Printer Friendly

Reading Edward Said.

Bayoumi, Moustafa and Andrew Rubin. The Edward Said Reader. New York: Vintage Books, 2000. XXXIV & 472 pages. Paper $15.00.

Molestation and authority, the pleasures of exile, extreme performances, and brutal actualities. These are all tantalizing subjects that Edward Said does a command performance on.

One could begin reading Edward Said by first looking at what he says about "molestation and authority." However, this directive should not be confined to narrative fiction since any interpretation of reality or the imagination should be subject to the proper deconstructions that Said provides for us in this and several other pieces that are appropriately provided in this Reader.

Bayoumi and Rubin have done a wonderful job in presenting a preeminent thinker of the latter half of the 20th century in a thoughtful and sympathetic light. Their "Introduction" to Said's works does justice to this elegant and gallant scholar whom I also hold in high esteem. I can imagine a lot of thought and consideration went into the judicious selection of sixteen of Said's vast repertoire of writings. There is also an interview from 1999 at the back of the book and notes for each of the sixteen selections, all compactly presented in a 472-page book.

Bayoumi and Rubin provide insight into Said's work by prefacing each selection with introductory remarks. These prefaces provide historical markers, synopses, context, background and interesting information on Said's books and how they were received by the world. They also provide us with a window to view this remarkable man and his equally remarkable work as a critically conscious, engaged intellectual.

The writings appear chronologically. However, they are grouped into three parts that speak to Said's genealogical foundations, as well as his social, philosophical and political development. Part I: "Beginnings" includes three of his earlier works: "The Claims of Individuality" from Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966); "The Palestinian Experience" (1968-1969); and Molestation and Authority in Narrative Fiction (1971). In these three works we can already see the methodological underpinnings, sensitivity and sentiment that provide the foundation of Said's works. We also see the emergence of three important themes that color his work and that are subsequently revisited and further developed from this point forward. They are: (1) the notion of "beginnings" which he attributes to the work of Giambatista Vice; (2) the concept of "identity," the historical process and the phenomenology of time and space, power (Foucault) and hegemony (Gramsci) in the construction of this notion; and (3) "exile" and the unique viewpoint this position allows one as an observer on the margins of society.

In 1978, Said's work Orientalism, catapulted his stature as a critical interventionist in the world of political and literary theory. The selections in Part II: "Orientalism and After" illustrate Said's impressive scope of knowledge in the field of literature, his keen insight into the politics of representation and his creative use of political theory and literary interpretation. Part II includes the "Introduction to Orientalism" and "The Scope of Orientalism"(1978), "Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims" (1979), "Islam as News" (1980), "Traveling Theory" (1982), "Secular Criticism" (1983), "Permission to Narrate" (1984), "Interiors" (1986), and "Yeats and Decolonization" (1988).

Part III: "Late Styles", are a further development and articulation of the historical traces that etched out an identity on Said's life. In this we see Said as only he can interpret with his unique insight and experiences and his fascinating and sometimes humorous observations. Part HI shares with us, "Performance as an Extreme Occasion" (1989), "Jane Austen and Empire" (1990), "Intellectual Exile: Expatriates and Marginals" (1993), "The Middle East 'Peace Process': Misleading Images and Brutal Actualities" (1995), and "On Writing a Memoir" (1999).

Part IV: "Spoken Words" (1999) is an interview with Edward Said conducted by the editors of the Reader, Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin. It is a poignant account of the trials and tribulations, as well as the signifiers and historical markers that constitute Said as a significant and Palestinian intellectual. In this interview Said speaks about his criticism of Arafat (pp.438-440), resistance by recollection and the importance of memory to this resistance (pp.441-443), the need to develop a "cosmopolitan awareness" (p.443), and the job of the intellectual (p.444).

