Our philological home is the earth.
What made his success in addressing a global public even more remarkable is that in an age when the public sphere itself has been slowly eroding from its inability to entertain real dialogue across divergent views, an age of well-paid pundits and degraded political language, Said's energies were always directed toward an oppositional stance, and he built a huge following out of it. Nowhere was this more true than in his advocacy for Palestine, today's "touchstone case for human rights." (1) He was a ferocious critic of power, particularly in its imperial cast, and he won a worldwide audience (and a UNESCO prize (2)) for his ideas, which he tirelessly expressed through his principled and animated prose, his moral integrity, and his political and literary imagination.
But he was also more than the most eloquent spokesman for the Palestinian cause. By calling nowhere home and challenging the politics of location and identity, he transformed exile into a condition to which we should all aspire. And while exile undoubtedly exists as a painful political reality, it can also be, as he explains, a "metaphorical condition" where exile means "restlessness, movement, constantly being unsettled and constantly unsettling others." (3) These notions of the inexhaustibility of spirit and of being the confrontational and indefatigable critic of the status quo became the prescriptions Said carried for intellectual life.
Edward Said was also rightly famous for his mastery of literature and classical music, further imbuing him with an air of sophisticated urbanity. But these pursuits were never retreats from the world of politics for Said, just as politics could never substitute for the pleasures and complexities of cultural production. Both culture and politics were unified in the same vision in his thought. In other words, scratch the surface of Said's polished refinement, and you discover a man constantly seeking to understand the "worldliness" of cultural practices, the ways in which cultural products exist in the world and are of the world and should not be separated from all the messiness of the world. Said believed passionately that culture is made richer by reading it in its full human and political context, just as the political drama of our collective life is made fuller by understanding the complex relationship of culture to politics. It was precisely by giving literature and music this "worldly" cast that Said was, more than any other contemporary thinker, our preeminent philosopher of the relationship between culture and politics.
One need only consider the language I have just used in the previous four paragraphs introducing this essay to understand just how transformative Said's ideas have been, and how fully his conceptual interventions have entered our own frames of reference. Intellectual, oppositional, Palestine, imperialism, exile, and worldliness are all words and terms that have been changed and charged through their specific inflections in the Saidian lexicon. All these terms have entered the common parlance of intellectual life in the world today, owing in large part to Said's broad influence. In fact, it is no overstatement to declare that Edward Said not only altered our landscape of thought but also changed our very language of intellectual communication. Prior to the publication of Orientalism, for example, to be called an Orientalist was to be recognized as one who engages in the study of the Orient. After Orientalism, such a designation became impossible. One can simply no longer employ the terms Orientalist or Orientalism innocently, as these words are now understood (or contested at the very least) as shorthand for a "style" of thought that aims at "dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient." (4) Call someone an Orientalist today, and you are begging for a fight.
Said's interventions have succeeded in other ways as well, notably in his determination to place geography into a central role for literary study and historical analysis. "Most cultural historians, and certainly all literary scholars," he explains, "have failed to remark the geographical notation, the theoretical mapping and charting of territory that underlies Western fictions, historical writing, and philosophical discourse of [the age of Empire]." (5) In fact, an expressed aim of Culture and Imperialism is precisely to highlight the connections between geography and the mechanisms of empire. "Imperialism and the culture associated with it," he wrote, "affirm both the primacy of geography and an ideology about control of territory." (6) Few intellectuals of any era have been able to link the depth and breadth of their mind with such historical and geographical acumen.
All this is relatively familiar ground, owing to the influence of Said, the degree to which his ideas have been assimilated into our intellectual milieu, and the sub-industry of books about him and his work. Yet, of all the critical concepts developed over a life's work by Edward Said, the relationship between filiation and affiliation, a concept elaborated mostly in The World, the Text, and the Critic, is the least known. This absence is regrettable, since Said's discussion of filiation and affiliation offers us some of the most stimulating and challenging perspectives on how cultures and systems produce and claim authority. Affiliation, as Said defines it, also confronts the limits of identity politics and accords new opportunities for resistance based on larger definitions not only of community but also of our common human enterprise. To understand what Said means by filiation and affiliation, however, it will be useful for us first to consider how Said defines criticism and to locate more precisely the major emphases of Said's prodigious energies.
