Saturday, September 27, 2003


On the one day I refrain from blogging (thanks, Blogger, for all the technical problems; you force me to put my religious studies into practice), Edward Said chooses to die.

Yes, unlike homosexuality, death is a choice. Thus I declare. Dr. Said went and kicked the bucket because, well, he knew he couldn't survive much longer under intense scrutiny.

Links about Said abound. Go here and here for starters (actually, you may end up in the same place!). I think I linked to this once before, but it's worth visiting again.

There are a million posts and articles and book chapters devoted to bashing or otherwise deconstructing Said's scholarship. Bernard Lewis's Islam and the West devotes an entire chapter to it, and since Lewis was one of Said's targets, it won't surprise you to know that Lewis's response isn't gentle. Buy the book. Read the chapter.

I had to read Said's Orientalism for a comparative ethics class. The first thing I should note is how uncritical both the ethics prof and some of my classmates were towards this book. I found Orientalism's fundamental flaw to be rather easy to pick out, and increasingly obvious as one moves into the book's latter half: Said accuses "Orientalists" of constructing a false entity called "the Orient," but Said's polemic is aimed at people he places in "the West"-- itself a construction if we use Said's own standards to appraise his argument!

Not to say Orientalism is all bunk. It deserves a reading. I think a lot of it can serve as a caution to scholars, but Lewis et al. are right to note the book is full of holes. My knowledge of Middle Eastern Studies is too superficial to comment meaningfully on the quality of Said's scholarship, but if Said's critics are to be trusted, the man wasn't much of a scholar.

Anyway, he's kaput.

Remember that Rowan Atkinson one-man-show on HBO? During one sketch, Atkinson is dressed as Satan, and is taking attendance of Hell's newest residents with his clipboard. There's that moment where he calls out, "Christians? Christians? Yes, I'm sorry, but the Jews were right."

What if the Jews are right, Dr. Said?

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