Monday, June 23, 2008

Orientalism by edward said

by Edward Said 8-1

This book is considered by many to be the seminal work in post-colonial theory. Said, who uses his incredible, vast reservoir of knowledge, shows the history of the Western study of the "Orient." In so doing, he demonstrates how Western scholarship developed since the beginning of the modern era, how it has been intimately tied to Western political/military/economic imperialsim, how racial theories permeated it in the 19th ce, and how the stereotypes of "foreigners" have been taken up in today's world.

This is a very important book if u want to know about Middle East/Islamic Studies, imperialism, racial stereotyping (and its "scientific support"), Western intellectual history (and how the different disciplines of today tie together), or how stereotypes of middle easterners/muslims came to be in the west.

For methodology, Said uses Foucault's (and thusly Vico's) idea of discourses to show how and why the stereotypes have been passed on. He says he does not want the book to be a bibliography of all lit dealing witht he orient, as that would take volumes (he mentions that 60,000 works dealing with the orient were published btwn 1850? and 1950 alone). His goal is to provide a narrative that touches on the main highlights

He says europeans have used the label of "orient" at least as far back as Homer. it was an ambiguous term with plenty of deragatory stereotypes to go with it (heathens, barbarians, sexually debased, etc.) In the modern era, tho, ppl began to do disciplined studies of the orient (see d'herbelot--late 17th ce--and ockley's "history of the saracens" 1708), tho these were usually from a Christian standpoint. Ockley's work was impressive, but stereotypes proliferated.

the "modern" discipline of oriental studies begins, according to said, with Silvestre de Sacy (late 18th ce) who was trained in many languages and took it upon himself to translate a huge number of original arabic texts and created the corpus of primary sources that were to be used throughout the 19th ce. Trained it pedagogical theory, sacy believes that in order to teach the bewildering mess of material, it is necessary to choose bits and pieces (fragments) to teach the students with (called chrestomathy). by doing this, however, he ends up shaping what exactly will be the ideas of what is the "orient." It is typically "classical" works written by elites and his analyses of them say how inferior they are to the "West." The orient is also romanticized for its exoticness. It is also interesting to note that Sacy, like many of his Orientalist followers, was hired by the state (Napolean) to help understand the world that the state was invading/colonizing/exploiting--a tendency that has been all too common since.

The next important Orientalist is Renan who is a philologist studying the semetic languages (in the vein of Bopp--indo-european--and Champollion--rosetta stone). he concludes that semetic is lower form of language than indo-european and is not capable of full expression, and so neither are its speakers. Renan's ideas were supported by concurrent racial superiority theories and "scientific proofs" of Cuvier, Gobineau, and Robert Knox and darwin--all incredibly popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, b/c they supported imperialism and the Western monopoly on "truth"

Because of the incredible influence of Sacy and Renan, all subsequent orientalists had to acknowledge and imitate them, passing on ideas of the "orientals'" "lower" status of personhood. With these scholars also being employed by govs for imperialist purposes (John Westlake and Gustave le Bon), their "knowledge" was taken up beyond academia and then stereotypes of the orient became "facts" supported by "academics" and "science."

After WWI, ppl begin to question the onesidedness of the field, but it is only a minority. After WWII, americans take over as europe essentially left the ME and the US had the most interest there. Euro scholars fleeing facist regimes came to the US and brot their stereotypes of the orient. The US, tho, did not have the same philological development as europe and so did not have and special criticism to offer euro ideas. The US did have different social sciences but that simply meant orientalism fragmented, and each of the fragments retained old prejudices. and the same employment of scholars by the state (the MEI eg) continued. he notes that while other minority areas ended the perpetuation of stereotypes in academics, arabs/muslims couldn't.

Said says there is some hope. likes geertz and all those who he says are driven by intellectual ideas and not held down by occupational dogmas--they have to be very self critical and really know where they are theoretically located.