THE QUESTION OF AUTHORITY
It is, I think, a generally under-appreciated fact that the bulk of Said's work, whether it be in the realm of politics, literature, culture, or music, is not to have an East speak back to a West, or to seek out bridges of common ground between different areas of the world (as Christopher Hitchens erroneously understands Said). (7) The first would only replace one cultural authority with another, while the second would ignore the realities of cultural and political domination. Rather, the overwhelming majority of Said's oeuvre is fundamentally concerned with challenging authority, all authority, in its various guises and configurations. His extraordinarily influential work Orientalism is precisely an archeology of cultural authority. In that book, Said shows how Western representations of the East were composed out of "a will ... not only to understand what [was] non-European but also to control and manipulate what was manifestly different," (8) and he continues over the span of the book to argue assiduously and encyclopedically how representation is inseparable not only from control and manipulation, but, in sum, from assertions and exertions of authority itself. The consolidation of authority was so successful under Orientalism, he argues, that it authorized itself not only to speak about but also to speak for the Orient, which is to say that as a system and as a guild, Orientalism was interested in "turning the Orient into something overtly meaningful, making the Orient say things, tell things about itself that no region, much less a people of a religion could signify in so schematic and cut-and-dried way." (9)
Thus, we would be remiss to consider Orientalism as a book that is primarily about that most postmodern of concerns, namely representation and its indeterminacy. Orientalism, by contrast, is fundamentally an examination of how representation requires a system of authority to authorize their claim to truth. Similarly, Culture and Imperialism is not only a book seeking to describe "the general relationship of culture to empire," (10) but it also exists to dispute the very authority of the Western canon of literature, where the canon excludes more than it includes. Culture and Imperialism offers to its readers an arrangement of reading, the contrapuntal, which asks that every text be read not only for what is included inside of it but also for what has been left out. In the imperial mode, contrapuntal reading means considering the facts of imperialism in a work with the realities of resistance, which are often elided. Said also means to include inside the contrapuntal the idea that "each cultural work is a vision of a moment, and we must juxtapose that vision with the various revisions it later produced." What this means is that canonical literature must be read critically (for what is says and does not say), and that we should not be satisfied with the canon alone. As Said wrote in "Secular Criticism," "we are now ... in a period of world history when for the first time the compensatory affiliative relationships interpreted during the academic course of study [in short, the canon] actually exclude more than they include." (11) Both Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism have at the heart of their enterprise an excavation of cultural authority and its political consequences.
Said was ultimately interested in laying bare such genealogies of authority, or said another way, in excavating through critical reading the ways in which a culture becomes a complex system of power. As such, his explicitly political work, most commonly on behalf of Palestinians or opposing varying regimes of power, whether they be Israeli, American, Western, Arab, or Palestinian, follows exactly the same temperament and position as his cultural work. To separate the two is to divide Said's work artificially. Both are concerned with what he simply calls "criticism," and both assume a fundamental position of challenging authority as their starting point.
SECULAR AND OPPOSITIONAL CRITICISM
"Were I to use one word consistently along with criticism," Said writes in the essay "Secular Criticism," "it would be oppositional," (12) yet this oppositional criticism should not be understood as an informed negativity or an impulse simply to destroy the master's house. Criticism, by contrast, is an excavation of authority, and "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." (13) This is of course no small task, but its urgency has never waned, and Said was anyway not one to waver from his endeavors.
