
repudiation otherwise of homogeneous national identities) that has been
shattered by the experience of exile, is sceptical of the possibility of
reconstructing a historical narrative of the nation, as when he notes that, "there
are many different kinds of Palestinian experience, which cannot be
assembled into one. One would therefore have to write parallel histories of the
communities in Lebanon, the Occupied Territories, and so on. That is the
central problem. It is almost impossible to imagine a single narrative" (Said
1994b: 119). And when he wills such a narrative into existence, as in After the
Last Sky, he views the task as a "tragic" necessity, and perceives his
relationship to such a narrative as "metaphorical." In the end, the insistence on
the possessive pronoun, "we," in After the Last Sky suggests not just a willed
identification with a national narrative that does not exist, but also the
production of an exilic nationalism that is abstract and off-ground. Abdul
JanMohamed observes astutely that "Said's subject-position is only partly that
of articulator and defender of Palestinian aspirations within the West; he is
also an active and important producer of the evolving Palestinian
identity ... [Said, in his book, The Question of Palestine,] is motivated not only
by the current plight of Palestinians, but also by a utopian vision of Palestine,
a 'nonplace,' an idea that galvanizes Palestinians everywhere" (JanMohamed
1992: 104). We may add, however, that ultimately the idea is Said's own, a
product of his idiosyncrasies, that are not necessarily shared by most
Palestinians, as he is willing to admit.
Similarly with the question of class. Said's recognition of the importance
of class-related questions to the project of liberation draws on the legacy of
Marxism in earlier national liberation movements. On the other hand, in spite
of his references to the fundamentally economic and political nature of
imperialism and colonialism, his attention to the question of class is restricted
to its implications for national struggles, divorced from class analysis in the
critique of capitalism, and the internationalism that motivated earlier national
liberation theorists who perceived in the struggle for national liberation a
20 ArifDirlik
struggle both for the nation-and against a capitalism which was viewed,
rightly or wrongly, as the ultimate source of colonialism. The project of
"liberation," as distinct from "independence," was in fact premised on just
such an internationalism, that drove Canadian (Norman Bethune) and Arab-
American (George Hatem) doctors to fight in the Chinese Revolution, or for a
brief time rendered Guangzhou (Canton) in South China into the
"headquarters" of world revolution. Said dismisses "internationalism" a bit
too cavalierly, when he observes that, "the force of the phenomenon I am
talking about [that is, subaltern struggles] is that it takes place in many
different places, and I suppose those places taken all together could be
considered international. But I think it still has very deep roots in a local and
national situation" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 235). Internationalism, needless
to say, is hardly inconsistent with "roots in a local and national situation," but,
on the contrary, unlike contemporary globalism, is premised on those
localisms. Said's apparent reluctance to recognize this earlier internationalism
as a unifying force across the various worlds is all the more ironic, as he
observes elsewhere that the presence in metropolitan areas of supporters for
Third World causes eliminates an earlier need for drawing strict boundaries
between the different worlds of colonialism and anti-colonialism (231-33).
What he does not say is that the global cosmopolitans of whom he speaks now
inhabit not "places" or political movements but universities, idealized
locations where complex "hybridities" may be discussed and negotiated (Said
1991). And if universities are indeed locations where classes may be less
visible than most other locations, they are also locations the inhabitants of
which play an active part in erasing the question of class in society in general.
One ofthe serious shortcomings in Said's analysis is his failure to address
questions of class under contemporary conditions of globality, that indeed
produce transnational classes that abolish earlier distinctions between the First
and the Third Worlds, but do not therefore abolish the importance of class.
Admirable though he is in his acknowledgment of his own class positions, too
much emphasis on the personal distracts from the need to address broader
questions of social formations. Said has little to say about the significance of
contemporary class formations understanding which may be essential both to
contemporary projects of liberation, and to the role intellectuals may play in
their realization. For all his insistence on "places," as in the statement above,
Said celebrates the "placelessness" of a New York, which makes his defense
of ''places" seem less than genuine. He associates places and localisms with
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 21
the locations for unpleasant fundamentalism's, and as a good, cosmopolitan
New York intellectual, is not beyond speaking of them with a hint of
contempt, as in his condescending reference to Youngstown, Ohio, in his
conversation with Salman Rushdie, as "a town I don't know, but you can
imagine what it's like" (Said 1994b: 115). According to Said, Youngstown,
Ohio, is a recipient of Palestinian immigrants, and he is concerned mainly
with their plight. But Youngstown, Ohio, in the American "rust belt," is also
an old working class city in decline with the decline in steel industries, and the
globalization of the US economy; its non-Arab inhabitants, too, may be
deserving of empathy-and solidarity.
The question here is not whether earlier ideas of nation, class or revolution
should be preserved intact in the unfolding of postcolonial criticism. New
times indeed call for new conceptualizations both of liberation, and of the
problems to be confronted to that end. Said's own thinking is in some ways
entrapped in the contradiction between the present and the past; playing the
one against the other, but unable to transcend the parameters they set. Said's
personalization of contradictions makes him unable or unwilling to see them
as also products of confrontations between shifting social formations; an
unwillingness that is very much informed by contemporary suspicions of
totalities.• At the same time, his assumption of continuity with the past also
evades the problems presented by the enormous political distance between the
present and the past. In the end, Said's critical stance is achieved at the cost of
an inability to look through the present with the critical help of the past to
consider radical alternatives for the future; leaving the past behind without
forgetting it, and overcoming the complicities with power of the present while
taking seriously the new problems that it has thrown up. National liberation is
no longer a problem when, by his own admission, the very status of the nation
One wishes that Said followed more closely on the question of the postcolonial the acute
awareness of the relationship between structure and agency that informs his analyses. He
observes, with relationship to the relationship between culture and the individual, that: "All
this, then shows us the individual consciousness placed at a sensitive nodal point, and it is this
consciousness at that critical point which this book[The World, the Text, and the Critic]
attempts to explore in the form of what I call criticism. On the one hand, the individual mind
registers and is very much aware of the collective whole, context, or situation in which it
finds itself. On the other hand, precisely because of this awareness-a worldly self-situating, a
sensitive response to the dominant culture-that the individual consciousness is not naturally
and easily a mere child of culture, but a historical and social actor in it. And because of that
perspective, which introduces circumstance and distinction where there had been only
confonnity and belonging, there is distance, or what we might also call criticism," (1983: 15).
has become problematic. That he continues to speak, however paradoxically,
as if a contemporary postcolonialism is continuous with that of the past, serves
mainly to conceal the history that divides postcolonialism past and present.
While Said's paradoxes enable him to distance himself from the past and the
present, the "dis-identification" thus achieved also obviates the need to
confront the issues raised by the juxtaposition of the past against the present.
Said assumes the mantle of past theorists without sharing in the political and
ideological burdens that they faced. On the other hand, that same mantle
disguises his relationship to a present in which the Third World intellectual
occupies a vastly different place in the metropolitan centres than in the past.
The avoidance of the need to account for the gaps between the present and the
past is a condition of the predicament faced by a contemporary
postcolonialism whose contestatory stance over issues of cultural identity
displaces political issues to the realm of culture, and refuses to confront its
possible complicity otherwise with the structures of power in a new situation
of globalism. While no one in good conscience could say of Said that he is a
defender of a contemporary establishment, we may perhaps observe of his
contrasts with earlier national liberation theorists what he has to say himself of
what he describes as the "degradation" of George Lukacs' theories at the
hands of Lucien Goldmann:
I do not think ... that degradation here has a moral implication, but rather ... that
degradation conveys the lowering of colour, the greater degree of distance,
the loss of inunediate force that occurs when Goldmann's notions of
consciousness and theory are compared with the meaning and role intended
by Lukacs for theory. Nor do I want to suggest that there is something
inherently wrong about Goldmann's conversion of insurrectionary, radically
adversarial consciousness into an acconunodating consciousness of
correspondence and homology. It is just that the situation has changed
sufficiently for the degradation to have occurred, although there is no doubt
that Goldmann's reading of Lukacs mutes the latter's almost apocalyptic
version of consciousness (1983: 236).
Said's "postcolonial cosmopolitanism" has been kept under check over the
years by his political commitments, by his affiliations with earlier ideologies
of national liberation, and by his exilic self-consciousness. In one of his
earliest interviews, he described himself as living in two worlds separated as if
in different boxes; the world of the cosmopolitan literature professor in a
prominent American university, and the world of the Palestinian nationalist,
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 23
whose activities were not appreciated by his other cosmopolitan colleagues,
let alone the public at large (Said 1976: 35). Exile, under the circumstances,
could not but appear as occasion for mourning. In his 1986 essay, "The Mind
of Winter," where he addressed the question of exile directly, he referred to
the liberating potential of exile, while still mourning it, and wrote that, "I am
speaking of exile not as a privileged site for individual self-reflection but as an
alternative to the mass institutions looming over much of modem life" (Said
1984: 54). It is my impression from reading his works-and it must remain as
an impression-that over the following decade, as he has brought his two
worlds closer together before a public more receptive to his politics, he has
moved in the direction of privileging exile as the site for a superior fonn of
knowledge, even as the mournful aspects of exile have receded to the
background. This may also have something to do with his and an increasing
sense of distance from Palestine, which he first expressed following his return
to Palestine/ Israel in 1992.
The exilic self-consciousness, in Said's own self-image, accounts for
many of his paradoxes. He concluded his interview with Wicke and Sprinker
in 1989 with a confession to a perpetual sense of placelessness, and an
uncertainty "about what I'm doing and my whole enterprise" (Wicke and
Sprinker 1992: 263).
But exile has also empowered him, and his paradoxes.
It is exile that enables Said to use the pronoun "we" (with reference, variously,
to being Palestinian, American, or "Western") against his own theoretical
positions; an option that is not open to others, non-exilic migrants, who
perceive their places of origin not just as "beginnings," but also as places that
must be repudiated as locations of oppression-! am referring here, reluctantly
(out of a resistance to confound the personal and the political, and the private
and the public), to my own inability to identify with a Turkish society that
continues to suppress its past atrocities, as against the Armenian minority, and
is incapable, therefore, of forestalling continued atrocity and oppression
presently, as with its Kurdish minority. The history in identity, in the latter
case, becomes more important as a question than the multiplicity of identities.
"Return to Palestine-Israel," in The Politics of Dispossession (1994: 175-199). Said's
acknowledgment of the differences in "language" between himself and the Palestinians living
in Palestine, or his alienation from Palestinian political leadership, has not kept him from
continued involvement in Palestine, and Palestinian issues.
Said has referred to this sense of uncertainty most recently in his article, "On Writing a
Memoir," (1999: 8).
So do the places of arrival against the places of origin. It does not take an
"uncritical gregariousness" to identify with places of arrival against origins, if
only because creative politics, while mindful of the past, needs also to come to
terms with where one lives, and how. This may mean anonymity, and
disappearance of identity into place, but that is not much of a problem if
identity is conceived in terms of its historicity, and the abolition of ethnic
identity is viewed as a desirable goal.
It may also be the case that too much preoccupation with identity, which
Said shares with contemporary postcolonial criticism, ends up erasing the
historicity of the question of identity, easily reverts back to the presumption of
reified cultural identities that defy history, and is depoliticizing in its
consequences.'' Inhabiting a multiplicity of spaces without being entrapped by
any of them offers obvious critical possibilities. It may also serve the ultimate
goal of criticism which, according to Said, "must think of itself as life-
enhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination
and abuse; its social goals are non-coercive knowledge produced in the
interest of human freedom" (Said 1983: 29). I say "it may" quite self-
consciously because there is an elision in much of Said's writing of the
difference between textual criticism, or even the criticism of power, and
"knowledge produced in the interest of human freedom." Abdul JanMohamed
who in his incisive essay has described Said as a "specular border
intellectual," observes that such an intellectual "subjects ... cultures to analytic
scrutiny rather than combining them; he or she utilizes his or her interstitial
cultural space as a vantage point from which to define, implicitly or explicitly,
other, utopian possibilities of group formation" (JanMohamed 1992: 97). Said
himself frequently refers to borders and border crossings, but even
borderlands inhabitance would seem to appear potentially suffocating to him,
as he also associates "contrapuntal" with "nomadic," and tells us that: "The
need for a relatively more unbuttoned, unfixed, and mobile mode of
proceeding-that's why the Deleuzian idea of the nomadic is so interesting-is to
me a much more useful and liberating instrument... You might say the real
conflict is between the unhoused and the housed" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992:
241 ). The issue here is not merely one of method of analysis. In a similar vein,
he says of himself that "The sense of being between cultures has been very,
For a critique of Said's use of culture, specifically with reference to Orientalism, see, James
Clifford, "On Orientalism," in Clifford (1988: 255-6).
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 25
very strong for me. I would say that's the single strongest strand running
through my life: the fact that I'm always in and out of things, and never really
of anything for very long" (Saluzinsky 1987: 123). While such a statement
suggests the profound alienation of the placeless stranger, it is the knowledge
produced by such alienation that Said privileges. He writes, without apparent
.. .it is no exaggeration to say that liberation as an intellectual mission, born in
the resistance and opposition to the confinements and ravages of imperialism,
has now shifted from the settled, established, and domesticated dynamics of
culture to its unhoused, decentred, and exilic energies, energies whose
incarnation today is the migrant, and whose consciousness is that of the
intellectual and artist in exile, the political figure between domains, between
forms, between homes, and between languages ( 1993: 332).
If I may return to JanMohammed's statement above, what is being
utopianized here are not new "possibilities of group formation," but the
placeless intellectual, and the kind of knowledge that produces and is
produced by such an intellectual-critical knowledge that nourishes off paradox
and contradiction. Such knowledge may help against the ravages of past
localisms and their contemporary manifestations, but it is also oblivious to the
place-based knowledges by which people conduct their everyday lives in order
to survive. If place-based knowledges need global visions to overcome their
parochialisms, globalized knowledge without attention to concrete places may
easily slip into complicity with new forms of power.
Said himself has managed to ward off such complicity by retaining
localized commitments, however imaginary, against the invasion of off-
ground globalism. If his paradoxes distance him from the past, they also help
ward off the predicament of complicity in the present. But the avoidance is
personal, and tenuous. It may seem strange to say of a politically committed
individual like Said, but needs to be said anyway, that the very paradoxes in
his politics inexorably displace political concerns toward the realm of culture,
and utopianized cultural places, such as the university, where politics may be
interpellated into cultural politics. While cultural politics is not to be
disdained, if it is to serve the purposes of "liberation," it needs to be returned
to where it may serve this goal for society at large: the everyday lives of
people in concrete places. Living with contradictions in the end is not a
substitute for resolving them, hopefully toward the end of human liberation,
and not the extinction of any meaningful sense of being human.
This is the second essay I have written over the last six months on a
contemporary intellectual (the other was on the Indian thinker, Ashis Nandy).
I have written these essays reluctantly, not so much out of the historian's
qualms about writing on contemporaries, but out of a resistance to
contributing to what I perceive to be a tendency of contemporary intellectual
life to create if not to fetishize iconic intellectuals. I have felt a simultaneous
obligation to write these essays, however, as this tendency needs to be
confronted as an intellectual and political problem. I also feel that if we are to
grasp postcolonialism as a problem, we need a better understanding of those
whose works have played an important part in its historical unfolding.
Writing this essay has been particularly difficult because, while I am
sympathetic to Said's positions, I am also critical of his stance, and I have had
to be quite careful in my criticisms as I would hate to play into the hands of
the politically motivated hostility that has been directed at him over the years.
Having attended an American school myself (Robert College in Istanbul), I
am appreciative of much of what Said has to say on questions of identity.
These questions are not questions of abstract ethnicity, but questions of
everyday life; as the student in the course of such schooling moves daily from
a class, say, on English literature, where s/he is taught the glories of Chaucer
or Shakespeare, to a class on Turkish literature, where the instructor tells
him/her that Europeans at the time of those great authors defecated in their
living rooms while subjects of the Ottoman Empire basked in the glory of
hamams. Such contrasts do not just create different identities in the same
person, they also create an urge to transcend silly and self-serving claims to
ethnic and national identity. Entrapment in ethnic and national identity may be
inevitable for the underprivileged who are not allowed to escape it, or an exilic
intellectual such as Said where the very condition of exile makes it an
intractable problem. I also believe, however, that the preoccupation with
ethnic and national cultural identity that is a prominent a feature of
contemporary intellectual and political life, especially in the United States,
needs to be resisted because it contributes to the perpetuation of the very
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 27
problem that it would overcome. There are other ways of self-identification
than ethnic and national origin. To overcome national and ethnic identity, it is
necessary in my opinion to view identity itself historically, as the product, not
determinant, of personal or group trajectory. This, interestingly, is also Said's
point in his discussions of "beginnings" that are not determinants of what
follows, but are subject to all the contingencies of history; it is all the more
puzzling, therefore, that he should also be insistent on multiple identities that
resist history, which, however complicated, non-linear, and resistant to
narrativization it may be rendered by the vagaries of identity formation,
assumes some coherence nevertheless in the process of living. I differ from
Said most importantly in my insistence on greater attention to places of arrival
against places of origin, and on the place-based against offground
cosmopolitanism, which informs my critique above.
A number of friends and colleagues have read the paper. I would like to
name especially Terry Eagleton, Fred Inglis, Charles Lock, Masao Miyoshi,
Benita Parry, Roxann Prazniak, Michael Sprinker, Richard Todd and Zhang
Xudong. I am grateful for their comments and encouragement.
Ahmad, Aijaz (1995), "The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality," Race and
Class, 36.3: 1-20.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1981), The Dialogic Imagination, (ed. Michael Holquist, tr.
Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist), Austin, Texas: University of Texas
Brennan, Tim (1992), "Place of Mind, Occupied Lands: Edward Said and
Philology," in Sprinker 1992: 74-95.
Chambers, Ian and Linda Curti (1996), The Post-Colonial Question, London:
Clifford, James (1988), "On Orientalism," in James Clifford, The Predicament
of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art,
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press: 255-276.
Dirlik, Arif (1999), "Place-Based Imagination: Globalism and the Politics of
Place," Review XXIT.2 (Spring).
Eagleton, Terry (1990), "Nationalism: Irony and Conunitment," in Eagleton,
Jameson and Said: 23-39.
Eagleton, Teny, Fredric Jameson and Edward W. Said (1990), Nationalism,
Colonialism and Literature, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota
Hall, Stuart (1996), "Cultural Identity and Diaspora," in Padmini Mongia
(ed.), Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, London: Arnold
Hall, Stuart (1996), "When was the post-colonial: thinking at the limit," in Ian
Chambers and Linda Curti (1996).
Marrouchi, Mustapha (1998), "Countemarratives, Recoveries, Refusals,"
boundary 2 25.2(Summer 1998): 205-257.
Pany, Benita (1992), "Overlapping Territories and Intertwined Histories:
Edward Said's Postcolonial Cosmopolitanism," in Sprinker 1992: 19-47.
Said, Edward (1993), Culture and Imperialism, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Said, Edward (1994), "Holding Nations and Traditions at Bay," in
Representations of the Intellectual, The 1993 Reith Lectures New York:
Pantheon Books.
Said, Edward (1994b), "On Palestinian Identity: A Conversation with Salman
Rushdie," in Edward W. Said, The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle
for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994 New York: Pantheon: 107-
Said, Edward (1976), "Interview," Diacritics, 6.3(Fall): 30-47.
Said, Edward (1983), The World, the Text and the Critic, Cambridge MA:
Said, Edward (1984), "The Mind of Winter: Reflections on Life in Exile,"
Harper's Magazine No. 269:49-55,
Said, Edward (1986) After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, photographs by
Jean Mohr. London: Faber and Faber.
Said, Edward (1988), "Foreword," Selected Subaltern Studies, (ed. Ranajit
Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak), New York: Oxford University
Said, Edward (1990), "Yeats and Decolonization," in Terry Eagleton, Fredric
Jameson and Edward W. Said, Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press: 69-95.
Said, Edward (1991), "Identity, Authority and Freedom: The Potentate and the
Traveller," (31st TB Davie Memorial Lecture, 22 May 1991), Cape Town:
University of Cape Town.
Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist 29
Said, Edward ( 1994 ), The Politics of Dispossession: the Struggle for
Palestinian Self-Determination 1969-1994 New York: Pantheon.
Said, Edward (1998/9), "Edward Said, in conversation with Neeladri
Bhattacharya, Suvir Kaul and Ania Loomba, New Delhi, 16 December
1997," Interventions, 1.1 (1998/9): 81-96.
Said, Edward (1999), "On Writing a Memoir," London Review of Books,
Volume 21 Number 9(29 April): 8-11
Saluzinszky, Imre ( 198 7), "Edward Said," in Criticism in Society: Interviews
London and New York: Methuen.
Sprinker, Michael ed. ( 1992), Edward Said: A Critical Reader Cambridge,
MA: Blackwell.
Wicke, Jennifer and Michael Sprinker, "Interview with Edward Said," in
Sprinker 1992: 221-264.
Patrick Williams
In the truly remarkable oeuvre of Edward Said, the figure of the
intellectual looms large.
In addition, Said himself is increasingly being
acknowledged as one of the late twentieth century's representative
Much of Said's work has involved engaged analysis of
intellectual production of all sorts and from all sites - institutional and non-
This is reflected in the fact that at least two of the contributions to the present volume address
directly questions of intellectuals in relation to Said. While this essay will try hard to avoid
overlap with Patrick Brantlinger's analysis of the public intellectual, it is worth noting in
passing that numbers of post-colonial intellectuals - including, of course, Said - are among the
more prominent and influential of public intellectuals today. Robert Boynton's discussion of
African-Americans (Boynton, "The New Intellectuals") as the epitome of contemporary
public intellectuals in the United States recognises one dimension of that.
This is not without its problems, perhaps most particularly in terms of being taken to represent
a pre-given position. In the most recent general study of intellectuals, (Goldfarb 1998) Said
figures as 'the subversive intellectual', caught up in the stagnation and contemporary
irrelevance of the Left. However, the fact that we are told that he is an ideologue, that he is
"subversive not in the name of truth but of an identity position", that he is guilty of "simple-
minded leftism", and that he and others like him behave as if communism had not ended,
suggests that the author may have a few intellectual problems of his own.
Patrick Williams
institutional; on the side of different forces and forms of oppression, or
resolutely ranged against them; aspiring simply to be 'private', or determined
to be as public as possible - and has enlarged understanding in all the areas he
has covered, as well as in others where his insights have inspired work in
disciplines apparently little related. It is difficult to find his equal today in
terms of his embodiment of committed and courageous taking of positions and
defending of causes combined with generosity of spirit. The present essay (in
what wiiJ no doubt look to some as the very opposite of a spirit of generosity)
will take as its starting point an intriguing absence in Said's work - post-
colonial studies in general and post-colonial intellectuals in particular. A
discussion of this sort is, of course, anything but disinterested; as Pierre
Bourdieu (of whom more later) says:
We have an interest in the problems that seem to us to be interesting .... But to
say we are interested in a problem is a euphemistic way of naming the
fundamental fact that we have vital stakes in our scientific production
(Bourdieu, 1993: 49).
Post-colonial studies seems to me not only an interesting but also an
academically and politically important (and of course endlessly conflicted and
contested) area of current intellectual production - and Said's silence on it is
thus also a matter of interest.
It is indeed hard not to register the post-colonial as an enormous silence in
Said's work, and even as a growing or more entrenched one, given that he was
(briefly) content to use the term a decade ago. Whether such silence is the
mark of a principled refusal or, however paradoxically, the sign of something
more akin to the cultural conservatism and disciplinary boundary policing
which he so acutely identifies in the work of others, may be difficult to
ascertain. There is, nevertheless, an undoubted irony in the turning away from
the concept of post-colonialism by the man who has done so much to
stimulate inquiry in that area, and who for many might represent something
like the very figure of a post-colonial intellectual.
At the same time, the
reluctance to sign up to any movement, party or group - particularly anything
which hints at the merely fashionable - has always been part of Said's
Said is not quite alone in this high-profile disavowal - another paradigmatic post-colonial
intellectual who has recently gone back on earlier positions is Gayatri Spivak. In a
forthcoming piece she says, among other things: "In the era of cyberpolitics and electronic
capitalism, the "postcolonial" seems to me to be residual" (Spivak 1999).
Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 33
approach. Even when the movement concerned was the PLO and the cause as
compelling as justice and freedom for his own people, Said has always held
back: "I refused all inducements to join one of the groups or to work in the
PLO, largely because I felt it was important to preserve my distance. I was a
partisan, yes, but a joiner and member, no."(Said 1995a xxivt In that kind of
perspective, refusal to identify with post-colonialism is nothing special.
At the level of post-colonial literature, there is the paradox that although
Said has frequently championed individual post-colonial writers, or used them
as illustrative examples in his work, post-colonial texts more generally seem
to suffer in comparison with Western canonical ones. There is, for instance,
the feeling that the inclusion of post-colonial texts on university curricula is
likely to occur for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way:
one can sympathize with the dissatisfaction of students who come here from
the Third World looking for ways out. But I'm not sure that the way out is
simply the mechanical substitution of post-colonial fiction for nineteenth
century fiction (Sprinker 1992: 257).
In addition, a certain (post-colonial) questioning of canonical texts - which
may form the basis for calls for 'mechanical substitution' - also strikes Said as
inappropriate or inadequate:
There's no reason for me to perform acts of amputation on myself,
intellectually, spiritually or aesthetically, simply because in the experience of
other people from the Third World, a black novelist from Nigeria like
Achebe, or your West Indian friend, can make my Proust or Conrad into
someone who is only despicable (Sprinker: 1992: 253).
Apart from the fact that making Conrad 'only despicable' is not part of
Achebe's argument, (he could be said to be offering nothing more than a
heartfelt 'politics of representation' reading of Conrad, of the kind which Said
himself does in a more sophisticated and successful manner), it is interesting
to note both the strength of feeling and level of personal investment here with
regard to the canonical: loss of 'my Proust' would be an 'amputation'. Said, of
course, has always been unapologetic in his admiration for the monuments of
There is of course an interesting tension between Said's years of commitment to, and
involvement in, the Palestinian struggle, and his refusal to ~ o i n ' .
Patrick Williams
Western culture, but the fact and manner of their defence against illegitimate
intruders from the Third World strikes a curious note.
If Said very much wants to hang on to Western literature, something like
the opposite is the case with (Western) theory. His silence on post-colonialism
at the theoretical level may be no more than the result of his loss of interest in
theory generally, following its decline, in his view, into "a guild designation
now that has produced a jargon I find hopelessly tiresome" (Sprinker 1992:
249). Said's statement from 1991: "I simply lost interest in literary theory
about ten years ago. It just doesn't strike me as something that is of interest to
me in what I'm doing on a given day"(247) is also important. If theory 'died'
for him in 1980 or thereabouts, then clearly a lot of flogging of dead horses
has taken place since. Ironically, many people would see 1980 (or
thereabouts) as precisely the moment when literary theory took off- though
perhaps Said's loss of interest is not unconnected to what might be seen as the
professionalisation, institutionalisation, even vulgarisation of theory which its
eventual success involved. Though the institutionalisation of oppositional
forms of theory - Marxism, feminism, latterly post-colonialism - has generally
been perceived in terms of loss of resistant potential, for a critic like Stuart
Hall it is a (painful) necessity: "One needs to go through the organisational
moment- 'the long march through the institutions'- to get people together, to
build some kind of collective intellectual project" (Hall 149).
Along with theory's 'success' has come accusations that it is merely
fashionable, and for critics such as Russell Jacoby, that applies very much to
post-colonial studies, which may ultimately prove to be no more than "another
boutique in the academic mall of human knowledge" (Jacoby 1995: 17). For
others, however, the pressures of fashion constitute a more generalised
problem for intellectuals:
There is something desperate in the way in which 'free intellectuals' hand in
their essays on the required subject of the moment, currently desire, the body,
or seduction. And there is no more dismal reading, twenty years on, than
these obligatory exercises brought together, in perfect harmony, by the
special issues of the major 'intellectual' magazines (Bourdieu 1993: 43).
For some, that would no doubt be a perfect characterisation - and
dismissal - of the current state of post-colonial studies, though we might ask
on what reliable grounds it would be possible to distinguish such dismal and
Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 35
desperate-docile intellectual activity from, say, a special issue of Boundary 2
devoted to Said, or indeed a volume of essays in his honour.
Said is far from alone in his unhappiness with the 'hopelessly tiresome ...
jargon' of post-colonial theory. Certain post-colonial theorists (most obviously
or notoriously, but not exclusively, Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak) have
been repeatedly accused of jargon-ridden obscurantism, as has the kind of
post-colonial work most strongly influenced by post-structuralism or other
fonns of 'high' theory. Such criticisms have come from those within the field
as well as outside, and for the former at least, have in no way diminished the
importance either of theory or of the field. For Said, however, even at rare
moments when he appears well-disposed towards post-colonial studies in
general, the 'excess' and 'risible jargon' he perceives (Said 1995b, 350) clearly
constitute a significant stumbling block.
In addition, terminological excess and a share in the general problems of
the 'post-' are among the factors which can lead post-colonial studies to have
what in Said's eyes is the most deleterious of effects: luring intellectuals away
from any sort of meaningful political engagement. In the wake of the
generalised failure of intellectuals - especially in the United States - to respond
to American imperialism in the shape of the Gulf War, Said said:
One would pretty much have to scuttle all the jaw-shattering postmodernisms
that now dot the landscape. They are worse than useless. They are neither
capable of understanding and analyzing the power structure of this country
nor are they capable of understanding the particular aesthetic merit of an
individual work of art. Whether you call it deconstruction or postmodemism
or poststructuralism or post-anything, they all represent a sort of spectacle of
giving back tickets at the entrance and saying, we're really out of it. We want
to check into our private resort and be left alone. (Said 1995a: 316)
Said's growing objections to theory are also based on what he sees as the
latter's totalising aspirations, its desire to install itself as all-encompassing
system. Thus he is at pains to point out in Culture and Imperialism that he is
not proposing a "completely worked out theory" and that the book offers a
"globalized (not total) description" (233) though it is not clear exactly what -
beyond the ideological (and theoretical) unacceptability of the T -word - would
constitute the difference. Certainly, to the extent that post-colonial theory is
forced to address universalising phenomena, it immediately risks being or
becoming too all-embracing in a way that other theories are not. This,
36 Patrick Williams
however, could be understood otherwise: if post-colonial theory has to grapple
with imperialism, the globalization of capitalism, etc., then its own global
reach might be seen as entirely appropriate, grounded in material conditions in
a way that, for instance, deconstruction might not be, and any universal
pretensions on the part of the latter would need to be resisted.
The refusal of theory-as-system, and of all-encompassing models in
general, is the intellectual or conceptual correlate of the political party, nation
or ethnic group whose claims and clutches he is determined to avoid. For Said,
collectivities - by their very nature, no doubt - constrain the individual's sphere
of operations, and this applies particularly to intellectuals. As a result, he is
concerned to resist such limitations, and hence refuses all kinds of
nominalised belonging and identification. In this context, it would be possible
to see post-colonialism as naming yet another (potentially) constricting
identity; just one more label to be avoided.
At the same time as criticising theory, Said has expressed his interest in
the kind of analysis which is historically based, which is not confined within
traditional disciplinary or discursive boundaries, and which tries to construct
historical or intellectual linkages - all of which, one could argue, applies to so
much of the work done in the post-colonial field, and which even a profound
sceptic like Jacoby is prepared to admit: "Any evaluation of post-colonial
theory must acknowledge its salutary effort to challenge repressive intellectual
divisions of labour." (Jacoby, 17). In addition, Said has repeatedly accused
theory in general of ignoring colonialism and imperialism:
All the energies poured into critical theory, into novel and demystifying
theoretical praxes, like the new historicism and deconstruction and Marxism,
have avoided the major, I would say determining, political horizon of modern
Western culture, namely imperialism (1993: 70).
However, a strange and unexpected 'ignoring' is also taking place here -
precisely of all those books and articles which, following his lead and that of
others, have attempted to tackle imperialism, its practices and cultural
products, in a range ofways.
It is no doubt invidious to name even a few names, but the work of Neil Lazarus, Nicholas
Thomas, Peter Hulme, Ranajit Guha and the Subaltern Studies group, Benita Parry, and, yes,
Gayatri Spivak (to take some rather random and disparate examples) is theorised, politicised,
historicized, engaged with imperialism- and exemplary in different ways.
Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . .. 37
A further post-colonial absence in Said's writing, and the one which most
concerns us here, is intellectuals. A similar process is discernible here to that
which operates in relation to texts and theory: there is no discussion of post-
colonial intellectuals (texts or theories) in general; when individual post-
colonial intellectuals (texts or theories) are mentioned, they are not identified
as such. Even when the discussion involves intellectuals in relation to
concepts or processes such as exile which for so many other critics are
paradigmatic of post-colonialism, the term is still avoided. The notable
exception to this is the paper "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World". Even
here, although Conor Cruise O'Brien in the accompanying discussion is quite
wrong to remark that Said has more to say about the pre-colonial world, the
post-colonial somehow contrives to slip out of focus. Also, the critical
intellectual activity Said notes in this article is in areas such as theories of
development and dependency, and not those of literature and culture. In the
more recent "Third World Intellectuals and Metropolitan Culture"
(subsequently absorbed, along with "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World",
into Culture and Imperialism) Said addresses both the particular gap
represented by literature and culture, as well as one of Orienta/ism's most
frequently remarked upon absences - the voices of intellectuals answering
Orientalism and imperialism back, theorising and representing anti-colonial
and post-colonial resistance.
In terms of the growing silence (or resistance) on Said's part regarding
post-colonialism, it is perhaps worth noting that when "Intellectuals in the
Post-Colonial World" is dispersed across Chapter 1 of Culture and
Imperialism, most of the references to post-colonialism, and particularly to
post-colonial intellectuals, are reworded or simply removed. Probably the
most frequent transformation is to 'post-imperialism', a term which begs even
more questions and raises more potential problems than post-colonial. One of
the more significant problems relates to the fact that some of the most useful
thinking in this area has been based on a particular differentiation between
colonialism and imperialism, with the former seen as a distinct historical
phase ofthe latter, and one which is almost entirely concluded. The latter, on
the other hand, considered as the globalizing of the capitalist mode of
production, is a process which is far from finished, and therefore to talk of
'post-imperialism' in this context as having already arrived would make no
sense. Work done in post-colonial studies in the last decade would allow the
retrospective argument which would emphasise the sense of 'post-colonial' as
38 Patrick Williams
either the discourse of resistance to colonialism and therefore potentially
contemporary with it, or as the discourse of anticipation of the eventual
achievement of a properly post-colonial state. Said might then be argued to be
using 'post-imperial' in either anticipatory or resistant mode; there is, however,
nothing in his use of the term to support such a view. The process of
transforming or omitting the post-colonial in the passage to Culture and
Imperialism is all the more remarkable, given that by the time of its
publication in 1993 post-colonialism had gained far greater currency (and thus
potential intellectual resonance) than it had when "Intellectuals in the Post-
Colonial World" appeared in 1986 (whereas 'post-imperialism' remains an
awkward and deeply troubling term).
If the role of intellectuals in the post-colonial world has (despite Said's
article) yet to receive its proper theorisation, it has so far not lacked for
denunciations, and some of the best-known polemical interventions, such as
those by Aijaz Ahmad, Anthony Appiah and Arif Dirlik, regarding the nature
of post-colonialism, and the legitimacy, utility or scope of the term, have
focused on intellectuals. There is a notable dynamic here, with post-colonial
intellectuals who do not want to identify themselves as such attacking others
who do. If, as Zygmunt Bauman has argued, "Any attempt to define
intellectuals is an attempt at self-definition; any attempt to accord or deny the
status of an intellectual is an attempt at self-construction" (Bauman 1992: 81),
then one of the things being played out here is a particular kind of power
game, a territorial struggle for certain forms of (intellectual) legitimacy. Said
himself has frequently rejected the ideology of what he terms "possessive
insiderism", the idea that only a particular identity grants the holder the right
to research or speak on a particular topic:
I mean simply that if you believe with Gramsci that an intellectual vocation
is socially possible as well as desirable, it is an inadmissible contradiction at
the same time to build analyses of historical experience around exclusions,
exclusions that stipulate, for instance, only women can understand feminine
experience, only Jews can understand Jewish suffering, only formerly
colonial subjects can understand colonial experience (1986: 55).
The processes of labelling and accreditation, inclusion or exclusion (of
self and/or others) are central to strategies in the intellectual field. This,
despite the self-confident pronouncements of those involved in the field, is a
practice without closure, since, as Bourdieu has pointed out, it relates to
Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial .. . 39
a question which is not settled in reality, that of knowing who is an
intellectual and who isn't, who are the 'real' intellectuals, those who really
realize the essence of the intellectual. In fact, one of the major issues at stake
in the literary or artistic field is the definition of the limits of that field, that
is, oflegitimate participation in the struggles (1990: 143).
If these - the (positive) legitimation of the boundaries of a field and of the
participation of certain individuals within it - are significant examples of, in
Bourdieu's terms, 'symbolic power', how much more so are those gestures
which delegitimate, not only individuals but entire fields, as Said does in one
of his most recent interviews. Asked by Ani a Loomba whether he thought the
field of post-colonial studies was subject to some of the same problems as
Orientalism, he responded:
I would rather myself not talk about it because I do not think I belong to that.
First of all I don't think colonialism is over, really. I don't know what they are
really talking about... So I think to use the word postcolonialism is really a
misnomer and I think I referred to the problems of that term in the Afterword
to Orienta/ism (1998/9: 82).
Apart from the recognised refusal to be labelled or co-opted, this
represents the striking dismissal of a substantial body of recent and continuing
intellectual endeavour. It is striking because on the face of it one would have
thought that Said would have been sympathetic to what post-colonial studies
is trying to do - not least because part of it is precisely the same as what he
himself does, in terms of textual or cultural analysis, in Orienta/ism or Culture
and Imperialism. It is striking, too, because his categorisation of post-colonial
studies seems to have so little to do with current practice. In the response just
quoted, Said goes on to say:
I mean colonialism in the formal sense is over, but I am very interested in
neo-colonialism, I am very interested in the workings of the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and I have written about them. I care
very much about the structures of dependency ... ( 1998/9: 82).
The suggestion that people working in the post-colonial studies somehow
believe that colonialism (in the shape of neo-colonialism) is past and gone
Defining the 'real' post-colonial intellectuals is one part of the 'game' (in Bourdieu's terms)
which the present essay will not attempt.
40 Patrick Williams
indicates that unfortunately in a sense Said really doesn't know what they are
talking about. It is of course perfectly possible to read all kinds of work in
postcolonial studies which betrays no necessary or immediate concern with
the workings of the IMF or the structures of dependency, but then some
readers might feel that the same could be said of a number of Said's own
literary and cultural analyses - though it would be a peculiarly rash or ill-
informed commentator who attempted on that basis to suggest that Said
himself had no interest in international political matters. (And if the political
affiliations of someone as clear and committed as Said can be overlooked or
misinterpreted in particular pieces, how much more understandable is that in
the case of the mass of 'ordinary' post-colonial intellectuals ?) Ultimately,
post-colonialism may prove to be a misnomer, as Said suggests, but then what
are we to make of his preference for 'post-imperialism' in terms of its
implications for the disappearance or persistence of international structures
and practices of domination and exploitation ?
The interview continues:
[Ania Loomba] I just wanted to fmish this by saying that there is a whole
debate about the literary emphasis of post-colonial studies or the genesis, the
disciplinary home, from which it began. One of the unfortunate spillovers is
that precisely those material details- you know what ArifDirlik says-
[Said] (intervenes) - are left out. Yes I agree. I have quoted Arif Dirlik
precisely for that reason (1998/9: 83).
Dirlik is well known as the author of one of the most trenchant attacks on
post-colonial intellectuals, and in view both of the approving reference and
because his article offers a more sustained discussion of the question of
intellectuals, it is useful to examine his reservations alongside those of Said.
"The Postcolonial Aura" is powerfully written, and makes uncomfortable
reading for anyone - especially anyone with materialist or socialist affiliations
-working in the post-colonial field, firstly because of the strength of its
denunciation from a 'friendly' theoretical-political position, and secondly
because it can leave the reader wondering how such a powerful critique could
get things so wrong ...