Perhaps we should start here with the exhortation by Joseph Conrad, "I am living a nightmare" and transpose it for interpretive purposes to "I AM a living nightmare." In that way we can get a lot more mileage out of Edward Said's first piece in the Reader, "The Claims of Individuality" (Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, 1966). Here, Said deconstructs Conrad's conception of his identity out of eight colossal volumes of his voluminous letters. It is rescue work par excellence, "action in its essence" (p.10) since he is not only taking Conrad out of himsalf, "Take me out of myself!"--Conrad relays to James in his essay (Ibid.). What we are looking at in this chapter is a "game of mirrors" (Albiac, 1998). Said's own creative art as a writer is a reconstruction of Conrad and perhaps, I should say, a discovery of Edward in Joseph. Said points out that the "real adventure of Conrad's life is the effort to rescue significance and value in their ['struggling forms'] from within his own existence" (Ibid.). It is within these "significant dynamic structures" (Goldmann) that character is shaped and formed (p.12). It is here, in his early writings that one may recognize a displacement and transference in the subject, "a man of action urgently in need of a role to play so that he could locate himself solidly in existence" (Ibid.). This is where Said values the "character" of his character and where character would figure largely in the role of the intellectual. No wonder why Said loves Conrad. I would love them both. It is a good thing they found each other at this very early stage of the game. Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography was a revision of Edward Said's dissertation and his first book. The dislocation, instability and strangeness of both of their "afflicted" (p.4) existences gave Said the opportunity and medium to see and speak through the fiction of autobiography.

It is very interesting to see how Said uses Marx's Capital and Marx and Engel's German Ideology to discuss requisite conditions for fiction. It is also interesting to see how he uses Freud, of all people, to discuss the "economy" of reconstructive techniques. In "Molestation and Authority in Narrative Fiction" (1971) we get a taste of Said's vast knowledge in the literary field with his glib usage of literature from Dickens, Flaubert, Proust, Balzac, Goethe, Laclos, Twain, Eliot, James, Conrad and others to illustrate his points. In this piece Said discusses the strategy and tactics of an author and the authoritative molesting that goes on when an author is given liberties with their defenseless subjects. This, of course should be of huge concern to the reading public since the practice is not only a violation of the interpretation of reality using "assumed" voices that "intentionally" determine its own way using acceptable and sometimes "dramatic" (p.46) means to validate their pronouncements. Do not be surprised if these deceptive ironic voices seduce and usurp totality as well. These fabulist authors have gone even further by establishing themselves as an "institution" that is juxtaposing its narrative form in contradistinction to the common banal discourse of society. These activities of brazen and covert novelists are dutifully and forthrightly exposed by Said. He bashes solipsistic phenomenologists and criticizes structuralists for domesticating human subjects to the tyranny of a system (p.39). I would help him in this job in any way I could, but I think he handles this quite well. I just hope that Said does not include Foucault and Althusser in this category (like some people do). Foucault has already told everyone that he never used concepts that could be considered "characteristic of structuralism" (Foucault, 1989, p.80). His main preoccupation is talking about knowledge and power and splitting and decentering subjects (Foucault, 1989). I also hope Althusser is not in this category since in my mind he has vindicated himself with overdeterminism (Althusser, 1993).

In this piece Said grapples with "mediated" truth and summons "primal elements" (identity, history and language) as elaborated by Giambatista Vico (p.50). He also references Kierkegaard's "divine governance" (pp.44-45), or the generative authority (imagination) of authorship and their dialectical reduplications of truth that should be read while practicing teleological suspensions. This is done so that the truth "may become truer" (p.45), that is, before you may discover that the truth is really a "mobile army of metaphors" (Nietzsche). Also, some people think that truth really is not available to language (probably Nietzsche's friends)--the esoteric semiotics and post structuralists whom Said criticizes as distending the literary critical universe "almost beyond recognition" (p.198). But then, you can rescue this concern with Adorno, whom Said really likes; I like Adorno too, by saying that "as the [reflection] of truth, [appearances] are dialectical" and "to reject all appearances is to fall completely under its sway, since truth is abandoned with the rubble without which it cannot appear" (Adorno in Jay, 1973, pp.181-182). This could be looked at as the moment of "crisis" (limitation) since as Said points out "a character's (or a thing's?) real beginnings takes place in the avoidance of the anonymity of pure negation" (p.54). I think Hegel would know more about this than Giambatista Vico. However both of them would probably not be able to describe it as "beautifully" as Said says Proust does in the first and last volumes of his novel where secondariness and borrowed authority are symbolized so eloquently in a "language of temporal duration" (Ibid.). This is a material translation of Marx's emphatic point, that "[t]he resolution of theoretical contradictions is possible only through practical means" (Fromm 1966, p.135). Horkheimer echoes this extension/expression of labor when he states that, "[T]ruth is a moment in correct praxis" (Horkheimer in Jay, 1973, p.83). And that is why we see Said looking at the private authority of a novelist (invention and imagination) as part of an integral truth that it "cannot fully imitate" (p.60), or a "molestation" or restraint (pp.41-42). Nevertheless, the novel is "an institutionalization of the intention to begin" (p.60) and although the novel excludes a larger truth than it contains, the novelists' work is to reveal these "active relationships" in the various orders of truth/reality inside and outside of texts (Ibid.).