Oppositional criticism is identical to secular criticism in Said's thought; religious criticism is its antithesis. However, here we must be careful. The religious in religious criticism cannot simply be reduced to any of the major branches of monotheism or to any otherworldly or divine creed. Rather, religious criticism is the blind belief in any orthodoxy or system of thought, thereby keeping Said's anti-authority stance intact. All religious criticisms can be consoling, to be sure, but the aim of the intellectual vocation is neither to validate the status quo nor to retreat from public life into the arcane language of specialists. Thus practitioners of religious criticism are all those who "furnish us with systems of authority and with canons of order whose regular effect is either to compel subservience or to gain adherents." (14) Said, it should be noted, eschewed acolytes and hated any systematic method or school of intellectual thought. (This accounts, in part, for why he himself almost never used the term "postcolonial," a development in literary and cultural criticism that is usually associated with him). Any school of thought, whether it be religious or secular, will by its very institutional nature demand loyalty to itself first over "the common enterprise of promoting human community," (15) which was Edward Said's repeated and preeminent concern.
None of this yet explains the relationship between filiation and affiliation, yet it places the question of authority--how is it made, what allows it to succeed, what enables it to reproduce itself--back into the central position of his thought. What is manifestly clear in Said's oeuvre, however, is that intellectual challenges to authority must not be composed of simple knee-jerk responses or facile polemics, since criticism "is reducible neither to a doctrine nor to 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." (16) Said's criticism is impatient with "guilds, special interests, imperialized fiefdoms, and orthodox habits of mind," (17) but it is constantly active, seeking to uncover the precise cultural logics of domination and oppression, in politics, music, culture, or literature.
CONNECTING FILIATION TO AFFILIATION
Affiliation is the key to unmasking and unlocking these cultural logics. Said explains that his use of the term affiliation "has to do with mappings and drawing connections in the world between practices, individuals, classes, formations... Above all, affiliation is a dynamic concept; it's not meant to circumscribe but rather to make explicit all kinds of connections that we tend to forget and that have to be made explicit and even dramatic in order for political change to take place." (18) Affiliation is, in other words, the manner in which cultural authority is built, and unmasking its connections and networks is the first step toward inaugurating political change. In Orientalism, Said writes that "Western techniques of representation that make the Orient visible [to the West] ... rely upon institutions, traditions, conventions, agreed-upon codes of understanding for their effects, not upon a distant and amorphous Orient," (19) and Said's Orientalism is a practice in criticism to excavate authority precisely by making the affiliations clear, by drawing out the networks and connections between the institutions of validation--travelogues, literature, government reports, scholarship--that made the body of Orientalism what it was (and sadly too often still is). Affiliation, in this regard combines both Michel Foucault's notion of a "discourse," with its idea of how knowledge is constituted through a network of institutional and social practices, with Antonio Gramsci's idea of "hegemony," namely the manner in which authority is consecrated through cultural consent. And it is the affiliative order of Orientalism that allowed it, as a style of thought, to exist and to have authority over the Orient through its representation of that part of the world and all of its peoples.