Questions of the identity, location and behaviour of intellectuals are
central to Dirlik's discussion of post-colonialism:
Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 41
"When exactly ... does the 'post-colonial' begin ?" queries Ella Shohat in a recent
discussion of the subject. Misreading the question deliberately, I will supply here
an answer that is only partly facetious: When Third World intellectuals have
arrived in first world academe (328-9).
Here in his opening sentences, Dirlik inadvertently does exactly what he
later criticises post-colonial intellectuals for doing - taking the local for the
global- since although the 'arrival' of Third World intellectuals may mark the
inauguration of post-colonial studies in the United States, that is not the case
in other first world academic centres, for example Britain or Germany, where,
on the contrary, the presence of more Third World intellectuals would be
Similar worries to Dirlik's are voiced by Gayatri Spivak:
Neocolonialism is fabricating its allies by proposing a share of the centre in a
seemingly new way (not a rupture but a displacement): disciplinary support
for the conviction of authentic marginality by the (aspiring) elite ....
When a cultural identity is thrust upon one because the centre wants an
identifiable margin, claims for marginality assure validation from the centre
(Spivak 1993: 57, 55).
The fact that these are repeated does not affect the parochial reach of the
claims in so far as they relate to the behaviour of post-colonial intellectuals.
Otherwise, they have a general (but not specifically post-colonial) application
in terms of how the 'centre' in any hegemonic system works to co-opt those
outside its 'natural' constituency- and conversely how those outside the centre
may aspire to advancement or reward. (The assertion that Dirlik's and Spivak's
claims do not apply to the situation in post-colonial studies in Britain should
not be taken as suggesting any superior resistance to co-optation, simply that
there is not the same constituency hoping for promotion.)
Among Dirlik's central concerns is the relation of post-colonial
intellectuals to global capitalism: formed by it, complicit with it, and
simultaneously repudiating its power in their writings, (when not simply
ignoring it altogether in his view). There are, however, all sorts of problems
with this. Dirlik's observations on the (academic) emergence of post-colonial
studies in the contemporary period of global capitalism are correct, but not his
conclusions regarding the linkages of complicity (with no other grounding
than the bare fact of simultaneity). Exactly the same chronology could be used
42 Patrick Williams
to argue for post-colonial studies as in fact resistant reaction to the neo-
colonial or globalising moment of capitalism. More importantly, Dirlik's view
of post-colonial studies as more or less springing fully co-opted from the head
of capitalism (to mangle a classical allusion) ignores that significant part of
the discipline's roots which lie in the tradition of anti-colonial writing and
activism of Cesaire, Cabral, Fan on and others.
Dirlik's contention that post-colonial critics in general deny the
'foundational' importance of capitalism rests on his reading of an article by
Gyan Prakash. In itself, the reading is correct- there is no getting away from
the fact that Prakash makes just such a denial; for example: "we cannot
thematize Indian history in terms of the development of capitalism and
simultaneously contest capitalism's homogenization of the contemporary
world." (Prakash 1992: 13). The problem is rather that Dirlik once again
mistakes the local for the global. In this case, he takes Prakash's article for the
whole of post-colonial studies, when in fact, impressive and thought-
provoking though the piece is, it is arguably eccentric in terms of debates
within the field, and certainly in no way represents anything resembling a
consensus or dominant view. There is the additional problem for Dirlik's
extrapolation that Prakash is arguably quite wrong: apart from the curious
self-limiting aspect of such a theoretical gesture, it conflates the (analytical
and political) importance of recognising and understanding the historical role
of capitalism with the simple acceptance of capitalism's global'success'.
Like Said, Dirlik is concerned to establish his (problematic and
paradoxical) distance from post-colonialism: "I myself share in the concerns
(and even some of the viewpoints) of post-colonial intellectuals, though from
a somewhat different perspective than those who describe themselves as such"
(328). Although there is the sense of a division of post-colonial intellectuals
into the suspect or illegitimate ("those who describe themselves as such") and
others less gripped by unseemly haste to be part of the club, it is somewhat
unclear why Dirlik would wish to admit to even partial alignment with a
discourse or approach which otherwise seems to him so utterly compromised
("postcoloniality is the condition of the intelligentsia of global capitalism", etc
(356)). It is also unclear how, being in his own words "(more or less) one of
the Third World intellectuals in First World academe" (328), he manages to
avoid being part of the compromised "intelligentsia of global capitalism".
Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 43
The latter point is representative of a typical stumbling block in
discussions of intellectuals - the (unresolved) issue of the extent to which
questions of location (class I geographical I institutional I hierarchical I etc)
and formation (social I cultural I class I gender I intellectual) are regarded as
simple indicators or ineluctable determinants of the nature of intellectual
praxis and production. Probably more than any other similar group, post-
colonial intellectuals have been subject to routine dismissal precisely on
grounds oflocation in the West (especially if that is combined with location in
a university deemed elite). What that rather simplistic kind of argument
ignores is the fact that 'the West' is not ideologically homogeneous in itself,
nor able to enforce ideological compliance on anyone who happens to reside
within its increasingly porous borders. It also ignores issues of hierarchy and
status among institutions both nationally and internationally: Columbia
University may be more 'powerful' than the University of Kelaniya, but
equally an institution like the University of Singapore can far outrank the
University of Sunderland on the global stage. Also, as Rajeswari Sunder Raj an
points out, the institutional gamut from elite and powerful to obscure and
marginalised runs through universities in India as much as in the United
States, and entrenched norms and practices may be more constraining on the
work of post-colonial intellectuals in situ than in the West (Rajan, 1997).
An attempt to engage with particular examples of post-colonial
intellectual formation and location, and one which also does so on the basis of
a specific theory, rather than generalised assertions, is Anthony Amove's
"Pierre Bourdieu, the Sociology of Intellectuals, and the Language of African
Literature". Although its focus is, as stated, African, it has potential for
moving general post-colonial debates beyond simple accusations of
culpability or complicity. Amove's account, while more sympathetically
inclined than some others we have encountered, does not necessarily offer
much immediate comfort. He draws on Bourdieu's theories of intellectuals in
order to assess the arguments around post-colonial cultural production
polarised and personalised in terms of Chinua Achebe versus Ngugi wa
Thiong'o and their views on language choice. Amove is also interested in the
location of intellectuals - though in terms of various analytical 'fields' of class
or 'social space', rather than Ivy League universities. In particular, he is
concerned with the way that their location in these fields causes Achebe and
Ngugi, in his view, to misrecognise both the nature of their position and the
tenns of their disagreement. For Bourdieu, "artists and writers, and more
44 Patrick Williams
generally intellectuals, are a dominated fraction of the dominant class."
(Bourdieu 1990: 145), and this membership of the dominant class is, in
Amove's eyes, what Ngugi in particular misrecognises. (Such an apparent
refusal or inability to recognise a problematic privileged location has, on the
face of it, some connection with Dirlik's criticisms.) Although Ngugi is able to
critique Achebe's unwarranted generalising of his own petit-bourgeois
experience to represent the nation as a whole, he remains, for Amove, unable
to recognise the problems caused by "the effacement of his class position in an
idealization of his relationship to 'the people"' (286) Amove goes on to say:
Ngugi's use of 'the people' is bound up in the struggle for cultural capital, for
social recognition, and the "profit of distinction" (LSP 55) that is secured by
being recognised as an authentic spokesperson for the dominated classes,
someone who can be seen as "courageous" and "committed" for his decision
to write in Gikuyu (287).
Although Amove opens his article by considering - and rejecting - the
idea that using Bourdieu in this context might represent a "colonial
imposition", there are nevertheless grounds for wondering whether Bourdieu's
generally powerful and persuasive arguments quite fit their chosen post-
colonial object. Firstly, there is the question of whether intellectuals
necessarily belong to the dominant class. Apart from the fact that it leaves no
space for anything resembling Gramsci's organic intellectual, emerging from -
and belonging to - subaltern as well as dominant classes, the idea that going to
school and university automatically declasses I reclassifies in this way
someone like Ngugi from a landless peasant background assigns enormous
power to cultural institutions to influence and situate individuals. (Ironically,
this institutional/cultural effect is something which Amove is at great pains to
play down when it is a case of Ngugi arguing for colonialism's profound
mental impact on colonised peoples, especially through education.)
Ache be and Ngugi's position within the 'field' of intellectual (here, literary
and cultural) production appears remarkably constraining or determining
(especially in view of Amove's basically materialist stance) in relation to class
location, and the possession and deployment of, in Bourdieu's terms, 'cultural
capital' and 'symbolic power'. Essentially, once you are in, there seems to be
no way out of the 'field'. Also, there is the assumption that, once located in the
field, Achebe and Ngugi inevitably follow its logic:
Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 45
It is precisely in this context - the competition within a field for a dominant
position, with the recognition and cultural capital (convertible to economic
capital through the institutions of publishing, teaching, lecturing and award-
granting) it confers - that Ngugi's and Achebe's 'position-takings' ... on the
language of African literature should be situated. (288).
The idea that Ngugi might be more urgently concerned with things other
than the accumulation of (convertible) cultural capital - such as opposing the
neo-colonial regime in Kenya for example - is either not entertained or
dismissed as another form of self-misrecognition. For Amove, the most
particular form of Ngugi's misrecognition is, as mentioned, his relation to the
'people'. Bourdieu suggests that:
the 'people' or the 'popular' .. .is frrst of all one of the things at stake in the
struggle between intellectuals. The fact of being or feeling authorized to
speak about the 'people' or of speaking for (in both senses of the word) the
'people' may constitute, in itself, a force in the struggles within different
fields -political, religious, artistic ...
the stances adopted towards the 'people' or the 'popular' depend in their form
and content on specific interests linked frrst and foremost to belonging to a
cultural field of production and, secondly, to the position occupied within
this field (1990: 150).
The first section of this is unobjectionable as the recognition of a
particular kind of politics of the sort Bakhtin and Voloshinov would endorse.
For Bourdieu, however, the access to the role of spokesperson inevitably
involves a break with the 'people', in which case the 'people' can presumably
never have a 'genuine' spokesperson, one who is not vulnerable, like Achebe
and Ngugi, to the charge of idealizing or romanticizing their relationship with
the people (since he or she is no longer fully one of them).
The second part of the quote from Bourdieu reinforces the containing or
constraining sense of the field. Ngugi's use of the 'people', and his behaviour
towards those he sees as his people hardly seem to be those constituted by his
position within the field: world-famous novelist and head of a university
department. Bourdieu's theory (as used by Amove) appears to take no account
of the possibility of someone located within the field of literature deriving
their stance and organising their behaviour towards the 'people' on the basis of
concepts derived from a completely different field - politics, for instance.
Above all, Amove's view of Ngugi crucially - and surprisingly, given his
46 Patrick Williams
materialist approach - ignores the possibility of praxis as an activity which can
connect the intellectual and the 'people'. In Ngugi's case, the best-known
example was his involvement in collaborative radical theatre projects with the
people of his village of Kamiriithu using indigenous languages and cultural
forms. The first of these projects was strongly Gilruyu-based; the second
aimed at the production of a more truly national-popular form. The fact that
the first led to his imprisonment without trial for a year did not stop the
attempt at a second (which had more than a little to do with his subsequent
exile). From exile Ngugi has been involved (culturally and more 'practically')
in the protracted struggles to establish democracy in Kenya - participation, in
his view, in people-oriented praxis.
If, however, Amove and Bourdieu are correct, and the basis for all of this
is no more than a fundamental self-misrecognition, it is difficult to see what
sort of legitimate linkage a post-colonial intellectual, or any other, aiming for
connection with ordinary people (whether at the modest level of simply
retaining class belonging, or the much more ambitious one of mass political
mobilisation) could ever hope for. In tum, the prospects for any post-colonial
intellectuals' relation to politicised agency would look extremely bleak.
Another of Amove's criticisms ofNgugi is one which is frequently leveled
at post-colonial intellectuals - the bias towards culturalism and neglect of the
material, which we have already encountered in Said's comments, and will do
so again. For Amove: "the tendency of positions generated from the
dominant-dominated position [i.e. that of intellectuals] to interpret the social
world according to culturalist protocols tends to obscure the economic stakes
of cultural struggles" (289). If, however, the dominant-dominated is the
position of all intellectuals (according to Bourdieu and Amove) that ought
logically to mean that all intellectuals produce culturalist readings of the
world. In addition, it is impossible to see this - as it is intended - as a useful
assessment ofNgugi. Even in the book on which Amove bases his discussion
(and which is admittedly one of Ngugi's more culturalist), Decolonising the
Mind, there are numerous examples of statements like the following:
The language question cannot be solved outside the larger arena of
economics and politics, or outside the answer to the question of what society
we want. § But the search for new directions in language, literature, theatre,
poetry, fiction and scholarly studies in Africa is part and parcel of the overall
struggles of African people against imperialism in its neo-colonial stage
Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 47
And in case there is any doubt about whether Ngugi might somehow be
conceptualising imperialism in culturalist terms:
Imperialism is the rule of consolidated finance capital, and since 1884 this
monopolistic parasitic capital has affected and continues to affect the lives of
even the peasants in the remotest comers of our countries (2).
-not Ngugi's most elegant exposition, perhaps, but scarcely one that could
be called culturalist. From a certain perspective, of course, the strenuous
distinctions drawn between the cultural and the material would appear not
only ideologically loaded, but also virtually meaningless: the materiality of
culture, its practices and processes, as well as its products, has been one of the
basic tenets of cultural studies, with which post-colonial studies shares a great
deal of common analytical ground, political aspirations and even intellectual
If the use of Bourdieu might seem to lead to an underestimation of the
extent to which a post-colonial intellectual like Ngugi might retain links with
'the people', or might be engaged in the struggle for more than just 'the profit
of distinction' in his mobilisation of 'the people' (discursively and practically),
there are nevertheless other aspects of his thought which appear more
promising in our context. In his inaugural lecture at the College de France,
Bourdieu said:
it is supremely difficult for intellectuals to escape the logic of the struggle in
which everyone willingly turns himself into the sociologist of his enemies, at
the same time as turning himself into his own ideologue, in accordance with
the law of reciprocal blindness and insight which governs all social struggles
for truth. It is, however, only if he apprehends the game as a game, with the
stakes, rules or regular sequences that are proper to it, the specific interests
created in it and the interests satisfied by it, that he can both extricate himself
through and for that distancing which grounds theoretical representation, and,
simultaneously, discover himself to be implicated in the game, in a
determined place, with his own determined and determinant stakes and
investments. (1990: 183-4).
One result of this is the recognition of the morally and ideologically
loaded - and, for Bourdieu, ultimately untenable - nature of the distinction
between 'good' intellectuals (proper, legitimate, non-co-opted) and 'bad'
(complicit, co-opted, contaminated) with which so many critics operate. In
48 Patrick Williams
this perspective, since everyone is variously involved and implicated in the
field, no one is pure. At the same time, even if there is no position of purity
available, there is, in Bourdieu's opinion, the possibility of a more or less
detached or distanced position. Whether or not they can actually achieve a
position of (relative) detachment from which to scrutinise society, and how
they might get there, is a recurrent issue for intellectuals, post-colonial and
other. Said is a great believer in the possibility of this, but some of his critics
have been less than convinced:
Said's constant questioning of the role of the intellectual assumes - against
the evidence and argument of his own book [Orienta/ism] - his or her ability
to operate in a separate space independent from contemporary ideology, even
without the customary benefit of the scientific knowledge of Marxism ....
Said's difficulty is that his ethical and theoretical values are so deeply
involved in the history of the culture that he criticizes that they undermine his
claims for the possibility of the individual being in a position to choose, in an
uncomplicated process of separation, to be both inside and outside his or her
own culture (Young 1990: 132).
Although Robert Young identifies an area of difficulty in Said's thought, it
is by no means certain that Said is as trapped as Young thinks. For example,
the question is not necessarily one of simple voluntaristic selection: Said is
concerned with where intellectuals are objectively positioned, not just where
they might hope or choose to be. The more they occupy positions proximate
to, or within, structures and systems of power (like Orientalism), the less they
can opt for "an uncomplicated process of separation". As Said discusses later
in Representations of the Intellectual, the inside/outside location of
intellectuals which might create their critical distance comes more easily - if
that is quite the word - with the experience of displacement, migration,
diaspora, or, in his favourite term, exile. These forms of dislocation, which
result in intellectuals belonging fully neither to their culture of origin nor to
the one in which they find themselves, are widely recognised as both
formative and representative of the post-colonial world. Once again, however,
Said chooses not to discuss this aspect, even though two of his three chosen
exiles are paradigmatic post-colonials - CLR James and VS Naipaul.
Somewhat more problematically, Said extends intellectual exile from the
actual to the metaphorical:
Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 49
Even intellectuals who are lifelong members of a society can, in a manner of
speaking, be divided into insiders and outsiders ... those who can be called
yea-sayers, and on the other hand the nay-sayers, the individuals at odds with
their society and therefore outsiders and exiles so far as privilege, power and
honours are concerned. (Said 1994: 39).
Here, the acquisition of critical perspective seems to be a function of a
kind of intellectual asceticism and to have less to do with position than with
its renunciation, while the intellectually enabling aspect of distance
(geographical, cultural, hierarchical) from power, prestige or privilege could
explain why post-colonial intellectuals could be better than average critics of
the system (and, equally, why some would aim for the kind of dubious
advancement noted by Spivak).
For other theorists, critical distance can simply be a function of the
practice of being an intellectual - though this may not in itself be absolutely
straightforward. Glossing Bourdieu, Dick Pels says:
As soon as we begin to observe, we effect an epistemological break that is
simultaneously a social break, because we withdraw more or less completely
from the world. This posture of the 'impartial observer' is not only socially
exceptional but is also supported by concrete social privileges (Pels 1995:
Whether the latter are quite what Said has in mind when he talks of
privilege, Bourdieu's account reminds us again that the position of
intellectuals is complex, and that privilege, even if unsought, may not be so
easily relinquished.
The importance, indeed the crucial difference, of the post-colonial
perspective on these questions is brought out by Gayatri Spivak. Firstly, there
is her repeated call to intellectuals, especially in the West, to "unlearn" their
privilege. This, if nothing else, implies (contra Bourdieu) the possibility - if
also the difficulty - of members of the 'dominant-dominated' fraction aligning
themselves with others who are in no way part of the dominant stratum,
though it must be distinguished from the dangerously seductive 'spurious
marginality' which she warns of. Secondly, Spivak's work emphasises just
how - far from constituting a 'more or less complete withdrawal from the
world' - the act of observation, especially in the colonial context, represents a
significant intervention in the world. The gaze of the ('impartial') observer
here is intimately bound up with imperial surveillance, the accumulation of
50 Patrick Williams
lmowledge as power, and the deployment of power as the freedom to observe
at will. This in turn indicates how and why post-colonial intellectual activity
must not simply replicate undifferentiated concepts of what it is that
intellectuals do.
To get a grasp on how the agency of the post-colonial is being obliterated in
order to inscribe him and her as marginals, culture studies must use
specialisms, but also actively frame and resist the tyranny of the specialist
(Spivak 1993: 74).
The use of the imperative - 'must...resist the tyranny of the specialist' - is
significant. For Bourdieu, discussions of intellectuals slip inexorably from the
descriptive to the prescriptive or, as he calls it, the nonnative. This is certainly
true of Said, who moves from a broad descriptive category of intellectuals
such as: "Today everyone who works in any field connected with either the
production or distribution of knowledge is an intellectual in Gramsci's sense"
(1994: 7). to a narrower prescriptive one: "The intellectual's representations ...
are always tied to and ought to remain part of an ongoing experience in
society: of the poor, the disadvantaged, the voiceless, the unrepresented, the
powerless" (84). At the same time, this 'fall' from objectivity into involvement
can seem appropriate in view of the increasingly aclmowledged importance of
the ethical dimension of post-colonial analysis - from Said's own early query
as to the possibility of non-dominative know ledges, to the growing attempt to
use Levinas' maximally ethical stance towards the Other as the basis for post-
colonial practice.
Interestingly, Bourdieu is subject to the same slippage from the
descriptive to the nonnative which he identifies in others. In addition to
sociological descriptions of what intellectuals are and do, we find him - rather
ironically, and against his own best insights - asserting what they must do in
order to be proper intellectuals:
To be entitled to the name of intellectual, a cultural producer must fulfill two
conditions: on the one hand, he must belong to an autonomous intellectual
world (a field), that is, independent from religious, political, and economic
powers (and so on), and must respect its specific laws; on the other hand, he
must invest the competence and authority he has acquired in the intellectual
field in a political action, which is in any case carried out outside the
intellectual field proper (Bourdieu 1991: 656).
Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem ofPost-Colonial ... 51
Although, as mentioned earlier, Bourdieu's account suggests that the
construction of friends and foes stretches right across the intellectual field,
Bruce Robbins argues that this type of procedure may belong more to certain
disciplines than others (and indeed perhaps not to all). Especially in the
humanities, he suggests, it produces a 'rhetoric of praise and blame',
detennined by the professional pact that the humanities have concluded with
'society at large' - a pact to transmit values from the past to a commercialized
or dehumanized present seen as acutely in need of them - and therefore as
invested with considerable social force (Robbins 1993: 101).
Robbins also notes the disciplinary pressure to produce such rhetoric,
however little one wants to do so. The quasi-obligation to produce a discourse
of value and valorised objects would then suggest one reason why intellectuals
such as Dirlik continue to operate with the categories they do. The relation of
such constraints to post-colonial intellectuals would once again be complex -
to the extent that they are removed from traditional disciplinary pressures,
they have less need to operate in terms of praise and blame; at the same time,
the circumstances in which they think and write - precisely post-colonial - are
obviously a powerful incitement to the production of a discourse of value,
with potentially a high 'praise and blame' level.
Said of course has on various occasions strongly rejected what he sees as a
useless - even directly harmful - 'politics of blame' or 'rhetoric of blame' as a
strategy in the post-colonial context, though he has had rather less to say about
the utility or otherwise of praise. In "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World"
he says: "I want first to consider the actualities of the intellectual terrain
common as well as discrepant in the post-colonial cultural discourse,
especially concentrating on what in it gives rise to and encourages a rhetoric
as well as a politics of blame," (45) and goes on to offer a 'politics of secular
interpretation' as a more rewarding alternative. It is interesting, however, that
he should regard it as the internal features of post-colonial cultural discourse -
rather than the range of external forces acting on it, for instance - which are
responsible for the rhetoric and politics of blame, and could this in tum be an
indication of why he appears so little enamoured of post-colonial discourse ?
Said briefly refers to some of the terminological debates surrounding post-
colonialism in the Afterword to the 1995 edition of Orienta/ism, though
(wisely no doubt) he makes no attempt at summary or intervention.
Nevertheless, this discussion of post-colonialism stands in sharp contrast to all
52 Patrick Williams
he has written (or not) on the subject before or since. The manner in which he
mentions post-colonialism in the interview quoted earlier locates it firmly and
simply as a terrain of problems - incomprehensibility, irrelevance, superficial
culturalism as opposed to political engagement - and leads us to expect
something similar in the Afterword. What we initially fmd is the following:
"There has been [in the years since the publication of Orienta/ism] a
revolution in the consciousness of women, minorities and marginals so
powerful as to affect mainstream thinking worldwide. Two broad currents can
be distinguished: post-colonialism and post-modernism ... "(350). Although he
sees the two emerging together in the 1980s, Said clearly differentiates
between them, unlike a range of critics who, on no good evidence, conflate or
over-align them: "As a child of postmodemism, postcolonial ism too is
expressive of the logic of this phase of capitalism ... "; "I am reminded of
something the Cuban-American critic Roman de Ia Campa said to me in
conversation, to the effect that 'postcoloniality' is postmodemism's wedge to
colonise literatures outside Europe and its North American offshoots ... "; "I
would further offer that postcoloniality can only have meaning if we accept
postrnodernism as the only current legitimizing narrative."
Said, on the other
hand, despite recognising an occasional overlap, distinguishes for example:
"This crucial difference between the urgent historical and political imperatives
of post-colonialism and post-modernism's relative detachrnent ... "(351).
Similarly, even when post-colonialism, like post-modernism, interests itself in
the local, the former "seems to me to be most interestingly connected in its
general approach to a universal set of concerns, all of them relating to
emancipation, revisionist attitudes towards history and culture ... " (351-2). Said
further recognises the interdisciplinarity of post-colonial studies in its, for
him, particularly interesting extension to questions of geography, and finally
says of the field:
one of the most interesting developments in post-colonial studies was a re-
reading of canonical cultural works, not to demote or somehow to dish the
dirt on them, but to re-investigate some of their assumptions, going beyond
the stifling hold on them of some version of the master-slave binary dialectic
Dirlik (1994: 348), Ahmad (1995: 1), Davies (1994: 80).
Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 53
We are clearly a long way from the idea of post-colonial readings as
offering Conrad as 'only despicable', precisely 'dishing the dirt' on him. What
has changed ? And why - having made the quite startling claim for it as the
more important partner in a global revolution of consciousness - does Said
revert, in the interview quoted earlier, to the deeply negative, and worryingly
superficial, version of post-colonial studies within the space of a year or two ?
Although geography is only one of the disciplinary areas to be affected by
post-colonial studies, or, conversely, on which work in post-colonial studies
has drawn, it is interesting that the acknowledged interaction with such a
(literally) materially-grounded field does not affect Said's later negative
assessment of post-colonialism's apparent neglect of the material.
Perhaps the most surprising of Said's positive evaluations of post-colonial
studies in the Afterword is the perceived connection to 'universal concerns'.
This is surprising firstly because elsewhere post-colonialism figures as
negative, divisive or sectarian, productive (as we have seen) of a politics or
rhetoric of blame. It is also surprising because addressing universal concerns,
or, even more so, upholding universal values, is for Said the epitome of proper
intellectual activity: "[The intellectual's] raison d'etre is to represent all those
people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug. The
intellectual does so on the basis of universal principles ... " (Said 1996: 9). In
that sort of perspective, post-colonial intellectuals ought to be the
contemporary intellectuals, rather than a group not worthy of consideration in
their own right. (Certain forms of contemporary theory would of course be
extremely unhappy with the idea of the actual or possible existence of
universal values, but that is not the issue here.)
For Bourdieu, defending 'the universal' is one of the most urgent tasks for
intellectuals, but for him it is definitely not an ahistorical category:
Against a universal pragmatics in Habermas' sense, a politics of the universal
should be proposed. Transhistorical universals of communication do not
exist, but socially established forms of communication favouring the
production ofuniversals do exist. (1991: 661).
Post-colonial studies offers an important sense of what such a politics of
the universal needs to address:
From the standpoint of postco1onialism, it is today impossible to think about
politics without invoking the category of universality. For in the postcolonial
54 Patrick Williams
world system, experience is multiply overdetennined, and not least by
imperialism itself. Social identity has become world-historical in its
constitution (Lazarus 1994: 219).
If some of the language here sounds a little old-fashioned, it is worth
recalling the words of a resolutely internationalist - if not post-colonial -
intellectual: "Those who cannot defend old positions will never conquer new
ones." (Trotsky 1973: 178). It is the sort of sentiment with which it is difficult
to imagine Said disagreeing, whatever qualms he might have about the author,
not to mention some of the new positions currently being conquered.
Ahmad, Aijaz (1995), "The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality," Race and
Class 30 (3): 1-20.
Amove, Anthony ( 1993 ), "Pierre Bourdieu, the Sociology of Intellectuals, and
the Language of African Literature," Novel. 26, 3 (Spring): 278-96.
Bauman, Zygmunt (1987), Legislators and Interpreters. Oxford: Polity Press.
Bauman, Zygmunt (1992), "Love in Adversity: On the State and the
Intellectuals, and the State ofthe Intellectuals," Thesis Eleven 31: 81-104.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1990), In Other Words. Oxford: Polity Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1993), Sociology in Question. London: Sage.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1991), "Universal Corporatism". Poetics Today. 12: 4
(Winter): 655-669.
Boynton, Robert (1995), "The New Intellectuals," Atlantic Monthly. March:
Davies, Carole Boyce (1994), Black Women, Writing and Identity. London:
Dirlik, Arif (1994), "The Postcolonial Aura," Critical Inquiry 20 (Winter):
Goldfarb, Jeffrey C. {1998), Civility and Subversion. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Hall, Stuart (1996), "On postmodemism and articulation: an interview with
Stuart Hall," in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. eds.
David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen. London: Verso: 131-150.
Jacoby, Russell (1995), "Colonial writers lost in the post," Times Higher.
(December 29): 17.
Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . . 55
Lazarus, Neil (1990), Resistance in Postcolonial African Fiction. New Haven:
Yale University Press.
Lazarus, Neil (1994), "National consciousness and the specificity of (post)
colonial intellectualism," in Colonial Discourse I Postcolonial Theory. ed.
Francis Barker et.al. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 197-220.
Morley, David, and Kuan-Hsing Chen, eds. (1996), Stuart Hall: Critical
Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge.
Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1986), Deco/onising the Mind. London: James Currey
Pels, Dick (1995), "Knowledge politics and anti-politics," Theory and Society.
24: 79-104.
Prakash, Gyan (1992), "Postcolonial Criticism and Indian Historiography,"
Social Text. 3112: 8-19.
Rajan, Rajeswari Sunder (1997), "The Third World Academic in Other Places;
or, the Postcolonial Intellectual Revisited" Critical Inquiry. 23 (Spring):
Robbins, Bruce (1993), Secular Vocations. London: Verso.
Said, Edward (1978), Orienta/ism. New York: Vintage.
Said, Edward (1992), Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus.
Said, Edward (1994), Representations of the Intellectual. London: Vintage.
Said, Edward (1995a), The Politics of Dispossession. London: Vintage, .
Said, Edward (1995b), "Afterword to the 1995 printing". Orienta/ism.
London: Vintage,: 329-54.
Said, Edward (1986), "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World". Salmagundi.
7112 (Spring-Summer): 44-81.
Said, Edward (1990), "Third World Intellectuals and Metropolitan Culture".
Raritan. IX, 3: 81-97.
Said, Edward (1998/9), "Edward Said, in conversation with Neeladri
Bhattacharya, Suvir Kaul and Ania Loomba, New Delhi, 16 December
1997," Interventions, 1.1 ( 1998/9): 81-96.
Spivak, Gayatri (1993), Outside in the Teaching Machine. London: Routledge.
Spivak, Gayatri (1999) "The Labour of the Negative", Interventions, 1, 2
Sprinker, Michael ed. (1992), Edward Said: A Critical Reader Cambridge,
MA: Blackwell.
Trotsky, Leon (1973), In Defence of Marxism. New York: Pathfinder.
Young, Robert (1991), White Mythologies. London: Routledge.
Patrick Brantlinger
In "What Is an Author?" Michel Foucault writes that "a person can be the
author of much more than a book-of a theory, for instance, of a tradition or
discipline within which new books and authors can proliferate." Foucault
suggests calling such meta-authors "initiators of discursive practices," and he
names as two prominent examples Marx and Freud (131). As does Foucault
himself, both Raymond Williams and Edward Said come close to being
"initiators of discursive practices." A case can at least be made that Williams
initiated the discursive practice of cultural studies and that Said has, if not
exactly initiated, certainly had a formative role in the discursive practice of
postcolonial studies.
Of course, as is undoubtedly true of all complex cultural formations, both
cultural studies and postcolonial studies have multiple points of origin.
Besides Williams, E. P. Thompson, Richard Haggart, and Stuart Hall helped
to initiate cultural studies as it took shape in and around the Birmingham
Centre in the early sixties. A full genealogy of cultural studies would include,
moreover, members of the Marxist historians group besides Thompson, as
well as all of the intellectuals whose theories Williams analyzed in Culture
and Society, from Edmund Burke and William Cobbett toR. H. Tawney and
58 Patrick Brantlinger
Christopher Caudwell. So, too, as Aijaz Ahmad notes, postcolonial studies in
its American and European university settings arose only after the onset of
"the second phase of decolonization" with the Cuban revolution of 1958-59
(1992: 39). By the time Said's Orienta/ism appeared in 1978, a great deal of
anti-colonial intellectual work, almost all of it outside western universities,
had already been accomplished. In this regard, Frantz Fanon may have a
greater claim to being the initiator of postcolonial studies than does Said. But
despite these points, and also despite the many criticisms and reservations
Ahmad has about Said's work, Ahmad writes:
... Said is undoubtedly the central figure and ... he has at least influenced, if
not always directly defined, virtually all the main positions which have had
the greatest influence in detennining approaches to questions of colony,
empire, nation and postcoloniality as these questions have surfaced in literary
theory since the publication of Orienta/ism in 1978 (14).
However complex the origins of the two movements may have been, prior
to Orienta/ism, postcolonial studies in western universities did not exist, just
as prior to Williams's Culture and Society cultural studies did not exist.
Whether either cultural studies or postcolonial studies amounts to a
"discursive practice" in Foucault's meaning of that phrase is debatable, though
postcolonial studies has a more obvious, public, indeed global genealogy
reaching far beyond the academy. Cultural studies, on the other hand, at least
according to some perhaps ungenerous interpretations, remains both
academically insular and inherently British in orientation. I will consider some
of Ahmad's criticisms of Said's work later in this essay. Besides pointing to
the major influence that Williams had on cultural studies and that Said has had
on postcolonial studies, I will first review the personal and intellectual
connections between Williams and Said and then, focusing partly on the
chapter on Said in Ahmad's In Theory, examine some of the similarities and
differences between cultural studies and postcolonial studies.
Said has on many occasions acknowledged Williams's friendship and
influence on his own work. As its title suggests, Culture and Imperialism in
particular is a self-conscious extension and also critique of Williams's Culture
and Society. In the introduction, Said writes: "I need hardly say that many
parts of this book are suffused with the ideas and the human and moral
example of Raymond Williams, a good friend and a great critic" (xxvii).
Orienta/ism, too, reflects Williams's influence: " ... we can better understand
Edward Said ami/versus Raymond Williams 59
the persistence and the durability of saturating hegemonic systems like
culture," Said there declares, "when we realize that their internal constraints
upon writers were productive, not unilaterally inhibiting." He continues: "It is
this idea that Gramsci, certainly, and Foucault and Raymond Williams in their
very different ways have been trying to illustrate. Even one or two pages by
Williams on 'the uses of the Empire' in The Long Revolution tell us more
about nineteenth-century cultural richness than many volumes of hermetic
textual analyses" (1993: 14). Said returns to Williams a few pages later, at the
end of the introduction to Orienta/ism, when, after noting the parallels
between anti-Semitism and Orientalism as well as the irony that those
parallels have for "an Arab Palestinian," he adds:
But what I should like ... to have contributed here is a better understanding of
the way cultural domination has operated. If this stimulates a new kind of
dealing with the Orient, indeed if it eliminates the "Orient" and "Occident"
altogether, then we shall have advanced a little in the process of what
Raymond Williams has called the "unlearning" of "the inherent dominative
mode" (1993: 28).
In a brief account of his friendship with Williams, Said recalls that, when
he was head of the English Institute at Harvard in the early 1970s, he invited
Williams to participate. Williams declined, however, because of the Vietnam
War. Williams later reviewed Said's The World the Text. and the Critic -
favourably - for the Manchester Guardian.• The two first met in London in
1985, when they were panelists on a television program dealing with
"intellectuals" (the other panelists were David Caute, Julia Kristeva, and
Roger Scruton). They met again in 1986 at a conference on "Cultural Studies,
Media Studies and Political Education" held at the Institute of Education in
London; a central attraction of the conference was the public dialogue
between the two (the edited transcript of this dialogue appears as "Media,
Margins and Modernity" in Williams, The Politics of Modernity). And on
October 10, 1989 Said delivered the first Raymond Williams Memorial
Lecture in London, since published as "Narrative, Geography and
Interpretation" in New Left Review. In his comments on his friendship with
Williams, Said adds: "Along with E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, and one
Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977.
60 Patrick Brantlinger
or two others [Williams] was a member of the Friends of Bir Zeit University,
so he was very sympathetic to our [Palestinian] cause."
The meeting, friendship, and intellectual relationship between Williams
and Said seems, at least on first glance, an odd sorting out of destinies. And
indeed there are major intellectual differences between the two that will be
one focus of this essay. But the main similarity, and attraction, between the
two is at once ethical and political, and is well-expressed by Said's definition
of the goal of all critical intellectuals as the production of "noncoercive
knowledge .. .in the interests of human freedom" (1983: 29). Williams's moral
and political example, including his long record of activism on behalf of
democratic socialism, human rights, and nuclear disarmament, has been
paralleled on an international scale by Said, including especially his advocacy
of the rights to political, cultural, and media representation of the Palestinians.
Furthermore, a number of key concepts developed by Said owe at least
something to related ideas in Williams. Besides their general insistence that
neither literature nor any other form of culture can be fully understood in
isolation from the social context within which it is produced, and that
therefore "secular criticism," as Said calls it, must necessarily be, in part,
social criticism, Said's ideas of "filiation" and "affiliation," for example, are at
least akin to Williams's "knowable community" versus its antithesis in the
abstract, in some ways "unknowable" and anonymous experience of the
modem city and ofmass society (1983: 17-21). So, too, "travelling theory" is
an extension, perhaps, of several patterns or lines of thought in Williams; Said
makes Williams's reception of the Marxist-structuralist sociology of Lucien
Goldmann a key illustration of what happens or can happen to theories as they
"travel" from context to context (1983: 237-242). But if Williams is usually
close at hand when Said is discussing such concepts, there are also
differences-ones suggested by the contrast, which is potentially also an
antithesis, between Williams's emphasis on "community" and Said's emphasis
on "the world" and "worldliness."
The main criticism that Said and other postcolonial intellectuals have had
of Williams's work concerns what Said, in his Memorial Lecture, calls
Williams's "stubborn" "Anglocentrism" (Said 1990: 83). Only a few passages
in The Long Revolution, The Country and the City, Orwell, and elsewhere
mention imperialism, and Williams very rarely considered race and racism as
This account is in the form of an e-mail message to me from Said, dated June 12, 1999.
Edward Said ami/versus Raymond Williams 61
major factors even within the confines of British history and culture.
limitation has led Paul Gilroy, among others, to see in Williams's work a
source of the "doggedly ethnocentric focus" (1993: 11) of much cultural
studies, at least within Britain. Needless to say, Gilroy has played a major role
in changing that focus, moving cultural studies in the directions both of work
on race and racism within Britain and of postcolonial studies.
In their 1986 dialogue, Said reminds Williams of the moment in Politics
and Letters when one of the interviewers for New Left Review points to the
omission of imperialism from Culture and Society. Said indicates that
Williams responded by saying that his "Welsh experience ... hadn't been as
important to [him] then as it later became" (Said and Williams 1989: 196).
Williams also said that, in Culture and Society, he had at least mentioned
Thomas Carlyle's racism and, in the chapter on "industrial novels," had
stressed emigration as an "escape" mechanism in Victorian fiction. Williams
went on to tell his interviewers:
The way I used the term conununity actually rested on my memories of
Wales .... But the Welsh experience was also precisely one of subjection to
English expansion and assimilation historically. That is what ought to have
alerted me to the dangers of a persuasive type of defmition of community,
which is at once dominant and exclusive (1981: 118-119).
But "the Welsh experience" never did finally lead Williams to a full
consideration of it as an outcome of imperialism. (One can only speculate that
if Williams had been Irish instead of Welsh, the result might have been very
different: compare Terry Eagleton's work on Ireland in Heathcliff and the
Great Hunger and elsewhere.) Throughout his work, "the Welsh experience"
continued to tum on the idea of a "lmowable," close-lmit, rural, and working-
class community that Williams, as in his novels Border Country, Second
Generation, and The Fight for Manod, saw as disrupted by capitalist
industrialization and modernization, without ever precisely connecting these
with imperialism. Although he sympathized with and to a certain, rather aloof
extent participated in the Welsh "nco-nationalist" movement (Williams 1981 :
240), that aspect of his political activism is simply not comparable to Said's
It is symptomatic that, while there is an entry for "imperialism" in both the first (1976) and
second (1983) editions of Williams's Keywords, "race" makes an appearance only in the
second edition, under the heading "racial."
62 Patrick Brantlinger
impassioned and very courageous participation in the Palestinian cause.
