Thursday, December 19, 2013

Edward Said on Out of Place: A Memoir - Early Years in Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt (1999)

Edward Wadie Said ( 1 November 1935 -- 25 September 2003) was a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, a literary theorist, and a public intellectual who was a founding figure of the critical-theory field of Post-colonialism. Born a Palestinian Arab in the city of Jerusalem in Mandatory Palestine (1920--48), he was an American citizen through his father. Said was an advocate for the political and the human rights of the Palestinian people and has been described by the journalist Robert Fisk as their most powerful voice.

As a cultural critic, academic, and writer, Said is best known for the book Orientalism (1978), an analysis of the cultural representations that are the bases of Orientalism, a term he redefined to mean the Western study of Eastern cultures and, in general, the framework of how The West perceives and represents The East. He contended that Orientalist scholarship was, and remains, inextricably tied to the imperialist societies that produced it, which makes much of the work inherently political, servile to power, and therefore intellectually suspect. Orientalism is based upon Said's knowledge of colonial literature, literary theory, and post-structuralist theory. Orientalism, and his other thematically related works, proved influential in the fields of the humanities, especially in literary theory and in literary criticism. Orientalism proved especially influential upon the field of Middle Eastern studies, wherein it transformed the academic discourse of the field's practitioners, of how they examine, describe, and define the cultures of the Middle East. As a critic, he vigorously discussed and debated the cultural subjects comprised by Orientalism, especially as applied to and in the fields of history and area studies; nonetheless, some mainstream academics disagreed with Said's Orientalism thesis, most notably the Anglo-American Orientalist Bernard Lewis.

As a public intellectual, Said discussed contemporary politics and culture, literature and music in books, lectures, and articles. Drawing from his family experiences as Palestinian Christians in the Middle East at the time of the establishment of Israel in 1948, Said argued for the establishment of a Palestinian state, for equal political and human rights for the Palestinians in Israel—including the right of return—and for increased U.S. political pressure upon Israel to recognize, grant, and respect said rights. Moreover, he also criticized the political and cultural politics of the Arab and Muslim regimes who acted against the interests of their peoples. Intellectually active until the last months of his life, he died of leukemia in late 2003.

Edward Said was born on 1 November 1935, to Hilda Said and her husband, the businessman Wadie Said, in the city of Jerusalem in the British Mandate of Palestine (1920--48).[10] Edward's father was a Palestinian man who soldiered in the U.S. Army component of the Allied Expeditionary Force (1917--19), commanded by General John J. Pershing, in World War I; Wadie Said and his family were granted U.S. citizenship due to his military service, and after acquiring citizenship Wadie Said moved to Cleveland before returning to Palestine in 1920. His mother Hilda, who was born in Nazareth, had a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother. After the war, in 1919, Wadie Said moved to Cairo and established a stationery business with a cousin. Although his parents practiced the Jerusalemite variety of Greek Orthodox Christianity, Edward was agnostic. He had four younger sisters.

Verso Books published Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward W. Said (2008), edited by Müge Gürsoy Sökmen and Bașak Ertür; the essayists include Akeel Bilgrami, Rashid Khalidi, and Elias Khoury. Routledge published Edward Said: The Charisma of Criticism (2010), by Harold Aram Veeser, a critical biography. The University of California Press published Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representations (2010), edited by Adel Iskandar and Hakem Rustom, and featuring contributions about Said's intellectual legacy by Joseph Massad, Ilan Pappe, Ella Shohat, Ghada Karmi, Noam Chomsky, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Daniel Barenboim, among others.

Academic establishments such as Columbia University, the University of Warwick, Princeton University, the University of Adelaide, the American University of Cairo, and the Palestine Center have instituted annual series of lectures about the subjects, topics, and themes that Edward Said discussed in his works; notable among the speakers have been Daniel Barenboim, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, and Cornel West.