However, when we consider Said's definition of affiliation, we might be struck by his assertion that we "tend to forget" the affiliative connections between practices, individuals, classes, and formations. What accounts for this tendency towards forgetfulness? Since modernity itself is in part about instituting political transparency in human society (democracy, bureaucracy, and a regular systems of law being three examples of attempts towards the transparent political life), one might be tempted to believe that the affiliations of power in our world ought to be relatively visible and understandable. In our modern world, after all, power rarely lies hidden behind, say, Roman flat or the caprice of royal edict, at least not in the colonizing countries. The answer that Said offers for our losing sight of how power affiliates is that as affiliations take on the orthodoxy of a creed or an approach in our modern world, the affiliative network that built that creed itself fails out of view, only to be replaced by a seemingly filiative relationship, or one that appears entirely natural or self-evident. Modern authority, said another way, often rationalizes and naturalizes its own affiliations away (thereby giving the stereotype, for example, its quality of an already received wisdom that we always knew to be true). Both the Orient and the Orientalist, are naturalized in this scheme, the former in terms of instinct and racial typology, the latter by his or her cultural background, training, and race to speak for the Orient. When one hears from inside the traditions of Orientalism about Arab savagery or Muslim debauchery, or of the need to be ruled by Europeans or occupied by Americans, for example, Orientalist ideas are domesticating their own traditions of representation in order to continue to prove the very authenticity of their claims. The logic is flawed but the system remains internally consistent, since it is built precisely out of these affiliative bonds that have held it together in the first place. Affiliative networks are often traditions that have largely disappeared (or seek to disappear) from view and to be replaced instead by some vague notion of cultural "authority" which stymies intellectual investigation. If the history of anthropology has been concerned with illustrating the shift from nature to culture in human society, then Said's political analysis of affiliations (which operates as a kind of anti-anthropology) shows how culture is often turned into something that appears natural and self-evident, and that very self-evidentiary quality leads to the advance of power and conquest and to the consolidation of authority. "The affiliative order so presented," explains Said in another context but one which fits with this description of Orientalism, "surreptitiously duplicates the closed and tightly knit family structure that secures generational hierarchical relationships to one another." (20) The family structure here is best understood as the guild of Orientalism.
All cultural authority and cultural systems have historically been based on some combination of filiative and affiliative orders, and while what I have been describing up until now concerns orders of affiliation, it is worth considering filial relations briefly in order to apprehend the full range and implication of Said's theoretical contribution.
Filial relationships are of course everywhere. We are all born in this world and of this world (enter Said's notion of worldliness) and yet at the same time we all exist in social relationships and with cultural bonds that exceed our natal belonging. Filiative belonging, which may as an idea bear a resemblance to Hannah Arendt's idea of natality, (21) includes not just our blood ties, however, but also succumbing to the traditional authority of family bonds and genealogical structures. Orphans and refugees complicate filiation, since the former are reared without a natural family and the latter are reared outside of their natural home. This will become significant, as we shall see, in a moment.
In his major statement on filiation and affiliation (in The World, the Text, and the Critic), Said discusses the relationship between the filiation and affiliation in order to understand European high modernism. The literature of this period, he argues, is replete with "childless couples, orphaned children, aborted childbirths, and unregenerately celibate men and women," (22) representing to him a crisis in the natural order of authority of that era. "If biological reproduction is either too difficult or too unpleasant, is there some other way by which men and women can create social bonds between each other that would substitute for those ties that connect members of the same family across generations?" (23) he asks. In other words, Said is conceptualizing the relationship between filiation and affiliation to examine how European high modernism, in its turn from filiation to affiliation, developed new systems of authority and new structures of social meaning. Whether this crisis affected writers on the Left (the Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs is Said's example) or on the Right (Said mentions the Anglo-American poet T.S. Eliot as his example), Said argues that looking at European high modern culture this way allows us to see how a new order "reinstate[s] vestiges of the kind of authority associated in the past with filiative order." (24) The point I wish to draw attention to here is not merely that Said offers another theory about Europe and its culture but to mention the manner in which Said illustrates and demonstrates how the filial order and cultural affiliations are consolidated (and can be examined) at any time in any system to reveal specific cultural logics at discrete moments. Authority, in fact, depends on this consolidation.
On the flip side, modern refugees, exiled from their land, have a different relationship to the modern forms of authority (such as nationalism), which indicates an unsettled relationship between filiation and affiliation. Exiles and refugees must work primarily at reestablishing those forms of filial belonging that have been destroyed by tragic political circumstance and, all too commonly, deliberately out of war. If affiliation can be a way to consecrate cultural authority in order to dominate, suppress, or exclude others (as in the case of Orientalism, racism, or the like), then it also can be manipulated positively to be a concept of inclusion, humanity, and emancipation. Filiative bonds must also be read through the same kind of contextual lens as affiliations to understand in depth their political and cultural weight.