Said revisits these sorts of concerns in his "Traveling Theory" (1982) where he discusses Lukacs and reification and how time becomes space, "time sheds its qualitative, variable, flowing nature" and freezes into "exactly delimited" and quantifiable 'things' separated from the human being (p.199). Here, Said also points out how experience represents the "essence of reification" and how it receives its articulation in capitalism as "use-values" (p.200). Said references Lukacs's History and Class Consciousness (1923) in this discussion of alienation, objectification and use-values. Personally, I think Said would have also gotten a lot from the "Third Manuscript" in Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripta (Fromm 1966, pp.175-196) and his discussion of commodities and money in Capital (Marx 1967, pp.35-83) when discussing mediation, objectification and the alienation of labor (externality or reification). Nevertheless, this is also the place where Said values the theoretical enterprise and the work of the intellectual through Lukacs's work when he points out that "(T)heory for him was what consciousness produced, not as an avoidance of reality but as a revolutionary will completely committed to worldliness end change" (p.202).

When one looks at Said's work and the role he committed to as a "conscious" intellectual these references are important markers in his work. In The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983), Said criticizes Paul Ricoeur's demarcation between text end reality where texts exist in a "state of suspension" (outside of circumstantial reality) until "actualized" (made present by a reading). Said counters this notion of "musical chairs" that takes place as a "deferred reference" process within a head, with an understanding of texts which he calls "worldliness" (Said 1983, pp.34-35). These criticisms of Ricoeur remind me of Marx's critique of Hegel's dialectic end phenomenology (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts) where Marx privileges the material objectification, what he calls "sensuousness" or "externality" as opposed to "thought which shuttles back end forth within itself' (Fromm 1966, p.195). The concept of "worldliness" for Said was a profound understanding of circumstantiality (materiality) and the role of what Marx refers to as "sensuous" human activity in interpretation. Said clarifies this interpretation by drawing upon discourse he procured in what he refers to as an "unexpected place"--the polemics between the Batinists end Zahirites of the eleventh century in Andalusia in reference to the interpretation of the Koran. Here he parallels Ricoeur's philology with the Batinists who believed that meaning was concealed in words. To derive meaning from language a Batinist would have to subject his mind to "an inward-tending exegesis" (Said 1983, p.36), a familiar chimera which Marx criticized in Hegel end idealism. Said intimates the danger of this esoteric process, "[O]nce you resort to such a level, anything becomes permissible by way of interpretation" (Ibid.). In contrast, Said values the Zahirites who anchored words in circumstance and situation, "uttered for end during a specific occasion, not on hidden meanings they might later be supposed to contain" (Ibid. pp.36-37). Therefore their signifying intention was not psychological but verbal (an event). He points out that Zahirites carded out their rationalization of texts without making "worldliness" dominate the "actual sense" of the text, thus avoiding "vulgar determinism" (Ibid. p.37). Zahirites also recognized the constitutive interaction (interplay) between text and circumstantiality end speech end writing (Ibid. p.39) ... "the Zahirite sees language as being regulated by real usage, and neither by abstract prescription nor by speculative freedom. Above all, language stands between man end a vast indefiniteness: if the world is a gigantic system of correspondences between words end objects, then it is verbal form--language in actual grammatical use--that allows us to isolate the denominated objects from among these massively--ordered correspondences" (Ibid. p.38).

This understanding of language end literary theory sets Said apart from some of his contemporaries end probably provides a basis for his critique of the phenomenological criticisms of Edmund Husserl and the Geneva School (Merleau-Ponty, Jean Rousset, Georges Poulet) as well as some of his structuralist end post structuralist criticisms. Although Said was critical of both the phenomenologists and the structuralists, he still held an appreciation of both schools of thought and moved toward a methodological shift with the narrative theory of Tsvetan Todorov and Roland Barthes (p.38). Said remarked that structuralists stood at "the beginning of a new era" (p.39). This sentiment however, did not extend to the rhetorical strategies put out by some of his contemporaries in America in the 1970s who Said claimed had "domesticated" the insurrectionary intellectual origins (Derrida and Foucault) of European literary theory and retreated into a "labyrinth" of textuality (p.221). Said was concerned about the "invasion of literary discourse" by what he referred to as the "outre jargons" of semiotics, post structuralism, and Lacanian psychoanalysis (p.198). I must admit however, that I do have a passion for Lacan. He is a beautiful writer and one of the few in the so-called post structuralist vein who recognize the collective subject--"[T]he Other is, therefore, the locus in which is constituted the I" (Lacan, 1977, p.141). "Textuality" Said states, had become "the mystical and disinfected subject matter of literary theory" (p.221). Said criticized this "peculiar" mode of appropriating a subject, that is, by not appropriating anything that is "worldly, circumstantial or socially contaminated" (Ibid.) and remarked that textuality had become "the exact antithesis and displacement of what might be called history" (p.221).

