Edward Wadie Said – USA and former British Palestinia (1935-2003)

Edward Wadie Saïd, MRSL (1 November 1935 – 25 September 2003) was a Palestinian American literary theorist, a cultural critic, a political activist, and an outspoken advocate of Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and is a founding figure in postcolonial theory … Saïd was born in Jerusalem (then in the British Mandate of Palestine). His father was a wealthy Protestant Palestinian businessman and an American citizen who had served under General Pershing in World War I, while his mother was born in Nazareth, also of Christian Palestinian descent. His sister was the historian and writer Rosemarie Said Zahlan. Said referred to himself as a “Christian wrapped in a Muslim culture” … (full very long text).

He said: “With an unexceptionally Arab family name like Said connected to an improbably British first name (my mother much admired the Prince of Wales in 1935, the year of my birth), I was an uncomfortably anomalous student all through my early years: a Palestinian going to school in Egypt, with an English first name, an American passport and no certain identity at all” … (on wikipedia/Life).

Notre collaborateur et ami Edward W. Said est mort le 24 septembre 2003, de la leucémie qu’il combattait avec un remarquable courage depuis plus de dix ans … (le Monde Diplo).


Edward Wadie Said – USA and former British Mandate of Palestinia (1935-2003)

Listen this audio: Humanism, Freedom, and the Critic: Edward W. Said and After: Andrew Rubin, 22.46 min, during the “The Legacy of Edward Said” panel at the 30th Aniversary Symposium: Arab Studies, A Critical Review, March 31, 2005.

In 1991, Said was diagnosed with leukaemia and afterwards he stopped giving interviews. In September 2003, nonetheless, he made a final exception and for more than three days spoke about his life and work. The Last Interview begins with a Roland Barthes quote: “The only sort of interview that one could, if forced to, defend would be where the author is asked to articulate what he cannot write.” Said’s topics and arguments in the documentary obviously much overlap with his writings in Reflections on Exile, yet they gain force by his passionate and eloquent speech (even in response to a seemingly pre-arranged set of questions) … (full text).

He said: “Sleeplessness for me is a cherished state to be desired at almost any cost; there is nothing for me as invigorating as immediately shedding the shadowy half-consciousness of a night’s loss, than the early morning, reacquainting myself with or resuming what I might have lost completely a few hours earlier. I occasionally experience myself as a cluster of flowing currents. I prefer this to the idea of a solid self, the identity to which so many attach so much significance. These currents, like the themes of one’s life, flow along during the waking hours, and at their best, they require no reconciling, no harmonizing. They are “off” and may be out of place, but at least they are always in motion, in time, in place, in the form of all kinds of strange combinations moving about, not necessarily forward, sometimes against each other, contrapuntally yet without one central theme”. (Out of Place: A Memoir, 1999).

Selected articles about, and tributes to, Edward Said published since his death (scroll down), September 25, 2004.

Postcolonialism is not strictly speaking a theory, it is a galaxy of critical thinking, all the more difficult to delineate and define as it is prone to collective self-criticism and constantly evolving. Its founding text is Edward Said’s celebrated Orientalism (1978), which broke new ground compared with the old critical tradition of anticolonialism by forcefully highlighting (and not without a few simplistic assertions which the author qualified in his later works) that the violence of colonialism was not just the stark brutality of conquest and plundering, of material human exploitation, of the peremptory universalism of the ‘civilizing mission’, and of racial oppression, but also a form of epistemic violence, a sort of vice of the mind, which essentialized the modern West’s ‘Others’ and classified them hierarchically while pretending to describe and understand them scientifically … (full text).

Islam Through Western Eyes, January 01, 1998.

Edward Said combined politics with scholarship, and showed how the two are intertwined. Deeply affected by the Arab-Israeli war, he became an inspiring guide to both history and culture, and his prose remains a joy to read. On the anniversary of his death, Tom Paulin celebrates a brilliant mind … (full text).

Edward Said, Dead at 67: A Mighty and Passionate Heart, September 25, 2003.