Thus, filiation and affiliation produce authority in a variety of different ways, some enhancing life, others limiting it. A pressing task of criticism, in all of Said's oeuvre, has long been to illustrate precisely how an affiliative network is formed, "to make visible, to give materiality back to, the strands holding the text [or idea] to society, author, and culture." (25) Political urgency demands, however, that none of this authority, whether it be filial or affiliative, stand unquestioned. The history of Edward Said's work is the desire to show precisely the manner in which belonging is produced and to calculate the costs of that production. And this too has been as true for Said's literary work as it has been for his political engagements. Palestinians, for example, have a clear filial relationship to each other, to their own natal culture, and to the land or Palestine. Part of the struggle of keeping Palestine alive is to keep those bonds alive. But to succeed the tragedy of their catastrophe, it is not enough (as Said has long argued), for Palestinians to rely on their filial attachments alone. Other affiliations must be consciously sought, affiliations that allow one to connect to other struggles and to other histories and other peoples. Such affiliations enable one to discover the strategies and sympathies of other oppressed peoples around the world, to uncover strategies of resistance, and to posit or work toward a new human community that opposes all forms of domination. In short, one must be able to elect one's own affinities in the interest of human justice, not because one wants to exclude a new set of people but because one wants to include the whole human family in a shared and equitable vision (a move, really from affiliation back to the most expansive and progressive filial vision of family). This is surely where the bulk of Said's energies were spent. One need only consider Said's interest in the situations of Ireland and South Africa in this regard, or his solution to the Palestinian question. For at least the last five years of his life, Said worked toward envisioning a single binational entity in Israel/Palestine, where the state would be built on true democratic principles and would protect the human rights of every one involved, as a decisive way of affiliating progressively, in the life-enhancing mode, into a new order. Such a vision, seemingly liberal on the face of it (but in fact not liberal at all but critically humanist), requires not just sympathy and empathy towards others, but also organized resistance to power and authority.
"The most interesting work that one does on the problem of affiliation," says Said, "is in locating the energy of resistance, which is always breaking out--one finds it everywhere. I've always said that the role of the intellectual is to be oppositional, which [means] that you're involved in the study (and to some degree the enhancement) of resistance to all of these totalizing political movements and institutions and systems of thought." (26) The point must be to discover the swings and arcs between filiations and affiliations and the differences within each category. Filiation and affiliation are not only about ways of consolidating authority, an authority that allows one to trample rough shod over the rights of another; rather, both filiation and affiliation can also be understood as ways of developing a critical consciousness, of being both an insider and outsider in one's own political and cultural milieu, of living in one's own world and the world of others critically.
A literary example of the cultural uses of and critical sensibilities awakened through filiation and affiliation may make the politics of filiation and affiliation clearer. Readers of Graham Greene's 1955 novel The Quiet American will recall the manner in which Greene's elegantly constructed and prescient plot revolves around the competition of two Western men for one Asian woman. The aging and exhausted British journalist Thomas Fowler fears losing Phuong, an eighteen-year-old Vietnamese woman, to the earnest, crew-cutted Alden Pyle. Against the backdrop of the French-Indochina war, this private battle takes place. One will remember that Pyle, bookish with Orientalist knowledge and seemingly innocent of colonial experience, intervenes in the politics of the war by throwing covert American support behind the former Caodaist General The (Pyle's "Third Force" in the battle between colonialism and Communism) before being killed. Since the narrative shifts in time, we learn of Pyle's murder first and discover over the course of the novel that Fowler, through the direction of his assistant, the Indian Domingues, has uncovered Pyle's political machinations and has in effect participated in his murder. Fowler, meanwhile, is stuck in a loveless marriage back home, and is being refused a divorce from his wife, while the young and overly sincere Pyle has taken Phuong from him. After a terrorist bombing organized by General The blasts the landscape of Saigon, Fowler sets the wheels in motion to have Pyle killed, though it remains unclear how to balance Fowler's motivations. Is he principally led to his actions out of a sense of political responsibility or does he have Pyle killed because he cannot live without Phuong, cannot countenance losing her to the quiet American?