It is with this basis of understanding that we encounter the critiques Said provides in "Traveling Theory" and "Secular Criticism." In "Traveling Theory" Said discusses the theoretical enterprise, its materialist conception (reification), its circulation and transformation. He calls the process in which theory comes into being and takes on an interpretive trip (travels) a "discernible and recurrent pattern" (p. 196) of "three or four stages" that is complicated by the movement from its point of origin to its representation and/or institutionalization. When working within the oxymoronic parameters of a discipline with no enclosing domain, Said feels it is prudent and wise to approach his subject in a way that is suitable to "the situation in which we find ourselves" (p.198). To Said, this means at the outset, "an historical approach" (p.199).

Said draws upon Georg Lukacs to discuss the problem of when time becomes space (reification). Of course he is concerned about what happens to poor theory when it is transported, utilized/transformed/interpreted/delimited, in short, used and abused "in different circumstances and for new reasons, it is used again and, in still more different circumstances, again[?]" (p.199). Okay, I agree that theory should be rescued and we can also agree that "crisis" is a form of experience "that concretely represents the essence of reification as well as its limitation" (p.200). However, I think "things-in-themselves" and "use-values" (Ibid.) are two different things and I would not depend on Lukacs for an interpretation on that (see Marx and Capital Vol. I, and his discussion of commodities in Chapter 1 and his discussion of "thinghoods" in his critique of Hegel's dialectic in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts). Also, capitalism may be the embodiment of reification in economic terms (Ibid.) but only if you are speaking of use-values and its articulation in a capitalist system.

These are only shades of difference in perception and this is why I prefer Marx over Lukacs. However, I submit that some may also interpret this as "misreadings," something Said does a good job of criticizing Lucien Goldmann for in his reading of Lukacs in reference to "theoretical consciousness and reified reality" (p.203). Said makes this point about the adulteration of theory in time and place using Goldmann to illustrate the conversion of "insurrectionary radically adversarial consciousness into an accommodating consciousness of correspondence and homology" (pp.204-205). This is not to say that all reading is misreading, or creative misreading. Said prefers not to abrogate the critics responsibility and to judge theory as a "historical transfer of ideas" that were written in and for different situations. For Lukacs and Goldmann, Budapest in 1919 and the post World War II Paris were "irreducible first conditions" that limited and shaped their response (p.206). Said is reluctant to say that these situations "determined" their individual theories (Ibid.). I think Said would have found Althusser's understanding of "overdetermism" (Althusser, 1993, p.101) more useful and comprehensive in trying to explain what he means by "irreducible first conditions." Althusser uses this concept quite effectively to differentiate between a Marxist (dialectical and materialist) and a Hegelian (dialectics standing on its head) understanding of events. A Hegelian approach to understanding the dialectics of an event would be a complex production of cumulative internalization, a kind of musical chairs mind game that Said criticized Paul Ricoeur for. Althusser's usage of the word "overdeterminism" provides the Mancist understanding of dialectical and historical materialism with new currency.

For this interpretation, I would not consider E.P.Thompson's (p.212) poverty of theory. He (Thompson) is also excruciatingly boring. "Overdeterminism" designates the reflection of its contradiction (its situation or where time becomes space) in the structure in dominance (Paris or Budapest, etc.) of the complex whole. As Althusser describes it, "overdeterminism" is not just its situation in fact or principle but the relation of this situation in fact to its situation in principle which makes it a variation of the structure in dominance (Petranak, 1999, pp.271-272). Once an event ceases to be univocal, it reveals itself as overdetermined--determined by the structured complexity that assigns it to its role: "complexly-structurally-unevenly-determined" (Althusser, 1993, 209). For Said, it was important for the interpreter to "understand the critical change--in time and place" (p.205) and do her/his job as a conscious intellectual without going down the road to nowhere of "limitless intertextuality" surrendering "critical consciousness for critical hermeticism" (Ibid.). I think we all can agree that for Marx as well as for Lulcacs and Said, theory was not an avoidance of reality, but a "revolutionary will completely committed to worldliness and change" (p.202).

