Edward Said and the Post-Colonial

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Edward Said and the Post-Colonial

Horizons in Post-Colonial Studies Pal Ahluwalia and Bill Ashcroft Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim (Editors) ISBN 1

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Horizons in Post-Colonial Studies Pal Ahluwalia and Bill Ashcroft

Edward Said and the Post-Colonial Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim (Editors) ISBN 1-59033-157-5

Re-Imagining Africa: New Critical Perspectives Sue Kossew and Dianne Schwerdt (Editors) ISBN 1-59033-100-1

Narratives of Colonialism: Sugar, Java a11d the Dutch G. Roger Knight ISBN 1-56072-710-1

White and Deadly: Sugar and Colonialism Pal Ahluwalia, Bill Ashcroft and Roger Knight (Editors) ISBN 1-56072-814-0



Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Huntington, New York

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ISBN 1-59033-157-5.

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Pal Ahluwalia a11d Bill Ashcroft (Series Editors) INTRODUCTION








Patrick Brantli11ger CHAPTER 4: WORLDLINESS




91 107











Pal Ahluwalia and Bill Ashcroft (Series Editors) GENERAL EDITORS' INTRODUCTION

Post-Colonial Studies has undergone a meteoric rise in the past decade in literature departments throughout the world. The aim of this series is to open up various horizons in the field: to encourage the development of postcolonial theory and practice in a wider spread of disciplinary approaches; to promote conceptual innovation in the study of post-colonial discourse in general; and to provide a venue for the entry of new perspectives. Many postcolonialisms have emerged in actual practice in recent times, but the fundamental thing they share is an interest in the ways in which colonized people all over the world have engaged colonialism, and a desire to analyze the effects of this engagement in contemporary cultural life. While the predominant interest has been in the legacy of the British Empire this series encourages the practical application of post-colonial theory into other European and non-European forms of colonialism, to investigate the ways in which the investigation of post-colonial discourse may illuminate present global cultural relations.


Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim There are few public intellectuals today who demonstrate more completely than Edward Said the paradox of identity in an increasingly diasporic and culturally heterogeneous world. Whether this is because his public profile is so high, his political advocacy so urgent and vociferous, or his intellectual reputation so widespread, there hardly seems to be a cultural critic more visibly caught up in a web of contradictions. We find contradictions everywhere in his work and life: contradictions between his beliefs and preferences; contradictions between his highly Westemised professional persona and his Palestinian identity; contradictions between his view of professional work and his place in the contemporary landscape. Perhaps the most contradictory aspect of his place in contemporary theory is his relationship with 'the post-colonial.' Although his pronouncements on the subject have not been carved in stone, it is clear that he has neither a close acquaintance with contemporary post-colonial theory, nor a clear understanding of its goals. Claimed by many to be the originator of postcolonial studies, he demonstrates little interest in this (or any) field of cultural theory. In many respects this contradiction demonstrates better than anything else his desire to act as a 'secular' 'amateur' intellectual. While his place in post-colonial theory is so significant, his increasingly obsessive rejection of any theory that appears to be 'academic' has meant that more often than not he


Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim

has turned his back on what may be, educationally, his major constituency. This paradox is symptomatic, not only of Edward Said, but also of postcolonial theory. There is possibly no other contemporary movement beset by such a range of definitions and interpretations, and, consequently, such a multi-facetted collection of objections and controversies. In what other field of study do we see greater confusion and anxiety about its very name; what other theory experiences such complaint and condemnation from the very people whose names have come to be associated with it? And yet, just as the contradictions of Said's work are a sign of its vitality, so too, the paradoxes and plurality characterising post-colonial studies are a sure sign of its dynamism and strength. In a field that demonstrates so well Said's own thesis in Beginnings that all cultural and theoretical movements have many beginnings rather than a single origin, a field with which he has had an ambivalent relationship, to say the least, his Orienta/ism has been widely accorded the status of a seminal text. One introduction after another puts Said at the beginning of a theory to which he makes little mention throughout his career. It would be hard to find a more desperate need for origins than this need to find a 'beginning' for postcolonial theory. But if any 'beginning' is to found in this overdetermined discourse it is to be found in the many beginnings of colonial occupation. If post-colonial theory is to be described in general terms as the intellectual engagement with the consequences of colonization, then it began in the work of colonized writers as soon as they were forced into colonial education systems. Systematic theorizing of colonization and its attendant features such as race, language, resistance and representation first found in Frantz Fanon, was long preceded by theory which could not claim the name theory in the creative writing of colonial intellectuals. Said's Orienta/ism stands as a reference point, a marker at an imagined junction of the many tributaries that had been feeding the growing awareness of post-colonial cultural production since World War II. Tributaries as disparate as 'Commonwealth' literary study; the cultural commentary ofC.L.R. James and other Caribbean intellectuals; the phenomenon of the Heinemann African Writers Series; Kwame Nkrumah's thesis of neo-colonialism and the growing opposition to development theory; the establishment of institutes such as Dhvanyaloka in India - all these flow into the overdetermined stream of contemporary post-colonial studies.