The first thing we realize when reading The Quiet American after having been educated in the work of Edward Said is how impossible it now is to read a text like Greene's naively in the wake of Said's contributions to cultural criticism. Despite its own protestations to colonial ideology, The Quiet American relies heavily on imperial stereotypes to make sense. The book in effect affiliates itself with the long tradition of Orientalist representation since its readers will immediately recognize this "structure of attitude and reference" (27) when it comes to the Orient. The representations in the work seem more real to Western readers this way, regardless of how far off they may be from any lived experience of the people of Vietnam during the period. Asia is cast in the form of a young woman who "twitters" (28) whenever she speaks, which is rare indeed. The East is largely described as feminine, passive, and wily (particularly in the character of Hei, Phuong's sister, who is constantly seeking the best financial marriage for her). The West, whether it be in the figure of Pyle or Fowler, is constructed as male, active, and rational. Because Greene, like Joseph Conrad, seems to hold a jaundiced view of the human costs of colonialism, the affiliations themselves are present but are at the same time critiqued internally, expanding our interest in the text and its own complexity. None of this, however, provides more opportunity for the Vietnamese to represent their own lives and reality in the novel.
Yet The Quiet American is more than a plot of colonial representations or imperial criticism. It is also a story full of filial relationships, many of them failed, representing the degree to which traditional authority structures have broken down in the work. Even the relationship between Fowler, who is from England, and Pyle, hailing from New England, ought to be seen as in some sense a filial one (from England to New England). We also have Fowler's doomed marriage back home, his desire to stay in an unauthorized relationship with Phuong (he refuses a promotion if it would mean leaving Phuong), and several scenes of prostitution (what Fowler calls "dollar love" (29)) representing further the modern anxiety of how war and colonialism mix to destroy the possibility of true human contact. Taken all together, it represents the degree to which filial authority--or even the affiliated filial authority, that is colonial authority or the authority of master to subject--has broken down in this work, like a wheel that will not turn. To understand how far we have traveled in the history of colonial representations, we need only consider how different The Quiet American is from the colonial certainty of filial authority found in a work like Jules Verne's Around the World In Eighty Days, where Phileas Fogg, the protagonist, rescues Aouda the Indian woman from the barbarism of sati, brings her back to England, and marries her. In The Quiet American, the emphasis is not on love, rescue, or heroism of any sort but on the failures of filiation.
And yet, there is one character in Greene's novel who seems to have overcome his own failures of filiation and who also successfully affiliates with others in an effort that undermines not only Pyle's nefarious work but in fact the logic of being imprisoned by identity. In the novel, it is Domingues the Indian assistant who sets the wheels of the plot in motion. Domingues enables Fowler to meet Monsieur Heng, a Vietnamese Communist who ultimately asks Fowler to take a stand ("Sooner or later," Heng says to Fowler, "One has to take sides. If one is to remain human." (30)) and to help him in ridding his country of Pyle. But Heng is not a fully formed character, merely a cipher for a nationalist, and Domingues is even less well formed, existing as a kind of postcolonial mishmash of confused affiliations in the text. Domingues is overly gentle and peaceable, perhaps Roman Catholic and perhaps a man with Portuguese blood. He is mysterious and hybrid. Coming from Goa by way of Bombay, he seems to represent in some archetypical fashion a kind of fluidity of identity in the colonial era with a strong ethics of behavior that is simply beyond Fowler's (and Greene's) comprehension, yet he has, as Fowler says, "an absolute love of the truth." (31) Thus, it seems paradoxical that this man, who could not harm a fly, is the one who allows Pyle to be murdered by knowingly leading Fowler to Heng. The marginal and barely visible Domingues is the only character in the novel to hold the vision to see all the human relationships in their rawest and clearest form.