What I particularly liked in "Traveling Theory" was Said's discussion of Foucault (pp.212-216). As with Vico and Gramsci, Said makes numerous references to Foucault throughout his various works. Said considers Foucault to be an exemplary opponent of ahistorical and asocial formalism and points out that the conceptual apparatus he provides for the analysis of instrumental discourses (pouvoir and savoir) stands in contrast to the "fairly and motaphysics" of his philosophical competitors (p.212). Nevertheless, Said points out that Foucault's work is "susceptible to theoretical overtotalization" (p.212) and falls victim to the "systematic degradation of theory" (Ibid.) in ways, ironically, that his disciples claim is evidence of his escape from hermeticism. Foucault announced that his real theme is the relationship between knowledge and power (Ibid.). Yet throughout his writings, power and will are never referred to explicitly (lid.). A similar observation is made by Henri Lefebvre who points out that Foucault talks a lot about space but he never explains "what space it is that he is referring to, nor how it bridges the gap between the theoretical (epistemological) realm and the practical one, between mental and social, between the space of the philosophers and the space of people who deal with material things" (Lefebvre, 1992, p.4). In The Archeology of Knowledge, Foucault intimates here and there that he is approaching power through abstractions, surrogates and references to those things (acceptability, accumulation, preservation, and formation) that power functions within--statements, discourses and archives (p.213). He does not however point his finger at the common source of power (which would necessarily point his observations in the direction of class analysis). Said calls these "theoretical overtotalizatiuns" a "disturbing circularity" of Foucault's power theories. Said is appropriately concerned about this theoretical practice since they make not even a nominal allowance for change or resistance in the form of emergent movements or revolutions. As Said points out, "[I]n human history there is always something beyond the reach of dominating systems, no matter how deeply they saturate society, and this is obviously what makes change possible, limits power iin Foucault's sense, and hobbles the theory of that power" (p.216). Foucault's intellectual activity is consumed with "problematization" which he describes as a set of discursive and nondiscursive practices "that makes something enter into the play of the true and false, and constitutes an object for thought" (Foucault, 1989, p. 296). He carries this observation further by clarifying his approach as "eventalization" (Foucault in Burcbell, Gordon and Miller, 1991, pp. 76-78) which he calls a "breach of self evidence" (Ibid., p. 76) that rediscovers the multiplication and pluralization of causes of a singularity (an event). However, as Said rightly points out, it is "when Foucault's own language becomes general (when he moves his analyses of power from the detail to society as a whole) that the methodological breakthrough becomes the theoretical trap" (p. 213). Everyone knows that "power is everywhere" but a conscious intellectual of the kind that Said values would not be content with this voyeuristic onanism that rants and raves on the sidelines. Said rightly comments that Foucault's pouvoir "moves around too much ... mystifying its microphysical sovereignty" (Ibid.). This refusal of engagement (politics) in the Foucaultian framework is also criticized by others (see Duccio Trombadori's interview with Foucault in Remarks on Marx, 1991, pp. 15-24). Said points out that these kinds of theories can very easily become cultural dogma, perhaps not as gross as racism and nationalism but insidious nonetheless since it justifies political quietism with "sophisticated intellectualism" (p.214) dulling critical consciousness, which should be, as Said puts it "an unstoppable predilection for alternatives" (p. 217).

Writing Beginnings (1975) which includes "Molestation and Authority in Narrative Fiction" was a response to what Said perceived to be a "crisis" in literary criticism (p. 39). It was also an attempt to assimilate his own insight into the interpretation of literary theory. The World, the Text, and the Critic (1982), which includes "Traveling Theory" and "secular Criticism" was a further development and elaboration of Said's critical practice of reading and interpretation. With Orientalism (1978) we see Said's critical practices at work in a materialist interpretation of the history of the Orient. The editors, Bayoumi and Rubin point out that Orientalism transformed the study of literature and culture (p. 63) and challenged the authority of Western knowledge over the Orient (p. 64). Orientalism used an impressive scope of material (novels, poems, historical writings, narratives, documents, political statements, administrative details, and more) to illustrate how "[T]he Orient was almost a European invention" (p.67). Said points out at the beginning that this project was aided by the theoretical contributions of Michel Foucault and his understanding of discourse as a systematic discipline that manages and produces the Other "politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically and imaginatively" (p.70). Another theoretician that Said cites as instrumental in this project (although I think Althusser's 1971 writings on ideology and the role of state apparatuses would have contributed considerably to this task) was Antonio Gramsci and his work on civil and political society and hegemony.