4 11
Welsh experience., tended to serve Williams as an autobiographical
synecdoche for, or particular instance of, British working-class experience,
coupled with the problem of maintaining the economic and cultural vitality of
regions and local communities against the pressures of capitalist and
governmental centralization. Far more tragically,
the Palestinian experience, ..
as Said calls it in The Question of Palestine (ix), involves ongoing war,
genocide, and the direct, continuing imperialist appropriation of territory from
the Palestinian Arabs by Israel, with the backing of American and European
mass media, financial, and military support.
While capitalism and class conflict in the industrial era are central to
Williams's analyses of the dynamics of British
Culture and society," for Said
imperialism takes priority, and not just because of his own experience as a
Palestinian. After all, as Marx understood, it was the "primitive accumulation"
through early imperialist ventures, including the slave trade, that provided the
financial basis for capitalist industrialization to develop (and not only in
England, but elsewhere in western Europe). In her contribution to Views
beyond the Border Country, Gauri Viswanathan offers an extended analysis of
what she calls "the limits of metropolitan cultural theory" in relation to British
Colonialism." According to Viswanathan: "we would have to go back
to ... Williams to trace the genealogy of a critical approach that consistently and
exclusively studies the formation of metropolitan culture from within its own
boundaries" (218). As she notes, it isn't exactly that Williams completely
ignores the imperial factor, but he minimizes it in a number of ways. In his
most extended account of imperialism, at the end of The Country and the City,
the stress is on British economic exploitation of its colonies. Viswanathan
rightly complains: "In his analyses of British culture Williams radically
questions that same analytical framework of economic determinism by which
he simultaneously explains British imperialism., (225). In other words,
Williams understood imperialism as a one-way street-an imposition by the
colonizer on the colonized-without developing a model of "reciprocity" or
hybridity" like that which characterizes his understanding of community,
communications, class conflict, and even
neo-nationalism" in the British
context. "Williams's reading of Britain in relation to global power,"
On Welsh nco-nationalism, see Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain, (1986: 196-215). On
Said and "the Palestinian experience," see, besides The Question of Palestine and Said's other
writings on that topic, the essay by Nubar Hovespian 1992, "Connections with Palestine."
Edward Said ancllversus Raymond Williams 63
Viswanathan concludes, "suffers from the reintroduction of ... economic and
ideological determinism in the absence of a relational and conjectural
[conjunctural?] analysis of imperialism" (224). This is quite apart from the
quantitative short shrift Williams gives to imperialism, racism, and even
Ireland and the Irish throughout his work. s
Viswanathan's critique, and others by Leslie Roman, Forest Pyle, and R.
Radhalaishnan in Views beyond the Border Country, raise the question of
whether cultural studies in general can serve as a basis for pursuing
postcolonial studies. To put this question differently, on one understanding
postcolonial studies is an offshoot of cultural studies, but on another it is
necessarily a distinct, in some ways even antagonistic, field of theoretical and
practical debate and political struggle. The question cannot be adequately
addressed without considering the roles that "diasporic intellectuals" such as
Stuart Hall have played in the development both of the British New Left and
of cultural studies (Morley and Chen 1996: 11). But the key issue has to do
with whether cultural studies has or even can shed the at least residual
organicism and "Anglocentrism" that cling to Williams's models of culture,
community, and communication.
Said himself comes close to making this point when, during his 1986
dialogue with Williams, he says, "for me ... culture has been used as essentially
not a cooperative and communal term but rather as a term of exclusion.
Certainly if you read Culture and Society again, and take almost without
exception all the major statements on culture in the nineteenth century by the
great sages and novelists, they refer to 'our' culture as opposed to 'theirs,'
'theirs' being defined and marginalized essentially, in my argument, by virtue
of race" (Said and Williams 1989: 196). Said goes on to mention a number of
other factors, related to "exclusion," that inform his conception of culture as it
involves both race and imperialism: "And so I think culture has to be seen as
not only excluding but also exported; there is this tradition [e.g., English
literature] which you are required to understand and learn and so on, but you
cannot really be of it; you can be in it but you are not of it. ... and then of
course the whole problematic of exile and immigration enters into it, the
people who simply don't belong in any culture; this is the great modem or, if
you like, post-modem fact, the standing outside of cultures." (Said and
See Williams's remarks, however, about both Ireland and race/racism in Towards 2000, pp.
64 Patrick Brantlinger
Williams 1989: 196). Said doesn't mean, of course, that anyone is ever
culture-less; he does mean that millions of people today suffer the experience
of being "exiled" or "excluded" or otherwise alienated from dominant cultures
they nevertheless find themselves living within or moving between. Nor are
such people in the minority or "minorities." Certainly as the so-called Third
World relates economically and culturally to the centres of European and
American power, it is the vast majority who experience alienation,
domination, exclusion.
Said's postcolonial stress on the experiences of cultural exclusion, exile,
and immigration have no parallel in Williams's work in part because, in
contrast to "the Palestinian experience," what Williams has to say about
Welshness always comes back to tradition, rootedness, and a sense of
belonging, rather comfortably, to a minority "nationality" or culture within the
so-called United Kingdom. At the same time, the sense of communal and
cultural rootedness is part of what Said both admires and perhaps envies about
Williams: "For all the great critics of the twentieth century ... Williams is, in
my opinion, the most abiding, the most organically grounded in the profound
and sustaining rhythms of human life ... " (Said 1990: 82). Nevertheless, as
Benita Parry notes, "Lodged within [Said's] handsome appreciation of
Williams's pathbreaking studies is a commentary on the irrelevance of the
colonial experience to his revisionist narrative of the making of English
culture, the zones of exclusion staking out the ground on which Said offers an
interpretation of imperialism as constitutive of metropolitan cultures" ( 1992:
21; her italics). It is precisely the "constituting" of European cultures through
their empire-building, and as much from the "margins" to the "centre" as the
other way around, that is the subject of Culture and Imperialism, making it
also in various ways Said's rewriting-extension and correction-of Culture and
And, inclusive or totalizing though Williams intended his conception
of culture to be, exclusion is of major importance both in Said's thinking about
how culture operates and more generally in postcolonial studies focused on
imperialism, racism, and the many diasporas and migrations that are such
major factors in a postmodem world dominated by war, ethnic cleansings, and
transnational capitalism.
Said comments directly both on his indebtedness to and on the limitations of Williams's work
at various moments in Culture and Imperialism. Besides the introduction, which I have
already quoted, see Said's criticisms of The Country and the City-a book he greatly admires-
on pp. 65 and 82-83 of Culture and Imperialism.
Edward Said ancilversus Raymond Williams 65
Much that is valuable in Williams's thinking arises from the increasing
need that he saw to figure out the relationship, identity, or difference between
culture and ideology. This theoretical urgency was a main form taken by his
career-long negotiations with Marxism. In these negotiations, Antonio
Gramsci's theory of hegemony came to serve Williams, as it has more
generally served cultural studies, as a via media between the economic
determinism of the base-superstructure model and the reduction of social class
and power relations to mere functions of textuality or discourse, as is the case
with Foucault and more generally with poststructuralist cultural criticism.
This is also how Said uses Gramsci in Orienta/ism and elsewhere; the idea
of hegemony is what allows him to do a sort of theoretical balancing act-what
some of his critics, including Aijaz Ahmad, believe is a contradictory
balancing act-between Marxism and poststructuralism. In White Mythologies,
Robert Young, for example, considers Orienta/ism a Foucaultian project that
dodges some of the main implications of Foucault's theorization of discourse
and power. Thus, Young notes, Said "rejects Foucault's downgrading of the
role of individual agency" (134). He quotes Orienta/ism:
Unlike Michel Foucault, to whose work I am greatly indebted, I do believe in
the determining imprint of individual writers upon the otherwise anonymous
collective body of texts constituting a discursive formation like Orientalism
Said clearly wants to assign both agency and responsibility to authors for their
roles in constructing, supporting, or contesting modes of cultural domination,
including imperialism. He also wants to acknowledge literary or aesthetic
quality and power. The dual aspects of art and literature, one aesthetic and the
other ideological, are never separable from each other.
From a very different perspective than Young's, Ahmad also criticizes
Said's apparent privileging of canonical, western authors: " ... what is
remarkable is that with the exception of Said's own voice, the only voices we
encounter in [Orienta/ism] are precisely those of the very Western canonicity
which, Said complains, has always silenced the Orient" (Ahmad 1992: 172).
But Ahmad's reasoning here is tautological: both Orienta/ism and Culture and
Imperialism are perforce focused on "Western canonicity," because
Orientalism and imperialism (as discursive or ideological formations) are
western constructions and impositions on the rest of the world. Ahmad is
66 Patrick Brantlinger
simply restating the major point that Said is making, while assuming that he
can tum it into a valid criticism of that very point.
Ahmad is no doubt right that Said is deeply indebted to the "High
Humanism" of Eric Auerbach, Leo Spitzer, and others, as he is certainly right
to praise Said for being, in "the field of Cultural Studies ... our most vivacious
narrator of the history of European humanism's complicity in the history of
European colonialism" (163). But it would be fairer to stress, as does Said
himself, that Said's critique of that "complicity" comes through cultural
studies, or anyway through the work and influence of Raymond Williams,
more obviously than through "High Humanism." This is all the more ironic,
given the high praise that Ahmad accords Williams (46-49). Ahmad sees
Williams as developing in an increasingly leftward, Marxist direction, and
The work of his last decade went from strength to strength ... though the
breadth of its engagements was hardly to be contained in a given book. In the
process, Williams helped to sustain a level of critical discourse not easily
dislodged by the kind of new fashions and new orthodoxies that came to
dominate literary studies-in sections of the British Left itself but, even more,
in the United States (49).
At the end of this passage, Ahmad expresses his Marxist hostility to the
various versions of poststructuralist theory, including Foucaultism, that have
challenged Marxist historical materialism in a variety of ways.
Neither acknowledging the influence of poststructuralism on Williams's
thinking, nor acknowledging the full influence of Williams on Said's thinking,
Ahmad reaches what seems to me the mistaken conclusion that Orienta/ism
and the later essays that went into the making of Culture and Imperialism are
either Foucaultist in a doctrinaire way or marred by a "theoretical eclecticism
[which] runs increasingly out of control: sweeping, patently poststructuralist
denunciations of Marxism can be delivered in the name of Gramsci, using the
terminology explicitly drawn from Althusser, and listing the names of
communist poets like Aime Cesaire, Pablo Neruda and Mahmoud Darwish to
illustrate the sites of resistance" (200). No doubt it would be unfair to Ahmad
to infer from this statement that for any non-communist even to name
"communist poets" is either a logical inconsistency or sacrilege. More to the
point is the issue of theoretical "eclecticism," which Ahmad repeatedly
dismisses, in Fredric Jameson, Gayatri Spivak, Ranajit Guha, and others as
Edward Said and/versus Raymond Williams 67
well as in Said, as a version of "postmodem pastiche' (202 and elsewhere).
But Williams himself, and more generally the cultural studies movement that
he helped to generate, committed the (theoretical) sin of theoretical
"eclecticism" many times over. Citing Said's insistence that texts must be
studied in their "affiliations" with the social, economic, and political, Stuart
Hall points out that eclecticism rather than theoretical consistency has been
one of the strengths of cultural studies, part of what has allowed it to hold
"theoretical and political questions in an ever irresolvable but permanent" and
productive "tension" (Hall, "Cultural Studies" 1996: 271-272).
That Williams never engaged in theoretical debate with Foucault, Derrida,
or even Louis Althusser may be a virtue, but is more likely another limitation
of his work (compare Said's critical engagements with especially Foucault and
Derrida in The World, the Text, and the Critic, or JUrgen Habermas's often
analogous engagements with these and many other theorists in The
Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, among many other places). But
Williams's "culturalist" reformulations of the Marxist base/superstructure
model and of certain Marxist conceptions of ideology as mere "false
consciousness" clearly moved him, and cultural studies after him, in the
direction of the poststructuralist emphasis on "discourse." This emphasis in
turn allows both Williams and Said to focus on issues of representation and
misrepresentation in the linguistic, cultural, and political meanings of these
terms (see, for example, Said's "Representing the Colonized"). And
poststructuralism has also supplied Said and many other cultural critics and
theorists with tools for theorizing other forms of "difference" besides and in
relation to social class.
As for Williams, noting "the terror of economic reductionism" expressed
by the founders of Cultural Studies, Jim McGuigan points to the many
occasions when they have said, in effect, "The Marxist bases/superstructure
paradigm is a necessary starting place for thinking about culture and ideology,
but it is also too crude. The relations between cultures and economic modes of
production are multi-leveled and reciprocal rather than straightforwardly
deterministic." Williams makes these points in "Base and Superstructure in
Marxist Cultural Theory" (1980: 31-49) and also in Marxism and Literature,
where he writes: "A Marxism without some concept of determination is in
effect worthless. A Marxism with many of the concepts of determination it
now has is quite radically disabled" (83).
68 Patrick Brantlinger
For Williams, neither a crude economic determinism nor a complete
abandonment of base/superstructure analysis made sense. To lose sight of the
economic altogether, or even to treat it as another aspect of a given social
formation, on a par with politics or religion, also meant losing sight of class
conflict as the central dynamic of history. Yet Williams always insisted that
culture is an active, productive process or set of processes that can challenge
but that can't be neatly separated from economic factors. In a sequel to his
"Base and Superstructure" essay, Williams examines "communication" as a
"means of production" (1980: 50-63). Given the proximity of the terms, one
can substitute "culture" for "communication" and reach the same result.
Williams writes that "communication and its material means are intrinsic to all
... forms of labour and social organization, thus constituting indispensable
elements ... of the productive forces" (50). Though rejecting McLuhan's
"technological determinism" (52), Williams argues that "A theoretical
emphasis on the means of communication as means of production ... should
... encourage new approaches to the history of the means of communication
themselves" (53).
Williams did not, of course, arrive at the facile conclusion that
communication, or discourse, or textuality is all that there is. Gramsci's
conception of hegemony allowed him to analyze various modes of cultural
domination while continuing to assert quite logically that such analysis was
both materialist and Marxist. At the same time, if instead of Foucault's
"discourse," Williams continued to use and emphasize the term "culture," the
differences between their theoretical positions were not finally, perhaps, very
significant. And though Said, perhaps especially in Orienta/ism, uses
"discourse," "representation," and "culture" almost interchangeably, that is not
necessarily a matter of theoretical inconsistency. For both Williams and Said,
"culture" names the key site or condition of hegemonic struggles over
economic resources, political power, and representation. For both, though no
doubt in different measures and ways, culture is simultaneously inclusive and
exclusive, the very stuff of modes of domination throughout history and at the
same time the stuff of human hope and possibility. It is this last, positive or
potentially positive aspect of culture that helps to explain why both Williams
and Said privilege - if that is the proper term - great works of literature
(whether western or nonwestem), even as they combine literary and social
criticism. Just as the Frankfurt School theorists-Theodor Adorno, Max
Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and more recently Jiirgen Habermas-have seen
Edward Said ami/versus Raymond Williams
in the "aesthetic dimension" a source of utopian possibility, so Williams and
Said see such a source in great literature and art. Why else is it that so many
novelists, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers have been censored,
incarcerated, executed, or otherwise silenced by repressive regimes around the
world and throughout history? Culture and Imperialism names many such
writers, artists, and intellectuals. So do Said's numerous books and articles on
the Palestinian struggle.
But it isn't the "humanist" or "idealist" privileging of western, canonical
literature that Ahmad finds most upsetting about Orienta/ism. It is instead
what Ahmad calls Said's "breezy dismissal" of Marx as an Orientalist and
even a collaborator with British imperialism:
So uncompromising is [Orienta/ism] in its Third-W orldist passion that
Marxism itself, which has historically given such sustenance to so many of
the anti-imperialist movements of our time, can be dismissed, breezily, as a
child ofOrientalism and an accomplice of British colonialism (195).
But what Said actually says about Marx in Orienta/ism differs considerably
from breezy dismissal:
Karl Marx identified the notion of an Asiatic economic system in his 1853
analyses of British rule in India, and then put beside that immediately the
human depredation introduced into this system by English colonial
interference, rapacity, and outright cruelty. In article after article he returned
with increasing conviction to the idea that even in destroying Asia, Britain
was making possible there a real social revolution (153).
This passage is only a fraction of Said's treatment of Marx and Marxism
in Orienta/ism. Marx, Said rightly insists, was at once passionately anti-
imperialist and yet also capable of "orientalizing" Asia in three major ways
shared by other Orientalists such as John Stuart Mill. First, Marx identified a
static mode of production-the Asiatic mode-that, he believed, held true
throughout the Orient. Second, he translated this notion of economic inertia
into the claim that all of Asia had no "history" worthy of consideration. And
third, he believed that, however painfully and tragically, the road of progress
for all of Asia was the road that capitalist imperialism was forcing it to travel.
These are the same points that Brian Turner, for one, makes about Marx in
Orienta/ism, Postmodernism and Globalism. The conclusion is inescapable
that "Marx ... share[s] much of this Western legacy of perceiving the Orient as a
70 Patrick Brantlinger
unified system, one characterized by stationariness, lack of social change, the
absence of modernization, the absence of a middle-class bourgeois culture,
and the absence of a civil society" (Turner 1994: 5).
A number of Ahmad's criticisms of Orienta/ism have been made, more
temperately, by Turner, Robert Young, Lisa Lowe, and others, as well as by
Said himself. But that Said "dismissed" Marx as an Orientalist and
collaborator with British imperialism is not a valid criticism. Rather, in
Orienta/ism and many other places, Said expresses high respect for Marx, as
he does also for Raymond Williams. In Culture and Imperialism, Said
criticizes "much of Western Marxism, in its aesthetic and cultural
departments," for being "blinded to the matter of imperialism." He goes on to
cite Habermas's assertion, in an interview published in New Left Review, that
Frankfurt School critical theory has "nothing to say to anti-imperialist and
anti-capitalist struggles in the Third World,' even if, [Habermas] adds, I am
aware ... that this is a eurocentrically limited view."' Said continues:
All the major French theoreticians except Deleuze, Todorov, and Derrida
have been similarly unheeding, which has not prevented their ateliers from
churning out theories of Marxism, language, psychoanalysis, and history
with an implied applicability to the whole world. Much the same thing can be
said of most Anglo-Saxon cultural theory, with the important exceptions of
feminism, and a small handful of work by young critics influenced by
Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall (1993: 278).
Said then asks, "if European theory and Western Marxism ... haven't in the
main proved themselves to be reliable allies in the resistance to
imperialism ... how has .. .liberationist anti-imperialism tried to break [the]
shackling unity" of western cultural, political, and economic domination?
One answer to that question is through Said's own work, and more
generally through the postcolonial studies movement which Said has done so
much to shape and inspire. Whether such work is an extension of cultural
studies or is instead a distinct development necessarily critical of cultural
studies is fmally, perhaps, undecidable. What is at least clear is that, as far as
Said himself is concerned, Marx, the Marxist tradition, and Raymond
Williams as a major recent exemplar of that tradition must continue to be read,
respected, and emulated for postcolonial studies to achieve its own goals of
cultural critique and liberation from imperialist and racist domination.
Edward Said amj/versus Raymond Williams
Ahmad, Aijaz (1992), In Theory: Classes, Nations Literatures. London: Verso
Brennan, Tim (1992), "Places of Mind, Occupied Lands: Edward Said and
Philology." Sprinker, ed. Edward Said: 74-95.
Dworkin, Dennis L. and Leslie G. Roman, eds. (1993),Views Beyond the
Border Country: Raymond Williams and Cultural Politics. London and
New York: Routledge.
Foucault, Michel ( 1977), "What Is an Author?" Language. Counter-Memory.
Practice. Ithaca: Cornell UP: 113-138.
Gilroy, Paul (1993), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double
Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.
Habennas, Jurgen (1987), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hall, Stuart (1996), "Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies. Morley
and Chen, eds. Stuart Hall: 262-275.
Hall, Stuart (1996), "The Formation of a Diasporic Intellectual." Morley and
Chen, eds. Stuart Hall: 484-503.
Hovespian, Nubar (1992), "Connections with Palestine." Sprinker, ed. Edward
Said: 5-18.
Lowe, Lisa (1991), Critical Terrains: French and British Orienta/isms.
Ithaca: Cornell UP.
McGuigan, Jim (1992), Cultural Populism. London and New York:
Morley, David, and Kuan-Hsing Chen, eds. (1996), Stuart Hall: Critical
Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge.
Nairn, Tom (1981), The Break-up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism.
London: Verso.
Parry, Benita (1992), "Overlapping Territories and Intertwined Histories:
Edward Said's Postcolonial Cosmopolitanism." Sprinker, ed. Edward
Said: 19-47.
Said, Edward (1978), Orienta/ism. New York: Vintage Books.
Said, Edward (1979), "Orientalism Reconsidered." Race and Class 27:2
(1985): 1-15.
Said, Edward (1979), The Question of Palestine. New York: Times Books.
72 Patrick Brantlinger
Said, Edward (1983), The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard UP.
Said, Edward (1990), .,Narrative, Geography and Interpretation." New Left
Review 180: 81-97.
Said, Edward (1993), Culture and Imperialism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Said, Edward, and Raymond Williams (1989),
Media, Margins and
Modernity." In Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism: 177-197.
Sprinker, Michael, ed. (1992), Edward Said: A Critical Reader. Oxford:
Turner, Brian S. (1994), Orienta/ism. Postmodernism and Globalism. London
and New York: Routledge.
Viswanathan, Gauri (1993),
Raymond Williams and British Colonialism: The
Limits of Metropolitan Cultural Theory... Dworkin and Roman, eds.
Border Country: 217-230.
Williams, Raymond (1980), Problems in Materialism and Culture. London:
Williams, Raymond (1981), Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left
Review. London: Verso.
Williams, Raymond (1983), Towards 2000 London: Chatto and Windus
Williams, Raymond (1989),Resources of Hope: Culture Democracy.
Socialism. London: Verso.
Williams, Raymond (1989),The Politics of Modernism. Ed. Tony Pinkney.
London: Verso.
Young, Robert (l990),W'hite Mythologies: Writing History and the West. New
York and London: Routledge.
Bill Ashcroft
Readers of this book will by now be aware of how complicated and
paradoxical Edward Said's relationship with post-colonial studies can be seen
to be. While we can never take any of Said's pronouncements on matters of
contemporary theory as fixed in stone for all time, it is clear that he has neither
a close acquaintance with post-colonial theory, nor, in many of his statements
(because he hates all 'isms'), a clear understanding of its aims. Post-colonial
theory itself, as we may deduce from Arif Dirlik's view of its supposed non-
materiality, is open to almost endless interpretation. So, not surprisingly, it is
not at all clear what Said himself means by the term. Nevertheless, whether
we accept the myth of Said's originary status or not, a close look at Said's
writing, to assess what, exactly, is identifiably 'postcolonial' about his work,
might prove to be of great benefit.
Edward Said and Orienta/ism have become synonymous in contemporary
critical thinking. If any book has stood out as a pivotal text in contemporary
cultural theory it is his ground breaking analysis of Europe's discursive
construction of the Orient. But this book, and indeed, all of Said's work, can
only be understood fully in the context of his view of the role of the
intellectual in contemporary society and the function of criticism itself.
Despite the widespread celebration of Orienta/ism, and its pivotal place in
74 Bill Ashcroft
post-colonial theory, it is the concept of 'worldliness' which stands as Said's
most significant contribution to critical theory.' Apart from arguments about
his status as a post-colonial intellectual, and whether he is aware of it or not,
worldliness defines Said's post-coloniality. Worldliness underlies the project
of Orienta/ism itself, and perhaps more importantly, represents a view of the
text, of the material situation of writing, of the location of literature, which
will outlast the poststructuralist anxiety which often haunts contemporary
critical practice.
It is this dogged and unfashionable commitment to worldliness, rather
than the immensely influential analysis of lmowledge/power in Orienta/ism
that best characterises Said's place in that shifting field called 'post-colonial
theory.' While Said's 'place' in post-colonial theory is controversial, both
politically and historically, (and by most accounts constantly changing), there
is no doubt that at the level of the materiality of the text, and the commitment
to understanding writing as a political practice, his interests converge very
strongly with post-colonial analysis. Said's own worldliness, the paradox of
his identity, is so pronounced, and such a central feature of his cultural theory,
that he forces us to re-assess the nature of the link between the text and its
author. The controversies surrounding his position as a post-colonial
intellectual, several of which are aired in this book, may well benefit from a
consideration of the issue of worldliness. In the end, the proper assessment of
Edward Said's relationship to post-colonial theory may not reside so much in
his cultural criticism, in books such as Orienta/ism, as in his contribution to
textual theory. Whatever his stated view of the critical landscape, worldliness
is Said's most 'post-colonial' contribution to textual analysis.
The trenchant consistency of Said's position and the wide-ranging scope
of his interests have been obscured by two things: the dominance of
poststructuralism in textual analysis over the last two decades; and the
extraordinary prominence of Orienta/ism in his reputation as a cultural critic.
In the concept of worldliness we discover a principle which retrieves the
materiality of the world for political and cultural theory and which offers a
powerful resource in the post-colonial resistance to the poststructuralist
dispersal of meaning. Said's insistence on the materiality of the text, the
'worldliness' of its production and reception, its being-in-the-world, pre-dates
This, and other aspects of Said's work, are more fully elaborated in Bill Ashcroft and Pal
Ahluwalia, Edward Said: the Paradox of Identity London: Routledge 1999.
the euphoric reception of deconstruction by the American academy in the
seventies which Said helped introduce (1971; 1971 a; 1972). As post-
structuralism begins to wane, Said's commitment to 'worldliness' remains as
strong as ever. Yet one more paradox in a paradoxical career, we fmd that
Said's extensive reputation as a cultural critic is underpinned by his much
lesser known intellectual position as a literary theorist, particularly his stance
on textuality.
The issues which stand out in Said's writing include: his concept of
'secular criticism,' by which he means a criticism freed from the priestly
restrictions and unreflective certainties of intellectual specialization; his
concomitant advocacy of 'amateurism' in intellectual life; a need for the
intellectual's actual or metaphoric exile from 'home,' and his passionate view
of the need for intellectual work to recover its connections with the political
realities of the society in which it occurs, to recognize its 'worldliness.' It is the
relationship of criticism to the world which underlies his exposure of the way
in which the 'Orient' has emerged as a discursive construction, and how
contemporary 'Islam' continues to evolve as an alien construction of the West,
indeed of the way the West continually constructs its others.
The almost obsessive commitment to 'secularism' and 'amateurism' in
critical practice and the suspicion of intellectual specialization this produces,
puts Said in an ambiguous relationship with that discourse with which so
many have connected him - post-colonial criticism. As Patrick Williams
points out in this volume, Said's flirtation with the term in the 1980s has
turned to opposition, partly, as becomes clear, because he has not read much
post-colonial theory, but mostly because he remains suspicious of
'specializations' of any kind. Hence, a discussion of 'Edward Said and the
Postcolonial' is a far from simple or hagiographic activity. No contemporary
cultural critic is more paradoxically located in a political and professional
milieu. This paradox is the key to Said's own worldliness, for it leaves him in
a certain antipathy, if we are to read the signs aright, with the very intellectual
discourse which has been a major vehicle of his increasing stature as a cultural
This question of worldliness, of the writer's own position in the world,
gets to the heart of another paradox central to this consideration of Edward
Said's work - how do we read texts? For, any text, Said's included, is
constructed out of many available discourses, discourses within which writers
themselves may be seen as subjects 'in process', and which they may not have
76 Bill Ashcroft
had in mind when they put pen to paper. Worldliness begins by asking one of
the most contentious questions in politically oriented theory: who addresses us
in the text? And this is a question we must ask of Edward Said's work, for
there is no other cultural theorist who so intimately constructs his identity
through his own texts. Ultimately, worldliness is concerned with the
materiality of the text's origin, for in this material being is embedded in the
very materiality of the matters of which it speaks; dispossession, injustice,
marginality, and subjection. In many respects it is this concept of worldliness,
a commitment to which underlies his examination of Orientalism, rather than
Orienta/ism itself which constitutes Said's most strategic contribution to post-
colonial theory.
It is the approach to the text's worldliness, and the desire for criticism to
actually speak to an intellectual's public audience, that drives Said. All
approaches to literary criticism, he claims, have fallen into the trap of
specialization, a 'cult of professional expertise' which has rendered them
marginal to the pressing political concerns of contemporary societies (1983:
1). In contrast, "Secular Criticism" dispenses with 'priestly' and abstruse
specialization in favour of a breadth of interest and an 'amateurism' of
approach which avoids the retreat of intellectual work from the actual society
in which it occurs. No matter how much intellectuals may believe that their
interests are of "higher things or ultimate values" the morality of the
intellectual's practice begins with its location in the secular world, and is
affected by "where it takes place, whose interests it serves, how it jibes with a
consistent and universalist ethic, how it discriminates between power and
justice, what it reveals of one's choices and priorities" ( 1994: 89).
The secular trinity he espouses - 'world', the 'text' and the 'critic' - is in
direct contrast to the 'theologies' of contemporary theoretical schools which
lead, he claims, to a continually inward-turning professional critical practice.
American criticism, according to Said, had retreated, by the seventies, into the
labyrinth of 'textuality', the mystical and disinfected subject matter of literary
theory. Textuality is the exact antithesis of history, for although it takes place,
it doesn't take place anywhere or anytime in particular. "As it is practiced in
the American academy today, literary theory has for the most part isolated
textuality from the circumstances, the events, the physical senses that made it
possible and render it intelligible as the result of human work" (1983: 4).
Ironically, the increasingly complex and even dazzling program of
contemporary theory has left it less and less to say to the society from which it
Worldliness 77
emerges. "In having given up the world entirely for the aporias and
unthinkable paradoxes of the text, contemporary criticism has retreated from
its constituency, the citizens of modem society, who have been left to the
hands of 'free' market forces, multinational corporations" ( 1983: 4 ).
The alternative to such specialization is a form of criticism from which
ambiguity and contradiction cannot be entirely removed but which happily
pay that price in order to reject dogma. As JanMohamed puts it, within this
paradoxical formulation "criticism functions to define that which is
simultaneously to be affirmed and denied" (1992: 111). Criticism is thus not a
science but an act of political and social engagement, that is sometimes
paradoxical, sometimes contradictory, but which tries to avoid solidifying into
dogmatic certainty. The problem with Said, of course, is that his textual theory
has developed no clear way of distinguishing dogma from commitment, nor
has his own commitment always avoided the lure of dogma.
Structuralism radically disrupted the classical realist assumption that texts
such as books were simple communications from a writer to a reader. But the
legacy of its subtle and influential investigation of the structures of texts was
the neglect of the fact that texts are actually located in the world. To treat the
text as merely a structure of the paradigmatic and syntagmatic, say, is to
divorce the text, which is a cultural production, a cultural act, from the
relations of power within which it is produced. Such a tendency concretizes,
and to some extent renders inert, the desire which drove the text into being in
the first place: "a desire - to write - that is ceaseless, varied, and highly
unnatural and abstract, since "to write" is a function never exhausted by the
completion of a piece of writing" ( 1983: 131 ). Thus, for Said, the notion of a
text not only extends beyond its spatial and objective location in the work, as
it does for Barthes, it extends beyond the material presence of the script.
Writing is the complex, and generally orderly translation of many different
forces into decipherable script, forces which all converge on the desire to
write which is a choice made over the desire to speak, to dance, to sculpt
(1983: 129). The failure to take this into account in literary criticism is not
simply a problem for structuralist and poststructuralist analysis. In some
respects much professional literary criticism has reduced the text to an object
78 Bill Ashcroft
and in so doing obscures its own real relations with power. But the concept of
the text's worldliness is crucial, for any analysis of a discourse such as
Orientalism: such a discourse both constructs and 'emerges' from a particular
kind of world. It is the exposure of the link between academic textual practice
and such relations of power which underlies Said's critique of Orientalist
Clearly, in societies with no tradition of literary writing, the desire to write
can become a highly charged and highly mediated political act. Why one form
of writing and not another? Why at that moment and not another? Why
literary writing anyway? The fulfilment of the post-colonial desire to write
often occurs as a function of that ambivalence instituted by the disarticulation
of colonialism itself. But in any case, there are sequences, constellations,
complexes of rational choices made by (or for) the writer for which the
evidence is a printed text (1983: 129). Writing is not some sort of second
order representation of an experience which is already there, but it may be
produced for something formed in the writing itself. We may thus dismiss the
idea of literature being a copy of an original experience, just as we may reject
the idea of history as a line moving from origin to present.
A text, in its actually being a text is a being in the world (1983: 33). That
is, it has a material presence, a cultural and social history, a political and even
an economic being as well as a range of implicit connections to other texts.
Any simple diametrical opposition asserted between, on the one hand, speech,
bound by situation and reference, and, on the other, the text as an interception
or suspension of speech's worldliness, is misleading. Texts have ways of
existing which even in their most rarefied form are always enmeshed in
circumstance, time, place and society, "in short, they are in the world, and
hence worldly" (1983: 35). This is crucial fact which has been obscured by the
contemporary obsession with signification: while the meaning of the text
might be deferable, its locatedness is not. Locatedness is the point from which
the elaboration of meaning proceeds, not the unreachable point to which the
understanding of meaning is directed.
Like Derrida, Said disputes the idea that speech is prior to writing, that the
written text merely reflects or reproduces the ideal spoken text. But Said
rejects Derrida's proposition of the deferral of signification, the endlessness of
interpretation. Rather, for him, texts announce their materiality, their
worldliness by their situatedness in just the same way as speech. Rather than a
separation from the world, or from speech, texts announce their link with
Worldliness 79
verbality. The structural features of textuality are an extremely useful
analytical tool, but they run the risk of positing the social and political
significance of the text as merely an effect of textuality, an invention of those
textual strategies which inscribe it. Clearly, the political necessity of the text's
worldliness is crucial for the post-colonial text in particular, not only for its
capacity to represent the world but also for its aim to actually be in, to
intervene in the world. This worldliness is a feature of all texts as a feature of
their way of being in the world, but it is obviously critical to those dominated
societies attempting to resist and transform the discourses of the dominant.
Theoretically, the key challenge for Said is to negotiate a path between
two attitudes to the text which in different ways misrepresent how texts have a
being in the world. On the one hand, the classical realist position sees the text
as simply referring to the world 'out there.' Such a view fails to take into
account the ways in which language mediates and determines what is seen in
the world. On the other hand, a structuralist-inspired position sees the world as
having no absolute existence at all but as being entirely constructed by the
text. This view would not allow for any non-textual experience of the world,
nor for any world outside the text. Said negotiates these extremes in this way:
the text (and by this we can mean speech, pictures and all other forms of texts)
is important in negotiating our experience of the world, but the worldliness
and circumstantiality of the text, "the text's status as an event having sensuous
particularity as well as historical contingency, are considered as being
incorporated in the text, an infrangible part of its capacity for conveying and
producing meaning" (1983: 39). This means that the text is crucial in the way
we 'have' a world, but the world exists as the text's location, and that
worldliness is constructed within the text. The text has a specific situation
which places restraints upon an interpreter, "not because the situation is
hidden within the text as a mystery but because the situation exists at the same
level of surface particularity as the textual object itself' (1983: 39). The text
does not exist outside the world, as is the implication in both the realist and
structuralist positions, but is a part of the world of which it speaks, and this
worldliness is itself present in the text as a part of its formation.
Writing is 'affiliative' rather than 'filiative' with experience; it "counters
nature." But in this affiliation with the social world, this production of
experience Said sees one of the most resonant confrrmations of the text's
worldliness. While filiation (or inheritance) suggests a utopian domain of texts
connected serially, homologously and seamlessly with other texts, in a body of
80 Bill Ashcroft
works called, for instance "English Literature," affiliation (or active
association) is that which enables a text to maintain itself as a text, the "status
of the author, historical moment, conditions of publication, diffusion and
reception, values drawn upon, values and ideas assumed, a framework of
consensually held tacit assumptions, presumed background, and so on" (1983:
174-5). The affiliations of the text constantly lead us back to its worldliness,
for we are drawn to ask the questions "Where is the text taking place?'' "How
is it taking place?'' (Ashcroft 1996: 6). Affiliation draws us inexorably to the
location and the locatedness of the text's production.
Affiliation sends the critical gaze beyond the narrow confines of the
European literary canon, or any literary tradition, into this cultural texture. "To
recreate the affiliative network is therefore to make visible, to give materiality
back to the strands holding the text to society, author and culture" (Said 1983:
175). This concern with the materiality of the text also allows Said to read the
texts of English literature 'contrapuntally' (1993: 59), to see the extent to
which they are implicated in the broad political project of imperialism.
Traditionally assumed to be connected filiatively to the discourse of 'English
literature,' the text now can be seen to be affiliated with the network of
history, culture and society within which it comes into being and is read.
Said has also used the concept to describe the way the network of
affiliation links colonised societies to imperial culture. Cultural identities are
understood as "contrapuntal ensembles" (1993: 60) and the often hidden
affiliations of both imperial and colonial cultures are amenable to a
contrapuntal reading. Clearly, the concept of affiliation is useful for describing
the ways in which colonized societies replace filiative connections to
indigenous cultural traditions with affiliations to the social, political and
cultural institutions of empire. Affiliation refers to "that implicit network of
peculiarly cultural associations between forms, statements and other aesthetic
elaborations on the one hand and, on the other, institutions, agencies, classes,
and amorphous social forces" (174). Said links the concept to Gramsci's
notion of hegemony by suggesting that the affiliative network itself is the field
of operation of hegemonic control, and this may be evident particularly in the
case ofthe control of imperial culture.
We can see the significance of Said's preference for affiliation extending
into every aspect of his work. For just as the idea of the text related
'filiatively' to "English Literature" seems to sever it from its connection with
the world, to the extent that critical appreciation becomes ever more inward
turning, so the filiative connection of the intellectual to some professional
specialisation seems to remove him or her from the very world in which the
work of the intellectual can take effect. More sinisterly, it prevents
professional practice from any recognition of the actual relations of power
within which it operates. In both cases the filiative connection to some form of
tradition removes the possibility, as it removes the desire, for agency, the
possibility to speak truth to falsehood, oppression and injustice. Worldliness is
affiliative, and the tendency for the critic to be locked into some limited
professional identity must be resisted at all costs because it removes the critic
from the a fundamental responsibility- to criticize.
Criticism, for Said, is personal, active, entwined with the world,
implicated in its processes of representation, and committed to the notion that
the intellectual, through the operation of the oppositional, critical spirit, can
reveal hypocrisy, uncover the false, prepare the ground for change. The critic
operates within as complex a network of affiliations as does the text. Critics
are not the simple translators of texts into circumstantial reality. The
reproduction of textuality in criticism is itself bound up in circumstance, in
'worldliness.' Indeed, for both post-colonial writer and critic, this worldliness
is a crucial factor, for the manner and target of its address, its oppositionality,
its revelatory powers of representation, its liminality, are fundamental features
of its being in the world. Ontology and epistemology are joined: what it can
know is indistinguishable from what it is in the world. That is to say that the
way in which the post-colonial text exists in discourse determines what can be
Consequently, the 'worldliness' of the critic is just as fundamental as the
worldliness of the text. Thus, when we read Said's analysis of Orientalist
discourse, or the link between imperial culture and imperial domination, or the
continuation of this link in contemporary representations of Palestinians
(1980; 1981 ), the issue of worldliness becomes a crucial feature of the
engagement of those texts. Orienta/ism for instance, does not simply aim to
investigate the array of disciplines or to exhaustively elaborate the historical
or cultural provenance of Orientalism, but rather to reverse the 'gaze' of the
discourse, to analyze it from the point of view of an 'Oriental'- to "inventory
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the traces upon ... the Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has
been so powerful a fact in the life of all Orientals" (Said 1978: 25). How Said,
the celebrated American academic, can represent himself as a marginalised
oriental, demonstrates how paradoxical worldliness can become.
The problem with contemporary criticism is an extreme functionalism
which pays too much attention to the text's formal operations, but far too little
to its materiality. The result of this is that the text becomes "a kind of self-
consuming artefact; idealized, essentialized, instead of remaining the special
kind of cultural object it is with a causation, persistence, durability and social
presence quite its own" (1983: 148). The materiality of the text refers to
various things: the ways, for example in which the text is a monument, a
cultural object sought after, fought over, possessed, rejected, or achieved in
time. The text's materiality also includes the range of its authority. But these
all locate it in the world.