The Quiet American is thus a confusing text, since it could not exist without Domingues (Fowler even depends on the man to write his own journalism while he is away), and yet the friendly Goan barely exists in Greene's representational universe. It is as if Greene is unable or unwilling to imagine the narrative from Domingues' point of view, even though the future clearly belongs to people like Domingues. He is both an insider and outsider, in filial and affiliated bonds with his home and his present, and he is connected to the various sectors of Vietnamese society and to the Westerners through a principled ethics. Examining the absence of any real Domingues in the text illustrates how this novel, for all of its attempts to transform colonial affiliations into postcolonial filiations through love or marriage, continually describes an atmosphere of failure. (How different The Quiet American is in this way from, say, Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, a beautiful book about the possibilities of turning postcolonial affiliations into filial love and affiliated bonds, as expressed through the affair of Hannah and Kip.) Greene, it seems, cannot imagine a way of representing postcolonial demands fully (not just in half sketches of quarter characters) nor can he provide a way of living both inside and outside of one's home successfully and ethically, even though it is present, albeit buried, in his text. He gestures towards this life, and stops.
But The Quiet American is a fascinating novel precisely for these reasons. It is a book that posits different futures for the colonial world (an American future? British? French? Independent?), but each of these seems doomed by the very cultural system it describes and represents. In another representational scheme, Domingues would be an intellectual, challenging the claims and authority of every side he comes up against, measuring the use of force with the ethics of action (as Fowler does), and progressively utilizing his own Indian colonial knowledge in the struggle for Vietnam. In Greene's text, however, he is reduced almost to nothing.
Such possibilities for the progressive uses of the tension between filiation and affiliation occupy a central role in Said's oeuvre and his call for the intellectual vocation. Said is no Domingues, however, because Said fought at every turn to represent himself, not to be represented in someone else's (imperial) schema. He lived publicly and openly as an engaged Palestinian and as a secular humanist, remaining true to his filial self and affiliating with others to challenge systems of authority and domination. Such an understanding of progressive filations and affiliations can lead one to live both inside and outside of one's self and one's location, which is precisely the call Said makes for living not just the intellectual but indeed the ethical life. A progressive affiliation lays bare one's connection to other people and to other histories and political formations. A bond to one's own filial past allows one to retain a sense of one's own particularity, one's own history, culture, language, and situation. And yet to realize the tension between filiation and affiliation, as Edward Said has described it, is also to discover a challenging universalism, born of the particular (filial), yet connected to others through lived experience and ideas of justice and true human equality. Oppositional affiliation, in other words, is oppositional to authority that limits human possibility but open to imagining the ways in which affiliations can lead us into understanding our common plight in realizing justice in this world. "Survival," Said writes, "is about the connections between things." (32)
It is precisely this insider/outsider sensibility that Said, drawing from Gramsci, labels as critical consciousness, and for Said it is best exemplified in the figure of the philologist Erich Auerbach. As a German Jew living in exile during World War Two in Istanbul, Auerbach is one who, in Said's version, lived both inside and outside of this culture and sought through intellectual labor to recover what had been lost to him through war and catastrophe. "We have in Auerbach," writes Said, "an instance both of filiation with his natal culture and, because of exile, affiliation with it through critical consciousness and scholarly work." (33) Such a critical consciousness leads one to perform what Said labels "humanistic work," where the enterprise of humanism is to demystify and question authority in order to work toward living justly in the shared project of humanity. "The task of the humanist," Said writes, "is not just to occupy a position or place, nor simply to belong somewhere, but rather to be both insider and outsider to the circulating ideas and values that are at issue in our society or someone else's society or the society of the other." (34)
Languages and literature are the self-consciously privileged places of humanistic analysis for Said, and so it is worth recalling a line from Erich Auerbach's salient essay "Philology and Weltliteratur," (translated by Maire and Edward Said) to understand the responsibility that Said believed we carry to keep language study (philology) central to our concerns. In this essay, Auerbach decries the standardization of languages and cultures that he is witnessing in 1952, as both the Soviet Union and global capitalism were engaged during the Cold War in a dulling homogenization of everything that came under their purviews. Auerbach laments this state of affairs. Languages are particular manifestations (filiations) of the global human drama we call life, and the decline of language study means, for Auerbach, drawing the curtain on a kind of consciousness. "To make men conscious of themselves in their own history is a great task," he explains, "yet the task is small--more like a renunciation--when one considers that man not only lives on earth but that he is in the world and in the universe." (35) Throughout his own forty years of scholarly production, Said took this lesson of Auerbach's to heart. The particular and the general, filiation and affiliation, the concrete and the universal, must always go hand in hand, and must always work together to question authority, for the good of everyone. Democracy cannot be the exclusive property of some and off limits to others, just as human rights must be maintained for everyone for them to have any currency in the world. After all, as Auerbach goes on to say, "our philological home is the earth."
