Theory & Philosophy Reading Group VI: Edward Said’s Orientalism

November 19th 2014, 7pm: Join with radicals, thinkers, activists, poets, and intellectuals on the Monterey Peninsula to read and discuss some of the greatest philosophers of our time.

For our sixth reading group, we’ll be reading the introduction to Orientalism by Edward Said.


About Orientalism:

Orientalism (1978), by Edward Said, is a foundational text for the academic field of Post-colonial Studies. In it, Said analyzes the cultural representations that are the basis of Orientalism, a term he redefined to refer to the West’s patronizing perceptions and depictions of Middle Eastern, Asian and North African societies—”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 thus intellectually suspect. Said further denounces the social, economic, and cultural practices of the ruling Arab elites who, Said claims, as imperial satraps, have internalized the romanticized “Arabic Culture” created by British and American Orientalists. Grounding much of this thesis in his knowledge of colonial literature such as the fiction of Conrad, and in the post-structuralist theory of Foucault, Derrida and others, Said’s Orientalism and following works proved influential in literary theory and criticism, and continue to influence several other fields in the humanities. Orientalism affected Middle Eastern studies, transforming the way practitioners of the discipline describe and examine the Middle East.[1]

About Edward Said:

Edward Wadie Said (1 November 1935 – 25 September 2003) was a Palestinian American literary theorist and public intellectual who helped found the critical-theory field of postcolonialism. Born a Palestinian in Jerusalem in Mandatory Palestine, he was an American citizen through his father. Said spent his childhood in Jerusalem and Cairo, where he attended elite British and American schools. Subsequently he left for the United States, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a doctorate in English literature from Harvard. Said then joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1963, where he became professor of English and comparative literature in 1991.[2] 

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