Said described Orientalism as an "enormously systematic discipline," a cultural enterprise with an internal consistency and a "regular constellation of ideas" (pp.69-71). The problematic for Said in this enterprise was how to recognize and interpret individuality or the "identity" of what is called the "Orient" and reconcile it with its general and hegemonic context that informs the notion of "Orientalism." By way of introduction, Said designates himself, formally and professionally, as a "humanist" (p.75) and blurs the lines, or should I say connects the dots, between politics and the humanities, "[N]o 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" (p.76). Knowing the politically charged circumstances in which knowledge is produced, Said points out that the so called "true" knowledge that is the supposed occupation of academics and scholars is only a "pretended suprapolitical objectivity" (p.76). For Said, the author is already involved as a human subject by being in the circumstances of history. Therefore, being a humanist and a conscious intellectual is already a politically charged occupation. A practicing humanist could not be of incidental importance to politics, especially when acknowledging that knowledge is a political appropriation of the so-called truth.

Said refers to the concept of "Orientalism" as a distribution, elaboration, creation, and maintenance of a geopolitical awareness of the Other in discourse and in text in an effort to incorporate (manage, control and manipulate) "what is manifestly different"(p.78). He discusses "Orientalism" as a fact of empire, or imperialism in culture, "political imperialism governs an entire field of study, imagination, and scholarly institutions" (p.80). Said's idea is that this interest in the Orient on the part of Europeans and Americans was political but that culture created that interest and "acted dynamically along with the brute political, economic and military rationales" (p.78) in creating this field of "Orientalism." One may argue whether culture created that interest or whether culture dispersed the imperial economic and political interests of Europe and the United States with novel inventions in discourse. We do not need to go there now but you probably already know where my sentiments lie. However, I definitely agree with Said's indictment of the literary, intellectual and cultural establishment for failing to bridge the gap between culture and ideology and the politics and economics of imperialism (p.80). And for this, reading Said now is even more relevant with the U.S. and Israeli imperialist designs on Iraq, Palestine and the Middle East. Also, perhaps if Bush and his advisors had read some theory in Said's Orientalism about the strategy and tactics of Napoleon during his conquest of Egypt (pp. 101-109), we would have been spared the historical and inexcusable travesties like the rape and pillaging of Baghdad's museum and its hospitals and the killing of a rare Bengal tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (9/20/03) by one of his drunk soldiers. Bush's immoral and unconscionable invasion of Iraq will go down as probably one of the sloppiest and badly conceived military campaigns in history.

Since we are on the topic of empire, we might as well go to another important selection in the reader presented by Bayoumi and Rubin. Said starts off "Jane Austen and Empire" (1990) with these telling words, "Almost all colonial schemes begin with an assumption of native backwardness and general inadequacy to be independent, 'equal,' and fit" (p.348). Said asks some important questions in this chapter, like how can humanistic ideas co-exist "so comfortably with imperialism" (p.350) and why was there so little resistance to imperialism at home. With Jane Austen and Empire, Said discusses the notion of imperialism and how it is articulated and represented in language and culture in a series of "both small and large dislocations and relocations in space" (p.353). He points out how Austen "synchronizes domestic with international authority," and naturally assumes that the values invested in law, ordination and propriety are rooted in "actual rule and possession of territory" (p.356). He shows how she rectifies her insularity and diminished awareness with the fineness of her detail in "larger and better administered spaces" (p.358). Antigua was a definite way of marking the outer limits of the domestic improvements at Mansfield Park within a precise place in Austen's moral geography. Said points out how the question of interpretation is inextricably tied up with the question of interests (p.365) and reminds us that we should take stock of these prefigurations on empire that are casually translated into "comfort and added good" (p.360). The subordination and transformation of these overseas sustenances, "these distant but convenient treasure spots," is not neutral. It is politically charged, "beseeching the attention and elucidation its considerable proportions require" (p.363). From Said's point of view, Austen's novel is "a rich work" whose "aesthetic intellectual complexity" requires a longer and slower analysis. The task of the reader is to enjoy and appreciate its "brilliant pages" without losing sight of its historical significance (p.367).