This is what Edward Said offers us: a belief that the fight for universal values based on particular histories and global social justice is worth it, despite the difficulties we do and will encounter on that road. This conviction never allowed him to waver on the cause of Palestinian human rights nor to surrender the belief that our future lay with humanistic practices that elaborate our shared responsibility for each other. We certainly have yet to realize either of these goals, but how much more lost would we be without the wisdom of Edward Said helping us map the way.
(1.) Edward W. Said, "Nationalism, Human Rights, and Interpretation," in Reflections on Exile and other essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press: 2002), p. 435. Although the "today" in this quote is from 1992, the situation has sadly only intensified since then.
(2.) In 1994, Said was awarded a UNESCO Picasso Medal.
(3.) Edward W. Said, Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Pantheon, 1994), pp. 52-53.
(4.) Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1978), p. 3.
(5.) Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism. (New York: Knopf, 1993), p. 58.
(6.) Culture and Imperialism, p. 78.
(7.) Christopher Hitchens, "Where the Twain Should Have Met," The Atlantic Monthly (September 2003), pp. 153-59.
(8.) Orientalism, p. 12.
(9.) Edward W. Said, Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said. Gauri Viswanathan (Ed.), (New York: Vintage, 2001). p. 32.
(10.) Culture and Imperialism, p. xi.
(11.) Edward W. Said "Secular Criticism," in The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 21.
(12.) "Secular Criticism," p. 29.
(13.) "Secular Criticism," p. 29.
(14.) Edward W. Said "Religious Criticism," in The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), p 290. Said gains part of this vocabulary, I believe, from Julien Benda's La Trahison des Clercs (In English, The Treason of the Intellectuals. Trans. R. Aldington. New York: W.W. Norton, 1969).
(15.) Orientalism, p. 328.
(16.) "Secular Criticism," p. 29.
(17.) "Secular Criticism," p. 29.
(18.) Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said, p. 336. Emphasis added.
(19.) Orientalism, p. 22.
(20.) "Secular Criticism," p. 21.
(21.) Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
(22.) "Secular Criticism," p. 17.
(23.) "Secular Criticism," p. 17.
(24.) "Secular Criticism," p. 19.
(25.) Edward W. Said, "American 'Left' Literary Criticism," in The World, the Text, and the Critic. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 175.
(26.) Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said, p. 65.
(27.) Said uses this phrase throughout Culture and Imperialism. It is a phrase that self-consciously references Raymond Williams's key concept of "structures of feeling."
(28.) Graham Greene, The Quiet American (New York: Penguin, 1996), p. 11.
(29.) The Quiet American, p. 63.
(30.) The Quiet American, p. 174.
(31.) The Quiet American, p. 122.
(32.) Culture and Imperialism, p. 336.
(33.) "Secular Criticism," p. 16.
(34.) Edward W. Said. Humanism and Democratic Criticism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 76
(35.) Erich Auerbach, "Philology and Weltliteratur." Trans. Edward Said and Maire Said, Centennial Review 13 (1969), pp. 16-17.
Moustafa Bayoumi is Associate Professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.
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|Title Annotation:||Edward Said|
|Publication:||Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2004|
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