The need for criticism to return to the world is the desire of post-colonial
criticism in general. It is all very well, for instance, to unravel the endless
paradoxes involved in the question 'what is reality?' while safely ensconced in
the metropolitan academy. But if that reality involves material and emotional
deprivation, cultural exclusion and even death, such questions appear self-
indulgent and irrelevant. This 'secular' return to the world captures the
particular nature of the ambivalent relationship between post-colonial studies
and contemporary theory, quite apart from Said's direct exposure of the
constructions of the post-colonial world by the West.
For Said, criticism goes beyond specific positions. Criticism that is
"modified in advance by labels like "Marxism" or "liberalism" (1983: 28)" (or
"feminism" or, paradoxically, "postcolonialism" as well, we may assume), is
to him an oxymoron. "The history of thought, to say nothing of political
movements is extravagantly illustrative of how the dictum "solidarity before
criticism" means the end of criticism" ( 1983: 28). This really gets to the heart
of what Said means by 'secular criticism,' for it is not only the quasi-religious
quietism of complex and abstruse theoretical thought - that of the "priestly
caste of acolytes" which he rejects, but also the ideologically impacted and
impervious position of "the dogmatic metaphysicians" (1983: 5). He takes
criticism so seriously as to believe that "even in the very midst of a battle in
which one is unmistakably on one side against another, there should be
criticism, because there must be critical consciousness if there are to be issues,
problems, values, even lives to be fought for" (1983: 28). Here, we find
encapsulated his view of the function of the public intellectual.
This is a difficult, not to say determinedly heroic position, but it cannot be
separated from the social historical conditions of his own location as a
Palestinian speaking from the 'centre,' the elite metropolitan academy. That is
to say, Said's own life has provided ample evidence of the need to aim one's
criticism in every direction: antagonism from Arafat, exclusion from
Palestinian politics, and the banning of his books in Palestine. Too often,
oppositional criticism can become stuck in an uncritical and unreflective
ideological mire. For Said, criticism is by its very nature oppositional; "If
criticism is reducible neither to a doctrine or a political position on a particular
question, and if it is to be in the world and self-aware simultaneously, then its
identity is its difference from other cultural activities and from systems of
thought or of method" (1983: 29). This is salutary advice for critical positions,
such as post-colonial ones, which see themselves, if not exactly embattled and
marginalized, at least providing a venue for the critical work of those who feel
culturally dominated.
Said's refusal of both the rarefied world of pure textuality and the
ideologically impacted world of political dogma, is the ground of his effort to
reconnect literary criticism with the world of political and cultural reality. The
essence of Said's critical spirit, despite his impassioned espousal of the cause
of those marginalized by what some have called "NATOpolitan" hegemony, is
the refusal to be locked into a school, ideology or political party, and his
determination not to exempt anything from criticism. Whether he has achieved
this to the extent he might have wished, particularly in his discussions of
Orientalism and Islam, is debatable, but it does not diminish the fundamental
impetus of his desire to return criticism to the world.
The consequences of 'worldliness' are quite profound for the critic. Said
introduces the disarming, not to say disconcerting idea of the critic as
'amateur,' by which he means that the critic must refuse to be locked into
narrow professional specializations which produce their own arcane
vocabulary and speak only to other specialists. The cult of professional
expertise in criticism is pernicious because it surrenders the actual material
and political concerns of society to a discourse dominated by economists and
technocrats. This situation obtains in every developed nation in the world
today, to the extent that economic and technological discourse is regarded not
only as being the best and most canny representation of the real world, but the
84 Bill Ashcroft
only true reflection of human affairs. Questions of justice, oppression,
marginalisation, or hemispheric, national and racial equality are submerged
almost entirely beneath the language of money economy with its utopian
dream that 'if the figures are right everything else wiJJ fall into place.'
It is in such "amateurism" that the worldliness of the critic can be fully
realised. This does not mean a superficial dilettantism but a reversal of the
trend of literary theory (in particular) to tum its back on the circumstances and
real events of the society for which criticism actually exists. The word
'amateur' is a useful one because its petjorative connotations disrupt our sense
of the function that the intellectual fills in contemporary society. Asked why
he used the term amateur rather than 'generalist', Said replied that he was
drawn to the literal meaning of the French word which means a Jove of
something, "very involved in something without being professional" (Ashcroft
1996: 8). Said's own work is ample demonstration of the somewhat ironically
termed business of the amateur. His province has been everything from
literary theory, to textual criticism, history, discursive analysis, sociology,
musicology, anthropology, and all this emerging in a form of cultural studies
which, above all, has highlighted the politics of cultural difference in the post-
colonial world. There is possibly no other contemporary cultural theorist who
demonstrates so well the situatedness of the text of criticism, who reinforces
so completely the need to consider the affiliations of criticism itself in any
appreciation of its relationship with the text or texts it scrutinizes.
The attempt to produce a criticism which engages the real material ground
of political and social life is one which persists unflaggingly over the last
twenty years. For Said, criticism continually crosses the boundaries between
academic and journalistic texts, between professional and public forums, and
between professional specialisations for at base its character and purpose are
urgent and immediate. "Criticism must think of itself as life-enhancing and
constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination, and abuse; its
social goals are noncoercive lmowledge produced in the interests of human
freedom" (1983: 29). The refusal of ideological or theoretical dogma also
underlies Said's willingness to consider what normally might be regarded as
conservative positions, particularly in relation to the efficacy of historical and
empirical scholarship, alongside radical views of social and political relations.
When we talk about the affiliations of the critic, it becomes extremely
difficult to relegate criticism to some idealized zone of textuality. For the
critic, the affiliations within which he or she operates are crucial to what is
actually produced. Said's own case is a consummate demonstration of this:
occupying a prestigious position in a major university, he has become one of
the most widely lmown critics in the world. In his own position as a powerful
and prestigious academic, he must engage constantly on the one hand with the
academic discourse which, in a sense, gave him intellectual birth and from
which he speaks, and on the other hand with the extensively rnarginalised
position ofhis own constituency- the Palestinian and Islamic world.
Edward Said's own worldliness is marked by a series of contradictions,
which, far from being debilitating, demonstrate the paradoxical nature of all
identity formation, and in particular the identity of diasporic peoples. A great
deal of the problem with 'regulated' identities, such as national, ethnic or
religious filiations, is that the formula is generally unable to accommodate the
actual disparate, contradictory and developing character of subjectivity.
Because of his public profile Edward Said demonstrates these contradictions
in full measure. But most significantly, he reveals that contradiction may well
be an essential feature of identity, this is precisely why restricted notions of
identity tend towards exclusion rather than inclusion.
The celebrated American academic who passionately and paradoxically
claims his status as a marginalised and besieged Palestinian, reveals
contradictions at many other levels. The cultural critic reveals himself to be a
cultural elitist in his tastes, preferring Western music and canonical literature;
the cultural critic who repeatedly constructs himself as an exile has a home in
Columbia University, indeed, could not live anywhere but New York.
Lionized and famous yet victim of a "uniquely punishing destiny," the destiny
of an exile, Edward Said demonstrates above all the paradox of the textual
nature of identity, the worldliness he espouses so forcefully, being one which
in his case is 'written' constantly, inscribed in all his criticism. Paradox and
contradiction are the very essence of Said's own worldliness, because this
'world' is the world of the exile.
For Said, exile is the key to the secular, non-partisan capacity of the public
intellectual to criticize, to "speak truth to power," to expose sham and injustice
in governing institutions. Perhaps the best conception of the world of the
86 Bill Ashcroft
critic's worldliness can be found in a passage from a twelfth century Saxon
monk called Hugo of St Victor which Said uses more than once:
The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom
every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the
entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one
spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the
perfect man has extinguished his (cited in Said 1984: 55).
"Only by embracing this attitude," says Said, "can a historian begin to
grasp human experience and its written records in their diversity and
particularity" (1984: 55). So, paradoxically, to the critic for whom "the entire
world is as a foreign land," the almost boundless affiliations of the text's
worldliness are readily accessible. Such an attitude not only makes possible
originality of vision, but also (since exiles are aware of at least two cultures) a
plurality of vision that is essentially contrapuntal ( 1984: 55). "Because the
exile sees things both in terms of what has been left behind and what is actual
here and now, there is a double perspective that never sees things in isolation"
(1994: 44). Thus the form of contrapuntal reading which enables Said to
explicate the deep embedding of imperialism in the Western canon in Culture
and Imperialism, is posited as a habit of mind of the exile.
But while exile is an almost necessary condition for true critical
worldliness, "the achievements of any exile are permanently undermined by
his or her sense of loss" ( 1984: 49). While it is "the unhealable rift forced
between a human being and a native place" (1984: 49), nevertheless, the
canon of modern Western culture "is in large part the work of exiles" (1984:
49). This tension between personal desolation and cultural empowerment is
the tension of exile in Said's own work, a tension which helps explain his own
deep investment in the link between the text and the world. For that very
worldliness is the guarantee of the invalidity of the text's ownership by nation
or community or religion, however powerful those filiative connections might
be. The most insistent of these filiations, that of nationalism, arises "to
overcome some form of estrangement - from soil, from roots, from unity,
from destiny" (1984: 50) because just "beyond the perimeter of what
nationalism constructs as the nation, at the frontier separating "us" from what
is alien, is the perilous territory of not-belonging" ( 1984: 51). It is the very
risk of entering the territory of not belonging which the 'worldly' critic must
take, because the frontier of the nation sets a limit to openness and originality,
Worldliness 87
as well as that oppositionality and critical rebelliousness which is the very
mark of the public intellectual.
Perhaps the deepest paradoxes emerge from the intellectual's relationship
to culture, because while he or she may be saturated by culture, the deep link
between that culture and place locates the exile within the unsettling
provisionality of a diasporic culture. The connection between culture and
place does not refer simply to a connection with a nation or region, but
includes "all the nuances or reassurance, fitness, belonging, association, and
community, entailed in the phrase at home or in place . .. It is in culture that
we can seek out the range of meanings and ideas conveyed by the phrases
belonging to or in a place, being at home in a place" ( 1983: 8). This places the
exile in a singular position with regard to history and society, but also a much
more anxious and ambivalent position with regard to culture:
Exile .. .is "a mind of winter" in which the pathos of summer and autumn as
much as the potential of spring are nearby but unobtainable. Perhaps this is
another way of saying that a life of exile moves according to a different
calendar, and is less seasonal and settled than life at home. Exile is life led
outside habitual order. It is nomadic, decentred, contrapuntal; but no sooner
does one get accustomed to it than its unsettling force erupts anew (1984:
Much of the contradictory nature of Said's view of the interrelation of
exile, intellectual and culture, can be explained perhaps by the fact that for
him exile is both an actual and a metaphorical condition:
The pattern that sets the course for the intellectual as outsider is best
exemplified by the condition of exile, the state of never being fully adjusted,
always feeling outside the chatty, familiar world inhabited by natives ...
Exile for the intellectual in this metaphysical sense is restlessness,
movement, constantly being unsettled, and unsettling others. You cannot go
back to some earlier and perhaps more stable condition of being at home;
and, alas, you can never fully arrive, be at one in your new home or situation
(1994: 39).
One can detect a certain slippage even here between the actual and the
metaphorical which suggests that for Said exile is also an act of will that the
intellectual performs in order to stand outside the comfortable receptivity of
home or nation. For it is difficult to see how far the idea of metaphoricity can
be taken without dissolving the concept of exile altogether.
88 Bill Ashcroft
Certainly in the most powerful exilic influence upon Said, Theodor
Adorno, the combination of separation from home and the willed distancing
from the everyday world seems complete. The "dominating intellectual
conscience of the middle twentieth century, whose entire career skirted and
fought the dangers of fascism, communism and Western consumerism" (Said
1994a: 40), Adorno is a figure whose intellectual and personal life has
uncanny echoes in Edward Said's. But curiously, whereas Adorno is the
consummate example of the exiled intellectual, he is also one who
problematizes the notion, because:
Adorno was the quintessential intellectual, hating all systems, whether on our
side or theirs, with equal distaste. For him. life was at its most false in the
aggregate - the whole is always the untrue, he once said - and this, he
continued, placed an even greater premium on subjectivity, on the
individual's consciousness, on what could not be regimented in the totally
administered society (1994: 41).
In some respects, Adorno was an exile before he left home. To what
extent actual exile exacerbated the tendencies of metaphoric exile already
deeply embedded in his nature is a matter of conjecture.
It is in exile perhaps, that the unresolvable paradox of Edward Said's
worldliness is located. For the line between geographical displacement and
intellectual distancing seems impossible to draw. The worldliness of the exiled
intellectual does not exist outside textuality, and yet it is a reality which
transforms our understanding of the text: while a text has a being in the world,
all being is textual at some level. Said's identity is constantly written in his
work in a way which blurs the edge between work and life. But that
materiality within which the text and the critic must be addressed, that
worldliness which disrupts the priestly program of textual analysis, is the key
to Said's importance to contemporary cultural and literary theory. Like a cork
continually bobbing to the surface, the passionate claim for the text's
worldliness survives all attempts to dissolve writing into the endless deferral
of poststructuralist analysis. It is this worldliness which gives intellectual
work its seriousness, which makes it "matter," which returns to writing its
cultural and political force.
Ashcroft, B. (1996), "Interview with Edward Said", New Literatures Review,
32: 3-22.
JanMohamed, A. (1992), "Worldliness-without-World, Homelessness-as-
Home: Toward a Definition of the Specular Border Intellectual" in
Michael Sprinker (ed.), Edward Said: A Critical Reader, Oxford:
Said, E. (1971 ), "Abecedarium Culturae: Structuralism, Absence, Writing,"
TriQuarterly, (Winter).
Said, E. (1971a) "What is Beyond Formalism?" MLN, December 1971.
Said, E. (1972), "Michel Foucault as an Intellectual Imagination," Boundary 2,
(July) 1: 1. 1972.
Said, E. (1978), Orienta/ism, New York: Vintage Books.
Said, E. ( 1980) The Question of Palestine, London: Vintage.
Said, E. (1981) Covering Islam, New York: Vintage (1997)
Said, E. (1983), The World, the Text and the Critic, Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
Said, E. (1984), "The Mind of Winter: Reflections on life in Exile", Harpers,
Said, E. (1991a), "Identity, Authority, And Freedom: The Potentate And The
Traveler", Transition, 54: 4-18.
Said, E. (1993), Culture and Imperialism, London: Chatto and Windus.
Said, E. (1994), Representations of the Intellectual, The 1993 Reith Lectures,
London: Vintage Books.
Said, E. (1994a), The Pen and the Sword: Conversations with David
Barsamian, Monroe: Common Courage Press.
Said, E. (1994b), The Politics of Dispossession, London: Chatto and Windus.
Linda Hutcheon
There is no doubt, as Robert Young ( 1990: 126) and many others have
pointed out, that Edward Said's Orienta/ism opened up the academic literary
scene to the serious study of imperialism. It was both in itself a significant
work of literary and cultural history and a self-conscious positioning of the
very act of writing history within a larger context, a "strategic formation," as
Said called it, that acquired "strength and authority" through its presence "in
time, in discourse, in institutions" (1979: 20). Nevertheless, unlike the
traditional (usually national) histories that have aimed to legitimize their
literatures and cultures through a teleological narrative of progress and
this history's intent was more to "de-legitimize" (Clifford
1988: 266), and fittingly its narrative took a different form - that of an
insistent and repetitive witnessing of the constructions and consequences of
imperial power. What it de-legitimized was the way the "Orient" had been
On the continuing power of the teleological model in the writing of literary history even from
the perspectives of what today we would call "identity politics," see Hutcheon,
"Interventionist Literary Histories."
92 Linda Hutcheon
represented in the discourses of the "West. "
In so doing, it inaugurated a field
of research known as colonial discourse studies - the examination of "how
stereotypes, images, and 'knowledge' of colonial subjects and cultures tie in
with institutions of economic, administrative, judicial, and bio-medical
control" (Loomba 1998: 47).
Such an interrogation of colonial power can obviously be carried out from
two opposite points of reference, however: that of empire and that of colony.
If the latter is what we have come to call "postcolonial," then the former
should most accurately be labelled as "postimperial" to signal its significant
difference. It is in its concentration on the imperial discourses of the West that
Orienta/ism constitutes a postimperial literary and cultural history rather than
a postcolonial one. Its act of historical witnessing is different in focus and
content from anything we could call postcolonial. I use the idea of witnessing
here not in its religious sense, but in order to invoke instead its legal and
especially its historical meanings. Literary and cultural historians like Said are
analogous to the historians Dominick LaCapra calls "secondary witnesses"
whose task it is to come to terms with "secondary memory" or "the result of
critical work on primary memory" (LaCapra 1998: 20) - that is, in this case,
work on literary and cultural texts and their representations. Secondary
memory is also what the historian "attempts to impart to others who have not
themselves lived through the experience or events in question" (21 ). This is, in
the end, why such histories are written: as testimonial witnessings of past
traumatic encounters between colonizer and colonized. Although, as we shall
see, the postimperial and the postcolonial represent constitutively different
acts of witnessing, it is at once interesting and significant that Edward Said's
various theoretical and political works have participated in and, indeed, been
crucial to both.
From a literary historical point of view, the founding moment of the
postcolonial would be that of its contact with empire - a fact embedded in its
very name. The witnessing of the impact of that traumatic encounter over time
on the colony (and its discourses of both complicity and resistance) is the task
of the postcolonial historian; the witnessing of the sometimes equally strong,
My quotation marks for this first usage of these two terms (to be dropped subsequently) are
intended to signal my agreement with those critics of Said's text who see an essentializing
and stereotyping of the West into a monolithic whole that, in a sense, duplicates in reverse the
work of Orientalism itself. For sample summaries of such responses, see, for example, Buell
( 1994: 38); Bhabha ( 1986); Ahmad ( 1992: 183 ).
Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing
but totally different, impact of that encounter over time on empire (and its
discourses of both dominance and decline) is what the postimperial historian
Making such a distinction might illuminate some of the
confusions about and misdirected critiques of Orienta/ism over the last two
decades. It might also allow some perspective on Said's complex self-
positioning in his writings.
The term postcolonial is a contested one in literary circles these days;
nevertheless, it has also come to provide a capacious space within which to
negotiate a complex series of issues involving inequities of power within the
colonial situation. But, in literary historical terms, the perspective taken on
that colonial situation from a postcolonial point of view would be that of the
culture both as colonized and after. A postcolonial cultural history of India,
therefore, would not be an extended history of the nation's complex and
multiple cultures, for such a history would clearly include much besides
colonialism (Ahmad 1992: 172); instead, it would be a record only of the
impact on and resistances to the traumatic imperial legacy. (Settler-invader
colonies would therefore have a different kind of historical narrative of
witnessing than subjugated colonies, largely because they did not experience a
specific traumatic cultural break with the imposition of empire.
) While some
have protested the use of the term postcolonial because it linguistically
reproduces the centrality of the colonial narrative, surely that is the entire
point. To call a history postcolonial (rather than Pakistani, Kenyan, or even
Commonwealth) is precisely to state the intent to study the political, historical,
aesthetic, and cultural impact of empire upon colony.
To write a postimperial or literary history, on the other hand, is not only to
study the ways in which imperial discourse constructs and represents the
colonized; such a history would also trace the often occulted impact of colony
A postcolonial perspective can also force a rethinking of imperial canons, of course: "In the
very act of distinguishing the Western literary tradition from its other, one discovers
unsuspected fissures and highly stratified levels of cultural sedimentation at its foundation,"
argues Moses ( 1991: 219). Different writers will look influential in different contexts (217).
With a postcolonial focus, it might be Kipling and Conrad rather than Pound and James that
become significant. Joyce might not be seen as a formalist modernist but as an Irish anti-
For overviews ofthese issues, see Shohat (1992); Hutcheon (1995).
The native peoples of settler-invader colonies like Canada, New Zealand and Australia did, of
course, experience such a traumatic break, but their continuing difficult position within these
cultures suggests that postcolonial may be too optimistic a term.
94 Linda Hutcheon
upon empire. In each case, it is imperial discourse (frequently the canon
) that
is the focus of attention and interrogation. Trauma is obviously something
experienced by victims; but it also has an impact upon its perpetrators, as
LaCapra has argued in his work on the vexed aesthetic, ethical and political
relationship between memory and history in the context of the "transvaluing"
of trauma (1998: 8-9). In Orienta/ism and in many studies since then,
including Culture and Imperialism, Said has ably shown that, following the
colonial encounter, the perpetrator's culture is never the same again either
(though the difference is not only manifest in various forms of guilt). As
Balachandra Rajan has cogently remarked: "Postcolonialists are more
interested in how imperial discourse fell apart than in how it came together.
But it had to come together in order to fall apart" (1998: 494). It is precisely
the task of postimperialist cultural historians to examine how imperial
discourse has come together.
Interestingly, Edward Said has taken up the position of both
postimperialist and postcolonial historian. He asserts that one of his personal
reasons for writing Orienta/ism was to "inventory the traces upon me, the
Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a
factor in the life of all Orientals" ( 1979: 25). Yet Aijaz Ahmad and others are
not wrong in pointing, nonetheless, to the "overwhelmingly European" nature
of the book's cultural apparatus and the "authoritative presence" Said himself
commands within the Western academy (Ahmad 1992: 171). Despite its
postimperial scholarly and theoretical focus, Orienta/ism's enunciative
position is nonetheless postcolonial. The signs of such positioning - and
address- can be seen everywhere, including in Said's decision to limit the
definition of the Orient to the Middle East, and thus largely to ignore India,
arguably the most significant of Britain's colonies in cultural terms.
As the
books and pamphlets that follow Orienta/ism make clear, Palestine is the
personal focus of both Said's academic theorizing and his engaged politics.
We need only recall such works as The Question of Palestine (1979),
For a recent example of how much canonical discourses can teach about the impact of
imperialism, see Rajan, Under Western Eyes(2000). Lately, there have also been works that
study non- canonical discourses-travel writing, political reports and speeches, religious tracts.
See, for instance, Teltscher ( 1995).
Schwarz articulates boldly the case for India: "India had experienced Westernization [and, he
implies, Orientalization] out of all proportion to other colonized formations. There simply
was no equating colonial India to colonial Africa or colonial Latin American when evaluating
the cultural legacy'' ( 1997: II 0).
Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing
Coveri1zg Islam (1981 ), After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives ( 1986), or The
Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination
1969-1994 (1994). Just as Said contains within his person and his intellectual
formation the "traces" of both the Orient and the West and of both political
activist and humanist theorist, so too his oeuvre contains within it both
postcolonial and postimperial impulses. He writes from a plural space, a
version of that "intermediary area" that Homi Bhabha calls the "middle of
difference" (1997: 435).
While it is evident that the postcolonial and the postimperial are mutually
implicated and mutually dependent concepts, they are also distinguishable one
from the other. After all, in conflictual historical encounters, those who are
subjected might well remember- and forget- differently than those who do
the subjecting. As Said has shown, the cultural history of the Orient in the
West was written from the point of view of the "victors"; that history was also
at times conveniently forgotten by them. Historically, the winners "can afford
to forget," argues Peter Burke, "while the losers are unable to accept what
happened and are condemned to brood over it, relive it, and reflect how
different it might have been" (1989: 1 06). As postcolonial cultural historian,
Said does not so much brood, however, as witness- that is, remember and
analyse what happened to the colony, especially to Palestine; by contrast, as
postimperial historian, Said forces the winners not to forget, and does so by
showing them the consequences of imperial power on their own metropolitan
culture's representations of both themselves and those oppressed by that
power. From this perspective, Orienta/ism accomplishes what Said claims of
Fanon's work: it forces "the European metropolis to think its history together
with the history of colonies awakening from the cruel stupor and abused
immobility of imperial domination" (1989: 223). Said's use of the language of
traumatic encounter here is echoed by many who write about this same need
to decolonize European thought: Robert Young writes that the "legacy of
colonialism is as much a problem for the West as it is for the scarred lands in
the world beyond" (1990: 126). In each case, the stronger language of trauma
("cruel stupor and abused immobility" or "scarred lands") is rightly reserved
for the trauma of the victims, but that trauma is not without its effects on its
It is, in part, these latter effects that Orienta/ism registers and analyzes. As
a postimperial work, it does not produce a postcolonial history of the silenced
and the subjugated, that is, what Gayatri Spivak calls "a narrative, in literary
96 Linda Hutcheon
history, of the 'worlding' of what is now called 'the Third World"' (1985:
243-4). Despite its subject matter, its object of lrnowledge is Western; its
primary interest is openly in Orientalism not in the Orient itself. In their
postimperial articulation, Orienta/ism's strong judgmental positions on
individual Orientalists and on the discourses of Orientalism in general stand in
contrast with, for instance, Bhabha's different- indeed, postcolonial- focus
on the colonial impact of the "force of ambivalence" that he locates in
imperial discourse and that, he implies, gives it its stereotyping currency in
and power over the real (not only discursive) Orient (1986: 148-9).
In Orienta/ism, Said never claimed to do other than study imperial
discourse, whatever his critics may have asserted (and however postcolonial
his own self-positioning may be). In his introductory remarks to Culture and
Imperialism in 1993, he addresses his earlier omission of Third World
response and resistance to Western discursive domination (xii). While he
voices a strong interest in the later work in what he calls a "contrapuntal"
point of view that aclrnowledges the reciprocity of colony and empire - as
opposed to a "politics of blame" or of "confrontation and hostility" ( 18) - his
position in that book, as in Orienta/ism, is still that of what he too refers to as
the ''post-imperial intellectual." Even if his intent is to study the "overlapping
community between metropolitan and formerly colonized societies" (18), as in
his earlier work Said's main interest here is in questioning the cultural
categories of Western thought, including Western historiography. To that end,
he offers what Ahmad has called a "perfectly necessary rereading of the
Western archive" (1992: 63). This is what a postimperial cultural history takes
as its witnessing task, its opportunity, and its responsibility. If Said's later
postimperial works do mention non-Western works, it is also the case that he
does not always give them the kind of detailed scrutiny he gives to canonical
Western ones (Ahmad 1992: 202). As Said claimed at the very start,
Orienta/ism would contribute little of interest to the "lives, histories, and
customs" of the Orient which "have a brute reality obviously greater than
anything that could be said about them in the West" (1979: 5). In short, the
postcolonial was not its focus; instead it claimed to offer an analysis of the
discursive construction of the intellectual and aesthetic superiority and
authority of the West over the Orient within Western culture (1979: 19). It is
not Bengali or Egyptian writers and thinkers who are his focus, but the
Europeans - Goethe, Hugo, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Kinglake, Nervale,
Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing 97
Flaubert, Burton, Scott, Byron, Vigny, Disraeli, George Eliot, Gautier, Barres,
Loti, T.E. Lawrence, Forster, and so on.
Of course, what Said calls the "discursive consistency" (1979: 273) of
imperial representations within European culture can lead and have often led
to an internalizing by the colonized of those stereotypes of (and imposed
judgments on) them. And this is where the postcolonial cultural history takes
over from the postimperial; this, for example, is where Bhabha can analyse the
hybridization of the Bible as communicated to and understood by Indians (in
"Signs Taken for Wonders"). Here the gaps in imperial discourse can be
worked for their possibilities of resistance - from a colonial perspective. This
is also where Xiaomei Chen can theorize "Occidentalism" in terms of a post-
Mao Chinese self-reappropriation of the West's appropriating construction of
Orientalism. This is postcolonial literary and cultural history - as Said too has
written it in those pamphlets and books on Palestine. Such is not the
postimperial space of Orienta/ism, however. How empire represented itself to
itself as well as to others is as central to this different space as how empire
represented its silenced "Other" to itself and the world. Orientalism, as Said
later put it, offered "a worldview with considerable political force not easily
brushed away as so much epistemology" ("Representing the Colonized" 211)
- but that is as true in the imperial as in the colonized context. It is a question
of different acts of witnessing: rather than offering an inventory of the
traumatic traces of empire upon himself or other colonized peoples, in
Orienta/ism Said actually inventories the perpetrator's traumatic acts of
discursive violence. The subsequent works on Palestine, however, then take
up the other task of postcolonial witnessing.
What Orienta/ism offers is an extensive cataloguing of the silencing,
reifying, essentializing, and stereotyping techniques of the imperial discourses
of both knowledge and the imagination. It refers to, but does not document,
the material effects on the colonized of those techniques which construct them
as inferior, dehumanized, infantilized. The emphasis is on how empire inflicts
trauma, not on the trauma itself. I am using this (admittedly loaded) term
trauma in an extended fashion, in full awareness of its associations with
psychoanalytic work done in recent years that has had a major impact on
literary studies.
Concepts of psychological trauma have already been
See Hartman on what trauma studies appears to offer to literary studies: a connection or "a
more natural transition to a 'real' world often falsely split off from that of the university, as if
the one were activist and engaged and the other self-absorbed and detached" (1995: 543-4).
98 Linda Hutcheon
extended to include the social trauma of disaster (that both damages and
creates communities), and some of the ways this has been done prove
suggestive for thinking about postcolonial and postimperial cultural histories:
"traumatic experiences work their way so thoroughly into the grain of the
affected community that they come to supply its prevailing mood and temper,
dominating its imagery and its sense of self, govern the way its members
relate to one another" (Erikson 1995: 190).
The work on individual psychic trauma by Cathy Caruth and others is
equally suggestive- again in extended terms- in conceptualizing that major
originary moment of encounter for both postimperial and postcolonial
historical thinking. Theories of the way trauma works belatedly, even
transgenerationally, recall the belated or "aftermath" quality (Chambers 1998)
of cultural historical witnessing, of the narrating of the traumatic contact of
empire and colony - by those who "survived" the experiences of both
enduring and perpetrating the trauma. That originating traumatic moment
becomes transformed, to borrow and extend Caruth's terms, into a narrative
memory "that allows the story to be verbalized and communicated, to be
integrated into one's own, and others', knowledge of the past" ("Introduction:
Recapturing the Past" 1995: 153). But the stories of a postimperial history are
going to differ in focus and emphasis from those of a postcolonial one.
However, both will presume a reader to whom the responsibility of
remembering can be passed. As Caruth puts it, "the history of a trauma ... can
only take place through the listening of another" ("Introduction: Trauma and
Experience" 1995: 11). This agency, this move outward to readers and
listeners, is one of the reasons why trauma can be called "not simply an effect
of destruction but also, fundamentally, an enigma of survival" (Caruth 1995:
58). In a sense, then, postcolonial histories can also be interpreted as forms of
recovery narratives or "testimonial resolution" of witnessing (Felman and
Laub 1992: xvii).
Ania Loomba writes that colonialism "locked the original inhabitants and
the newcomers into the most complex and traumatic relationships in human
history" (1998: 2). Her language here -like that of many others- reveals how
postcolonial as well as postimperial discourses obsessively repeat these
notions of trauma, degradation and humiliation (see Buell 1994: 26; Cobham
1992: 56; Said 1993: 212). Postcolonial writers are said by Said to "bear their
By "real" world, Hartman means mental health issues, but in my allegorical extension of the
Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing
past within them - as scars of humiliating wounds" (1993: 13): "What an
Algerian intellectual today remembers of his country's colonial past focusses
severely on such events as France's military attacks on villages and the torture
of prisoners during the war of liberation" (1993: 11). These are the traumatic
memories that the postcolonial cultural historian witnesses, the memories of
those who have "suffered the sentence of history," to us Bhabha's felicitous
phrase (1994: 172). Or, in Gyan Prakash's equally vivid terms, the
postcolonial "exists as an aftermath, as an after - after being worked over by
colonialism" (1997: 491).
The postimperial also exists as an aftermath, but the focus is very
different. There is no doubt that Orienta/ism shares with Said's even more
overtly politically engaged work in the decades since 1978 a scathing
postcolonial indictment of what he later calls the "dreadful secondariness"
imposed upon the colonized, "fixed in zones of dependency and peripherality,
stigmatized in the designation of underdeveloped, less-developed, developing
states, ruled by a superior, developed, or metropolitan colonizer who was
theoretically posited as a categorically antithetical overlord" ( 1989: 207). But
the body of his actual analyses in Orienta/ism (as opposed to his statements of
indictment) is centred on the causes of this situation, examined with a
postimperial focus. That these causes need to be examined is manifestly
use of the word trauma, here it would mean the encounter of empire and colony.
The postcolonial obviously has no monopoly on trauma or its witnessing, and trauma takes
many different forms. The model for my historical extension here as been Holocaust
witnessing (see LaCapra 1998) and AIDS survivor narratives, as theorized by Ross Chambers
in his 1998 Northrop Frye Professorship lectures at the University of Toronto entitled "Death
at the Door: Witnessing as Cultural Practice." But there are many others to consider: for
example, for African Americans, it is slavery, not empire, that constitutes the historical
trauma. (See Jackson 1989 on this history and its relation to literary history. On the continued
elision of the black diaspora and slavery from Eurocentric cultural historical discussions of
modernity, see Gilroy (1993: 45ff). On the ignoring of black women in African American
literary histories, see both Washington 1990 and Hull 1990). For Chicanos and Chicanas, it is
1848 that marks the date when Mexican citizens north of the Rio Grande became "conquered
subjects-that is to say, Mexican Americans" (Martinez and Lomeli 1985: xi). It has been
argued in fact that the history of the U.S. Southwest is one of multiple traumas: "the
extermination of Native Americans, the enslavement of African-Americans, the subjugation
of the Mexican-American people, the oppression of the working class, and the enforcement of
patriarchy" (Saldivar 1991: 20). For those studying the cultural history of contemporary
China, the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 1989 "brought modem Chinese history to a
standstill," claims Rey Chow. "This is the standstill of catastrophe" that she calls "the trauma
of 'June 4"' (1993: 61). Perhaps the only difference between these examples and the
postcolonial situation is that the latter is explicitly named in traumatic terms: postcolonial.
100 Linda Hutcheon
evident, but there is an equally strong argument to be made for the importance
of differentiating between this postimperial examination and the postcolonial
one that would study the effects of those causes: the witnessing from the
perspective of the victim of trauma understandably is not the same as that
from the angle of the perpetrator. To construct the colonized as savage,
inferior, or degenerate in scholarly and imaginative discourses is potentially,
as Said has argued, to legitimate and facilitate political and economic conquest
and control. But while the ostensible object of study (Orientalist discourse)
may be the same in a postimperial and a postcolonial cultural history, their
actual subject would be entirely different because of the difference of focus
and perspective on the traumatic situation that is being witnessed.
The stated subject of Orienta/ism is the "strength of Western cultural
discourse," the "formidable structure of colonial domination" (25): "As a
cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-
truth, and knowledge" (204) with the purpose of raising "Europe or a
European race to domination over non-European portions of mankind" (232).
As LaCapra has pointed out, trauma's effects are felt in complex ways by
those who cause it as well as by those who suffer it: trauma "may raise
problems of identity for others insofar as it unsettles narcissistic investments
and desired self-images, including ... the image of Western civilization itself
as the bastion of elevated values if not the high point in the evolution of
humanity" (1998: 9). This is arguably as true in the context of the trauma of
empire as it is in that of the trauma of the Holocaust. While Aime Cesaire
eloquently documented the traumatic objectification and dehumanization of
the colonized,
he also noted that the trauma of colonial brutality also
degraded the colonizer. For him, it made Europe decadent, indeed "morally,
spiritually indefensible" (1972: 9).
Although a postimperial witnessing is obviously different from a
postcolonial witnessing, its verbal form can also betray the familiar external or
formal signs of trauma. Critics have frequently noted the tendency of
Orienta/ism toward repetition (e.g. Ahmad 1992: 177). Not only is this quality
used for effective rhetorical insistence, but perhaps it is also the complex
result of witnessing trauma: the constant reiterations of the thesis of
Orientalism as the Western construction of a static, essentialized
See also Fanon's analysis in Black Skins, White Masks of the inferiority complex created in a
colonized society by the "death and burial of its local cultural originality" (1967: 18). For
Fanon, this was explicitly a form of psychic trauma.
Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing 101
representation of an unchanging Orient might be seen to function as
compulsive repetitions that mark what LaCapra, adapting Freudian terms,
calls an "acting-out" that can lead to a "working-through" of trauma. The
text's verbal and conceptual repetitions tell their own story, in other words,
through their very repeating. So too do iterations of another kind: the (well
documented) rehearsal - in Said's own argumentation - of precisely what he
is contesting: from humanism's totalizing impulse to Orientalism's
systematizing and essentializing (see Ahmad 1992: 167-83; Young 1990: 127-
9 and 131-2; Buell1994: 38).
LaCapra argues that, as the "secondary witness" of trauma, the analyst or
historian can counter compulsive acting-out (or the repeating of the trauma)
by means of working-through - defined in psychoanalytic terms by Laplanche
and Pontalis as a process "expedited by interpretations from the analyst which
consist chiefly in showing how the meanings in question may be recognised in
different contexts" (1973: 488). (This describes to some extent exactly what
Orienta/ism seeks to do in complex ways.) For LaCapra, working-through is
made possible for secondary witnesses by "informed, argumentative, self-
questioning" judgment (1998: 196). Acting-out is thus checked through "the
role of memory and critical perspective, which are constituents of working
through problems" (1998: 206). From this perspective, Orienta/ism marks
both an acting-out and a working-through of the trauma of empire - but with a
postimperial focus on the perpetrator's discourse. It could be argued that,
precisely as such, it is crucial for postcolonial history as well: if Said's
postimperialist work inaugurated colonial discourse analysis, it also set the
stage for and provoked postcolonial responses (and resistances) that in their
turn looked in detail at the differing impacts of imperial discourses on the
diversely colonized. This detailed work of differentiation and discrimination
within the colonized context is not the task Orienta/ism set for itself.
Nevertheless, once his postimperial task was complete, Said himself then
turned to the postcolonial in his work on Palestine. Yet, with Culture and
Imperialism, he later returned to the earlier postimperialist focus, this time
arguing, however, for more of a "contrapuntal" perspective that would take
both into account.
The passion with which Said has argued his case in all his writing is
palpable; all witnessing acts have the power to engage the historian
emotionally (LaCapra 1998: 12) - and in various ways that range from
outrage to empathy. Historians like LaCapra who secondarily witness the
102 Linda Hutcheon
Holocaust are in a similar position. Rather than shy away from such full
commitment, LaCapra implies, what is needed is a combination of that with
"the roles or subject-positions of scholar and critical intellectual, a
combination that does not dispense with rigorous scholarship or conflate
critical reflection with partisan propaganda but does render allowable or even
desirable modes of thought that often are discouraged in the academy" ( 1998:
205). Precisely in this way Said's many statements on the necessary and
inevitable "worldliness" of theory and criticism were greeted as undesirable
by many in the academy who lamented what they saw as the resultant
"politicization" of the literary. Yet, as Said put it, with characteristic force, in
the early pages of Orienta/ism:
No one has ever devised a method for detaching the scholar from the
circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or
unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere
activity of being a member of a society. These continue to bear on what he
does professionally .... For there is such a thing as knowledge that is less,
rather than more, partial than the individual (with his entangling and
distracting life circumstances) who produces it. Yet this knowledge is not
therefore automatically non- political ( 1 0).
Witnessing has always been a personalized form of political agency, and
this would be as true in the postimperial as in the postcolonial cultural history.
Recognizing that these are two different enterprises - by examining their
different relationships to and positions within the trauma being witnessed -
does not simplify, but rather complicates our understanding of Said's own
self-positioning in relation to both. As a prime example of what Bhabha calls
a "state of acting from the midst of identities" (1997: 438), Said writes from
so many split subject positions that his identities are, in fact, multiple: he is at
once Western and Oriental, Christian and Arab, American and Palestinian,
observer and participant, humanist literary critic of the canon
and radical
political analyst, postimperial historian and postcolonial activist. It is arguably
In Beginnings, he writes: "My cultural biases are on the whole tinged with conservatism, as
the sheer weight in my text given over to the great masterpieces of high modernism amply
testifies" (1985: xii). Many have suggested that the same is true of Orienta/ism. But this is a
complex issue: as he admits, his passion is for a Western culture that constructs him as
Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing 103
because of this majority/minority borderline quality and this multiplicity of
positions, that Said's writing has had the enormous impact that it has.