… This same deeply felt humanistic impulse put Said at odds with another occasional tic of engaged intellectuals, the enthusiastic endorsement of violence–usually at a safe distance and always at someone else’s expense. The “Professor of Terror,” as his enemies were wont to characterize Said, was in fact a consistent critic of political violence in all its forms. Unlike Jean-Paul Sartre, a comparably influential intellectual for the previous generation, Said had some firsthand experience of physical force–his university office was vandalized and sacked, and both he and his family received death threats … (full long text).

He wrote: Political Islam has generally been a failure wherever it has tried to take state power. Iran is a possible exception, but neither Sudan, already an Islamic state, nor Algeria, riven by the contest between Islamic groups and a brutal soldiery, has done anything but make itself poorer and more marginal on the world stage. Lurking beneath the discourse of Islamic peril in the West is, however, some measure of truth, which is that appeals to Islam among Muslims have fueled resistance (in the style of what Eric Hobsbawm has called primitive, pre-industrial rebellion) to the Pax Americana-Israelica throughout the Middle East. Yet neither Hezbollah nor Hamas has presented a serious obstacle to the ongoing steamroller of the anything-but-peace process. Most Arab Muslims today are too discouraged and humiliated, and also too anesthetized by uncertainty and their incompetent and crude dictatorships, to support anything like a vast Islamic campaign against the West. Besides, the elites are for the most part in cahoots with the regimes, supporting martial law and other extralegal measures against “extremists.” So why, then, the accents of alarm and fear in most discussions of Islam? Of course there have been suicide bombings and outrageous acts of terrorism, but have they accomplished anything except to strengthen the hand of Israel and the United States and their client regimes in the Muslim world? … (full text).

… When Edward Said’s ground-breaking Orientalism appeared in 1978, it articulated and theorised a disquiet that already existed – albeit in fragmented and anecdotal forms – in Arabic critical discourse. Orientalism does not discuss painting, but its critique provided a framework to understand one’s own feelings of unease when faced with images of “odalisques” and slave markets and drug-dealers – the same unease evoked by skewed media representations of Arabs (and Muslims) today. Jean-Léon Gérôme, for example, may or may not have believed in France’s mission civilisatrice; perhaps he only ever wanted to sell paintings. But in supplying images of indolence and cruelty he helped to nourish perceptions that eased the path of that mission. Many of the US soldiers who are now refusing to fight in Iraq cite the discrepancy between what the media told them about Iraqis and what they saw for themselves as the reason. As Jean Genet remarked in Un captif amoureux, the mask of the image can be used to manipulate reality to sinister ends … (full text, July 05, 2008).

“Edward Said was a man of enormous intellectual distinction. He was devoted to, and intimately engaged with, works of art, especially the novel and the poem. He was a humanist who believed that such study is essential to a good and meaningful life. And through his writings and teaching he transformed our sense of ourselves by forcing us in the Western world to confront the implicit assumptions we have about other peoples around the globe. His death is an irreplaceable loss to the realm of ideas and for those who believe in the redemptive power of the life of the mind. (in the Columbia Community Mourning).

Google download-book: Interviews with Edward W. Said, by Edward W. Said, Amritjit Singh, Bruce G. Johnson, 253 pages, 2004.

Born in Jerusalem, Said grew up there and in Cairo as a member of an elitist Palestinian Protestant family and was educated in Egypt and the United States. Later, he saw himself as a New Yorker “in exile” and in this context, in Reflections on Exile, he cites a twelfth century monk from Saxony, Hugo of St. Victor:
It is, therefore, a source of great virtue for the practised mind to learn, bit by bit, first to change about invisible and transitory things, so that afterwards it may be able to leave them behind altogether. 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 (p. 185).
Generally, Said was pre-occupied with the public role of the “un-accommodated” intellectual as “an opponent of consensus and orthodoxy,” speaking “the truth to power” (p. 502) … (full text).

Find him and his publications on the Edward Said Archive; on le Monde Diplo (scroll down); on amazon; on wikipedia: his publications, and his notes; on the Edward Said Index; on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music: on its official website, and on wikipedia.



Is bloom in step with reality of today’s oppressors? Iqbal Jassat writes: In his fascination with neocons, Bloom shamelessly applauds their failed policies. Yet in contrast he attacks persons of integrity such as Noam Chomsky and Edward Said”… ( full text, July 13, 2008);

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