120-4 elements of 18th ce thot that served as the foundation 4 mod ortlsm:

1) Expansion: of the wide history of the or—removing it from pure biblical ref

2) Historical confrontation: ppl understanding eruo history compared it w/ others in a secular way

3) Sympathy: borders were more fluid, intellectually

4) Classification: of man thru (Vico) color, race, origins, temperament, character, nation, etc.

121-and relus (xn) patterns were reconstituted in these secular frameworks

-and these patterns “resided in the ortlst’s conception of himself, of the ort, and of his discipline”; “the mod orst has, in his view, a hero rescuing the ort from the obscurity, alienation, and strangeness which he himself had properly distinguished” eg rosetta stone (Champollion)

THESIS: 122-“my thesis is that the essential aspects of mod orst theory and praxis (from which present-day orsm derives) can b understood, not as a sudden access of objective knowledge about the ort, but as a set of structures inherited from the past, secularized, redisposed, [sic] and re-formed by such disciplines as philology, which in turn were naturalized, modernized and laicized substitutes for (or versions of ) xn supernaturalism, In the form of new texts and ideas, the E. was accommodated to these structures.”

123-“I am interested in showing how mod orlsm, unlike the precolonial awareness of dante and d’herbelot, embodies a systematic discipline of accumulation.”—imperialism—“And far from this being exlusively an intellectual or theoretical feature, it made orlsm fatally tend towards the systematic accumulation of human beings and terrirtories. To reconstruct a dead or lost ortl lang meant ultimately, to reconstruct a dead or neglected ort; it also meant that reconstructive precision, science, even imagination could prepare the way for what armies, administrations, and bureaucracies would later do on the ground, in the ort. In a sense, the vindication of orlsm was not only its intellectual or artistic successes but its later effectiveness, its usefulness, its authority.”

126-sivestre de sacy was a great scholar (late 18thce, early 19th ce) and teacher

-1802 Napolean commissioned the institute de france “to form a tableau generale on the state and progress of arts and sciences since 1789”

-sacy was 1 of the writers, it encouraged putting together a comprehensive work of “secular” of secular history

-first mod historian of ort

-and sacy employed his pedagogy methods (reducing and re-arranging to communicated the best)

128-“not only r ortl literary productions essentially alien to the eurpn, they also do not contain a sustained enough interest, nor r they written w/ enough ‘taste and critical spirit,’ to merit publication except as extracts…Therefore the orst is req’d to present the ort by a series of representative fragments, fragments republished, explicated, annotated, and surrounded w/ still more fragments”—“chrestomathy”

129-Invsly: “objective structure (designation of ort) and subjective restructure (representation of ort by ortst) became interchangeable. The ort is overlaid w/ the orlsts’s rationality; its principles become his…from being unsustainable on its own, it becomes pedagogically useful; from being lost, it is found, even if its missing parts have been made to drop away, from it in the process…sacy’s work canonizes the ort…”

-“…[sacy’s] enrichments and restrictions were passed on [to his students] simultaneously”

139-philology was showing that lang was created by man—not divine. Renan was a philologist focusing on the ort of sacy—meaning that scholarship of ort was leaving relus lean

140-he recognized that “semetic” was a man-made label/creation

142-and (racist) theories based off it were “idealized” types

149-“when we read renan and sacy, we readily observe the way cultural generalization had begun to acquire the armor of scientific statements and the ambiance of corrective study”

-the vocab “located the ort in a comparative framework”

-orlsm as a profession grew out of these opposites…and thus the actual profession of orst enshrined this inequality and special paradoxes it engendered”

156-renan and sacy’s textual attitudes combine w/ firsthand interactions of brit and fr. Colonists to “constitute a formidable against which no one, not even marx, can rebel and which no one can avoid”

197-“…later orsts, scholarly or imaginative [travelers, novelists], took firm hold of the scene” [created by renan, sacy and lane, w/ all their stereotypes] and later shaped by govt