As a de-legitimizing postimperial literary and cultural history, Orienta/ism
eschews the traditional teleological narrative forms of the past, and instead
acts out and works through the trauma of empire through its witnessing
iterations and insistences. As Rajan (1998: 491) notes, the postcolonial
resistance to this work has made it into a beginning, in Said's sense of the
word - that is, "secular, humanly produced, and ceaselessly re-examined"
(Said, 1985: xiii) by both the academy and by himself. But the book's own
iterative structure and repetitive rhetoric also contribute to this, because
"beginning is basically an activity which ultimately implies return and
repetition rather than simple linear accomplishment" (1985: xvii). That
theorists and critics - both postimperial and postcolonial - also keep returning
to Orienta/ism more than twenty years later suggests that something indeed
was begun. If beginning is "making or producing difference" ( 1985: xvii), as
Said claims, then Orienta/ism not only made difference but made a
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A debt of gratitude is owed to those colleagues and friends who have inspired, corrected, and
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104 Linda Hutcheon
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Susanne Zantop
One of the underlying assumptions of Edward Said's pioneering study
Orienta/ism ( 1978) is that the "Orient" as discursively constructed imaginary
space as well as object of knowledge, desire, and control has to be analyzed in
conjunction with the "Occident," the place from which these projections were
(and continue to be) articulated. Orient and Occident are bound to one another
in dialectical, although not equi-valent tension: while the defmition of one
sheds light on the self-definition of the other, the former, the Orient, is tied to
the self-interest of the latter, the Occident-subjected to its needs, subsumed
and appropriated. In Said's words, "The relationship between Occident and
Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a
complex hegemony ... The Orient was Orientalized not only because it was
discovered to be 'Oriental' in all those ways considered commonplace by an
average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be-that is,
submitted to being-made Oriental" (5/6). Orientalism then, corresponds less to
an attempt to explore and understand the empirical east (although this was the
overriding motivation and intent of many travellers and scholars), than to the
Occident's need to define itself in opposition to an extemal(ized) other. The
"answer to Orientalism is not Occidentalism," Said concludes. "No former
108 Susanne Zantop
'Oriental' will be comforted by the thought that having been an Oriental
himselfhe is likely-too likely-to study new 'Orientals'--or 'Occidentals'- of his
own making" (328). In other words, by turning the tables, by resorting to
reverse stereotyping, the original binary-dialectical relationship is not
eliminated but perpetuated.
In the over twenty years since their publication, Said's theories have
received much critical attention, in the east as well as in the west. Critics
accused him of doing precisely what he had denounced: namely of creating a
monolithic, totalizing, undifferentiated discourse on Orientalism while
deconstructing orientalist discourse as a totalizing static system (Bhabha 1983;
Clifford 1988; Porter 1983; Ghandi 1998). They reproached him of remaining
locked in the binary structures of Hegelianism or Manichean thinking,
suggesting instead studies of Orientalism that took into account the roots and
cultural specificity of discourse-formation and the psychopathology of the
colonizing subject (Young 1990; Ahmad 1992; Ahmed 1982; Mohanty 1984;
Trotter 1990; Zonana 1993). Or they advocated an investigation of the
heterogeneous approaches to otherness within Orientalism--the struggle
between power and desire, attraction and rejection identified by Homi Bhabha
as constitutive of colonial discourse-and among occidental cultures, as they
intersect at specific historical moments and for very specific politico-
ideological reasons.' More recent studies in post-colonial theory, such as
Robert Young's Colonial Desire (1995), Anne McClintock's Imperial Leather
(1995), or Ann Laura Stoler's Race and the Education of Desire (1995), have
challenged the binary oppositions by highlighting their internal contradictions
and tensions. Focusing on "colonial desire" as it was generated in the
metropolis, they explore in detail how theories of race and miscegenation
emerged with and produced colonial ventures, and how colonialist gender and
race constructs are reinforced by popular culture or by other discourses. While
these studies also branch out into different colonial scenarios, their focus is
still predominantly on the European Occident, that is, England and France,
and on British and French colonialist theory as it applies to the Orient, that is,
Africa and Asia.
Lowe (1991); Pathak et al (1991); Said himself addresses, for example, his reluctance to
engage in issues of the collective unconscious, in his "Orientalism Reconsidered," (1985).
Significantly, Leela Gandhi demands that critics not only "demonstrate the ambivalence of
the oriental stereotype," but "refuse the pleasures of an Occidental stereotype" (1998: 79).
Europe's Occidentalisms 109
Mary Louise Pratt added a new challenge to the ~ p p o s i t i o n between
Occident and Orient and to the exclusive focus on British colonialism in
postcolonial theory when she demanded, in a response to Edward Said at the
1993 MLA in Toronto, that the west of the European west, namely the
Americas, be included in the theoretical models. As she suggested, the
preoccupation with the Orient-Occident dyad tends to overlook that the
"discovery" of a "New World" to the west of the Occident had already
expanded and complicated any simple self-other, Occident-Orient dichotomies
to include not just many others, but multiple, multivalent, constantly shifting
The exclusive preoccupation with British and French 19th-century
colonialism, she argued, has precluded a critical investigation of the many
different manifestations of colonialism throughout history. Hence postcolonial
critics have lost sight of the coexistence of colonialism in one part of the
world with decolonization and neocolonialism in another-not to mention new
fonns of "Western" cultural imperialism. (A similar argument was made by
McClintock 1992 and Shohat 1992.) In short, she suggested that Orientalisms
be studied in connection and productive exchange with a variety of
Pratt's suggestion deserves to be heeded. Clearly, to speak of Orientalism
or Occidentalism independently of one another makes no sense in view of the
multinational entanglements of east and west, north and south, and the
resulting multiple forms of subject constitution and othering. Said himself, in
his Culture and Imperialism, alludes to this "globalized process set in motion
by modem imperialism," a process that produced "the interdependence of
cultural terrains in which colonizer and colonized co-existed and battled each
other through projections as well as rival geographies, narratives, and
histories" (1993: xx). His analysis, in part, pays tribute to this globalization by
including references to Latin America and the Caribbean, even though the
Orient remains his main area of interest.
It is important to emphasize, however, that the categories were never
stable nor clearly separate. They always contained internal geographic and
ideological dis-locations that undermined simple dichotomies: Orientalism
actually never referred to the "east" of Europe, that is, the Russian Empire, but
to an imaginary South of the east. Likewise, the Occident was never a unified
geographical or even imaginary territory. For centuries it has consisted of "the
For a more recent discussion of this issue see Mignolo (1995).
110 Susanne Zantop
West," that is, Europe and North America, and "Latin America," a region
considered not so much part of the West as of the "Third World"-a problem
Enrico Santi tried to address by confronting Orientalism not with
Occidentalism, but with "Latinamericanism" (Santi 1992). These semantic
pirouettes are all too familiar to those of us who devise college curricula and
struggle with "non-Western" or "Western" requirements: where or what is the
West, and what-in view of US cultural hegemony-is not? What is Eastern,
now that the East is no longer "red" and no Iron Curtain literally divides the
globe into two geographic-ideological halves? And what about China, where
Western ideas and lifestyles are coming from the east, from that distant empire
of jeans and Coca-Cola across the Pacific? Is "the West now everywhere," as
the title of a German novel of 1994 suggests? (Baroth 1994).
In this paper, I am exploring-in a somewhat summary and schematic
fashion- some of the complex interrelations between East and West, North
and South in an attempt to reorient postcolonial studies. The task of
postcolonial studies, namely to de-centre Europe, can only be achieved, if we
include the Americas, north and south, into our reflections. My focus is
therefore the "New World," "America," "the West,'' as Europeans conceived,
imagined, or represented it against the backdrop of the Old World and the
Orient, "the East." As I argue, in consonance with a whole host of
Latinoamericanistas from Edmundo O'Gorman onward, Europe's battle of
projecting and positioning started as early as 1492 (O'Gorman 1958). It
produced not only rival narratives among colonizer and colonized, but rival
"Occidentalisms" that competed, and at times overlapped with, European
IfOrientalism, as Robert Young has stated, is itself a "form of
dislocation for the West" insofar as the Orient-if it does not really represent
the east-"signifies the West's own dislocation from itself, something inside
that is presented, narrativized, as being outside" (139), then European
accidentalism constitutes a double dislocation. It positions Europe not only in
the Occident, in opposition to an externalized eastern other, but
simultaneously in the West and to the east of "!'extreme occident" (Chadoume
a kind of Wild West, culturally and politically speaking. What
An illustration of this multiplicity within the occidentalist stance is the book edited by James
Carrier (1995), in which the contributors explore the "images of the west" in British, French,
South East Asian, Japanese and other anthropological discourses.
The concept was picked up by Jean Philippe Mathy ( 1993) in his study of French intellectuals'
approaches to America.
Europe's Occidentalisms 111
emerges is what Peter Schneider called, in reference to Germany, an extreme
Mittel/age. an extreme position in the middle, an emphatic in-between
location that characterizes not just Europe but practically all of today's
cultures, irrespective of their geographic place on the globe (Schneider 1990).
As Paul Gilroy reminds us in Black Atlantic, contemporary national identities
and cultural practices have been constituted in interaction and
interdependence, in and through the mutual and often violent exchanges
between east and west, south and north.
Eurocentrism, I would argue, is the
response to a pervasive sense of dislocation or dis-orientation that plagued
Europe from the 15th century onward and that resulted in a constant
renegotiating of its position vis-a-vis multiple others.
The Occident's encounter with the Extreme-Occident can be divided into
roughly two phases: the colonial period that lasted from Columbus's
"Discovery of America" to the American independence movements in the late
1700s and early 1800s and their reclaiming of a "Western Hemisphere," and
the period of decolonization in the 19th century, which went hand in hand
with European neo-colonialism and US imperialism and which is still
ongoing. 1776 is significant in this context insofar as it marks a break not only
between Europe and the New World, England and its former colonies, but also
between North and South. Whereas before, the term "American(s)" had
referred to the indigenous population of the whole continent-e.g. in Joseph
Lafitau's Moeurs des sauvages ameriquains (1724) or Comeille de
Pauw's Recherches philosoplziques sur /es Americains (1768)-after 1776
Americans are exclusively those who have "inherited" the right to the land: the
European colonists who, by shedding their blood on American soil and
wrenching it from the hands of the British, believe to have established
themselves as its rightful owners (see Menz 1975: 60).
See Gilroy (1993). James Carrier (1995) points to the fact that "non-Western" cultures also
(re-)constituted themselves in often essentialist terms as a consequence of the colonial
encounter. Silvia Spitta ( 1996), on the other hand, focuses less on the imaginary distinctions
than on the processes of transculturation that were produced by the encounter between
Western and non-Western peoples in "the West."
I am distinguishing here between Europe's self-centredness, which emerged during and in
response to colonialism, and "Eurocentrism" as "the 'normal' view of history that most First-
Worlders, Second Worlders and even many Third Worlders and Fourth Worlders learn at
school and imbibe from the media," as Robert Starn (1995) puts it-not because they are
different, but because the motivation for espousing Eurocentric views varies.
112 Susanne Zantop
An anecdote related by Thomas Jefferson illustrates this sea change in
terminology, mentality, and ideology.
Having moved to Paris in December of
1776, where he would stay until 1785, Benjamin Franklin invited the Abbe
Raynal and other Frenchmen for dinner one night. When the unfortunate Abbe
began to extol Buffon's and dePauw's theory of the physical "degeneracy" of
the "Americans," his host suggested to resolve the matter "empirically":
"Come," says he, "M. l'Abbe, let us try this question by the fact before us. We
are here one half Americans, and one half French, and it happens that the
Americans have placed themselves on one side of the table, and our French
friends are on the other. Let both parties rise, and we will see on which side
nature has degenerated." As it turned out, the American guests were "of the
finest stature and form," while the Frenchmen were "remarkably diminutive,
and the Abbe himself particularly, was a mere shrimp." Whereupon Raynal
parried by pontificating about exceptions to the rule which in truth do not
affect philosophical laws.
Beyond implying a critique of a Central European speculative
philosophical tradition that had created its theories unconcerned with
empirical facts, the anecdote highlights the shift in self-perception mentioned
above. Clearly, Benjamin Franklin and his compatriots felt personally attacked
by theories that had originally been directed at New World fauna, flora, and
indigenous populations (see Zantop 1994). They were now the Americans with
claims to America, as was also suggested by the subsequent interpretation of
the Monroe Doctrine of 1823: to demand that America be "for Americans"
meant placing the whole continent, north and south, under United States
The "Americans" of yore, on the other hand, became "Indians,"
without an India to claim as their own. Any attempt to identify Europe's
accidentalism, that is, its discourse of the West, therefore has to distinguish
between the two phases and the two Occidents that emerged before and after
For the following see Koch and Peden ( 1944: 179). The anecdote is also related, in the context
of dePauw's theories, in Gerbi (1955: 265 and 265n).
While Monroe's original intention may have been to ward off European intervention and
promote national self-determination in the Americas, the claim "America to the Americans"
was soon understood to support a US imperial imperative. See Lafeber ( 1989: 81-85).
Europe's Occidentalisms 113
European perceptions of and imaginary responses to the New World in the
colonial phase can be explained by the nature of its discovery, conquest and
colonization. Unlike the Orient, which Europeans had travelled, traded with,
and fought against for centuries, the occident was radically new, a "new
world," hitherto unlmown. Unlike the Orient's, its treasures were mostly its
"natural" resources: after conquerors had pillaged the indigenous peoples'
golden and silver artifacts, the settlers had to resort to working the land,
setting up mines, or cutting trees for export, through exploitation of the
indigenous work force. And unlike in the Orient, the European invaders had to
contend not with cultures experienced in century-old interaction with their
occident, but with peoples completely ignorant of European mentalities and
European-style warfare, at least at first. As has been noted, despite heroic
resistance in some instances and willing collaboration in others, armed
struggles, forced labor, and diseases transmitted by the Europeans wiped out
large parts of the native population in the Americas (see, for example,
Stannard 1992; Crosby 1972).
It is therefore not surprising that despite myth transfer from east to west
and parallel conceptualizations-"Amazons," "cannibals," and "headless men"
(acephales) seemed to exist in both hemispheres-different images or
emphases would surface when it came to verbal and pictorial representations
of the New World.
The material conditions of the encounter-the novelty of
the New World, the vastness and exuberance of its nature and natural
resources, the hospitality of the indigenous peoples, and their military
"wealmess" in view of European aggression and greed-led to a textual
construction of the American Occident that was often diametrically opposed to
that of the Orient.
As Anne McClintock and others have pointed out, imperialist discourses
persistently gendered the "imperial unknown:" "As European men crossed the
dangerous thresholds of their known worlds, they ritualistically feminized
borders and boundaries. Female figures were planted like fetishes at the
ambiguous points of contact, at the borders and orifices of the contest zone"
(24). In that respect, imperialist discourse followed any militarist or power
On myth transfer in the textual construction of "America" see Mason, ( 1990); Marchand and
Passman (1994); see also the article by Mason in the same volume.
114 Susanne Zantop
discourse, which also gender( ed) winners and losers, insiders and outsiders, as
Richard Trexler has reminded us (Trexler 1995: 80). Yet the gendering of
imperialist encounters in the west took different forms from those in the east.
Representations of the latter were dominated by the iconography of the veil
and the topos of the harem: colonization implied "lifting the veil," entering the
harem to explore its secrets, and wresting power from devious "eunuchs" or
aggressive, lascivious "Arabs." (See also McClintock 1992: 31; Said 1978:
286; Ahmed 1982). Representations of the former on the other hand hinged on
the notion of the "virgin land"-supposedly unclaimed territory which the
"conqueror" strove to penetrate, take possession of, and render fertile. From
Jan van der Straet's much-discussed depiction of Vespucci's "re-discovery of
America" (1575) to Cesare Ripa's /conologia and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's
allegorical frescoes in Wilrzburg (1753), America was represented as a naked
woman who invites (male) conquerors to share her riches (See Honour 1976).
Throughout the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, countless foundational
myths of native maidens willingly falling for the superior Europeans-from the
InkleNarico and John-Smith/Pocahontas to Cora/ Alonzo and Stedman/Joanna
stories-served to reinforce the idea of "love at first sight" between colonizer
and colonized and the "child of nature's" voluntary surrender.'
Yet the
surrender of the virgin territory was not uncontested, neither in reality nor in
the representations. The background to van der Straet's allegory is populated
by natives who roast body parts on a spit; Pocahontas's tribesmen threaten to
kill John Smith; and Tiepolo's "America" rides on a gigantic alligator whose
huge open mouth suggests the dangers the European will face if he dares to
penetrate the American jungles. Not far from Tiepolo's "America" on her
natural throne lie a few decapitated heads, reminders of Europe's favourite
fantasy: the horror of being savaged, cannibalized in the contact with the New
World. In the early modern European imagination, America was thus an
ambiguous female figure: both alluring (the hammock, the treasure chest, the
cornucopia of natural produce) and threatening (the bow and arrow; the
alligator; the skulls). As an image of promise and menace, she embodied the
desires and fears of European colonizers: the desire for land and the
exploitation of its resources, and the fears of being annihilated by engulfing
swamps, jungles, diseases or "cannibalistic" natives, in short, by the forces of
See Hulme ( 1986) and Zan top (1997). A more recent study (Htllz 1998), demonstrates how
these European patterns were perpetuated in 19th-century nationalist fictions in Latin
Europe's Occidentalisms 115
"nature." As an allegory of the New World, America in fact allegorized the
unconscious ofthe Old.
Like all allegories of continents, Africa and Asia (and Europe) were also
represented as women. Yet as Tiepolo's frescoes highlight, different colonial
relationships and different colonialist interests triggered different fantasies.
The black African woman in elaborate gold jewellery rides not on a savage
animal, but on a domesticated carrier of burdens, the camel (in repose!). She is
surrounded not by fierce warriors who shoot deer, carry off alligators, and
devour humans, but by Moorish servants and Arab traders who display the
wealth of the continent: cloth, ivory, incense, and gold. As the association
with the three Oriental Kings suggests, a domesticated Africa will serve
Christianity, that is, Europeans, with goods and resources. Asia in turn is
dressed in layers of precious cloth. She is sitting on an elephant that drags
along the body of a man whose hands are shackled. She is, again, surrounded
by richly clad "Oriental" traders who look down at a group of men -occidental
visitors or her own servants?-who kowtow to her (See Buttner 1980).
Imperialist Europe, finally, like an absolutist queen, is surrounded by those
who made her the "superior" civilization: representatives of the churches, the
arts and sciences in the service of empire.
Again, the images are above all revealing of European fantasies. Even
though the lure of Africa and Asia is also depicted in terms of heterosexual
eroticism (the naked, exposed breast or the veiled female body), when it
comes to the Orient the secret objects of desire are not lands but goods; the
desired relationship is not complete surrender, but commercial exchange
(trade); and the fear and hostility towards that imaginary space are not
projected onto its fierce "nature," but on its powerful, "despotic" rulers, whom
the Europeans cannot eliminate, but must negotiate with (Said 1978: 237; 286-
The anxieties and ambivalences toward the New World, "the recurrent
doubling in male imperial discourse," as McClintock has termed it (1992: 26),
fmd expression in the image of the cannibal queen which harks back to earlier
mythical representations of threatening femininity or ambiguous masculinity:
the sexually voracious witch who devours children, and the amazon who,
rejecting her natural role as wife and mother, joins a female warrior horde and
copulates with men at her initiative, killing off any male offspring (see
Brauner 1994: 1-27). European authors of travelogues and accounts of the
New World resorted to these mythical images of androgyny or transsexuality
Susanne Zantop
supposedly because the "beardlessness" and long hair of the Amerindians as
well as socio-sexual practices suggested the absence of clear gender
boundaries (see de Pauw 1768). As Sigrid Brauner and, more recently,
Richard Trexler, have pointed out, however, images of transgression were
created in the service of imperial violence. To paint the indigenous as either
effeminate "sodomites," treacherous cannibals, or mannish warrior women
allowed Europeans to construct the "civilizing process," that is, the colonial
takeover, as a process of domesticating the savage other and of (re-
)establishing a supposedly natural order based on heterosexuality and gender
hierarchy. Its corollary were the fantasies of domestication and marital bliss
mentioned earlier, in which European colonizers and native "princesses"
would found new, "natural" alliances based on love and submission. The most
popular of these, Marmon tel's Les Incas of 1777, combines, once more, all the
elements of pre-independence accidentalism: the "marriage" of conqueror and
conquered as a means to "pacify" cannibalistic savages and create a new order
based on European supremacy and the natural subordination of the weaker,
i.e., the female or the effeminate male.
This binary setup required that the ("natural") masculinity of the European
adventurer/conqueror on the one hand, and the "femininity" or, rather,
supposed effeminateness (timidity, weakness, fear in battles, treacherousness,
irrationality, self-indulgence, and laziness) of the natives be highlighted-as
indeed they were. It furthermore explains why European accounts of Native
Americans were eager to stress the men's alleged lack of sexual appetite and
procreational passion:
as more potent "real men," Europeans were entitled by
nature, so to speak, to replace the natives in the possession of the land, virgin
or otherwise.
The gender coordinates of the conquest model outlined above were,
however, never fixed or stable. From their inception, they were undermined by
another conceptual construct, one that in fact "remasculinized" the indigenous:
See de Pauw, Robertson, Pernety or Hegel on this topic. The alleged lack of the natives'
sexual interest was a hotly debated issue among European "philosophes."
Europe's Occidentalisms
the configuration of the "noble" vs. the "ignoble savage."
Throughout the
colonial period, descriptions of actual encounters with native tribes oscillated
between these two poles: there were those Indians who were "hostile" to
European conquerors and settlers and those who were "hospitable," that is,
who traded with them and subjected themselves to Spanish or English
dominion without resistance. In Columbus's account, these two types figured
as "Caribs," "fierce man-eating and nomadic" tribes, and "gentle
agriculturalists," the "Arawaks," who live in an earthly paradise and whom the
Caribs seek to displace (Hulme 1986: 47). As Peter Hulme suggests, the two
names "mark an internal division within European perception of the native
Caribbean, a division variously articulated in all European accounts, from
Columbus's first jottings in his log-book to the historical and anthropological
works written today" (46). While the two also have gendered overtones-the
compliant, sedentary savage is given traditionally female characteristics, the
fierce, nomadic one is gendered male-they undermine the notion that all
Indians are degenerate and effeminate, sexually inactive or sexually
indeterminate. On the contrary: the true "natural" man is the free-roaming
savage, not the European colonizer bound by his society's conventions.
In the eighteenth century this reversed gender perspective becomes
operative, particularly in the "dispute of the New World" between Corneille de
Pauw and Antoine Pernety, which was carried out at the court of Frederick II
of Prussia, but which affected all of Europe (see Gerbi 1955 and Zantop
1994). If to the invaders from war-torn, famine-ridden sixteenth- and
seventeenth-century Europe, peaceful domesticated tribes living in paradisal
bounty had seemed more appealing, to eighteenth-century bourgeois
intellectuals, tired of "effeminate" refinement of the aristocratic elites and of
political repression, the image of the free-roaming innocent, unrestrained by
convention, held greater attraction (Charlton 1984: 124). While both images
reflected European dreams-<ireams of plenty or dreams of freedom-they were
also meant to legitimate a change in the power differential between colonizers
and colonized. According to the earlier colonial model, the bad Indians were
those who resisted assimilation; the good, peaceful Indians were those who
were willing to surrender. Yet both kinds invited their displacement: armed
resistance "justified" elimination; compliance facilitated instrumentalization
The myth of the noble savage has been treated most exhaustively and affirmatively by Stelio
Cro (1990) and in his multiple other publications on the subject. See also Charlton (1984:
115-134), or Radcliff-Umstead (1992- a review of Cro's work).
118 Susanne Zantop
and absorption into the colonial power structure. The new eighteenth-century
"independence" model, on the other hand, elevates pre-social, pre-historical
"primitive" man over the assimilated, integrated citizen: the Indian is now the
new natural man, uncorrupted by the evils of society. Again, the projection is
self-serving at best: as the glorified outsider to civil society and living at its
margins, the noble savage can easily be marginalized. Neither scenario
disputes the right of the European colonizer to the land-they only define
different colonial relations and different modes of displacement.
It is not surprising that the latter, Rousseauean image of the free-spirited
noble savage would dominate the second half of the eighteenth century, when
more egalitarian political models and independence movements made their
presence felt on both sides of the Atlantic-and when Western expansion in
North America drove native land-holders further to the margins of American
society. The shift from the ideal of the domesticated communal noble savage
to the independent nomadic subject therefore also constitutes a geographic
shift: after 1776, the noble savage is to be found mostly in the north, where he
could serve both as a symbol for the emerging new nation and as a projection
screen for European fantasies of self-liberation. As William Robertson writes
in his widely read History of America of 1777:
In surveying the rude nations of America, this natural distinction between the
inhabitants of the temperate and torrid zones is very remarkable. They may
accordingly be divided into two great classes. The one comprehends all the
North Americans from the river St. Laurence to the Gulf of Mexico, together
with the people of Chili and a few small tribes towards the extremity of the
southern continent. To the other belong all the inhabitants of the islands, and
those settled in the various provinces which extend from the isthmus of
Darien almost to the southern confines of Brazil, along the east side of the
Andes. In the former, which comprehends all the regions of the temperate
zone that in America are inhabited, the human species appears manifestly to
be more perfect. The natives are more robust, more active, more intelligent,
and more courageous. They possess, in the most eminent degree, that force of
mind, and love of independence, which I have pointed out as the chief virtues
of man in his savage state. They have defended their liberty with persevering
fortitude against the Europeans who subdued the other rude nations of
America with the greatest ease. The natives of the temperate zone are the
only people in the New World who are indebted for their freedom to their
own valour. The North Americans, though long encompassed by the
formidable European powers, still retain part of their original possessions,
and continue to exist as independent nations . . . Whereas in the warmer
regions, men are more feeble in their frame, less vigorous in the efforts of
Europe's Occidentalisms
their mind, of a but dastardly spirit, more enslaved by pleasure and more
sunk in indolence. Accordingly it is in the torrid zone that the Europeans
have most completely established their dominion over America; the most
fertile and desirable provinces in it are subjected to their yoke, and if several
tribes there still enjoy independence, it is either because they have never been
attacked by an enemy already satiated with conquest and possessed of larger
areas than he was able to occupy, or because they had been saved from
oppression by their remote and inaccessible situation (Robertson 1788, 2:
227-9. In the subsequent paragraph, Robertson modifies this simple
dichotomy by naming exceptions to the rule).
The strong, active, intelligent natives, who are comparable to the
European male, yet in an idealized state of nature, are now located in the
temperate zones of the north; whereas the indolent, voluptuous, feeble peoples
reside in the "torrid zones," that disorderly place to the south that elicits desire
for conquest and possession. The north thus acquires all attributes of the noble
savage: his indomitable spirit, his lone-ranger individualism, his sagacity and
endurance-whether he appears in the guise of the Last Mohican and Chactas
or dressed up as a cowboy or frontiersman. He stands for both the noble
Indian who "must die" and for North America,
the youthful, vigorous,
unformed, yet independent nation. The south, in turn, retains all attributes of
the ignoble "lazy native:" (Alatas 1977) it is prone to attacks of irrationality
and treachery, the weapons of the weak. It is shaken by repeated revolutions.
In Hegel's philosophy of history, the north has all the potential, whereas the
south, having lost its past glory, is mired in the present. Significantly, this
division of north and south is conceived of in physical terms: the north forms
the head and the upper parts, the south the lower parts of the global body; the
North is (as yet undeveloped) reason; the South, emotions, sexuality (Hegel
1957). Whereas the North invites Europeans to engage in male competition,
the South beckons with female charms.
The continental gender division that underlies occidentalist discourses
after 1776 is never complete and never clear-cut.
However, in one way or
Washburn points to the "link between the myths of the vanishing Indian and the noble
Indian," ( 1983: 64 ), which appears throughout nineteenth-century literature in Europe as well
as the United States.
Critics of US mass culture, for example, stress the "feminine" elements of Nonh American
society; and "male" power is supposedly undermined in the US by a particularly rabid form of
feminist asseniveness, whereas the south is scolded for its caudillismo and macho culture.
None of these discourses appear in pure form, but in tension with one another. Also, it must
120 Susanne Zantop
another it affects all aspects of European fantasizing about the Americas:
Europeans admire the "virility" of the new American nation, its irresistible
urge to expand westward, as they decry its youthful ingenuity, its naivete.
They describe the dynamism, the modernity of the new society, as they lament
the materialism and brutal competitiveness of US capitalism. By the same
token, they extol the lure/threat of the South: the tropical delights that await
the weary traveller; the exuberance of its nature, the irrationality and
fickleness of its politics, the "corruption" of its institutions-a corruption that
also affects the transplanted European. Marketing agencies consciously appeal
to these fantasies when they promote their US products in Europe with "Test
the West," "Marlboro Man," or "Go West, Man" slogans, and their Latin
American products with "hot rhythms," tropical drinks, or seductive female
bodies. Rejuvenation, adventure, freedom, and competition are the dreams that
fuel the identification with/as "the West;" sexual bliss, intoxication, physical
comfort keep alternate longings ("the South") alive. As I have repeatedly
pointed out, these gendered fantasies were and are never directly linked to a
physical or historical reality "over there." They are effective counter images of
the "over here"-in this case Europe, although they can be found in any
"Westem"-i>r should I say "Northern"?- society. They are no longer tied to
colonialism, to a justification of violent land annexation or an overt
displacement of its traditional owners, but correspond to a covert but no less
effective takeover of the economies by international capitalist consumer
imperialism. As such, they are now global fantasies that can be called up for
any commercial purposes.
When it comes to the Orient, we can also discern a geographic shift. This
one, however, occurs not in the eighteenth, but in the twentieth century. It is
"horizontal," marked by the physical distance to Europe (and ideological
distance to the United States) and degrees of susceptibility to "Western"
influences. In this new Orientalism, the Orient is subdivided into "Near East,"
"Middle East," and "Far East." Again, the three regions have gendered
connotations. Whereas male-gendered over-sexed fundamentalist "Arab
nomads" dispute any Western encroachments on their territories in the Near
and Middle East, the "mysterious" but highly exploitable "Far East" opens its
be borne in mind that "gender" is only one of the many organizing principles affecting
Europe's Occidentalisms 121
doors to Western capital.
The pervasive feminization of that region in order
to promote sex tourism and other forms of "commerce" has been amply
documented, as have the attempts to transform archaic, atavistic Arabic
"fundamentalism" into a competitive structure to the West's supposed modern
secularism (see Said 1993b).
As I have argued throughout this paper, it is important to consider
Orientalism within a global framework, i.e., in its dynamic relationship with
Occidentalism as well as North-South discourses. Only in its interaction with
other discursive configurations will it disclose its internal instability, its
overlaps with and difference from these configurations, and the changes it
undergoes over time, as European interest shifts from one area of the globe to
the next. It is, furthermore, paramount to focus on gender as one of the
organizing principles of these phantasmagoric constructions, for gendered
tropes provide us with access to the libidinal economy underlying and fuelling
the political economy of imperialism. Undoubtedly, Orientalism as well as
Occidentalism are the product of collective European fantasies-they
engendered the "useful fictions" that combined erotic longing with hard-nosed
economic interests.
Fictions of the Orient and the Occident served not only
to create the "community" of Occidentals vis-a-vis Orientals-to borrow
Benedict Anderson's terminology-but also to define Europe in its precarious
and shifting relations to the West, the Extreme-Occident, and the South.
gendering these relationships, Europeans were able to reveal and
simultaneously mask the libidinal investment inherent in conquest and the
appropriation of terrains and resources. Gender fantasies helped to naturalize
and stabilize hierarchies that were not only unnatural and unstable to begin
with, but constantly threatened to implode. Anne McClintock is certainly right
in stressing that "the gendering of imperialism took very different forms in
different parts of the world (McClintock 1992: 31). Her conclusion, namely
For the stereotypical image of "the Arab" in the Western media see Said, "An Arab Oriental
is that impossible creature whose libidinal energy drives him to paroxysms of
overstimulation-and yet, he is as a puppet in the eyes of the world, staring vacantly out at a
modem landscape he can neither understand nor cope with" (1978: 312) See also (1978: 237,
I have taken the term "ficciones utiles" from Iris Zavala's discussion of O'Gorman's
"invenci6n" (Zavala 1992: 2).
As a curious footnote to this process, see William 11, Former Emperor of Germany's 1928
essay entitled "The Sex of Nations" ( 1928), in which he allies the masculine nations, such as
122 Susanne Zantop
that these distinctions "were symptomatic of critical differences in the
legislative, economic and political ways in which imperial commodity racism
was imposed on different parts of the world," however, deserves an
addendum. The juxtaposition of Europe's Orientalism(s) with its
Occidentalism(s) suggests that it was above all the power differential between
regions of the world, the relative accessibility of their riches and the degree of
competition from their "natives" that determined to what extent Europeans
would construct one area as feminine and the other as masculine, one as
seductive and the other as threatening, one as "virginal" and the other as
already "possessed". Furthermore, the shifts in gender attribution that we can
observe in Europe's relations with its others throughout history tell us not just
about shifts in economic or military power along an east-west-north-south
axis: they also unwittingly disclose the Europeans' fears of being, no longer, at
the centre of the world. As the east (i.e. the Russian empire) is disintegrating;
as the "Orient" is subdivided into the most diverse ethnic and .religious
alliances; as the far east flexes its economic muscle; as military and economic
power concentrate in the "Wild West;" and as Europe itself becomes
"Orientalized" through the influx of people from the Balkans and North
Africa, Europe, it seems to me, is struggling to consolidate its identity marked
by external and internal dislocation. Eurocentrism, then, becomes the ultimate
fantasy of control or containment, the untenable geographical fiction of being
Occident, North and Centre at once, and of relegating all others to the
Ahmad, Aijaz (1992), In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures London:
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Chapter 7
Pal Ahluwalia
Where I think Orienta/ism was useful was in those works that looked at the
cultural component of forms of domination as giving rise to Africanist,
Indianist, Japanesist, etc. types of discourses; as having, in a very narrow
sense, played an important constitutive role in talking about those places.
You could no longer look at, say, descriptions by nineteenth-century
explorers of Africa as if they were just seeing what they saw. There was the
notion of collaborative enterprise having to do with domination of a region.
Orienta/ism gave rise to studies of that sort, which I think were salutary.
Edward Said
In 1999, the New York Times, in its summary of the century's
achievements, declared Edward Said to be "one of the most important literary
critics alive." Clearly, Said has crossed the apparent divide between academic
scholarship and public recognition. This accolade reflects the impact he has
had and continues to have on the contemporary cultural terrain. But it also
demonstrates how relevant the concept of worldliness has become to our
consideration of creative and intellectual work (Ashcroft and Ahluwalia,
1999). His influence can be discerned in virtually all the disciplines of the
humanities and social sciences and well beyond. In particular, the term
128 Pal Ahluwalia
"Orientalism" is now linked inextricably to the work of Edward Said. More
than twenty years after its publication, Orienta/ism, which first brought him
into the limelight, remains an important albeit much debated book. Said has
emerged as a controversial figure who is both revered and reviled, but cannot
be ignored.
It is indisputable that Orienta/ism has had a greater impact on
contemporary thinking than almost any other book of the last twenty years. It
has changed the way we think about cultural and political relations. No longer
associated merely with the study of the Orient, it has come to be seen as a
generic term about the manner in which "other" cultures are dealt with and
represented. An illustration of how influential Said's ideas have become is
found in Ato Quayson's comment on a half-serious, half-humorous article
which was widely circulated on the internet during the northern winter of
1995/6. In the article, the authors parody the American involvement in Bosnia
with the report that President Clinton had deployed vowels to the war tom
region giving Bosnians such as Grg Hmphrs the chance of becoming George
Humphries, thereby fulfilling the American dream. Quayson shows how the
relationship between knowledge and power in the distribution of the vowels is
linked to Said and concludes that what is particularly interesting about this
piece, "is its nonchalant combination of discourse analysis a Ia Said with what
we could take as a parodying of 'serious' media and diplomatic discourse"
(2000: 6). Orientalism has come to signify much more than an academic field
of study - it has become associated with a particular style of suspect thought
which seeks to marginalise dominated peoples.
In a profusion of academic articles and books published since
Orienta/ism, the methodology of Orienta/ism has been appropriated by a wide
variety of authors who have deployed it in various geographical locations, into
many different contexts of cultural relations as well as different power
struggles. Inspired by Said, Western accounts of representation have been
challenged in such disparate selected works as V.Y. Mudimbe's The Invention
of Africa ( 1988) and The Idea of Africa ( 1994), James Carrier's
Occidentalism: Images of the West (1995), Javed Majeed's Ungoverned
Imaginings: James Mill's Hist01y of British India and Orienta/ism (1992) and
The Evolution ofOrientalism and Africanist Political Science 129
Kate Teltscher's India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India
(1995). But it is not just among those who fmd Said's work particularly
helpful in untangling the impact of colonial culture on the former colonies that
he has made an impact. Consider, for example, the need for right-wing
magazines such as Quadrant to publish an essay denouncing Orienta/ism
more than two decades after its publication (Windschuttle 2000). What clearly
bothered the author of this essay was the impact that Said, the literary critic,
had on the curators and patrons of an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New
South Wales in 1998, entitled "Orientalism; From Delacroix to Klee". He
reports that the notes published in the exhibition catalogue were replete with
insights from Said and this endorsement, "was strong enough to create a queue
of buyers at the Art Gallery bookshop, all eager to procure the prominently
displayed, recently revised Penguin edition of Said's celebrated work,
Orienta/ism" (21). That Said's work had penetrated the very inner sanctum of
the West's cultural institutions was, for Windschuttle, unacceptable.
Edward Said's impact on contemporary literary theory has always been
overshadowed by the celebration of Orienta/ism. Worldliness has never been
taken up in the way or the degree to which Orientalist analysis has been
adopted. Yet, in what has often been termed a post-poststructuralist
generation, Said's insistence upon the worldliness of the text looks remarkably
prescient. While 'worldliness' is a Saidian trademark, it is consistent with the
growing dissatisfaction with poststructuralism among contemporary critics as
they search for a less abstract politics of the text, a greater sense of the text's
place in the world. Although Said did not invent the desire, he has provided a
readily identifiable precedent for placing the text in a material political and
cultural context.
Said's major influence has been unquestionably in the area of colonial
discourse analysis, which he is regarded as inaugurating, and post-colonial
theory, on which he has had a profound influence. Gayatri Spivak, a leading
colonial discourse theorist, notes that, "the study of colonial discourse, directly
released by work such as Said's has ... blossomed into a garden where the
marginal can speak and be spoken, even spoken for. It is an important part of
Pal Ahluwalia
the discipline now" (Spivak 1993: 56). The post-colonial historian Partha
Chatterjee invites his readers to share the pleasures of reading Orienta/ism, a
book which has a deep resonance for him:
I will long remember the day I read Orientalism ... For me, child of a
successful anti-colonial struggle, Orienta/ism was a book which talked of
things I felt I had known all along but had never found the language to
formulate with clarity. Like many great books it seemed to say to me for the
frrst time what one had always wanted to say (1992: 194).
Ironically, Chatterjee's pleasure in reading Said is reminiscent of Said's
own recollection of frrst encountering the literary texts of the Western canon
with which he subsequently has had such an ambivalent relationship (Ashcroft
and Ahluwalia, 1999).