Throughout his writings, Said often speaks of "exile," the loneliness and the alienation associated with it, "[e]xile is one of the saddest fates" (p.369). In "Intellectual Exile: Expatriates and Marginals" (1993), however, he gives us a whole different take on the condition of being in exile. This is because he looks at exile not only as an actual condition but also as a restless, unsettling metaphorical state that allows for a unique viewpoint. It is this position on the margins of things that allows for what Said refers to as "the pleasures of exile" (p.377). This of course has a lot to do with what Said thinks an intellectual is and what his role in society should be. As translated through Adorno's Minima Moralia (1994) by Turgenev in the character of Bazarov, "the intellectual does not have a story, but only a sort of destabilizing effect; he sets off seismic shocks, he jolts people, but he can neither be explained away by his background nor his friends" (p.375). Being in exile can "enliven the intellectual's vocation" with its "different arrangements of living" and its "eccentric angles of vision" (p.377). The pleasure of exile is the pleasure of "being surprised," of handling "circumstances of shaky instability" and of "never taking anything for granted" (p.378).

Said feels that an intellectual is "fundamentally about knowledge and freedom" (Ibid.) which acquire meaning not as abstractions but as experiences. He describes the intellectual as a "shipwrecked person" (Ibid.) who learns to live, not on the land, but with it, someone who is a traveler, not a freeloader, a provisional guest, not a raider or conqueror and "someone whose sense of the marvelous never fails him" (Ibid.). An intellectual in exile not only sees things as they are but "as they have come to be that way" and therefore situations will not be inevitable but contingent "as the result of a series of historical choices ... as facts of society made by human beings" (Ibid.). The intellectual in exile says Said, "is necessarily ironic, skeptical, even playful--but not cynical" (p.379). A condition of marginality "flees you from having always to proceed with caution" (p.380) and "what exuberance and unending self-discovery it contains" (Ibid.). Being an exile is a unique pleasure. As Said describes it, this condition of being on the margins is so tantalizing that I cannot imagine anyone who would not want to think like an exile, act like an exile or be an exile.

I regret that space will not allow me to comment on all the selections that Bayoumi and Rubin have presented in this wonderful reader of Said's works. However, I cannot leave without saying a few words about the writings of Said that at this point in time could be considered most germane. Anyone who questions why the United States is in Iraq and why Bush could say something so seemingly dumb as fighting the "enemy" in Iraq will make us more "secure," should not only look at Israel for the answer, but also at Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism (1993). Just as the Patriot Act was in the works long before 11 September 2001, so with our hegemonic designs in the Middle East and our efforts to reinforce and protect Israel as top dog in the region as an auxiliary effort in securing those interests. As Said points out in the interview at the end of the Reader, "I think it's in the nature of power to stand its hegemony ... over more and more territory ... and part of what the United States has done has been to spread an ideological blanket over discourse everywhere" (p.440). He goes on to say that we have to deconstruct the language of globalization that speak to those interests (Ibid.).

For all his contributions in literary theory, political theory, literature, history and music, his writings on the racist, immoral and imperialist face of Zionism are expositions that are relevant now if we are truly interested in establishing a just peace in the Middle East. Said zeros in on the politics of dispossession as no other, foregrounding and highlighting the dominant forces involved in obscuring and distorting the Palestinian experience. Bayoumi and Rubin have included several of Sald's writings that fly in the face of the Zionist propaganda we are bombarded with on a daily basis to distract from the ugly and dirty business of the Israeli government--murdering Palestinians, blowing up their houses, confiscating their land and subjugating with impunity. "The Palestinian Experience," "Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims," "Islam as News," "Permission to Narrate," "Interiors," "The Middle East 'Peace Process': Misleading Images and Brutal Actualities" and "An Interview with Edward W. Said," are all important antidotes to the unrelenting propaganda that comes out of the Zionist camp that is so intent on spreading its ideological blanket over events taking place in Palestine.