204-“ortlsm was sucha system of truths [doctrines]…it is therefore correct that every erupn, in what he could say about the ort was consequently a racist, an imperiealist, and almost totally ethnocentric. Some of the immediate sting will b taken out of these labels if we recall additionally that human societies, at least the more advanced cultures, have rarely offered the indv anything but imperialism, racism, and ethnocentrism for dealing w/ ‘other’ cultures”

206-stereotypes: “eccentricity, its backwardness, its silent indifference, its feminine penetrability, its supine malleability”

207-completely male-centered (ort and ortsm)

209-210-big ortsts, tho good, had racist tendencies and were put in govt posts

215- ort thot and knowledge had become so supportive of govt rule that by the early 20th ce “the ort had been both what brit ruled and what brit knew about”

233-racial theory was supported by “science”, linguistics, geography, rel, imperialism

246- by early 20th ce “orlsm shifted from an academic to an instrumental attitude”—that westerners, no matter from what aspect, adopts orst views

248-but increasing revolts and cries for indpce forced orsts to rethink it in 1920s, 30s eg—but that wasn’t a resolution on their own terms after wwI

257-b/c the w was losing power worldwide, the ort started to become something to b studied to released academics from “sterile specialization” and excessive parochial self-centeredness, shows real central issues of cultre

259-some humanists tried to look at culture worldwide (aurbach ?)

270-massignon, but who also placed ort in ancient time

272-“turth as that all representations r embedded in the lang and then in the culture, instituttns, and poll ambiance of the representer”

“…the real issue is whether indeed there can be a true representation of anything, or whether any and all representations, because they are representations, are embedded first in the language and then in the culture, institutions, and political ambience of the representer. If the latter alternative is the correct one (as I believe it is), then we must be prepared to accept the fact that a representation is eo ipso implicated, intertwined, embedded, interwoven with a great many other things besides the ‘truth,’ which is itself a representation. What this must lead us to methodologically is to view representations…as inhabiting a common field of play defined for them, not by some inherent common subject matter alone, but by some common history, tradition, universe of discourse. Within this field, which no single scholar can create but which each scholar receives and in which he then finds a place for himself, the individual researcher makes his contribution. Such contributions, even for the exceptional genius, are strategies of redisposing material within the field…”(272-273)—so there is always a discourse

284-after wwII, orsm was “broken into many parts [of the amer social sciencese]; yet all of them stil served the tradl orst dogmas”

1) 285-polualr images anad social cience representations

287-eg Columbia univ courses

Popular images, social science representations, and cultural relations policies: The “Arab is associated either with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty,” an “oversexed degenerate” and “always shown in large numbers. No individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences…Lurking behind all these images is the menace of jihad. Consequence: a fear that the Muslims (or Arabs) will take over the world” (287)
These ideas have spread to the people in the Orient (322). Schools, economies, and “native informants”

291-amer social cience ort avoids lit

2) 293-cultural relations policy

295-MEI was founded to support US imperialistic policies

296- gibb went to Harvard and US took erupn orsm (and other euro scholars exaping from facism)

301-while other academic areas have achieved freedom from theortical oppression (African, jew, etc) ort has not

305-1970 cambridge history continued old stereotypes

3) 306-merely islam—semites r “simple”

315-criticizes b. lewis

4) 321-orlsm is continuing

322-these ideas have spread to the ortl ppl

-their schools are based on colonial set ups

324-“native informants” –arab ortsts

-consumerism and thusly “orts” symbols

325-good scholarship: “is most likely to b produced by scholars whose allegiance is to a discipline defined intellectually and not to a ‘field’ like orsm defined either canonically, imperially, or geographically”

-likes geerz

-and ort-trained scholars w/ methodological self-consciousness

Other things mentioned: d’herbelot wrote encyclopedia on islam 1698? biased

Ockley wrote history of Saracens in 1702? Said said it was good, tho still contained biases

Racism supported by: cuvier (animal kingdom), gobineau, Robert knox—darwind science was “proof”—since these ppl were “lower,” they “had” to be led—John Westlake, gustave le bon

Also recommends maxime rodinson? Islam and capitalism

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