As he expresses it, Said's view of 'secular criticism' is at odds with any field of literary studies which employs a 'priestly' and abstruse specialization, which ignores the injunction to 'criticize' in the pursuit of the theologies of theoretical dogma. Who would not agree with this? But is there in this vigorous amateurism a danger of doing exactly what Said warns against, of ignoring the worldliness of theory? For 'criticism' exists no more in a vacuum than does theory and when that theory pays urgent attention to the material, how much more imperative is it to be driven by a systematic view of power relations? This paradox is both symptomatic and central to Said's ambiguous ·relationship with post-colonial studies. For whatever his expressed opinion about post-colo.nial theory. (and what little there is seems contradictory) t~~re is no doubt that the recurring elements of his own theory are in fundamental ~greement with the interests and trajectory of post-colonial critics. Clearly, we intend this collection to draw away from the myth of origins, the myth of Said's place at the beginning of post-colonial theory, for a more critical, searching, and, in the end, more productive view of the value of his work to the various branches of post-colonial studies. There is hardly a more quoted source in this field, but almost always it is for the wrong reason. The 'great man' myth renders stagnant the very ideas for which he is celebrated. Rather than providing a myth of origins, Said's work is capable of providing a vigorous theoretical energy to the field. This volume demonstrates the controversy surrounding his work as well as the different directions in which his work can be taken, the ways in which it can focus critical thinking about colonialism and power relations . .\: The opening essay by Patrick Williams exposes the nature of the contradictions surrounding Said's place in contemporary theory. Williams takes issue with Said for the latter's ostensible disavowal of and indeed negative, even superficial, assessment of post-colonial theory - distinguished here from the main stream of Western theory - and for what amounts to an offhand dismissal of the post-colonial intellectual on the part of Said. This is not simply a critique of Said's lack of awareness of part of the worldliness of his own text, but a demonstration of the kinds of methodological diversity and definitional paradox that characterises post-colonial studies itself. In Said's relationship with post-colonial theory we discover some of the more problematic consequences of the secular critic, and indeed, his ambivalent relationship with the field is the focus of this volume.



Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim

A prominent factor in Said's relationship with the post-colonial lies in the affinities he has with contemporary cultural studies, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Culture and Imperialism in which Said gives credit to Raymond Williams, who has a similarly complex relationship with a field of study for which he is often held to be an originator. Patrick Brantlinger stresses the intellectual affinities between Said and Raymond Williams and points to the influence of Williams and of cultural studies on Said's thinking. A refusal to acknowledge Williams' influence on Said, Brantlinger notes, accounts for many Marxist critiques of Orienta/ism such as that of Aijaz Ahmad. Said's prominence and his relentless advocacy of the rights of the Palestinian people have made him the target of much criticism particularly from ultra-conservative journals such as Commentary. The infamous 'Professor of terror• slur by Edward Alexander in that journal in 1989 has been followed up most recently by Justus Reid Weiner's 'My Old Beautiful Home• (1999)- to which Mustapha Marrouchi responds in the course of his reading of Said's memoir Out of Place-- widely regarded as a politically-motivated attempt to discredit the foremost spokesperson of the Palestinian cause. Most criticisms of Said, however, have been triggered by the apparent methodological and conceptual problems of Orienta/ism. One species of critique is best represented by Aijaz Ahmad who, in his book In Theory (1992), assails Said for the predominantly Western cultural apparatus of Orienta/ism and also for the book's allegedly anti-Marxist stance. In the tradition of Marxist critics such as Aijaz Ahmad, Arif Dirlik expands his criticism of post-colonial studies to include Edward Said. Dirlik chronicles the transformation of post-colonialism from radical beginnings (the post-colonialism of national liberation movements), to what he perceives to be a depoliticized post-colonialism marked by an abandonment of its initial focus and by a preoccupation with issues of race and ethnicity (the contemporary post-colonialism of identity politics). Contemporary post-colonialism's overemphasis on cultural identity, Dirlik warns, has the effect of decentering issues of political economy and amounts to possible complicity with structures of political economy. Dirlik further argues that Said's affinities to and positioning between both strains of post-colonialism account for the paradoxes and contradictions that abound in his thinking. Bill Ashcroft underscores the distinction between Said's professed antipathy to post-colonial theory and the significance of his concept of