Said points out in his interview at the end of the Reader that hegemony effaces memory. Resistance recalls and speaks to the memory of pain and suffering, "[t]here has to be an act of resistance by recollection" (p.441). In describing the hiatus and failure within Arab Nationalism in reference to the Zionist colonialist state of Israel, Said's own apolitical hiatus in reference to the job of Arabism and in being "Palestinian," could not hut be confronted. Although Said would be the first to point out that "analogies between individual and collective identities are dangerous to make," (p.28) the event of the 1967 War and the humiliating defeat at the hands of the Zionist state was described by Said as a "profound moment" (p.29), a "second birth" (Erikson in Said, 28) that exposed the cleavage of being a proxy Palestinian (p.27). It is at this point that we see a political discontinuity demarcating a before and after. The battle of Karameh in March 1968 and an acute consciousness of the nakba (catastrophe), the politics of dispossession and the holocaust that is the "Palestinian experience" were an epiphany of June 1967. These realizations made their marks on Said's own disjunctive history. As Said points out, "(T)he identity crisis solicits above all a recognition of disruption ... to have this recognition one needs a very clear idea that something has been left behind in order that a new development based on a stronger identity might become possible" (p.29).

This recognition of a void created an identity with real impingements upon it. For Said, it was a political act of reconciliation, a reconnection with one's own history, an assumption that had to be confronted, internalized, intellectualized and acted upon. How do you go home to a place that is usurped by a Zionist entity? How do you expose the false victims and moral pretenders that masquerade in sheep's clothing when they control a universe of information that tells the story of Palestine as Israeli history? Said's writings on Palestine, the history of Zionism and his expositions on the sham so called "peace" agreements made in Oslo and Spain, which cleverly detail the insidious work of Palestinian dispossession, are one hero's attempt to unmask the face of racism, injustice and oppression and carry out the work of a conscious intellectual. As Said points out in "The Claims of Individuality," "[c]haracter is what enables the individual to make his way through the world, the faculty of rational self-possession that regulates the exchange between the world and the self; the more cogent the identity, the more certain a course of action" (p.12). Said's unique experiences, his history and his engagement with music and text allowed this exile to dance on the margins of life, like no other, in double time, contrapuntally, surrendering to the song of life which he still sings to us with passionate and intellectual majesty. Kudos to Bayoumi and Rubin who have provided an important form to present this elegant gift to humanity.

On a more practical note, I hope the publisher will select a better printer for its second printing as the book was so poorly bound that the pages started falling out in my hands as I voraciously devoured its delicious contents. There were some spelling and grammatical errors or missing prepositions that I hope will be fixed the second time around. Also, in an effort to figure out how and where Said's ideas came about in the scheme of things, I found myself constantly going back to the introductory remarks for each selection provided by the editors. What also might be helpful is a chronology of Sald's work and perhaps a synopsis in outline form of major events during Said's prolific career of writing. I know this is a tall order but, another thing that would be useful to the reader is an index of words, concepts, names, places and events of importance in Said's work.

REFERENCES

Adorno, Theodor. Minima Moralia. New York: Verso, 1994.

Albiac, Gabriel. "Althusser, Reader of Althusser." Rethinking Marxism. Vol. 10, No. 3(Fall 1998).

Althusser, Louis. For Marx. New York: Verso, 1993.

--Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971.

Burchell, G., Gordon, C., and Miller, P. The Foucault Effect. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Foucault, Michel. Foucault Live. New York: Semiotext, 1989.

Fromm, Erich. Marx's Concept of Man. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1966.

Jay, Martin. The Dialectical Imagination. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1973.

Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977.

Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992.

Marx, Karl. Capital Volume I. New York: International Publishers, 1967.

Petranek, Li'ana. In Ibrahim Aoude. "Ethnic Identity, Identity Politics and the Trouble One Will Have in Constituting an Identity." The Ethnic Studies Story: Politics and Social Movements in Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999.

Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

--. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983.

--. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books a Division of Random House, 1978.

Trombadori, Duccio. In Michel Foucault. Remarks On Marx. New York: Semiotext, 1991.

Li'ana M. Petranek earned her doctorate in political science and is affiliated with the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Association of Arab-American University Graduates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Petranek, Li'ana M.
Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2003
Words:6861
Previous Article:Principles of social work practice in the Muslim Arab world.
Next Article:Al-Azma, Aziz. Constantine Zurayk: An Arab for the Twentieth Century (Arabic).
Topics:


Related Articles
Protecting the Public: Legal Issues in Injury Prevention.
William Shakespeare: The History Plays.
William Shakespeare: The Problem Plays.
PowerPoint for Litigators.
Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey. (Book & Video Gift-Picks For The Holidays).
Sixty Seconds to Success.
A Piano Teacher's Legacy: Selected Writings by Richard Chronister.
The Head Start Debates.
The Legacy of McLuhan.
Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (Solving Problems in Teaching of Literacy).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters