Manual Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Saids Orientalism

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Answering Edward Said

Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Volume 72 , Issue 1 Spring Pages In For Lust for Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies Robert Irwin provides a swashbuckling account of clerics, scoundrels, and scholars as passionate curiosity seekers rather than unwitting dupes of a coercive Aeschylus-to-Lewis discourse or indiscreet French and British colonial policy.


This modern son of a bookseller imprints a polemical farce not worth the plus pages of paper it wastes. My concern is not simply what Said said but what is to be done with a polemical text that has served its purpose and is now superseded in most scholarly assessments of Islam and cultures of the Middle East.

Defending the West by Ibn Warraq - PopMatters

Establishment thinking had already become the target of critics within several disciplines. By the mids the formerly colonized subaltern could indeed speak in academic halls, even if such major fetishized icons as Homi Baba and Gayatri Spivak seemed to have little interest in writing readable prose. The pedantic pugilism of Said vs. Lewis readily became a comic and at times tragic sideshow to the issues underlying the polemic. Orientalism , like most polemics, is rife with faults.

While scholars have never been immune to ethnocentric and racial bias, it is counterproductive to blur genres and assume that trained historians and social scientists, even those who write for the seminal Encyclopaedia of Islam , ultimately must share the same latent agenda. Polemical fervor resulted in an almost total lack of nuance, a most un-Foucauldian faux-pas.

Besides the indiscriminate mixing of textual genres, Said only presented examples that illustrate his argument, ignoring the many Western scholars who critiqued the biases of fellow Orientalists. As noted by many of his ardent supporters, Said also failed to examine or give credence to the subaltern voices that resisted the alleged hegemony of Orientalist discourse.

Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism

Misquotes, dropped ellipses in quotations, and historical errors plague the unrevised text of Orientalism. While several translations of Orientalism, such as the Italian and French, correct this error with existing translations of Goethe, most do not. The quote refers to musings by Flaubert at the imposing Colossi of Memnon.

In addition to misreading, several seminal texts in the Western imagination of the Orient are left unread.