"Worldliness" for a post-colonial agenda. This view of worldliness, although it is inspired by literary theory, suggests that he may be closer to the materialism of the Ahrnads and Dirliks than they realise (as is the project of post-colonial studies). Ashcroft views Worldliness as Said's most "postcolonial" and also most crucial contribution to critical theory. To the extent that it emphasizes the materiality of the text, the concept of Worldliness (of both text and critic) thus works to counter the unbridled textuality of much poststructuralist theory. As such, Ashcroft argues, Said's key concept reflects the aims of post-colonial criticism to represent and intervene in the world. Moreover, despite the controversy surrounding Said's positioning within the post-colonial, his insistence on the materiality of the text and his emphasis on the necessity for criticism to be politically and socially engaged signal the real convergence between Said and post-colonialism. One of the keys to the vexed relationship between Said and post-colonial studies is the fact that in interest and background, Said is concerned with the broad impact of Europe's imperialism rather than the specifics of its colonialism (and also, perhaps, rather than the specifics of resistance). In her essay Linda Hutcheon, who views Orienta/ism as an act of historical witnessing, proposes drawing a very useful distinction between "postcolonial" and "postimperial" discourses. Locating the originary moment of both discourses at the colonial encounter, she assigns to the former denoting discourses that are concerned with the impact of that encounter over time on the colonized. Postimperial discourses, however, are defined as those discourses that address the impact of the encounter over time on empire and its discourses. According to this scheme, and due to the book's primary focus on the imperial discourses of the West, Orienta/ism falls within the category of the postimperial rather than the post-colonial. Misdirected critiques of Orienta/ism, Hutcheon notes, are attributable to Said's own positioning as both a post-colonial and postimperial historian as well as to the overlap between the postimperial (a theoretical focus) and the post-colonial (an enunciative position) within Orienta/ism itself. Despite the overlap and confusions, however, Hutcheon makes a convincing case for the differentiation between the two modes of discourses: the postimperial (Orienta/ism as well as Culture and Imperialism), and the post-colonial which predominates in Said's works on Palestine. Despite the ongoing controversy surrounding Said's work, the mode of colonial discourse analysis initiated in Said's study of Orientalism continues


Bill Ashcroft and Hussein Kadhim

to be applied to a plurality of discourses with a view to identifying possible linkages to imperialism. An instance of such application is Susanne Zantop's proposal to expand the Orient-Occident dichotomy central to Said's study of Orientalism. What this dichotomy fails to take into account, notes Zantop, are the "discovery" of the Americas and the consequences of that "discovery" in terms of producing multiple occidents. Focusing on European representations of the "New World," Zantop argues that the inclusion of the Americas in the debate is crucial to the decentring task of post-colonial studies. Pal Ahluwalia outlines the way in which Said's Orientalist project can stand as a model for many other examples of the cultural and political relationship between Europe and its others. A significant case is African Studies. The discursive construction of 'Africa' and 'the African' is a profound demonstration of the link between knowledge and power, and reaches even more deeply into the imagination of the West than does the Orient. Orienta/ism's extraordinary currency has not impeded critical activity aimed at extending, reformulating, and reorienting some of its key assumptions. Elleke Boehmer, for instance, although she stops short of suggesting "a knowing complicity" between the post-colonial and neocolonialism, nonetheless posits a certain relatedness between post-colonial studies and the continuing hegemony of the Western metropolis. This relatedness is apparent, inter alia, in what she terms "a neo-orientalist rhetoric" that lingers on in post-colonial literary criticism from the West, its oppositionality notwithstanding. Juxtaposing the critical reception of the Indian woman poet, Sarojini Naidu in England in 1892 with the postcolonial reception of another Indian writer, the novelist Arundhati Roy, in the West in the 1990s, Boehmer discerns unsettling parallels between colonial discourse and recent post-colonial literary criticism. Mustapha Marrouchi's wide ranging discussion of Said's memoir Out of Place reveals how Said's sense of displacement, a sense exacerbated and ironically demonstrated by the most recent attack by Justus Weiner, is a function of both the most personal and the most global trajectories of cultural displacement. This memoire itself leaves us with a very clear sense of the link between the personal and the cultural, a sense of the materiality and specifics of exile and displacement. Ironically, it is these specific features of the experience of the displaced Palestinian academic that best demonstrate the paradox of the contemporary post-colonial intellectual. Ultimately this paradox can be seen to be a matter of reading. How we read Said's work, how