The methodological affiliations between colonial discourse analysis and
the theory of the French intellectuals Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan and
Michel Foucault have allowed Robert Young (1995) to proclaim a "Holy
Trinity" of colonial discourse theorists which includes Edward Said, Homi
Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak. However, Said's disillusionment with Foucault as
well as post-structuralism, for its lack of 'worldliness', means that his role as a
colonial discourse theorist, or at least as a member of the 'Holy Trinity,' is
uncertain at best. In the years after the publication of Orienta/ism, particularly
in the 1990s, Said became affiliated increasingly with versions of post-
colonial theory. The tenn 'post-colonial' had a long history and did not really
come to prominence until the late 1980s (Ashcroft et al 1998: 186-92). In a
relatively short time, due to the historical influence of the many critics who
had studied the works of British Commonwealth writers, post-colonial theory
emerged with a focus on questions of empire and colony. It would be wrong to
assume that this means the concerns of post-colonial theory are restricted only
to questions of identity politics. Post-colonial theorists have taken to heart
Said's criticism that, "students of post-colonial politics have not, I think,
looked enough at the ideas that minimize orthodoxy and authoritarian or
patriarchal thought, that take a severe view of the coercive nature of identity
politics" (1993: 264). If Said seems to have jettisoned colonial discourse
analysis and his work appears resonant with recent post-colonial theory, it is
precisely because such theory is attuned increasingly to his notion of
The Evolution of Orientalism and Africanist Political Science 131
The charge that Said levels against Orientalist discourse applies just as
well to area studies, which have tended to treat non-Western societies as
"alien" entities. From this perspective, they have revolved around a central
juxtaposition of "us" and "them," where knowledge about "them" is
accumulated by and reported to "us." This juxtaposition, central to Said's
work, is instructive when we examine African Studies and the manner in
which it has chosen to identify, describe, characterise and represent a
continent that has been marginalised particularly in the last century. Jean
Copans' periodisation of African Studies is as convenient a field of study as
any other to examine the hegemony of Africanism. Copans argues that the
discipline can be delineated in a chronological classification of roughly five
periods which correspond with dominating disciplines:
1. To 1860. Exploration of Africa - Literature, philosophy, travel
2. 1860-1920. Colonial conquest - Ethnography, ethnology;
3. 1920-1945. Development - Ethnology, applied anthropology;
4. 1945-1960. De-colonization- Sociology; sociology of
underdevelopment; and
5. 1960-? Neo-colonialism. Anthropology, sociology, political economy
(1977: 20).
Although it is clear that it is not possible to neatly differentiate between
the different phases of African studies, and that it would be easy to point to
areas of overlap between the periods delineated and the dominating
disciplines, this periodisation nevertheless is illuminating. It shows the
centrality of the discipline of anthropology to the discourse of Africanism
until the 1960s. There is now a considerable literature on the role of
anthropology and its linkages to imperialism (see for example Said, 1989;
Ahluwalia, 1996; Moore, 1993). Said has observed that perhaps "anthropology
as we have known it can only continue on one side of the imperial divide,
there to remain as a partner in domination and hegemony" (1989: 225). It is
the role of political science, however, which needs to be examined more
closely. For the discipline of political science has had a phenomenal impact on
African studies and, indeed, has usurped anthropology's role in this field since
132 Pal Ahluwalia
at least the 1950s. A clear gauge of the impact of political science can be
gleaned from the statistic that in 1990 there were more than 1,950 members of
the US African Studies Association of which 23 percent, the largest
disciplinary grouping, were political scientists (Sklar 1993: 83).
In his chapter on the contributions of Africanist political scientists to the
discipline of political science, Richard Sklar paints a very bleak picture. He
writes that:
... few Africanists in the profession of political science are highly regarded for
their ability to communicate to the heart of their discipline. By and large,
Africanists in this discipline are esteemed mainly for their analyses of
Africa's political experience. Their works are read by those who seek
knowledge about Africa, itself, rather than knowledge of the discipline or its
theory (1993: 83).
Sklar can see no incentive for university appointment committees to hire
an Africanist political scientist because he "cannot think of a widely
recognized problem or theory, of concern to political scientists generally, that
requires African area expertise to either explore scientifically or explain to
students" (84). He goes on to write that:
Heretofore, the best-known and most carefully studied political problems in
Africa have not been specifically or generically African problems. A
representative list of such topics would include parasitic statism, militarism,
dictatorship, public corruption, the insufficient accountability of public
officials, ineffective political socialization, and differential incorporation of
ethnic groups resulting in conflict, among many others (85).
I have dwelt on Sklar's views not because I agree that students of African
politics have failed to make any impression on their discipline but rather to
illustrate how a leading Africanist political scientist, can reach such a
conclusion. What lies at the heart of the problem, one that Sklar has been
seduced by, is the desire of political science to operate at the level of grand
theory. In short, I want to suggest that there are inherent methodological flaws
in the manner in which political science has been appropriated to the study of
The dominance of political science within African studies occurred at
roughly the same time that the discipline itself was undergoing significant
changes. It was in the middle of the twentieth century that the notion of
The Evolution ofOrientalism and Africanist Political Science 133
science became increasingly important to students of politics. In what can be
described as an empirical turn in politics, the over-emphasis on moral and
normative principles was questioned. However, the need to be scientific was
certainly not new. In her study of travel writing, Mary Louise Pratt
demonstrates how natural history which was essentially a universalising
project based upon European knowledge established a new form of
Eurocentred planetary consciousness. This new planetary consciousness, she
suggests, "is a basic element constructing Eurocentrism, that hegemonic reflex
that troubles westerners even as it continues to be second nature to them"
(1992: 15). These natural historians, inspired by Linnaeus, spread out around
the globe in order to classify and categorise, in universal terms for the
European, any known species (Curtin, 1964). It was this systematising of
nature which represented a new form of European planetary consciousness for
It is this Eurocentred planetary consciousness which anthropologists
brought with them into African studies and the discourse of Africanism. In her
excellent exposition of anthropology's role, Trinh T. Minh-ha argues that:
Anthropology is defmed as a science of man or 'a study of the nature of the
human s-p-e-c-i-e-s'. Next to the mind doctors-the psychiatrist,
psychoanalyst, and psychologist-is the anthropologist, who also pretends to
the precision of a zoologist or a botanist. As a purveyor of 'truth', he has
moved from the absolute to the relative and now assumes the role of
purveyor of 'certain truth', pursuing a 'perspectivistic knowledge' while
keeping an eye profoundly glued on 'scientific objectivity' as methodological
goal (1989: 55).
It is this quest for scientific objectivity which becomes an important part
of Africanist political science and one that we should certainly add to Minh-
ha's list. The application of scientific methodology which was viewed as an
effective means to discovering principles in nature was seen as an important
tool to help uncover principles in political behaviour which would be vital in
the making of right social choices. Hence, just as in the natural sciences, it
was argued in political science that data could be coiiected, classified, used to
formulate generalisations and predications and verified as generalised laws or
tendencies. It was the behavioural school of political scientists who adopted
the empirical tum with a vengeance and dominated Africanist political
134 Pal Ahluwalia
science. Their most profound influence was in the forging of a development
The post-colonial state grew out of the nationalist project where
nationalism served a hegemonic function to effect decolonisation. The goal of
such incipient nationalism was independence. Once this independence was
achieved, the nationalist project rapidly collapsed and was "disciplined and
normalized under the conceptual rubrics of 'development' and 'modernization"'
(Chatterjee 1993: 3). The normalisation process was one that usually began
well before independence and was part of the decolonisation process. One
only has to examine the recent example of the African National Congress
(ANC) in South Africa to realise how the ANC was disciplined prior to the
first national election in 1994 through a process of "rational" planning in
which this party articulated its goals and aspirations in its Reconstruction and
Development Programme. The plan not only illustrated how the goals of the
ANC were to become synonymous with the South African state but also the
process whereby the South African state was permitted to become part of the
global system under the regimentation of the West's hegemonic power. As
Partha Chattetjee notes, "the very institution of a process of planning became
a means for the determination of priorities on behalf of the 'nation"' (1993:
202). The planning process serves an important function of power in that it
removes the allocation of productive resources from the political process and
hence the goals of the state become conflated with those of the nation.
This is necessarily so because part of the nationalist project was to
demonstrate the manner in which the colonial state inhibited development and
therefore the post-colonial state "represented the only legitimate form of
exercise of power because it was a necessary condition for the development of
the nation" (203). Once again, the South African case is instructive. The ANC
had to demonstrate how the apartheid state economically marginalised the
majority of the population and the major goal of the post-colonial state was to
economically empower the majority infusing a developmental ideology for the
state in the process. Chattetjee argues that:
The state was connected to the people-nation not simply through the
procedural forms of representative government; it also acquired its
The Evolution ofOrientalism and Africanist Political Science 135
representativeness by directing a program of economic development on
behalf of the nation. The former connected, as in any liberal form of
government, the legal-political sovereignty of the people. The latter
connected the sovereign powers of the state directly with the economic well-
being of the people (203).
The conflation between the nation and the state led to tensions between
the aspirations of the people and the state and, hence, in most post-colonial
states those detracting from state ideology were, and are, being repressed.
This, it is claimed, is necessarily so because the state has to subsume
particular interests in the general interest. One need only think of the example
of any number of African countries to recognise the zeal with which
development ideology is applied by the state while at the same time
marginalising the political process. The developmentalist ideology is not
restricted to socialist or capitalist states. The essential difference in the former,
as Arif Dirlik points out, was the desire on the part of the socialist leadership
to forge, "a new culture which is neither of the West nor of the past" (1991:
The nationalist project and the anti-colonial nationalism which it
generated sought to create a national culture which would enable colonial
subjects to attain independence and decolonise their minds. It was a process
that Frantz Fanon considered essential, arguing that this could only be
achieved through struggle. For Fanon a national culture:
... is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to
describe, justify and praise the action through which the people created itself
and keeps itself in existence ( 1967: 188).
Following decolonisation, the post-colonial state has to create a new
national culture which can legitimate its rule. As noted above, the post-
colonial state achieves this through the exercise of planning and conflating the
values of development with the values of the nation. The key tenets of the new
national culture, then, are a reworking of the centrality of development and
modernisation, the twin planks for the justification and civilising mission of
colonialism. The state effectively dismantles the liberationist potential
generated by the anti-colonial nationalism.
In Africa, with the possible exception of the settler colonies such as
Kenya, Zimbabwe and Algeria, independence was attained not through a
Pal Ahluwalia
liberation war but through negotiation. The decision of the colonising power
to hand over government to African successors was based on the perception
that these new leaders would reflect and protect their interests. In economies
ravaged by colonialism, the new African leadership faced with a situation of
diminishing resources opted for the ideology of development to deflect
attention away from the vital tasks of redistribution and transformation. As we
have noted, development was part and parcel of the nationalist claim for
independence which was to herald a new era where the African leaders
promised that they would deliver what the colonial power had denied the
population. The idea of development and partnership in development was one
that was promoted also by the colonial powers as they sought to disengage
themselves from direct rule. As Claude Ake has noted:
In this supportive international environment, African leaders adopted the
ideology of development to replace that of independence. But as it turned
out, what was adopted was not so much an ideology of development as a
strategy of power that merely capitalized on the objective need for
development ( 1996: 9).
After independence, African leaders proclaimed the importance of
development as an essential means to consolidating hard-earned
independence. In the rhetoric which followed, it was hard work and self-
reliance which became the catch-cry of the new development strategy. At the
same time, a host of development plans were enacted on a five-year basis.
These plans reflected thinking in the West with an emphasis on whatever
development strategy was deemed appropriate by donor countries and
agencies. In short, a thriving development industry on both sides the imperial
divide emerged. But it was in the West that the development paradigm was
articulated, namely under the rubric of modernisation theory. It was in this
context that Africanist political science has had its greatest impact. The
contribution of Africanist political science needs also to be evaluated against
the backdrop of the Cold War and the West's determination that the new states
did not succumb to communism. The establishment of the United States
Social Science Research Council's (SSRC's) Committee on Comparative
Politics in 1954 under the chairmanship of Gabriel Almond can be seen as the
formative period where modernisation theory became the prescriptive solution
for Third World development strategies. This committee was clearly working
The Evolution ofOrientalism and Africanist Political Science 137
in the spirit of Truman's 1949 speech which described the Southern
hemisphere as "underdeveloped" areas:
Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap
and a threat both to them and more prosperous areas. For the fl.rst time in
history humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the
suffering of these people ... I believe that we should make available to peace-
loving peoples the benefl.ts of our store of technical knowledge in order to
help them realize their aspirations for a better life .... Greater production is the
key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and
more vigorous application of modern and scientiflc knowledge (as cited in
Escobar 1995: 3).
Modernisation theory is rooted firmly in liberal theory and is based on the
notion that there is an original state of backwardness which is initially
universal. It is the West which has overcome this original state and it is a
process which all "backward" underdeveloped countries can replicate. The
theory is reliant on an evolutionary schema which sees the West as the
pinnacle of development and one which all countries could emulate. It was the
economists who initially dominated development thinking with an absolute
commitment to economic growth and its "trickle down" effects. But it was the
political scientists who sought to delineate non-economic factors in the
modernisation process. They set out to identify cultural, behavioural,
attitudinal and value orientations which characterised "backward" and
"advanced" nations in order identify the relationship between economic
growth and cultural change. This type of research allowed the political
scientists to see themselves as belonging to a discipline which was relevant
and one which was based on scientific methodology and hence capable of and
relevant to policy formulation.
Modernisation theory in the hands of political scientists led to the
adaptation of the evolutionary schema with the formulation of "ideal types"
and the characterisation of societies as either "traditional" or "modern".
Traditional societies were portrayed as static, backward and lacking
development. The task was to remove those institutional obstacles which were
an impediment to progress and to create a cultural environment which was
conducive to development. It was in this light that Edward Shils denounced all
things traditional in the hope of showing that the adoption and infiltration of
Western values and institutions was the only mechanism to modernity. He
sought to identify "modernizing agents" to which resources were to be
Pal Ahluwalia
disproportionately distributed in order to quicken the pace of development. He
noted that:
The most enthusiastic support for industrialization and modernization comes
from those who have been in contact with the West, either in Europe or
America or through intrusions and representations in their own country. The
accepted contact with the West has been predominantly through Western
educational institutions and ... Westem-inspired colleges ... at home (1958:
In short, the goal which traditional societies needed to set themselves was
to aspire to Western society. During the 1960s, the SSRC's Committee on
Comparative Politics came to dominate modernisation theory with the
publication of Almond and Coleman's (1960), The Politics of Developing
Areas. This work was infused strongly with functionalist theory, "process" and
behaviourism. Almond explained that the methodology was aimed at
"encouraging the development of theory which would enable political science
to deal more adequately with the causation of political phenomena and with
the variety of political forms" (1966: 36).
Almond was concerned with classifying political systems believing that
there was a universal political process and political culture which could be
empirically studied. Political scientists were engaged in developing macro-
level theory which was able to incorporate the many dimensions of the
development process. Africanist political scientists began to examine
"political development" which was the movement of traditional societies
towards liberal democracy and encapsulated the problems of nationhood,
national identity, integration and national unity (Binder, 1963). As Dodd has
pointed out, political modernisation was derived from "the political
transformation undergone in Europe and subsequently in most parts of the
world since the Renaissance" (1972: 12-13). Although modernisation theory
was challenged significantly in the late 1960s and 1970s in the face of the lack
of "development" in African countries, development theory remained locked
into defining development in terms of a Western ideal type. What changed
was perhaps the mechanisms and conceptions of the assumed ease in which a
society could transform itself from "traditional" to "modem". Nowhere is this
more clearly manifested than in the ideology of the World Bank and the IMF
which have become the major proponents of contemporary modernisation
theory. Policy makers in these institutions have the power to determine what
The Evolution ofOrientalism and Africanist Political Science 139
counts as knowledge by setting the agenda - be it "basic needs", "sustainable
development" or "good governance" - which in tum legitimises their very
authority. This can be discerned in the following extract from a World Bank
document where the latest "fad" is popular participation:
Fostering popular participation is a deeply serious matter, but it is not rocket
science. When the reams of paper are put aside, we development
professionals sense intuitively that participation is a good thing, and we
know how to foster it. .. (Dichter 1992: 89).
It is not surprising that deeply embedded within these ideas of
development is the sense of Western superiority, as is the case in the discourse
of Orientalism. The linkage between Orientalism and modernisation theory is
obvious and it is one that Said himself has established albeit in a different
In Covering Islam, Edward Said points out that the representations of
Islam in the post-War period need to be viewed against the backdrop of the
investment made by the United States in the doctrine of modernisation which
was and is still supported unashamedly by very large sections of the academy.
A major consequence of modernisation theory was the manner in which it
classified the bulk of the Third World as backward and in need of
modernisation. The representation of Islam has been prone to generalisations
which appear to be all the more bizarre given the complexities of a
contemporary world which is no longer comprehensible by simply applied,
universally-constructed propositions.
Nowhere were these problems more aptly demonstrated than in the case of
Iran. On the one hand, the Shah appeared to be the quintessential modem
ruler, and Iran a confirmation of the assertions of modernisation theory. On
the other hand, after his downfall, the country was demonised as a bedrock of
fanatical Islamic fundamentalism threatening not only the region but the entire
"civilised" world. It was hardly surprising that, "Orientalism and
modernization theory dovetailed nicely" (30). The Shah of Iran could be seen
to be "delivering" his people - modernising and Westernising them. The
Iranian revolution became a glaring proof of Islam's fundamentalism. There is
140 Pal Ahluwalia
little account of the work of Iranian critics, like Ali Shariti, who were arguing
that, "Islam had to be lived as an invigorating existential challenge to man, not
as a passive submission to authority, human or divine" (68). Said points out
that most analysts failed to comment that, in nearby Israel, the Begin regime
was "fully willing to mandate its actions by religious authority and by a very
backward-looking theological doctrine" (31 ). It is clear, for Said, that there are
double standards involved in the Western press: Israel's religious proclivity is
rarely mentioned while Islam is the all-consuming reason for the inherent
problems of the Middle East and terrorism in the West.
The evolution of Oriental ism from being the study of the Orient to a more
generic term which captures the notion of a suspect type of thought is
testimony of the impact of Edward Said's Orienta/ism. As the epigraph of this
chapter suggests, his work has been critical in exposing Africanist, Indianist
and Japanesist discourses. While much work has been carried out to illustrate
the linkages between anthropology and Africanism, what is perhaps less
lmown is the role of political science. Africanist political science and its
linkages in particular to development theory have been and continue to be at
the forefront of Africanism.
Africanist political science has failed to account for the cultural specificity
of post-colonial African nations preferring instead to portray "development"
as a universal rational discourse which is applicable to "developing nations".
By employing "ideal types" and reifying the West as a model which all others
are to emulate, Africanist political science has an inherent Western logocentric
disposition in which the West is unproblematically privileged. As Kate Manzo
has pointed out, "the majority [of developmentalists] never classified the
countries of Western Europe, the United States or Great Britain as 'developing'
or 'modernizing' societies; they belonged to the realm of logos, or pure and
invariable presence in need of no explanation" (1991: 10). To address this
problem, it is important to examine how Said himself has moved from
colonial discourse analysis to post-colonial theory. The task, for African
Studies, is to engage in efforts which can overcome the limitations of
colonised imaginations such as development theory. For Said, it is through
The Evolution ofOrientalism and Africanist Political Science 141
worldliness that one can achieve non-coercive lmowledge. The production of
such knowledge is the challenge which African Studies must embrace.
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Identity, London: Routledge.
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Brookings Institute.
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Developmental Approach Little Brown, USA.
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Binder, L. (1963), "Political Modernization and National Integration",
Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 327-
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University Press
Chatteijee, Partha (1992), "Their Own Words? An Essay for Edward Said" in
Michael Sprinker, (ed.) Edward Said: A Critical Reader, Oxford
ChatteJ.jee, Partha (1993), The Nation and its Fragments, Princeton: Princeton
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Copans, Jean (1977), "African Studies: a periodization", in Peter Gutkind and
Peter Waterman, (eds.), African Social Studies: A Radical Reader,
London: Heinemann.
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Dichter, A. (1992), "Demystifying Popular Participation: Institutional
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Elleke Boehmer
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the Twain shall meet
Rudyard Kipling, 'The Ballad of East and West' {1892)
I want to begin with an account of the remarkable critical reception of an
Indian woman poet, Sarojini Naidu (1876-1949), 'the little Indian princess', in
London in the 1890s}
Born in Hyderabad into a prominent intellectual Bengali family (the
Chattopadhyays), Sarojini Naidu as a girl showed an extraordinary precocity
in writing poetry, mainly in imitation of British Romantic writers - her
ambition was to be 'a Keats for India' (Gosse 1912: 7). At fifteen she was sent
to England, to King's College, London, and then Girton in Cambridge, both to
continue her education, and - her parents' explicit desire - to separate her from
her future husband, a non-Brahmin who was deemed unsuitable as a marriage
partner. In 1892, the same year that Kipling was writing 'The Ballad of East
and West' from which my epigraph is taken, the remarkable facility and
Naidu's poetry appeared in four collections published between 1895 and 1917: Sotrgs, The
Golden Threshold (1905), The Bird of Time (1912), and The Broken Wing. The 'little Indian
princess' is Yeats's term, according to Maud Gonne (1938: 331 ).
146 Elleke Boehmer
seemingly effortless mimicry of Naidu's poetry, collected in Songs (1895), her
first book of poems, came to the attention of some of the foremost English
critics of the day, including Edmund Gosse and Arthur Symons. Edmund
Gosse later described his encounter with this 'most brilliant', 'most original'
work, and its outcome, an equally remarkable mimicry in reverse which he
was to encourage:
By some accident...Sarojini was introduced to our house at an early date after
her arrival in London, and she soon became one of the most welcome and
intimate of our guests. It was natural that one so impetuous and so
sympathetic should not long conceal from her hosts the fact that she was
writing copiously in verse - in English verse. I entreated to be allowed to see
what she had composed, and a bundle of MSS. was slipped into my hand. I
hastened to examine it as soon as I was alone, but now there followed a
disappointment, and with it an embarrassment.. .. The verses which Sarojini
had entrusted to me were skilful in form, correct in grammar and blameless
in sentiment, but they had the disadvantage of being totally without
individuality. They were Western in feeling and in imagery; they were
founded on reminiscences of Tennyson and Shelley; I am not sure that they
did not even breathe an atmosphere of Christian resignation .... this was the
note of the mockingbird with a vengeance (Gosse 1912: 4-5).
Disappointed, Gosse then took it upon himself, as he goes on to recount,
to give Sarojini some fatherly advice: she should make herself over again,
reconstitute herself as 'a genuine Indian poet of the Deccan', not 'a clever
machine-made imitator of the English classics':
I ventured to speak to her sincerely. I advised the consignment of all that she
had written, in the falsely English vein, to the waste-paper basket. I implored
her to consider that from a young Indian of extreme sensibility, who had
mastered not merely the language but the prosody of the West, what we
wished to receive was ... some revelation of the heart of India, some sincere
penetrating analysis of native passion, of the principles of antique religion
and of such mysterious intimations as stirred the soul of the East long before
the West had begun to dream that it had a soul... (5).
Confronted with this 'sincere' request - in effect a demand from the
authoritative 'we' of Western literary opinion, sanctioned by the promise of its
still qualified praise - Sarojini did indeed 'docilely', in Gosse's words, work to
shed the trappings of her Romantic masquerade, 'to write no more about
robins and skylarks, in a landscape of our Midland counties, with the village
Postcolonialism as Neo-orientalism: Sarojini Naidu and... 147
bells somewhere in the distance'. She instead began to produce, no doubt to a
great extent uncynically, a very different type of pastiche, yet one which was
ironically, and symptomatically, another imitation of a Western invention. In
effect she was to recreate again the 'tone of the mockingbird with a
vengeance', though one reverberating from a different vantage point: not the
West as the East due to its colonial education believed it was to be seen, but
the East as seen by the West, represented by an Eastern woman writing from
the perspective of the West. In her second and third collections, The Golden
Threshold ( 1905), and The Bird of Time: Songs of Life, Death and the Spring
(1912)/ Gosse writes, Naidu no longer concealed 'the exclusively Indian
source of her inspiration'. Addressing herself to 'emotions which are tropical
and primitive', she now became, through her Western make-over, 'fully'
native: 'she springs from the very soil of India'. Combining technical skill
learned outside 'the magic circle' of the Orient, with inside knowledge, her
poems, Gosse believes, will be found 'as luminous in lighting up the dark
places of the East as any contribution of savant or historian' (Gosse 1912: 6).
The bizarre and disturbing force of Naidu's ventriloquism is a fascinating
instance of the double-voiced and indeed doubled colonial mimicry of a
European aesthetic. This complicated mimicry is worth an extended study in
itself, and is probably only fully heard in juxtaposition, when we read her
poetry side-by-side with an awareness of her nationalist involvements and
rhetoric urging a 'battle' for India (Tharu and Lalita 1991: 329-40). What I am
immediately interested in here however is not so much Naidu's response as
such, as the Orientalising and implicitly coercive terms of Gosse's critical
appreciation. These were terms that were echoed in the praise she also
received from the symbolist Arthur Symons who appreciated in particular the
sinuous sensualisms not only of her work, but of her physical presence
(Introduction 1905: 9-10; 18). They are also terms, I want to suggest, which
have repeated themselves across the century in Western readings of foreign,
especially perhaps Indian, writing. It seems to me that it is possible to find in
recent criticism of postcolonial work a configuration of cultural differences
between West and East, or North and South - between 'village bells' and
bazaar cries - not entirely dissimilar from that within which Gosse and
Sarojini Naidu, The Golden Threshold (1905), intra. Arthur Symons, was dedicated to Gosse
and brought together the poems written since his intervention.
148 Elleke Boehmer
Symons were working.
In sometimes imperceptible ways, the past of colonial
discourse appears in certain instances to be repeating itself upon the present
that is postcolonial criticism. Despite postcolonialism's anti-colonial agenda,
and its intersection with other liberatory theories such as feminism and
minority discourses, forms of the criticism appear to have inherited still
unexamined categories of the past, and to be reiterating, certainly in their
journalistic manifestations, its objectifications of otherness.
At this point I want to engage in an exercise of juxtaposition: to keep the
phrases and images used in the appreciation ofNaidu's work in mind, and tum
to look at the critical reception of an Indian woman writer in the 1990s, one
hundred years on from the time of Gosse's ardent appreciation of Naidu, this
English but 'un-English Oriental'. The writer is Arundhati Roy, much-hyped
and hailed as the long-awaited female Rushdie even before winning the 1997
Booker prize for her best-selling first novel, The God of Small Things (1997).
In the paragraphs that follow, I should immediately say, I want to set to
one side the criticism of Roy's writing as lushly overwritten, overwhelmed by
its poetic effects -though it is important to signal that such criticism certainly
does exist (See Chew 1997; Clark, 1997; Gorra, 1997; Moss 1997). Instead I
want to focus on the elements that have repeatedly been accentuated in the
critical promotion of Roy in the West. First, most prominently, there is, at the
time of writing, her being female in a group of predominantly male younger
Indian novelists (Vilcram Chandra, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Amitav Ghosh,
Salman Rushdie, Shashi Tharoor), and, related to this, her intensely feminine
elfin beauty.
Another feature of her experience that is marked out, is her own
cross-caste, hybrid background (which is to an extent reflected in the central
drama of the novel, the love affair between Ammu, the single mother of twins,
and the 'untouchable' Velutha). Added to this complex of promotional
features, is the 'overwhelmed' response of some of its first British readers to
the novel, especially that of David Godwin her agent.
This powerful effect is
critically accounted for by reference to the novel's 'original' use of English, its
I am here following Arif Dirlik's definition - 'North connotes the pathways of transnational
capitalism, and South, the marginalized populations of the world, regardless of their location'
- though 'South' can also be read less metaphorically in so far that the rich countries of the
world tend to be concentrated in the northern hemisphere (Dirlik 1996: 311 ).
Page references will be included in the text. Before 18 October 1997, the novel was already
reputed to have sold 500, 000 copies in 18 languages.
See, for example, 'Interview', Vrij Nederland 18 October 1997: 18-19. (own translation)
See 'CV: David Godwin', Independent 20 October 1997: 85.
Postcolonialism as Neo-orientalism: Sarojini Naidu and . . . 149
remarkable 'linguistic inventiveness', and its 'exuberant', 'shape-shifting
narrative' (Beer 1997; Truax 1997; see also van Straaten 1997). The verbal
intricacy and play are then seen as strikingly contrasted with the disturbing
subject matter, the 'intimate and revealing portrait of the caste-system', in
particular the focus on the 'forbidden' sexual touch of the untouchable, and on
the horrific punishment which follows (as well as the novel's interest in child
molestation and incest between twins) (Moss A3 and Truax 5). In some
reviews, the layerings and interconnections of contrasting experience, of
physical wounding and linguistic artistry, of pain accented by play, and play
hollowing out pain, are considered as being further elaborated in the cultural
and political layerings of the narrative; the minglings of Hindu ritual,
especially Kathikali dance, Marxist activism and Christian proselytizing that
characterise social life in Kerala in 1969.
Critical elements highlighted in the above overview, we cannot fail to
notice, have as it were resonated down the century, from the time of the
critical reception of Naidu. These features are concentrated in particular in the
conflation of biography, body, and writing which characterises the terms
through which the works of both Naidu and Roy are perceived. Noteworthy,
though not always typical, is the singling out of a slight body shape as
somehow corresponding to stylistic whimsicality, or as worth mentioning in
relation to it. More pervasive is the way in which the decorated writings of
both poet and novelist are regarded as being both appropriate to their Eastern
subject matter, including caste restrictions, and also as interacting evocatively
with the distress that is described: her 'lyric energy', Gosse writes of Naidu,
has an intensity imparted by the sorrow implicit in her subject matter, and
present in her life - the words could be a paraphrase of comments made about
Roy (Gosse 1912: 7-8).
The first thing to remark about these to me intriguing parallels is that there
is of course very little that is new about a woman writer being either censured
or praised, and, either way, objectified, on the basis primarily of her gender
(reinforced by race or ethnic) identity. What is especially striking in these
parallel instances however is how the several interconnections converge in the
notions, on the one hand, of lyric complexity and emotional intensity, and, on
the other, of singular femaleness. In the case of Naidu, this convergence is
explicitly also tied in with her being Oriental, and her explicitly Orientalized
poetry. For Gosse she is the foremost Indian poet in English because her
'technical skill' illuminates her authentically 'tropical and primitive' emotion,
150 Elleke Boehmer
that 'magic circle' of India present in her verse. To this sultry delicate magic
her femaleness is then particularly appropriate. The Orient with its perfumes
and ardent sensations is for Gosse and Symons classically conceptualised as
feminine. But Naidu's femininity also marks her out as a creature apart. As a
woman poet of the Deccan she stands out as almost entirely unique. In her
imitativeness, she is in some sense, safely inimitable - or more explicitly, un-
imitatable: there will be few more like her to intervene in Western aesthetic
perceptions of the East.
In Roy's case, the Western projection of an Eastern identity onto an Indian
writer appears to be less in evidence. Yet arguably, both in the attention paid
to her ornate linguistic effects, and in the acceptance of its excesses (which is
what is clearly involved in the book's popularity and success), there is a tacit
understanding that this style in some way suits, while also contrasting
productively and provocatively with, the Indian subject matter of the novel.
The deft verbal play is set against the brutal ravages of caste prejudice, seen
since the 1700s as an essentially Oriental problem. Involved with this
acceptance is also that excitement over Roy's unique position as a girl among
the 'new boys'. In Roy's situation as in Naidu's, therefore, the critical interest
in verbal effects, and the general responsiveness to their emotional, indeed
'tropical', intensity, is significantly inflected and perhaps also intensified by
their being women writers, which is related to their writing as women, from
women's, and particularly domestic, perspectives. (In this we might think, for
example, of Naidu's concern with purdah and child marriage, and Roy's with
female frustrations in the domestic context, and with the status of the single
mother in southern Indian society.)
Bearing in mind how Naidu's poetry was seen to require a more Oriental
slant, and how the Orient of her verse was conceived of in feminine terms, I
now want to go on to ask whether, in the postcolonial reception and
perception of Roy, we cannot see a similar conflation taking place? It is a
conflation which might most succinctly though also I admit sweepingly be
described as new or neo-Orientalist.
Even as she herself emphasises that the
India she writes about is not extraordinary but ordinary, could the critical
perception of Roy in Western critical circles not be said to intersect her
Gayatri Spivak 1993: 277, and 1991: 226-227, has used the tenn new orientalism to describe
the homogenising, de-contextualizing effects of late-twentieth-century multi-culturalism. As
will become clear later in this essay, I prefer neo-orientalism, by analogy with neo-
Postcolonialism as Neo-orientalism: Sarojini Naidu and . . . 151
harrowing themes and verbal extravagance with her Indian and feminine
identity (with comparatively little regard for the regional complexities of 1969
Kerala with which the novel is so intensely concerned)?
To this a response might be that an appreciation of Roy or of other Indian
writers which lays a positive accent on the feminine qualities of the writing
could justly be regarded as an inversion of conventional gendered values. In
my view, however, any such inversion by a postcolonial text must be
considered in the particular postcolonial context of its production and
reception. This then leads to further questions. Does the implicit
characterisation of an Oriental feminine in some postcolonial critiques (of
which I am taking the critical reception of Roy as symptomatic), not leave
embedded entrenched differences between an exotic and impassioned East and
a consuming West, interested in yet distancing itself from the East's
enticements and intensities? And does this characterisation not reinforce ways
in which the West has always scrutinised and objectified the other, whether
the East in the case of India, or the South more generally? Aren't there
elements of this criticism that create a profound sense of deja vu: Indian
writers have been feted and exceptionalized in this way before, at the height of
Empire, and feted in very similar terms?
Following on from this, the tendency I want to underline is a critical
inclination to regard as more culturally alive, interestingly authentic and
intensively postcolonial than other kinds of international writing, the
extravagant realism and exuberant word-play
associated with certain Indian
writers, including Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. What we seem to be
up against in this criticism is a replication of inherited categories of colonial
difference - in particular the objectification of otherness memorably described
by Edward Said in Orienta/ism (1978). It is an objectification that perhaps
becomes particularly noticeable, and worth questioning, when a woman writer
is involved. In the criticism we see locked together traditional
characterisations of the eternal feminine and the eternal Oriental - an equally
traditional interconnection which produces a gendered notion of Orientalist
typicality that has shifted, as it were, from racial character to writing. To
overstate the matter in order to make my point: the writing that is deemed
most interesting seems to be a writing that is perfumed, decorated, sinuous,
sensuous, plural, unruly - most intensely and appropriately so when produced
Accentuated of course by the famously erratic capitalisation of The God of Small Things.
152 Elleke Boehmer
by a woman. Overdetermined in all its strangeness, abstracted from its local
context, stereotyped and re-stereotyped, the exotic attraction of the once-
colonized appears therefore, through a complicated process of transference, to
have been imported into postcolonial criticism, and, in the process, to have
been commodified and made safe for a Western readership.
This critical interest in a still feminised Orient lays bare what I want to
explore in the last portion of this paper - the neo-Orientalist underpinnings of
postcolonial literary criticism from the West, in particular its location in nco-
imperialist centre. Colonial modes of seeing and knowing were notoriously
articulated through gendered metaphors of penetration and so on. It is
therefore important for us to ask whether the privileging of postcolonial
women writers as more fully, authentically or differently representing their
alterity than others, can be taken as it we would want to take it - as a justified
privileging? Or do Western critics in the process risk deploying native
women, as before, to signify that which is most exotic, intriguing and strange
about once-colonised cultures? Does the gendered primitive remain, though in
a magic realist or post-modernised guise, the bearer of the West's exotic
interests and subversive desires? In this regard it is worth reminding ourselves
that The God of Small Things tells a heated tale of multiply forbidden desire, a
tale which, exquisitely narrated from a feminine point of view, takes place
against the luxuriant tropical backcloth of south India.
In attempting to foreground the neo-colonial and gender biases of the
criticism, I am, I should perhaps belatedly stress, having to bracket the
complicities and nuances of tone through which Roy's prose, as well as
Naidu's writing, may subversively confuse and throw sand in Western eyes. In
paragraph after paragraph of Roy's dense experimental writing, we see the
English language - the language bequeathed by the British coloniser, as she
has recognised - expanded, distorted, excavated, disconcerted. There is to my
mind no question about the energy and oppositionality of this writing. But
what is up for scrutiny are the evaluative vocabularies and critical techniques
which, in the academy and in the critical columns often supplied from the
academy, are used to represent, for instance, Roy's work. Can these become
correspondingly oppositional and sensitive to creative ambivalence, without
falling into the trap of objectifying difference?
In exploring the theoretical and institutional determinants of this situation
a little further, we have to recognise how the mostly very enabling currency of
Homi Bhabha's theories of the hybrid, as well as of Bakhtin's ideas about
Postcolonialism as Neo-orientalism: Sarojini Naidu and... 153
polyphony, have perhaps caused postcolonial literary subversions and
multiplicity to become not only too expected as being always already there,
but also in consequence to be seen as self-sufficient in their displacement from
and confounding of a Eurocentric history. In a post-modem context of
shattered temporalities and rejected essences, it has now become almost
customary to view migrant or Third World texts as having the potential to
undercut or reverse the West's foundational concepts, primarily on the basis of
the writer's syncretic or migrant vantage point. This trend is exacerbated by
the redemptive story of progress which postcolonial criticism in the Western
liberal academy and in publishing circles, tells itself: its self-representation as
advanced, advancing and democratising because voices from the margins are
being given a hearing. So a female Indian writer wins the prestigious prize
which Rushdie first claimed for India not so long ago, establishing if there
were any remaining doubt about the matter, the cultural striking back of the
To generalise therefore: where postcolonial critical attention touches
down, in East or South, there is a tendency for mixing and multivocality, a
feminine polymorphousness, to reproduce itself whatever the historical or
cultural location. And the impression which results is of an energetic if
bewildering babble of novelistic voices which can be best organised it seems,
simply by placing it under the title, postcolonialism, like sweepings under the
carpet: India in effect remains the teeming spectacle of the Grand Trunk Road
in Kim (190 1 ), viewed god-like from on high. As Aijaz Ahmad puts it in a
typically strenuous essay, 'the whole of the "Third World", ... singularized into
an oppositionality, (is] idealized as the site, simultaneously, of alterity and
authenticity' (Ahmad 1992: 33). With this scenario in mind, it is significant, as
Arif Dirlik has also pointed out, that postcolonial literary studies have
emerged at a time when global capitalism continues to generate stark
economic and power imbalances between different parts of the world, in other
words, produces a neo-colonial marginalisation and dependency (Dirlik 1996:
294-320). I do not want to go as far as Dirlik in suggesting a knowing
complicity between postcolonial studies and global neo-colonialism. Yet it
does seem to me that postcolonial criticism is related to, and representative of,
The very phrases used to articulate this advance are often expressive of Western Christian
humanist values. In this sense we might want to apply Terry Eagleton's line describing the
persistence of total systems in a postmodem world, to postcolonialism: 'The term 'post', if it
has any meaning at all, means business as usual, only more so' ( 1990: 380-1 ).
154 Elleke Boehmer
the continuing dominance of the formerly imperial metropolis. The dominance
is indicated not only by the persistence of a (neo-)Orientalist rhetoric, but also
by such factors as the location of critics, the subsequent direction of the
postcolonial gaze at already 'othered' cultures, and the relative neglect of
transnational capitalism as a subject for discussion and critique. Yet it is
precisely because of this emphasis on the textual over the contextual that
postcolonial studies can in certain respects come to resemble both a
camouflage for a still-powerful centre, and a subterfuge: an 'opportunistic
[adjustment] by the centre of power to accommodate changes of power
without loss of authority' (Hamilton 1996: 178, and 149-150).
To say it another way again, postcolonial criticism has landed in terrain
which under another aspect it knows all too well. Here is the familiar city- the
appropriative metropolis; over there, beyond the city walls, are lions and other
exotic phenomena, the other against which the imperial city defines itself, and
which it tirelessly monitors and seeks to control in order to maintain its
ascendancy. The difference now is that certain individuals and texts from out
there, promoted perhaps by their class positions or other elitist structures, have
been admitted to the city the better to ensure the efficiency of its monitoring.
The question must then be, are there ways of cutting through this neo-
Orientalist bind in order to give the very real vitality of postcolonial literatures
their due regard? It is evidently true that no cultural or academic interest in
reversed values or subversive texts will of itself reverse hierarchies in the
world, especially where these postcolonial interests themselves work within
hierarchies which still exclude East and South. Yet a criticism that remains
continually vigilant about what I have called the neo-Orientalist aspects of its
own interpretative terms, and of its neo-colonial context, will go some
distance towards at least confronting if not challenging those hierarchies. In
order to effect this vigilance it may be necessary to set up provisional
narratives of historical change - relatively unbroken temporalities, in other
words - which would reveal, for example, the social and cultural determinants
which have shaped, and continue to shape, what we now call postcolonial
hybridity. But alongside this, and at least as important, postcolonial readings
also demand a sensitivity to location and agency, including women's agency,
and an effort to relate interpretative practices to local cultural knowledge. On
° For their comments on postcolonialism's neo-colonial complicities, see also: Loomba 1998:
245-258, and Moore-Gilbert 1997: 3-4, 17-21.
Postcolonialism as Neo-orientalism: Sarojini Naidu and... 155
related lines, Gayatri Spivak has usefully warned that any postcolonial reading
must be approached as a continuously self-critical, contextualizing, and
intensively 'inter-literary' rather than a conventionally 'comparative' exercise
(Spivak 1993: 277).
To circle round to where I began, it is finally essential to remember that
resistances do manifest in texts as well as in contexts.
Through a restless
layering and contortion of accepted meanings, postcolonial fictions, plays, and
poems, whether in English or in other languages, continually chafe at Western
self-reference and convention. Emerging from beyond established cultural
borderlines, such texts assert an irreconcilability, an 'enunciatory disorder', as
Homi Bhabha puts it: a strangeness which antagonistically and creatively
interrupts Western forms ofunderstanding (Bhabha 1995: 126-7).
The mention of disorder and creative interruption finally returns me to
what I mentioned earlier with regard to the wayward intricacies of Roy's
writing, which I then had to bracket: the 'ambiguous unclassifiable
consistency' of her writing, to adapt a quotation from the text itself (30). The
poems and the poetic exercises in prose of Naidu and Roy respectively, their
stilted and skittish burlesques, and the evasive or over-stylised arabesqueries
of their language, demonstrate a subtle subversion that at once co-operates
with and exceeds the defmitions criticism imposes. There is something
chillingly composed if not congealed in a poem of Naidu's like the two-part
'Songs of my City' from The Bird of Time (1912), in which different voices
obediently perform a pastiche of a many-textured spice-rich India which, in
each one of the paired poems, comes to rest on images of silence and
confinement or death (Boehmer 1998: 314-15).
Differently though relatedly, Roy's writing persistently works at unsettling
and undoing the English language. Strange attractions are created between
words through rhyming and alliterative patterns. Grief-stricken, the mother
Ammu's eyes are 'a redly dead', a 'deadly red' (31). Having reached the age at
which her mother died, Rahel too is at 'a viable, die-able age' (3, with many
repetitions). Most predominantly, the childish play on language of the seven-
year-old twins at the centre of the story shockingly literalises conventional
actions and sayings, including phrases from Kipling ('we be of one blood, thou
and I'), so exposing hidden cruelties. At the film of 'The Sound of Music', the
For a useful overview of the different axes inscribed or ascribed by postcolonial criticism, see
Siemon 1995: 15-32.
156 Elleke Boehmer
Orangedrink Lemondrink Man 'moved Esta's hand up and down [his penis].
First slowly. Then fastly' (103). Ammu, forced to leave Ayemenem after the
discovery of her love affair, has to 'pack her bags and leave. Because she had
no Locusts Stand I' (159). As the narrative voice remarks: 'Only the Small
Things were said. The Big Things lurked unsaid inside' (173). Throughout the
novel insists on this co-existence and sometimes forgotten interaction of great
and little 'gods', of small and large forces, grand and petit narratives, if you
like. In a country such as the one Rahel comes from, 'various kinds of despair
competed for primacy'. Personal despair is caught up in and seemingly
dwarfed by 'the public turmoil of a nation':
· That Big God howled like a hot wind, and demanded deification. Then Small
God (cosy and contained, private and limited) came away cauterized,
laughing numbly at his own temerity (19).
Ahmad, Aijaz (1992), In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures New York and
London: Verso.
Beer, Gillian ( 1997), quoted in The Guardian October 15 1997: A3.
Bhabha, Homi (1995), The Location of Culture London: Routledge.
Boehmer, Elleke, ed., (1998), "Sarojini Naidu," Empire Writing, Oxford:
Oxford UP.
Chew, Shirley (1997), 'The house in Kerala', Times Literary Supplement 30
May: 23.
Clark, Alex (1997), 'Fatal Distractions', The Guardian 19 June: B4;
Dirlik, Arif (1996), 'The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age
of Global Capitalism', Contemporary Postcolonial Theory, ed. Padmini
Mongia, London: Arnold.
Eagleton, Terry (1990), The Ideology of the Aesthetic London: Blackwell.
Gonne, Maud (1938), A Servant of the Queen London: Victor Gollancz.
Gorra, Michael (1997), 'Living in the Aftermath', London Review of Books 19
June: 22-23.
Gosse, Edmund (1912), Introduction, The Bird of Time: Songs of Life, Death
and the Spring, by Sarojini Naidu, London: Heinemann.
Hamilton, Paul (1996), Historicism London: Routledge.
Loomba, Ania (1998), Colonialism!Postcolonia/ism London: Routledge.
Postcolonialism as Neo-orientalism: Sarojini Naidu and... 157
Moore-Gilbert, Bart (1997), Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics
New York and London: Verso.
Moss, Stephen (1997), 'A contest won in a vacuum', The Guardian October
15: A3.
Naidu, Sarojini (1905), The Golden Threshold, intro. Arthur Symons London:
William Heinemann.
Roy, Arundhati (1997), The God of Small Things London: Flamingo.
Siemon, Stephen (1995), 'The Scramble for Post-Colonialism', De-Scribing
Empire, eds. Chris Tiffin and Alan Lawson, London: Routledge.
Spivak, Gayatri ( 1991 ), 'Neocolonialism and the Secret Agent of Knowledge',
interview with Robert Young, The Oxford Literary Review:
Neocolonialism 13: 226-7.
Spivak, Gayatri (1993), Outside in the Teaching Machine London: Routledge.
Symons, Arthur (1905), introduction, The Golden Threshold, by Sarojini
Naidu London: William Heinemann.
Tharu, Susie, and K. Lalita, eds., (1991),Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to
the Present, vol. 1 Delhi: Oxford UP.
Truax, Alice (1997), review of The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy,
New York Times Book Review 25 May: 5.
van Straaten, Floris (1997), 'Wreedheid als sleutel tot de liefde', NRC
Handelsblad [Amsterdam] 17 October: 10. (own translation).
Ch11pter 9
Mustapha Marrouchi
The botanical garden of my childhood is an enormous expanse of land,
Edenic in my memory.
Jamaica Kincaid. My Garden (Book)
Goethe may first have spoken, in the afternoon of the millennium, of
"world literature," but its existence is quite recent; it was born with
Modernism, and now thrives in an age of Post-Modernism. When writers
became exiles or emigres, when they began to write in their second or even
third language, and above all when the experience of displacement became the
subject of their work, then world-literature was born, for better or worse. Post-
colonial writers are probably the purest example of this negative liberty-
literally homeless, they write repeatedly about the actual and figurative
centrifuges of modem life; infamous as writers to millions who have never
read them, they are celebrated by thousands who cannot read them, for the
hybridity of his narrative, which "is not only double-voiced and double-
accented," Mikhail Bakhtin informs us,
but is also double-languaged; for in it there are not only (and not even so
much) two individual consciousnesses, two voices, two accents, as there are
[ doublings of] socio-linguistic consciousnesses, two epochs . . . that come
together and consciously fight it out on the territory of the utterance .... It is
160 Mustapha Marrouchi
the collision between differing points of view on the world that are
embedded in these forms .... Such unconscious hybrids have been at the
same time profoundly productive historically: they are pregnant with
potential for new world views, with new "internal forms" for perceiving the
world in words ( 1989: 25).
This hybrid, also known as 'cultural amphibian,' like the test-tube baby, is a
miracle of the twentieth century, or, in a darker light, a curious effluent, an
unwitting by-product of the great technological, industrial and economic
projects of a tumultuous age; an age in which both nations and families are
being flung apart by the forces of history; an age in which everything seems to
be "shifting, changing, getting partitioned, separated by frontiers, splitting, re-
splitting, coming apart" (Rushdie, 1999: 322).
Straddling the border without even trying, this off-the-edge writer, who
travels to Paris, London and New York for an assault on the cultural capital, is
as ill-equipped as Balzac and as restless as Conrad, since he or she has only
genius to declare. Such a writer arrived at the right time, coinciding with an
explosion of the discipline called Theory, which deflated traditional
philosophy and literature in a such a way that a Jacques Derrida, for example,
would henceforth appear as a new combination of writer and literary critic. At
the same time there was a huge expansion of the university system so that a
new public of students was available for the new writing and the new kind of
theoretical journal. As a result, the traditional separation between writer and
critic was broken down.
It makes perfect sense; free from anything extraneous-certain specifics of
time and place-so as to be "glocal," this "new" writer is writing not for a local
audience but for a global one. In the process, he or she finds him or herself
touring the world doing promotion gigs of one sort or another. The irony of
this event called "touring" lies in the writer being encouraged almost not to
write, and to spend all the time just talking about what he or she writes about
to different audiences. This writer may have started a new genre, similar to the
one we find in The Information by Martin Amis, which is mostly about room
service, radio stations and transit lounges. Pushed by publisher(s) and afflicted
by the pressures of being successful and having to go to Singapore, Norway
and Brazil, among other places, the transplanted writer must disseminate as
well as publicize his. In so doing, he becomes affected by the new
environment he finds himself in: airplanes, airports, hotels, university
campuses. The chief anxiety caused by dread of crossing the borderline moves
The Site of Memory
beyond both the national and international contexts to become embedded in a
travelling narrative. As we make our global leap into the next century, one
example in particular of the post-colonial writer as displaced intelligence
emerges most forcefully. The example in question is Edward Said.
"Regard experiences then," Said wrote in the conclusion to his Culture
and Imperialism, "as if they were about to disappear: what is it about them
that anchors or roots them in reality? What would you save of them, what
would give up, what would you recover?" (1993: 336). In May of the same
year, he started his "archaeological prying into a very distant and essentially
irrecoverable past," (Said 1999: 216). The experiences it digs for have of
course disappeared, but also has their context, their location, their writer's
only resource is memory. Born into a family more or less "out of place"
wherever they found themselves: Palestinian, Lebanese, but American on their
passports; Anglican in their worship, but otherwise unconnected to England;
Francophone, but Arabic-speaking amongst themselves--custom-built
Levantines, in a word, Said maintains that it is "better to wonder ... , not to
own a house, and never to feel too much at home anywhere" (294). He praises
exile, and the process of intellectual discovery which relative rootlessness
gives us, without ever glibly glossing over its pain or the cushioning effect of
privilege. He no longer has the need to feel "at home." Although Said enjoys
living in New York as a "gateway city that's so much part of the world, I still
feel New York isn't home," he writes. "I don't know where home is, but it
certainly isn't here" (294). His comments on the experience of multiplicity as
both gift and loss are delicate and subtle and can be seen as offering an
original reading of Proust's suggestion that true paradises are lost paradises:
Exile is predicated on the existence of, love for, and a real bond with one's
native place; the universal truth of exile is not that one has lost that love or
home, but that inherent in each is an unexpected, unwelcome loss (1993:
This is a truth for those who have lost their love and home, and for those who
have not; and for those who have returned to them. Exile, as Said suggests,
can be a happy and an unhappy condition, a chance of belonging to more than
one culture. It can be suffered or sought, or imaginatively borrowed. It is a
way of understanding loss and a way of knowing what there is to lose, the
paradise that cannot exist until it is gone (Wood 1994). Or, to put it otherwise,
home, homeland, place (of the mind) is, as Said insists, crucial to the
162 Mustapha Marrouchi
construction of one's identity. But it exists not only as a determining but as a
determined cultural location, as a space of memory that alters the identity of
the person inhabiting, viewing, passing through, or writing about it as Said
does in Out of Place. While this remembering might be attributed to any
number of factors, I have found it to become most visible when remembrance,
especially nostalgic remembrance, is regularly intimate with forgetting. Said
represents his mi(lieux) de memoire as a haunting place, an expanse that
contains both joy and sadness.
Said grew up in times that had all the more influence on him because they
were conservative and he was not. He remained constantly open-almost to a
fault, given the confusion of mind it was capable of producing in him-to what
was being thought or written and what was happening privately and publicly
around him. Whoever chooses to write on his childhood in Jerusalem, Cairo
and Dhour in our own day and age is duty bound to make less of the
idiosyncrasies-the three piece suits, the pipe, the field sports, not forgetting
the occasional amours-so fatuously overdone in the past and more of how he
related to the social, aesthetic and political ideas that came and went in the
Middle East in the 1940s and 50s. It suited him well as a rebel to mediate
between the two environments known to him: at home and outside of it-the
one rough but in its way supportive, the other civilized, mind-sharpening but
also callous. And as with dissonant milieux, so it was with individuals: here,
too, Said, when he writes, portrays himself as brokering an armistice between
parties who could never in reality get on. If having been born astride two
worlds was the unmaking of him as a child, it was the making of him as a
writer and as someone who, when the moment came, threw in his lot
politically, and instinctively one can but add, with the democratic Left. The
lifelong "reve du bon," which kept him writing year in year out, and which he
feared he could not give up on without lapsing into wordless depression, may
look flimsy, escapist even, when set against the social and political facts it
could do little to mitigate. But, dreamer or not, he had become, with Sartre, Sir
Bertrand Russell, C.L.R. James, James Baldwin, one of the "happy few" great
consciences ofthe age.
In his essay on laughter, Bergson argues that comedy is chastening, not
charitable. Laughter is defined by a certain absence of sympathy, a distance
and disinterestedness, the philosopher tells us. A world that contained only
pure intelligences would probably still include laughter; a world made up of
pure emotionalists probably would not (1962: Ch.2). Bergson appears to have
The Site ofMemory 163
been universalizing from the example of Moliere, and in so doing produces a
description of comedy that is mightily contradicted at almost every station of
literature. For literature's greatest category might be precisely one of
systematic comedy: in particular, that paradoxical shuffle of condescension
and affiliation we are made to feel by Bottom the weaver, or Don Quixote, or
Uncle Toby, or Zeno, or Pin. Such characters have busy souls. They are
congested by aspiration, an aspiration that outstrips their insight. They claim
to know themselves, but their selves are too dispersed to be known. It is we
who know them, because we know at least something about them: that they
are self-ignorant. They are rich cavities, into which we pour a kindly offering:
if we are the only ones who can provide the knowledge they lack about
themselves, then we ourselves have become that lack, have become a part of
Edward Said, both as narrator and as character in Out of Place, belongs to
this company. Along with language, what else is at the core of his memory?
Where does geography-especially in the displaced form of departures,
arrivals, farewells, exile, nostalgia, homesickness, belonging and travel itself-
fit in? How do we get from the lone, fragile child to the consummate
intellectual who is in place among the truly important intellects of our
century? Is the canvas he paints in Out of Place the necessary outcome, the
"truth," of Said the heroic dissident child? To put it in Hegel's terms: how
does the ethically impeccable "noble consciousness" imperceptibly pass into
the servile "base consciousness"? Of course, for a "Post-Modem" Third Way
reader immersed in New Age ideology, there is no tension: Said is simply
following his destiny, and deserving of praise for reclaiming a transcultural
and often painful upbringing, the experience of multiplicity, its torments and
confusions, but also its liberation and possibilities. To read his memoir is to
come to know his family and his younger self as closely as we know
characters in literature, and to be shown, intimately and unforgettably, what it
has meant in the last half century to be a Palestinian.
We live in a period of memoir writing (which James Merill jokingly
called the "me-moir"), in which the narrator is often a victim (of abuse,
punishment, neglect ). In the culture of complaint it is enough to give voice to
a little schrei-ing without seeking to understand the sadistic parents or
teachers, and certainly without ever perceiving how so much distress might
have left one deformed. Reading Out of Place, one cannot help but think of
Foucault's Surveiller et punir, and indeed in the last section of that book,
164 Mustapha Marrouchi
Foucault studies the various systems invented by a reform school for invading
and colonizing a little truant's mind. As Said writes, " ... by the age of nine
right through my fifteenth birthday I was constantly engaged in private
remedial therapies after school and on weekends: piano lessons, gymnastics,
Sunday School, riding classes, boxing, plus the mind-deadening rigors of
relentlessly regulated summers" in a dreary Lebanese resort town, Dhour el-
Shweir. This regimentation was internalized and "produced in me a fear of
falling back into some horrible state of total disorder and being lost, and I still
have it." (1999: 34). These feelings of fear were heightened by his family: a
closed-off private corporation.
The memoir restricts itself to what Michael Holroyd calls "a good walk-on
part," assigning the leading roles to its author and his family. Avowedly
happier with the lives of others than with his own, Said remains as close as the
circumstance permits to the condition of invisible watcher. The memoir had
formerly provided an "exit from myself," he observes. "These details are
important as a way of explaining to myself and to my reader how the time of
the memoir is intimately tied to the time, phases, ups and downs, variations in
my illness" (11). The narrative shows Said stepping from his own life into
other people's where there seemed to be so much more going on. In doing so,
he suggests that in the first instance conveying the story to the reader was a
crucial part of his larger mission as a witness to a period long gone both in
time and space, and, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, reminding us,
so he maintains, of St Augustine, who observes: "When I am recollecting and
telling my story I am looking at its image in present time," and Said often
rather delicately directs our attention to his memorabilia {photographs,
anecdotes, pen, paper, manuscript); all this is happening, we are to believe, as
he writes. He will suddenly say of some object like the batch of films, each
one carefully encased in the white and blue boxes, left over from the past, "I
touch them with my fingers"-they are there on his desk or at the bottom of
one of his nondescript cupboard boxes, provoking his curiosity every now and
then as to what portion of his life is preserved in them as they slowly sink into
oblivion and final disuse; he remarks their present in thinking of their past.
One's angle of vision on the past varies along with the passage of time, always
present and always giving the past a different appearance or history.
In Al-A yam (The Days), the first modem Arab autobiography, and also the
first modem Arabic literary work to gain international attention, Taha Hussein
urges that
The Site of Memory
... the memory of man plays strange tricks when he tries to recall the events
of his childhood; for it depicts some incidents as clearly as though they had
happened a short time before, whereas it blots out others as though they had
never passed within his ken ( 1997: 211 ).
When the man "recalling the child is so complex a mixture of scholar, political
activist, aesthete and self-analyst as Edward Said, the processes of selection
and distortion are immeasurably elaborated. We all tell stories about ourselves
which involve elements of retrospective self-fashioning and cannot easily be
disentangled from any "straight" recall of the past." (see Howe 1999: 2-4)
Moreover, our families and communities, even nations, forge collective
narratives into which they expect us to fit. As Said writes: "All families invent
their parents and children, give them each a story, character, fate and even
language." He continues, movingly and tellingly,
There was always something wrong with how I was invented and meant to fit
in with the world of my parents and four sisters. Whether this was because I
constantly misread my part or because of some deep flaw in my being I could
not tell for most of my early life. Sometimes I was intransigent, and proud of
it. At other times I seemed to myself to be nearly devoid of character, timid,
uncertain, without will. Yet the overriding sensation I had was of never being
quite right. (1999: 3).
A Conradian scholar, Said is also, like the subject of The Nigger of Narcissus,
a sick man who is nevertheless determined to live until he dies. One of the
many things to be said about Out of Place is that it is a heroic instance of
writing against death. Reminiscent ofProust's great novel-cycle because of its
own recapturing of lost time; and of Balzac, for the clarity of its social and
historical perceptions, the narrative repeatedly explores the negative effects of
exile, division and estrangement, shifting focus from Cairo to Beirut with
Jerusalem in the middle, with provocative ease between collective and
individual consciousness. As its beginnings show, it is keenly aware of the
inventions, blurrings and imagination - figments that go to make up our sense
of ourselves and our kin. It knows everything there is to know about
displacement, about rootings and uprootings, about feeling wrong in the
world, and it absorbs the reader precisely because such out-of-place
experiences lie at or near the heart of what it is to be alive in our jumbled,
chaotic times.
166 Mustapha Marrouchi
The creative wholeness which connects Said's early emotional
experiences with the political form of adult imagination makes it clear that a
chronic and consuming need to be "located" (to use his word) in a known
possessed place encourages the writer to under-analyze his politics, and to
simplify his way to ambiguity. This is not a sly way of saying that Palestinian
nationalism is a neurosis, and that Said's fear of dislocation could be resolved
more effectively by visiting a therapist than by writing about the oppressed
and the silenced. It is, however, to respect the honesty of his acute observation
that he remains faithful to much received thinking about Jerusalem, because
the brokenness of the Palestinian past, as understood through a quasi-
nationalist perspective, matches his sense of self: " ... its fragmentations
extended into mine," he maintains (1999: 189). There is a duality to place. By
this Said means that a place which develops in time both happened and
happens to us, but also that, because the imagination mediates such
happenings, Cairo is inseparable for him from another familially significant
site, hundreds of miles away, where the extended members of his family
spend their summer holiday. Said writes movingly about Dhour as "fragile
and transitory" (209). He makes us freshly aware of how this place composed
of lives in a state of process occupies a transitional zone not just between town
and country but between the young vitality of new families shouting and
calling far into the summer night and the quiet of streets with mature gardens
from which children have gone. For him, the temporality of Dour is most to be
valued, however, because it is open to space-time border-crossings. But even
there, Said cannot write of "permanence" without qualifying it as "illusory." It
is as though, by thinking about dislocation in time as well as space, he has
translated unhappiness at exile into anxiety about time.
Out of Place underlines a line in a poem by Philip Larkin: "They fuck you
up, your mum and dad ... " ( 1991: 26). It [the memoir] is a candid and searing
examination of parental effect, told with a mixture of love, perplexity and
resentment. It is also a story of cultural displacement and historical crisis, but,
overwhelmingly, private life dominates public events. The Said family were
Palestinian by origin, largely resident in Cairo and possessors of American
passports-except the mother, who was in consequence like a soul in limbo,
forced to wail for a passage across the Styx. They are Christian Arabs, who
alternate between speaking Arabic and English, they are wealthy amid the
poverty of the Levant. They have a foothold in several cultures, and an
abiding home in none. And all around, their world is in ferment. Yet, given all
The Site ofMemory
this rootlessness, the directing force of Said's growing up in Cairo is intimate
and familial: the personalities of his parents, who had a good many houses,
having been, originally, a family of substance and talent. Here their history,
both as it was and as it was sometimes falsely represented, is told at some
length. Said, a lover of documented fact, does them proud in a literary sense
insofar as they step from the page. Both father and mother loom largest in the
recollected narrative, prompted, as Said poignantly states, by the diagnosis of
the incurable illness which has afflicted him for the past seven years, and
which he likens to the "sword ofDamocles." The memoir, the most intimately
personal book of his 17 to date, and a conscious effort at a more literary form,
covers his life until the early 1960s, and forms a record of a lost world. Its
initial spur was personal grief. "My mother was dying [of cancer] at the time
and I thought, there's an end to a special part of my life" (1999a: 11 ).
Like the narrator's mother in Proust's Ale recherche du temps perdu who
leaves the love bits out, in case her cosseted boy is not yet ready for them,
Hilda Said had a "fabulous capacity for letting you trust and believe in her,
even though you knew that a moment later she could either tum on you with
incomprehensible anger and scorn or draw you in with her radiant charm.
'Come and sit next to me, Edward,' she would say, thereby letting you in her
confidence, and allowing you an amazing sense of assurance" (1999: 60). The
rich and attractive portrayal of Hilda as energy itself is the record of a
muddled life lived with an estimable generosity and resilience that you do not
have to read every word of Out of Place to form an altogether higher opinion
of the person who went through it ceaselessly probing, judging and even
possessing her enfant terrible, who grew up to be the Arab world's paragon.
At times, though, you begin to ask yourself whether the portrait the author
draws of her (so sedative is the effect of her voice on her jumpy Edward) has
turned not on memory, but on the bilateral relationships between mother and
son, "a constellation only she could see as a whole," which so dominates the
narrative that it rather resembles a double bed of which only one side has been
slept in (64). She rises off these pages as powerfully as, perhaps more
powerfully than, her son rises off his. It is the varieties of Hilda's
vicariousness that make Edward so full of comedy and mischief. Though his
representation of her is often warm, it is rarely needy; there is never a doubt in
our minds that it is this teenaged boy, the eldest, and only son, who has the
greater power-the power to excite, to disappoint and to impress his mother.
He explains: "By the time I was fully conscious of speaking English fluently,
168 Mustapha Marrouchi
if not always correctly, I regularly referred to myself not as 'me' but as 'you.'
'Mummy doesn't love you, naughty boy,' she would say, and I respond, in
half-plaintive echoing, half-defiant assertion, 'Mummy doesn't love you, but
Auntie Melia loves you ... .' 'No she doesn't,' my mother persisted. 'All
right. Saleh [Auntie Melia's Sudanese driver] loves you,' I would conclude,
rescuing something from the enveloping gloom" (4-5). In one sense, then,
Edward outgrew his mother before he himself grew up; and if this is the case,
then he had always outgrown his mother, because his mother's emotional need
of him had always been more acute than his of his mother. This outgrowing of
his mother naturally produces at times a stiff loneliness, as when Said writes
to one of his sisters that his mother's devotion to him makes him feel both
loved and sad. At other times, that loneliness-or perhaps "singleness" is the
better word-erupts into a slightly grotesque hypertrophy of authority, in which
the teenager feels impelled to instruct his mother.
Hilda Said, whom Edward worshiped, is an extraordinary mixture of
naivete and sophistication. She smothers her only son with attention and
concern, but her ambivalence has him in a constant state of uncertainty. At
one moment she is all admiration and affection; at another she is cold and
dismissive. He is for ever in pursuit of her approval. "As I look back over the
years," he writes with gripping affection,
I can see the real anxiety induced in me by my mother's withdrawal, where
the need to reconnect with her was kept alive paradoxically by the obstacles
she placed before me. She had become a taskmaster whose injunctions I had
to fulfill. Yet the emptiness into which I fell during and after my errands
when she gave little warmth or thanks genuinely bewildered me. The
intelligence of our relationship was temporarily gone, in Dhour replaced by
the series of drills set for me to keep me out of everyone's way (1999: 156).
In later life, she tells him: "My children have all been a disappointment." He
is devastated, and reflects with the wisdom of adult vision that her
overwhelming effect has had shattering results on his ability to form mature
relationships with other women. But she is also his mentor and support.
Brilliant and manipulative, Hilda divided her children, always keeping Said Jr.
and his sisters "off-balance," neurotically difficult to please, giving always the
impression that "she had judged you and found you wanting" yet instilling in
him the love ofliterature and music on which he built a career (211).
The Site of Memory
Said's relationship with his father, though more intimidating, is still a
matter of subdued will. Wadie is seen to be both funny and pathetic in his
desire that his son should not follow his own downward path. He-who called
himself William to emphasize his adopted identity-is a powerful but silent
presence in the narrative. Tall, taciturn, overbearing and uncommunicative, "a
devastating combination of power and authority, rationalistic discipline and
repressed emotions," Wadie is portrayed as a laconic man whose Victorian
strictness instilled in Said "a deep sense of generalized fear which I have spent
most of my life trying to overcome" (71 ). He never told his son more than "1 0
or 11 things about his past" (82). As a result, Said Sr. comes across as
agonized, introspective and to a considerable degree self-regarding. An uneasy
person sprung from an uneasy background.
Generous, combustible, nobly hysterical, facetious when he would like to
be solemn, stoical in resolve but crumbling in practice, free in spirit but
actually tied to the train of his destiny by the modesty of his ticket, Wadie is in
fact an affecting father, one who has a kind of anxious serenity. Out of Place,
a very moving book, shows that he was less naive, much less unlettered and
more worldly than his son; but the two men share an ungoverned
delightfulness, and are, at the same time, stalked by an ungoverned anxiety.
Dad is an overflowing spirit, breathing the germs of vicarious aspiration over
his clever and dutiful son. There is often a hope, however unwitting, that the
son may not resemble the father, who grounds his own dreams in his liberated
and intelligent Edward. In some respects Wadie Said must have been an ideal
father: on the one hand, he existed to be outgrown, and knew it; and yet on the
other, his support of his five children was absolute, and could never be
outgrown, or even rivalled. His love was greater than his authority: thus he
was never paternally ex officio, but always instead a kind of civilian in
fatherhood, an amateur at paternity. What is delightful about the father who
lives in these pages is that unlike most ambitious parents, he does not squeeze
his son for guilt. Quite the opposite. He does not envy his son his experiences,
or reproach him for them, but instead identifies with them so strongly that he
shares them, takes them over. It is as if Dad, in dispensing advice so freely
and confidently, has already lived, in a previous incarnation, the experiences
he so longs to hear about; his son is his avatar. It is here that Edward Said
combines analysis with reverence for his domineering father and vivid,
evocative prose, as in this passage:
170 Mustapha Marrouchi
In June of 1957, when I graduated from Princeton, it culminated in my
father's insisting on taking me to a brace and corset maker in New York in
order to buy me a harness to wear underneath my shirt. What distresses me
about the experience is that at age twenty-one I uncomplainingly let my
father feel entitled to truss me up like a naughty child whose bad posture
symbolized some objectionable character trait that required scientific
punishment. The clerk who sold us the truss remained expressionless as my
father amiably declared, "See, it works perfectly. You'll have no problems"
(1999: 64).
And, of course, Dad has really lived these experiences, because he has
imagined them so many times. There is a nobility in this attitude, a mental
triumph. Dad is the victor of systems, because his fantasy is an army, running
on a thousand legs.
As a result, the son who caught these balloons of aspiration and advice at
Harvard and Princeton seems at first unrelated to his emotionally ragged
Father. He tends to board himself where Dad spreads himself. While Wadie is
amiably generous to all, Edward can be royally haughty to others. While Dad
is uncertain, burying his fragility in a muff of warm advice, the son seems
adamantine, extraordinarily confident and penetrating for his years. While the
father is lavish with banality, the son's responses are defined by the thrift of
their omissions. One has a sense of a young man reserving the self for his
work, and sharing only his dilutions with his family. Edward does eventually
reveal himself in time, and the reader is able to discern an anxiety and pride
that seem reminiscent of his father's. "I only realized years later, when I had
gone my own way: that there was more to 'Edward' than the delinquent yet
compliant son, submitting to his father's Victorian design" (79). In America,
young Edward already has an incipient aristocratic liberty of mind, while his
father has laboured all his life for his small supplement of liberty. The
difference derives in part from the fact that the son, unlike his father, is able to
feel free on so little freedom. The passing respect of a suffragi suffices,
because such gestures are essential to Edward's sense of life, but not to his
sense of self. Dad's political metabolism is, by comparison, inefficient; his
sense of freedom too clumsy and massive to be nourishing. There are too
many wants to please. Edward's wants are superbly narrow: he wants to be
respectfully left alone, so that he can concentrate his self-originated freedom,
and convert it into writing. "I wanted to get beyond the various cages in which
I found myself placed, and which made me feel so dissatisfied, and even
distasteful to myself' (31). His family, and especially his abundant mother,
The Site of Memory
provoke his warmth. In time, he learned to perform, to act a part. Again, one
has the impression of a true self, a writing self, kept in the wings.
In the upshot, his father battled to mould him, to create the "Edward" he
imagined as his only son. Yet, by forcing his extremely unwilling departure to
Mount Hermon at age 15, later engineering his exile from Cairo and
supporting him financially throughout his student years, he made possible for
him to shake free of that very mould, to discover his hidden self. His mother,
simultaneously cherishing and undermining him, was yet the foundation for
the sustaining passions of his life: language and music. Throughout the
memoir Said examines their characters in detail, generously, trying to see and
represent them as their own selves, linked to but apart from the personae they
were as his parents. In effect, while his body and blood are subject to the most
detailed medical analysis and procedure, himself and those he holds dear are
subject to the most detailed psychological and historical analysis. How it must
hurt. Out of Place is essentially a record of the emotions. The plot has been
determined by others: fate, history, politics, his parents.
The bonds in Arab families usually extend far beyond parents and
siblings. Said convinces us that he regarded his aunt's house as "home" even
if it was not his actual domicile. The nostalgia for it persisted. As time went
by, the life with his extended Jerusalem family acquired a languid, almost
dream-like aspect for him, in contrast to the more tightly organized and
disciplined regime with his parents and sisters, who are a shadowy presence in
the memoir. Edward was the central figure, that is made clear. During a
summer vacation in Dhour, in retreat from Victoria College (Cairo) where he
had done less than brilliantly in his first year of school, Said found himself
talking to Zeine Zeine, professor of history at the American University of
Beirut. As he explains, he sensed, at the time, a power in the encounter. Now
it strikes him with the force of a delayed remembering. "A gifted storyteller,
Professor Zeine went with me on my first museum visit, to Cairo's Wax
Museum, where in the funereally still, empty rooms framed by elaborate wax
scenes from modem Egyptian history, Zeine would speak grippingly about
Muhammad Ali, Bonaparte, Ismail Pasha, the Orabi rebellion, and the
Denshawi incident" (166). Another no less important person in Said's life as a
child is his Jerusalem aunt Nabiha, his father's sister. She is an emblem of all
the realities abstracted from the Jerusalem-Cairo axis. She stands for the
sufferings of ordinary folk-not least because, according to Said, she was the
first person to give shelter to the many displaced Palestinians who flocked into
172 Mustapha Marrouchi
Cairo after 1948. One advantage of reading about her is that the narrative
allows us to identify the grounds of al-manfa (exile and estrangement), where
the complexity of collective history meets, and is partly defeated by, her
investment in a psychology of belonging. Said's engagement with Palestine,
as he describes it, drew on deep emotional roots, particularly his affection for
his aunt. "Whatever political ideas she may have had were hardly ever uttered
in my presence: they did not seem necessary at the time. What was the central
importance was the raw, almost brutal core of Palestinian suffering, which she
made it her business to address every morning, noon and night" (154). Later,
Said would observe that it was both the annexation of Palestine by Israel in
1948 and the sheer scale of the Arab defeat in 196 7, with the new wave of
refugees it unleashed, that reconnected him with his former self.
Augustine, patron saint of confessional telling, also writes about its
paradoxes. "I can be far from glad remembering myself to have been glad, and
far from sad when I recall my past sadness." Said's account of his family
home emphasizes its constant moody temper and its joyless eccentricities, but
he recounts them with suave good humour as if they had by now become
enjoyable and even funny. Indeed, this is a book that from the outset rejoices
quietly and continually in the painful idiosyncrasies of the family. It [the
book] impresses its family portraits upon us as well as teaches us a good deal
about bourgeois behaviour creeping into the narrative through the servants •
entrance. The note is perfectly struck in the descriptions of the other Arabs,
the underclass of Egyptian Muslims who are made to serve, clean, wait on,
drive, baby-sit Edward and his sisters. Kitchen maids, house maids,
chauffeurs, gardeners, hurrying messengers and other unlettered characters do
not get to represent themselves or tell their stories. In fact, they are scarcely
perceived as capable of having stories, which are not so much refused as ruled
out by the author. It is in keeping with Said's carefully controlled tone that he
makes as little as possible of their presence, except, that is, as subalterns
operating from below. His ability to discern and identify the hidden political
agendas and contexts in the canons of Western culture, from the invisible
colonial plantations that guarantee the domestic tranquility and harmony of
Mansfield Park to the hundreds of the Egyptian lives sacrificed before the
imperial spectacle marked by the composition of Aida-the opening of the
Suez canal-falters when it comes to servant figures, acting as doubles, who, it
seems, played a major role in the making of their betters. They come across as
unimaginable pieces of history. If the East was used by Europeans to make
The Site of Memory 173
careers out of transmitting, interpreting and debating representations of the
native "Other," it is also used by Said who, in placing him or her in the
margins of his memoir's characterization and action, exults in the role of the
dominant master. Out of Place provides a fierce instance: "As my day began
at seven-thirty, what I witnessed was invariably stamped with night's end and
day's beginning-the black-suited ghaffeers, or evening watchmen, slowly
divesting themselves of blankets and heavy coats, sleepy-eyed suffragis
shuffling off to market for bread and milk, drivers getting the family car
ready. There were rarely any other grown-ups about at that hour" (37).
Narratives like this one strike the reader as a portrait of the native servant as a
resourceful Sam Weller or a solid Nelly Dean even if Said gets a good deal of
quiet, sometimes slightly pained, fun out of it.
Holding and discovering secrets, the servants' disclosures are often the
means of the plot's resolution. The relation the reader perceives between them
and those they serve are dense with complexity and sophistication. Their
presence creates space in which the narrative is at liberty to move beyond
itself: they provide another way of seeing the motivation and action of the
dominant class represented here by Wadie Said (male, learned, comparatively
wealthy, or to put otherwise, a successful Willy Loman). The dust jacket of
the American edition blithely exhibits the order of things: the poorly dressed
faithful figure wearing a tarboosh standing alone in front of the main branch
of the Cairo Standard Stationery Company on Malika Street (Cairo) embodies
silent gestures toward the overpowering Wadie Said (in a bow tie standing in
the doorway) who is seen to relish his narrative mission of bringing
knowledge and order to the world. It is this resilience that defines the literary
representation of the servant, who is often the interface between the reader and
the text's scheme of values, which is regularly undercut by his, or her, canny
presence, still winking at the reader.
The strong heritage of servants means that the narrative's pretensions to
realistic truth are challenged by their presence. The servant's disobedience, or
even fidelity, becomes a means of breaking free from the ground rules of
realism. Freedom within service is marked in his or her language. Full of
proverbs (the proverbial servant is as old as Sancho, or older) and
malapropisms, quotations and garrulous eccentricities, the language of the
servant can express a refusal to follow directions issued from above.
"Everyone lives life in a given language," Said writes, "everyone's
experiences therefore are had, absorbed, and recalled in that language" (1999:
174 Mustapha Marrouchi
xiii). More telling still are the assumptions that underlie the servant's
language. Here, Said knows that it is not his vocation to speak for the
domestic minor and the marginal. He sees himself fulfilling the task of writing
a memoir (which he conceived as a testimony to his children) from a position
of cultural ascendancy, and seems untroubled by the thought that his dismissal
of the other narrative, that of the faithful servant, might in itself dwindle into
the marginalized utterance of a lost cause. This is what Slavoj Zizek has aptly
called the "interpassive socialism" of the Western academic Left. These
leftists are not interested in activity-merely in "authentic" experience. They
allow themselves to pursue their well-paid academic careers in the West,
while using the idealized Other (servant in this case, in other instances, it
could be Cuba or Nicaragua) as the stuff of their ideological dreams: they
dream through the Other, but tum their backs on it if it disturbs their
complacency by abandoning socialism and opting for liberal capitalism (see
Zizek 1999).
If all there was to Said were his stories of an edifying Western bourgeois
liberalism, of the sort Zizek describes, then we could safely abandon him to a
museum-case, but he is of course a creation of a time and a place. And at the
time and in that place he was as enmeshed within family life as any of us. The
conception of Out of Place arises, too, out of a personal situation. Diagnosed
with leukemia and struggling with side effects of the treatment, Said decided
to use the writing of the memoir as therapy and an introspective journey into
the past. It is the private view of a public man. The impression which endures
is of a restless spiritual energy ceaselessly grappling with the contradictions,
complexities and injustices of the world from the perspective of privileged
minority he inherited from his wealthy but dislocated family. The
circumstances in which the book was written, in periods of remission or
between bouts of chemotherapy, add to its testamentary force. "Despite the
travail of disease and restrictions imposed on me by my having left the places
of my youth, I can say with the poet: 'Nor in this bower, I This little lime-tree
bower, have I not mark'd I Much that has soothed me"' (1999: 11). Out of
Place is not an apologia hastily assembled to counter Zionist polemics. It is a
powerful and, at the most fundamental level, a thoroughly convincing
statement about a man who has helped to illuminate our crisis-ridden world.
All Post-Modem autobiographers seem to think of themselves as
outsiders, drifters, solitaries, especially if they were writers before they turned
to self-revelation. Certainly this book is written. For all the evidence that the
The Site of Memory
atmosphere of his home was saturated with unhappiness the book that
describes it sounds reasonably contented. It (home) was material for a
narrative that tries as hard as possible to be a set of "biographemes," in
Barthes' formula. The calm, though, belongs to the writer at his desk,
remembering pain with a pleasure not immodestly insisted on, and enhanced
by a liberal use of legitimate real voices. At its centre, Out of Place turns out
to be a stirring coming-of-age story, detailing the writer's journey from
youngster to university student to full-fledged artist. Inventive in its style and
technique, Said's narrative paints a moving portrait of its hero's quest to
create his own character, language, life and art; "to forge in the smithy of my
soul the uncreated conscience of my race" (Joyce, 1999: 23).
It is an irony worth noting by way of an epilogue that in the summer of
1999 Said found out that his past had been rewritten-that he had not been
schooled at the school he attended; that he had not lived in and been obliged to
leave Jerusalem; that he and his family were not refugees from Palestine; that
he was a "liar"- by someone he had never heard of while attending Daniel
Barenboim's master classes in Weimar with 90 Arab and Israeli musicians,
including his 10-year-old great nephew, a piano prodigy from Amman.
Following the attack, Said who is usually one of those people who speaks as
though he is at a poetry recital and exudes calm authority, appeared stung,
rummaging through papers that illustrate he is who he says he is, and very
obviously aware of the bleak absurdity of a situation in which he is forced to
do so. Disarming, Said reveals why he believes he has become the American
Right's and/or Zionist's latest hate figure: "I symbolize the things Zionists are
afraid of. I don't believe in partition, and that is why I am dangerous to
For him, the attack was recognition of his growing currency within
Israel, where he has been more visible, writing and narrating a BBC
documentary Edward Said: A Very Personal View of Palestine,
which was
timed to commemorate 50 years of Israeli occupation, and championing the
Quoted in Ed Vulliany, "Disarming-and Dangerous?," The Observer Review 29 August 1999:
2. See also, Maya Taggi, "Out of the Shadows," The Guardian 12 September 1999: 12-14;
Julian Borger, "Friends Rally to Repulse Attack on Edward Said," The Guardian 23 August
1999: 7; Christopher Hitchens, "Whose Life Is It Anyway?," The Nation 4 October 1999: 9.
Nowhere is the attack on Said more disfiguring than in Charles Krauthammer, "The Case of
the Suspect Bios," Time 4 October 1999: 84. Krauthammer makes his findings fiasco the
cornerstone for his edifice of misrepresentations, misreadings and ultimately his pervert ire.
The documentary program was aired by the Public Broadcasting System (on WNET on July 5,
1999) under the title, "In Search of Palestine."
176 Mustapha Marrouchi
cause of reparation; where even far-right Zionists, he believes, are "less rabid
and more in touch with reality" than those who live in the U.S. Said, who has
long pleaded for both sides to recognize the other's history, rebuffed his
enemies' attack in multiple ways. The most sound and unequivocal of them is
Out of Place, which stands as a corrective; it rectifies what is amiss. "My
parents moved there [to Zamelek] Cairo in 1937, when I was two" (22). Said
goes on to explain that his parents had already lived in Cairo since 1935, but
decided that he should be born in Jerusalem: an earlier child, born in a Cairo
hospital, had developed an infection and died. To avoid another disaster, his
parents decided that he should be born at "home" in Jerusalem, where he was
delivered by a Jewish midwife. The home he refers to was the ancestral family
home, lived in by his aunt Nabiha and his cousins, an "upperclass Jewish
neighborhood," but prior to 1947 lived in exclusively by Palestinian
Christians. That "home" was lost in 1948, when his aunt and cousins became
"A lie can get halfway around the world," Mark Twain once observed,
"before truth has even put its boots on." So it has proved-but only so far-in
the matter of Justus Weiner versus Edward Said. Here we approach the crux of
the matter. Is it seriously proposed that Said's out-of-place early life, spent
partly in Jerusalem, partly in Cairo, somehow disqualifies him from speaking
as a Palestinian? That it is fine for Weiner, an American Jew transplanted to
Israel, to speak as an Israeli, but not for Said, a Palestinian re-rooted in New
York, to speak for Palestine? What Weiner has in fact done is to hijack a
reputation for Zionist ends. For when a distinguished writer, as distinguished
as Said is, is attacked in this fashion-when his enemies set out not merely to
judge his books but to sentence and sully his name-then there is always more
at stake than the mere quotidian malice of the world of literature. Justus
Weiner's accusations in the neo-conservative magazine Commentary
(September 1999), which made a previous effort at slandering Said 10 years
ago, when it labelled him "professor of terror," despite his consistent rejection
of terrorism or a military solution to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, are, I
believe, an extension of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict masked as an
argument against public misbehaving; it is drenched in the usual hypocrisy
about norms of conduct, a tactic employed by publicists who try to hide their
real agenda. For who appointed Weiner to research Said's past anyway?
Milken, the former junk bond dealer who was imprisoned in 1991 for insider
trading. He is also the leading donor of "Special Gifts" to the Jewish Centre
The Site of Memory
for Public Affairs, which employs Justus Weiner.
Suffice it to add that
Conrad Black, the owner of The Daily Telegraph, which carried most of the
attack in Europe, also owns The National Post (Canada) and The Jerusalem
Post, which supports the right-wing Likud Party of former Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, who in 1988 refused to sit with Said in the same studio
during a debate on Night Line, hosted by Ted Koppel (NBC, New York). His
argument was that Said was a terrorist intent on killing him.
Said, on the
other hand, remains scornful of the suggestion that he wields great power in
the media: "The mainstream press makes use of you when it wants to, as a
token or a symbol, but you have no access," he opines in an interview (ibid.).
No major US paper, he adds, would publish his response to Weiner, though it
appeared in the Arab press, Al-Hayat, for which he has written regularly since
1993. It was also published in Hebrew in the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha 'aretz.
There is definitely more than an overtone of exclusion, racism and
xenophobia in some of the language used in Weiner's essay and letter.
critique is marked by a violence of language and mindless destructiveness the
likes of which I have yet to encounter in any other literary culture-certainly
not with such a sustained intensity, not even during violent social revolutions
when the slightest ambiguity in ideological content of a work of art is seized
upon as proof of dangerous, subversive sympathies. This violence has become
competitive to such an extent that Weiner even proudly labelled himself
"scholar" and in order to place himself beyond any form of rules
of combat or knowledge of its subject. With typical Zionist parochialism and
self-obsession, Weiner's argument runs as follows: "I cannot state this often
enough or emphatically enough, nothing alleged in Said's own rebuttal or by
his defenders shakes my findings by as much as an iota" (2000: 11 ). This
I have read Justus Reid Weiner, "'My Beautiful Old Home' and Other Fabrications by Edward
Said," Commentary (September 1999): 23-32, with care and enthusiasm only to discover how
Dr. Weiner manages skillfully to bring forward what suits his hogwash thesis and bury
everything else, which confirms that Said did indeed attend St. George School, that the Saids
were well known as an old Palestinian family. At least one of the students who studied with
Edward said as much to Dr. Weiner, who conveniently failed to mention the fact in his attack.
Other errors are to be noted: Weiner quotes only those whose theses consolidate his own.
Piali Roy interviews Edward Said for "Ideas," CBC 23 November 1999: 9-10 P.M. The
interview is detailed, sharp and up to date with Said's views on various topics: peace in the
Middle East, the vocation of the intellectual, reparation, the crisis of the Arab intellectual,
Weiner's language comes across as noisy, vindictive and pushy. His ideas are put in the
conceptual marketplace with all the fervour with which others peddle second-hand Hoovers.
178 Mustapha Marrouchi
whole by-now discredited charge rests on a misguided critique would need to
be launched from some metaphysical outer space, for it shares the delusion of
the reality it detests.
The very idea that somebody from Palestine, from the ex-colonial jungle
should (1) speak and challenge a colonial power like Israel in such an urgent
way and (2) even propose the idea of return and reparation for his people is
anathema to Weiner, who writes:
Let me close, then, by restating my conviction that the cause of peace
between Israelis and Palestinians, to which so many of them assert their
devotion, is not well-served but-to the contrary-traduced by an attachment to
historical ties. The fact is that the "best-known Palestinian intellectual in the
world" (as he was recently described on the BBC) made wholesale political
use of the supposed circumstances of his childhood, weaving an elaborate
myth of paradise and expulsion from paradise out of one or two
circumstances and a raft of inventions. That myth has been exposed, and its
purveyor has been revealed not as a refugee from Palestine, but as a refugee
from the truth. To judge by the way he and his supporters have responded,
he, and they, are still on the run (2000: 16).
This is Weiner's own denigration of Edward Said. Let us split it into two.
There is first Palestine and there is secondly the representative of this
Palestine. And that representative also happens to be that same individual who
opposed the peace process-at least who is held responsible for disagreeing
with its content-and therefore has become an ogre to the outspoken
"conscience" of Zionism and its doyens.
I will not pursue here the mixed career of Weiner's newly-discovered
vocation in journalism-the sweeping generalizations, misquotations, the
impudence of claims which masks disinterest in and/or ignorance of the
variants on the Said story, cavalier imposition of far-fetched parameters to
provide a veneer of studiousness and research-, except to mention the
gratuitous violence of approach, in the violent appropriation of literary
material and its violent mutilation.
For many readers, both the article and/or
letter is a grudge and frontal attack, the upshot of which is: if everyone in the
world must nowadays be a victim of something, Weiner is a self-confessed
There is too much of a cultural sheep or lemmings mentality among those who, like Weiner,
engage in slanderous misrepresentations of others. In a series of audacious bounds, Weiner
refers to Said's memoir, which was originally called Not Quite Right, as "radically revised ...
in favor of the truer one presented in Out of Place" (2000: 12).
The Site of Memory
victim of his own assumptions, which exert their mindless tyranny over him as
ruthlessly as Stalin held sway over the kulaks. For him, nothing in the world
could count as evidence for one's acala (authenticity, originality), since what
we gullibly call the world is simply a construct of it. He forgets that identity is
a constitutive of the self, and so cannot be critically questioned by it.
And so it goes on, when you are Palestinian, the question of identity
becomes a disturbing one. You must rehash the same narrative in order to
reassert your acala as if it never existed before. This is what Said aptly called
"beginning and beginning again to tell my story and that of my people to the
world" (1987: 34). Additionally, the notion that Said has been vocal,
persistent and compelling is even more troubling to Weiner & Co. This is the
spillover from the whole of that standing up to a cause: that of the Palestinian
people anxious to determine their own fate without being pushed over, bullied,
misrepresented, maimed, imprisoned, deported without trial, or simply killed.
Weiner, who accuses Said of straying from the truth, is mealy-mouthed about
it. For what is at stake here is the question of authenticity, a faulting that goes
beyond the lines of his laborious article to the arbitrary codes and signifiers
that define identity, which is the yardstick we use to determine who is and
who is not eligible for inclusion in the panoply of tribes that are available to us
such as class, religion, race, ethnicity and region. It provides the parameters
for describing who we are, and often what we can say. The consequences of
these issues are far from academic. In Israel a debate is raging over who, for
purposes of immigration, qualifies not as a citizen (regardless of race, religion,
gender, sexual orientation, elective affinity) but as a Jew. Since the country's
law ofreturn was passed in 1950, anyone with even one Jewish grandparent
has an automatic right to Israeli citizenship. As a result, all Palestinian
property was unilaterally converted into Israeli property robbing therefore the
Saids and other Palestinian families like them of their homes, lands and
This assault leaves the field clear for Weiner's round of rape on the
literary products of Said, which "raised doubts" about the latter's credentials
as a ''refugee" as a means of trying to discredit his entire body of work. "I had
never had much respect for the intellectual integrity of Professor Said," a
spokesman for the former right-wing Israeli government said. "This proves
that my suspicions were not groundless. "
The affront put Said in the
See Gary Younge, "Struggles of the Artist," The Guardian 17 January 2000: 3.
180 Mustapha Marrouchi
Kafkaesque situation of brandishing documents to prove that he is in fact who
he has always said he was. But there was more at stake, he believes, than his
own integrity. "It is an attempt," he notes,
to pre-empt the process of return and compensation for the Palestinians. It is
a way of furthering the argument that the Palestinians never belonged in
Palestine .... If someone like Edward Said is a liar, runs the argument, how
can we believe all those peasants who say they were driven off their land? ...
It is part of the attempt to say that none of this actually happened (2000: 3).
Or, to put differently, undermine Said's authenticity, went the logic, and you
undermine the credibility of the Palestinian cause. Only the desperation of a
mercenary hatchet-man could produce the series of constant irritations to
people, who like Said, continue to stand on the margins. The burden of
representation on people who do emerge from desperate circumstances is a
heavy one. But that is no excuse to try to deny the validity of their voice. In
the case of Edward Said there is, of course, no such thing as the Palestinian
experience but, instead, several Palestinian experiences (family, birth, name,
baptism, life, death, burial) or, what Abdelkebir Khatibi has aptly called "Said
To refer to Weiner the "scholar," however, is to reveal the fact that in
publishing his essay, Commentary has allowed his lies, insults, abuses, short-
sightedness, misinformation of his own readers to remain. In doing so, both
the self-fashioned "scholar" and "journalist" as well as the small conservative
American Jewish monthly have behaved with complete professional
irresponsibility. For them, it was enough to say, "Edward Said is a liar." Here
as usual, Weiner's rather stagey relish for the defamatory posture leads him
astray. It prevents him from seeing that a certain capacity for critical self-
distancing is actually part of the way we are bound up with the world, not
some chimerical alternative to it. His case fudges the question of how people
come to change, not necessarily for the better, just as it adopts an untenably
provincial view of the relations between a specific identity system and
particular bits of evidence. It also suggests that we cannot ask where our
identity come from because any answer to this question would be
predetermined by our sense ofbelonging.
In academia, you can hammer your colleagues, safe in the knowledge that,
since you all subscribe to the same professional rules, it does not really mean a
thing. But when a man and/or a literary journal descends so low, when he
The Site of Memory
and/or it descends to such contemptible tactics, I believe that he or it really
should be drummed out of the profession. I am convinced that it is because of
the disgust and outrage felt by many readers that Commentary felt bound to
print some of the responses to Weiner's article. Non-committingly, of course,
because "dog does not eat dog." But in doing so, the monthly journal wanted
to make some kind of back-handed-but not complete-amends, by returning to
and writing about Said in a positive and conciliatory fashion.
The felicitous upshot is that any individual, I do not care if he or she is the
greatest genius ever invented in the world, that any one individual should have
the power to actually label a writer and close down his work of sweat and
imagination just on a whim is a sign of our imperfect times. That kind of
power is pathological, perverse and obscene. In no other place in the world
does this kind of affront to human creativity take place. Not even Commentary
deserves the tyranny of Weiner. The sad part of this kind of defamation lies in
the acknowledgment that he is not alone. There are many other self-
proclaimed "critics" and "scholars" who have missed their calling. The Pipes,
the Podhoretzes, the Zions, the Krauthammers, among others, come to mind.
Beneath these pundits' reactionary commitment to universalist progress and
commonality of the intellectual process, let us never dismiss the possibility of
opportunism, sordid self-interest and plain will-to-power. Anyone is, of
course, free to choose his weapons, but let no one think that the use of any
particular weapon is the monopoly of the unprincipled, championed here by
Daniel Pipes who goes so far as to allow himself to announce quite
shamelessly that Said's memoir is a work of "dissimulation."
Pipes, a mind-
suppressor, will not hesitate to use any weapon in order to aspire to mediocre
intellectual respectability.
It is regrettable that a mere dismissal as an inept zealot will not suffice for
the case of Weiner & Co. It will not explain why the pages of his essay and
letter are drenched in so much bile, why such virulence dominates even his
few instances of arguable criticism, why smear and sneer are substituted for
clarity or precision of attack. It would be futile to deny the sickness of '"My
Old Beautiful Home'" insofar as it has nothing to do with strict disputation in
the realm of ideas, of urgent but far-reaching causes which might even be
traced to purely human motives such as frustrated ambitions. This leaves
Weiner in the odd position of accruing capital to himself by engaging in
See Christopher Hitchens, "Whose Life Is It Anyway?," The Nation 4 October 1999: 9.
182 Mustapha Marrouchi
disfiguring Said, a native of Palestine, whose ancestors were born and lived
there for generations before they were evicted in 1948 in such
compromisingly subjective language, without the slightest iota of respect for
literary truth or objective content.
As Said has clearly stated in his rebuttal of Weiner's article (Said 2000),
this charge is not new to him or to his readers who feel angered on behalf of
all Palestinian refugees, who have been savaged in many ways, unnecessarily
and unjustly savaged, simply because of the psychological warp of Weiner
and, of course, his cohorts, many of whom, I am certain, take their lead from
him. It is an anger against an assault aimed at preventing understanding and
reconciliation between the victims and the victims' victims. Commentary,
knowing this, has a moral and social responsibility to avoid assigning its
precious pages to "critics" and "journalists" like Weiner with oversize egos
and a dishonest outlook on the facts of life. After all, it is a fact that on
November 25, 1935, in the early hours of the morning a baby boy, named
"Edward," was born in Jerusalem. The droit du sol alone, which, in case
anyone is in doubt, is more than enough for Said to speak about his Palestine.
It is this authenticity, above all, that places him in a privileged position of
reclaiming his identity.
Few writers are as profoundly engaged with their native land as Said, a
Palestinian, whose essays seek, by noticing, arguing, rhapsodizing,
mythologizing, to write Palestine into fierce, lyrical being. Yet this same
Edward Said also writes: "I have always advocated the acknowledgments by
each other of the Palestinian and Jewish peoples' past suffering. Only in this
way can they coexist peacefully together in the future" (2000: 4). It is startling
to find an admission of something close to generosity. Yet this perhaps is the
only kind of genuineness and/or vision a writer like Said can afford. In this
respect, he offers discord, rags. That is why his writing makes great noise in
the mind, the heart.
Lastly, and perhaps sadly for many of us who have lived by the example
of Edward Said, is that when people "criticize" a Man of Letters like him,
when they "denounce" his ideas, when they "condemn" what he writes, I
imagine them in the ideal situation in which they would have complete
power over him .... And I catch a glimpse of the radiant city in which the
intellectual would be in prison, or, if he were also a theoretician, hanged, of
The Site ofMemory
I can't help but dream about a kind of criticism that would not try to judge,
but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires,
watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea-foam in the breeze
and scatter it. It would multiply, not judgments, but signs of existence; it
would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent
them sometimes-all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down
sentences sends me to sleep; I'd like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the
imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the
lightning ofpossible storms (Foucault, 1980: 325-326).
Said, a Renaissance apparition with an identifiable moral authority in these
times ofhigh specialization, has survived harsh judgments and threats, hence a
sort of anxiety that finds expression in innumerable symptoms, some funny,
some not. Hence, too, on the part of those who, possessing nothing of their
own, write,-are determined to thwart his vision and barricade the road to
peace between Palestinians and Israelis, accuse him while fancying that they
can gain a reputation for justice by crying out that they have been robbed-, a
sense of impotence when confronted by the naked truth as his memoir attests.
All of life, it seemed, could tum into a performance piece, as it seemed to
be for Said when he decided to rebuff his accusers, which was seen as a
defence of what he stands for, of the world he has hoped for decades to argue
into being: a world in which Palestinians would be able to live with honor and
dignity in their own country, indeed, but also a world in which, by an act of
constructive forgetting, the past can be worked through and then left in the
past, so that Palestinians and Jews can begin to think about a different kind of
future. In the process, if he comes across a bit of a historical revisionist,
chiding his forebears for their Victorian ways and designs and/or enemies for
their intransigence, he is also apprehensive about the future. A world is
passing away, Said writes. "A form of freedom, I'd like to think, even if I am
far from being totally convinced that it is. That scepticism too is one of the
themes I particularly want to hold on to. With so many dissonances in my life
I have learned actually to prefer being not quite right and out of place" (1999:
295). Out of Place, like the end of the millennium, which has become a
marketing opportunity; it sells anything- olive oil, Colgate and Chane! No. 5;
Nike shoes, Tiger Woods and "The Spice Girls," even in the TV ads Uncle
Ben's rice, closes on a note of sombre foreboding.
The erstwhile outsider that is Said, then, has now placed himself boldly at
the fons et origo, claiming al'lisstin (the tongue) as always-already his own
from the outset. It is hard to know quite how Out of Place is the origin and/or
184 Mustapha Marrouchi
product of transplantation, but in any case Said has dug down with his pen to
the first stratum of the language and appropriated his birthright in al-Quds
(Jerusalem). As Harold Bloom might less decorously put it, the belated
offspring has now installed himself as the founding patriarch. It might be
argued that Said's anxious need for this move to be legitimated is a sign of the
cultural colonization it aims to overcome. Yet, having reversed his cultural
dispossession, he then in a kind of mocking pseudo-Hegelian negation of
negation, reverses the reversal. In searching for the pitch or enabling note of
the work, he finds it in the weighty, big-voiced utterance of some family
relatives like that of his aunt Nabiha. Having kicked free of Palestine soil into
the upper air, he now has the confidence to touch down on it again. The result
is a marvelously sturdy, intricate reinvention, which betrays its author's poetic
dabs less in its earthiness than in its airiness. It is the canny colloquialisms and
certain spoken phrases in Arabic like tislamli or mish 'arfa shu biddi 'amal?
or rouh 'ha or Khalas, which are most Saidesque, not the smell of the soil of
Palestine. If the stark subject-matter is redolent of "Between Worlds," the
treatment has the mild touch of insouciance of an earlier collection like After
the Last Sky. This writer is so superbly in command that he can risk
threadbare, throwaway, matter-of-fact phrases like "of no small importance"
or the "best part of the day" (1999: 175).
The narrative, as Georg Lukacs once observed, requires historical
conditions which the steam-engine and the telegraph put paid to (1999: 34).
Mechanically-reproduced commodities have lost the aura of ancient objects,
just as the self-conscious fictions of modernity have lost what Zizek calls
"attempts to escape the logic of globalism" (1999: 2). But modern objects,
typified for Lukacs by Charles Bovary's extraordinary, convoluted, visually
unpresentable hat, have also shed what seems to us the unalienated candour of
material things in Out of Place, which exist more as narrative elements than as
literary enigmas. In any case, we no longer believe in heroism, or that the
world itself is story-shaped, and we ask of literature a phenomenological
inwardness which is of fairly recent historical vintage. All of this is a signal
(mis)fortune for Edward Said, an artist so exquisitely gifted and imaginatively
capacious that only a work of mightier scale would answer to his abilities as a
ghareeb (an exile), who has been forced to see himself as marginal, non-Arab,
non-American, alienated, marked on both sides of the cultural dividing line.
The following paragraph expresses the pain of this exclusion best:
The Site ofMemory
The school [Victoria College] itself was closed for the Friday holiday, but I
persuaded the gatekeeper to let us in anyway. As we stood in my old
classroom, which seemed a good deal smaller than I remembered, I pointed
out my desk, the teacher's platform from which Griffiths had expelled me,
and the little room where we had imprisoned poor old Mr. Lowe.
At that moment a very angry-looking woman wearing a head covering and
Islamic-style dress swept into the room demanding to know what we were
doing. I tried to explain the circumstances ("Use your charm," said my
daughter, Najla) but to no avail. We were trespassers, and as school director
she was demanding that we leave immediately. She refused my extended
hand, staring at us with a surfeit of nationalist hostility and unbending zeal as
we shuffled out, rather cowed by her evident outrage. The British Eton in
Egypt had now become a new kind of privileged Islamic sanctuary from
which thirty-eight years later I was once again being expelled (Ibid., 213 ).
[Emphasis added]
This is it: to voice rejection and (un)belonging, uncannily, Said locates in the
language into which he is metamorphosing himself the precise equivalent to
the stroke of local colour in the original home (Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, the
U.S.). The paradox is this: in Joyce, in Nabokov, the polyglot impulse
generates a superabundance of stylistic invention; the voices grow more and
more voluminous. In Said, the exact opposite occurs; out of an extreme
pressure of language means a nakedness is born. There is a precedent to this
paring down in Conrad, whom Said treasures. Yet the sense of a certain
routine, of the formulaic, nags: the omission of connective parts of speech, of
punctuation; the insistence on the monosyllabic. That bicycle race is there,
with its faintly circularity and ennui. As he has observed: "This is what
dislocation and insecurity breed, this need to hold onto one's position of
authority indefinitely, this feeling that one is indispensable. I am tom about
this" (1996: 15). Will his pessimism change? Or will it come to be known as a
despairing afterward to the emptying of man in early twenty first-century
globocracy and genocide? It is difficult to say. But how much richer, though
no less subversive, a Said radiates, darkly if you will, out of (even) the most
laconic of parables.
Bakhtin, Mikhail (1989) The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Trans. Caryl
Emerson. Austin: University ofTexas Press.
186 Mustapha Marrouchi
Bergson, Henri (1962), The Two Forms of Memory (trans. Nancy Margaret
Paul and W. Scott Palmer) London: George Allen.
Foucault, Michel (1980), Politics, Philosophy, Culture, Interviews and Other
Writings 1977-1984, ed. Laurence D. Katzman. New York & London:
Routledge, (1988)
Howe, Stephen (1999), "An Outsider's Inside Story," The lndependent29
September 1999: 2-4
Hussein, Taha (1997), The Days. Trans. Kenneth Gragg & Hilary Wayment.
Cairo: American University in Cairo Press
Joyce, James (1991), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man New York:
Larkin, Philip (1991), Collected Poems New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Rushdie, Salman (1991), "On Palestinian Identity: A Conversation with
Edward Said." In Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-
1991. London: Granta Press, 1991: 166-187.
Said, Edward (1987), "Cairo Recalled: Growing up in the Cultural Cross
Currents of 1940s Egypt." House and Garden (April1987): 32-45.
Said, Edward (1988), ''The Voice of a Palestinian in Exile." Third Text
(Spring/Summer 1988): 23-41.
Said, Edward (1988), Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the
Palestinian Question. Eds. Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens. New
York: Verso.
Said, Edward (1992), "Palestine, Then and Now: An Exile's Journey through
Israel and the Occupied Territories." Harper's Magazine (December
1992): 47-51.
Said, Edward (1993), Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf.
Said, Edward (1999). Out of Place: A Memoir. New York: Knopf.
Said, Edward (1999a), "Living by the Clock," LRB 29 April 1999: 9-12.
Twain, Mark (1999), The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: A Book of
Quotations London: Dover
Weiner, Justus (1999), "'My Beautiful Old Home' and other Fabrications by
Edward Said," Commentary (September): 23-32.
Weiner, Justus (2000), [Letter], Commentary (January 2000): 9-16
Wood, Michael (1994), "Lost Paradises," The New York Review of Books
3March 1994:44-46
Zizek, Slavoj (1999)," 'You May!': Slavoj Zizek writes about the Postmodem
Superego," LRB 18 March: 3-6.
Pal Ahluwalia teaches politics at the University of Adelaide. He is the
author and co-author of several books including Post-Colonialism and the
Politics of Kenya (1996), Edward Said: the Paradox of Identity (1999) and
Politics and Post-Colonial Theory: African Inflections (200 1 ).
Bill Ashcroft teaches in the School of English at the University of NSW.
He is the author and co-author of several books, including the seminal The
Empire Writes Back (1989), The Post-Colonial Studies Reader(199S), The
Gimbals of Unease: The Poetry of Francis Webb (1996) Key Concepts in
Post-Colonial Studies (1998), Edward Said: the Paradox of Identity (1999)
and Edward Said (2000). His most recent works are Post-Colonial
Transformation (2001) and On Post-Colonial Futures (2001).
Elleke Boehmer is the author of Colonial and Postcolonial Literature
(1995), Empire, the National and the Postcolonial (2002), and of three novels,
including Bloodlines (2000). She has edited Empire Writing (1998), and
coedited Altered State? Writing and South Africa (1994) as well as a special
issue of Interventions on Transnationalism (200 1 ). She has published
numerous essays and articles on postcolonial writing and theory and is the
Professor of Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at Nottingham Trent
University, UK.
Patrick Brantlinger is Rudy Professor of English at Indiana University.
He is author of several books, including Rule Of Darkness: British Literature
And Imperialism 1830-1914 (1988}, Fictions of State: culture and credit in
Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
Britain, 1694-1994 (1996) and, most recently, Who Killed Shakespeare?
What's Happened To English Since The Radical Sixties (2001).
Arif Dirlik is Knight Professor of History and Cultural Anthropology at
the University of Oregon. His most recent publications are Postmodernity's
Histories: The Past as Legacy and Project (2000) and The Postrevolutionary
Aura (in Chinese) (200 1 ). He is also the editor most recently of Chinese on the
American Frontier and (with Roxann Prazniak) Places and Politics in an Age
of Globalization.
Linda Hutcheon is University Professor of English and Comparative
Literature at the University of Toronto and past President of the Modem
Language Association (2000). Her books include Irony's Edge: The Theory
and Politics of Irony (1994), Splitting Images: Contemporary Canadian
Ironies (1991), The Politics of Postmodernism (1989), A Poetics of
Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (1988), The Canadian Postmodern
(1988), A Theory of Parody (1985), Formalism and the Freudian Aesthetic
(1984), Narcissistic Narrative (1980). She has edited and co-edited numerous
books and has published many articles on topics ranging from Canadian
literature to the representation of the body in opera.
Hussein Kadbim teaches Arabic language and literature at Dartmouth
College. He is currently completing a book tentatively titled, "The Poetics of
Colonialism: The Arab Literary Response to European Colonialism."
Mustapba Marroucbi lives in Toronto. He is the author of several
seminal articles including "Decolonizing the Terrain of Western Theoretical
Productions" (1997), and most recently, Signifying with a Vengeance:
Theories, Literatures, Storytellers (2002). His book on Edward Said, Presence
of Mind, is due in the new year.
Patrick Williams is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at
Nottingham Trent University. His books include Colonial Discourse and
Post-Colonial Theory (1994); Introduction to Post-Colonial Theory (1996);
Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1999); and a 4-volume edited collection on Edward Said
(Sage 2000).
Notes on Contributors 189
Susanne Zantop is the author of several books, including Colonial
fantasies: conquest, family, and nation in precolonial Germany, 1770-1870
(1997); Kolonialphantasien im vorkolonialen Deutschland (1770-1870)
(1999); Zeitbilde: Geschichte und Literatur bei Heinrich Heine und Mariano
JosE de Larra (1988). She is the editor and co-editor of several books
including The imperialist imagination: German colonialism and its legacy
(1998). She was tragically killed in 2000. A volume co-edited by her,
Germans and Indians: fantasies, encounters, projections will be published in
Achebe, Chinua 43
Adorno, Theodor 88
affiliation(s) 67, 80
affiliative 79
African National Congress 134
African Studies 131, 132
Africanism 140
Africanist political science 140
Ahmad, Aijaz, xii, 4, 38, In Theory
Aida 173
Alee, Claude. 136
Althusser, Louis 66
amateur ix, 15, 83, 84
amateurism x, 75, 76, 84
Amerindians 116
Amis, Martin 160
Ang1ocentrism 60,
anthropology 131
Appiah, Anthony 3 8
Amove, Anthony 43
Augustine, St. 164, 172
authenticity 179
Bakhtin, Mikhai145, 152, 159
Baldwin, James 162
Bauman, Zygmunt 38
beginnings 27
Bergson, Henri 162-3
Bethune, Norman 20
Bhabha, Homi 35, 97, 152, 155
binarisms 3
binary 116
border 160
borderlands 6
Bourdieu, Pierre 32, 38, 43,44-54
Brauner, Sigrid 116
British Commonwealth writers 130
British Romantic writers 145
Burke, Peter 95
Cabral, Arnilcar 11
cannibal queen 115
capitalism 36, 62
192 Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
Carrier, James 128
Caruth, Cathy 98
Cesaire, Aime 100
Chen, Xiaomei 97
class 5, retreat from 6, 8, 9, 43
class analysis 19
class conflict 62
class positions 20
Cold War 136
colonialism 36, 3 7
colonization x
Commonwealth literary study x
Conrad, Joseph 33, Nigger of
Narcissus 165, 185
contrapuntal2, 10, 24, 86, 96
contrapuntal ensembles 80
contrapuntally 80
critic, the 81
criticism, and the world 81, 82, its
oppositionality 83, situatedness
cultural capital45, 160
cultural studies 47, origins 57, 58,
and postcolonial studies 63
culturalism 46
De Pauw, Corneille 117
decolonisation 135
Derrida, Jacques 130, 160
development 138, 140
development strategy 136
developmentalist ideology 134, 135
diasporic 5
diasporic culture 87
diasporic intellectuals 63
Dirlik, Arif38, 40, 51, 73, 153
discourse 67, 68
discursive consistency 97
dis-identification 22
Eagleton, Terry 16, Heathc/iffe and
the Great Hunger 61
essentialisms 3
ethnicity 7
Eurocentrism 1, 111, 122, 133
Eurocentric history 153
exile 2, 23-26, and places of origin
23, and immigration 63, 166
Extreme-Occident 111, 113, 121
Fanon, Frantz 11, 16, 19, 58
feminism 34
filiative 79
Foucault, Michel 57, 66, 130
Frankfurt School 68, 70
Franklin, Benjamin 112
functionalist theory 138
fundamentalism 21
ghafleers 173
Gilroy, Paul 61, 111
global capitalism 41
globalization 5, 8, 21, 36, 109
glocal 160
Godwin, David 148
Goldman, Lucien 22
Gosse, Edmund 146
Gramsci, Antonio 44, 66, 80
Habermas, Jurgen 67
Hall, Stuart 4, 34, 67
harem 114
Hatem, George 20
Hegelianism 108
history 91
Holroyd, Michael 164
humanism 66
Hugo ofSt Victor 86
Hulme, Peter 117
Hutcheon, Linda xiii, 188
hybridities 20
hybridity 3, 5
identity 179
IMF (International Monetary Fund)
immigration 63, 86-88
imperial surveillance 50
imperial unknown 113
imperialism 7, 36, 3 7
imperialist discourse, as gendered
indigenous populations 112
intellectual 31 , 44
intellectual specialization 75
intellectuals 36, 37,42
internationalism 20
Jacoby, Russell34
James, C.L.R. x, 11, 48, 162
JanMohamed, Abdul24, 25,77
Jefferson, Thomas 112
Kipling, Rudyard 153, 155
Lacan, Jacques 130
LaCapra, Dominic 92
Latinamericanism 110
Leninist 6
liberation 24
locatedness 78, 80
Loomba, Ania 39,98
Lu.Icacs, George 22, 184
Majeed, Javed 128
Manichean 108
Manzo. Kate 140
Marx 62,70
Marxism 11, 19, 34, 65, 70
materiality 82
McClintock, Anne 108, 113, 121
McGuigan, Jim 67
McLuhan, Marshal 68
memoire writing 163
memory 163
mimicry 147
modernisation theory 136, 137, 138,
modernism 159
Modernity 120
modernizing agents 13 7
Monroe doctrine 112
Mudimbe, V.Y. 128
multiple allegiances 3
myth of origins xi
194 Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
Nabokov, Vladimir 185
Naidu, Sarojini 145, and
'ventriloquism' 147, and Roy
Naipaul, V.S. 48
nation 5
national identity 12
national liberation 3, 4, 7, 21
nationalism 5, 16
nationalist independence 16
NATOpolitan hegemony 83
neo-orientalist 145, 154
neo-orientalist rhetoric xiv
New World xiii, dispute of 117,
Ngugi wa Thiongo 43, Decolonising
Nkrumah, K warne x
noble savage 117-119,
nomadic 24
0/Gorrnan, Edmundo 11 0
O'Brien, Connor Cruise 37
Occident 107, 113
Occidentalism 107, 109, and gender
divisions 119
oppositionality 152
organic intellectual 44
Orient 107, 120
oriental 151
Orienta1ism 109, rel. with
accidentalism 121, 127, 139,
Palestine 13, annexation 172
Palestinian 166, 179
Palestinian cause 12
Palestinian experience 64
Palestinian identity, ix, 13, 19, 28,
Palestinian intifada 17
Palestinian nationalist 22
paradox, of identity, ix, 1, 16, and
contradiction 24, 74, 85, 88
paradoxes 10
Parry, Benita 64
Pels, Dick 49
Pemety, Antoine 117
place 166
placelessness 20
places 20
PLO 17,33
politics of blame 96
postcolonial 3, 92, 93
postcolonial cosmopolitanism 22
postcolonial criticism 5, 15
post-colonial cultural discourse 51
postcolonial cultural history 93
postcolonial histories 98
post-colonial intellectuals 32, 3 7, 41,
46, 74
post-colonial states 135
post-colonial studies 53
post-colonial theory vii, ix-xii, 35,
36, 73-76, 108, 129, 130, 140,
and jargon 35, 36
post-colonial writer, displaced
intelligence 161
Index 195
postcolonialism 8, 18, 24, 34, 40,
and postmodemism 52, and neo-
orientalism 145-57
postimperial intellectual 96
postimperial xiii, 92-103
postimperialism 3 7, 40
post-modem autobiographers 175
Prakash, Gyan 42, 99
Pratt, Mary Louise 109, 133
Quayson, Ato 128
Raj an, Balachandra 94, 103
resistance, discourse of 38
revolution 3, 5, 6, 8, 17, 20, 21, 52,
Ripa, Cesare 114
Robbins, Bruce 51
Robertson, William 118
Roy, Arundhati 148-155
Rushdie, Salman 15 1
Russel, Bertrand 162
Said, Edward, 4, and post-colonial
theory 31-56, objections to
theory 35, and 'possessive
insiderism' 38, as 'meta-author'
57, filiation and affiliation 60,
and Williams 61, and Marx 69,
and location of literature 74, and
'isms' 82, 'speak truth to power'
85, importance in contemporary
theory 88, 127, relationship with
mother 167, language and music
171; 'Intellectuals in the Post-
Colonial World' 51; After the
Last Sky 13-14, 19, 95;
Beginnings x; Covering Islam
95, 139; Culture and
Imperialism 2, 15, 18, 35, 37,
38,39,58,64,65,69, 70,86,94,
95, 96, 101, 109; Orienta/ism x,
xiii, 16, 18, 39, 52, 58, 59, 65,
68, 69, 73, 81, 91, 92, 95, 96, 97,
99, 100, 101, 128, response in
Quadrant 129, and 'Africanism'
140, 151, 161; Out of Place xii,
xiv, 159-185; Representations of
the Intellectual 12, 48; The
Politics of Dispossession 95; The
Question of Palestine 19, 62, 94,
95; The World, the Text and the
Critic 59, 67
Said, Hilda 168
Santi, Enrico I 09
secondary memory 92
secular criticism x, 60, 75, 76, 82
secular trinity 76
secular, intellectual ix,
Shariti, Ali 140
Shils, Edward 137
Sklar, Richard 132
Spivak, Gayatri 4, 35, 49, 94, 129
Stoler, Ann Laura 108
structuralism 77
subaltern historians 9
suffragi 170
symbolic power 39
Symons, Arthur 146, 147
196 Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim
Teltscher, Kate 129
testimonial resolution 98
text 76, and writing 77, being in the
world 78,
textuality 76, and the world 79,
Third World 2, 139
Third world intellectual 22
Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista 114-116
transnational capitalism 64
trauma 97, of empire 10 1, 102
travelling theory 60
Trexler, Richard 114
Trinh T. Minh-ha 133
Turner, Brian 69
Twain, Mark 176
uniquely punishing destiny 85
utopianism 18
Victoria College 171
virility 120
Viswanathan, Gauri 62, 63
Weiner, Justus 176-9
West, 'the' 43
Western literature 34
Williams, Patrick xi, 75, 188
Williams, Raymond xi, 16, Culture
and Society 57-58, 63, The Long
Revolution 59, The Politics of
Modernity 59, and 'knowable
community' 60, The Country
and the City 62, 65; Marxism
and Literature 67
witnessing 102
World Bank 13 8
worlding 96
worldliness 60, 74-89, and
orientalism 78, 127, 129
world literature 159
Young, Robert 48, White
Mythologies 65, 91, 94, 108,
110, 130
Zeine Zeine 1 71
Zionism 178
Zizek, Slavoj 174, 184

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