his work is used, may differ from the way he reads it. But ultimately, the political meaning of Said's cultural theory emerges in the use to which it may be put, in the project of liberation and transformation lying at the centre of the 'post-colonial.'

Chapter 1


ArifDirlik Edward Said is an intellectual of many paradoxes. His work over the last three decades has articulated the most cogent and sustained critiques of Eurocentrism, and yet he retains an intellectual and personal commitment to the values of European humanism, and the products of its high culture. He owes much of his political and moral stature to his commitment to the Palestinian cause, at the risk of personal abuse and danger, and yet he is a relentless critic of nationalism, including Palestinian nationalism. He has written incisively about the complicity of academic institutions in domination and hegemony, and yet is ready to rush to the defense of the American university against its critics from the left and the right. He is a thorough professional who is critical of professionalism in the name of the public obligations of intellectuals. While his work has inspired new theoretical departures in literary and cultural criticism, he disclaims theory as a major concern of his work. The list could go on-almost indefinitely. Said himself has been explicit in acknowledging his paradoxes, and commentators on his work have been quite aware of the ways in which these paradoxes inform his cultural and literary analyses. Interestingly, Said's paradoxes or, more strongly, contradictions, rather than undermine his



credibility, have served to empower his work, and enabled him to retain his autonomy as a critic against pressures to conformity of changing intellectual and political fashions, including those for which his own work may be responsible. Said's credibility is due in part to an intellectual integrity that refuses to disavow the many pasts, and the cultural baggage, accumulated in the course of a complex personal itinerary that has traversed a variety of historical and cultural situations; from Jerusalem through Beirut and Cairo to New York. He has been quite open about the ways in which his "Western" and "elite" education have shaped him, about his love for the EuroArnerican writers whose works he subjects to criticism, and even the ways in which his background and education have divided him intellectually and esthetically from the Palestinian and Arab societies he speaks for. Referring to other Third World intellectuals, more hostile than he to the products of European humanism, he states in his interview with Jennifer Wicke and Michael Sprinker, with a note of defiance, that "there's no reason for me to perform acts of amputation on myself, intellectual, spiritual, or esthetic, simply because in the experience of other people from the Third World, a black novelist from Nigeria like Achebe or your West Indian friend, can make my Proust or Conrad into someone who is only despicable" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 253, emphasis mine). He stands out among so-called postcolonial intellectuals for his honesty in aclmowledging the ways in which his class background have both shaped and limited his political choices (253). His honesty extends to an unwillingness to suppress in ideological generalizations the political dilemmas facing the Third World, and the Third World intellectual. But there is more to the empowerment than personal attributes. Said has rendered personal experiences into method as he has brought his own diverse and conflicting cultural allegiances into play against one another. He writes in his introduction to Culture and Imperialism that "this book is an exile's book. For objective reasons that I had no control over, I grew up as an Arab with a Western education. Ever since I can remember, I have felt that I belonged to both worlds, without being completely of either one or the other" (Said 1993: xxvi). He describes the "perspective" his experience of exile produced as "contrapuntal," which refers both to a way of thinking about people, and a method of analysis and reading texts; the method suggesting, to this writer anyway, a decoding of a text, a culture or whatever with the aid of its aclmowledged or suppressed Other, while recognizing the integrity of both.

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


While Said on occasion uses the fashionable postcolonial term "hybridity" with reference to both himself and his analytical perspective, his is what M. Bakhtin wrote of as "intentional hybridity," that sets different voices against one another without denying their (at times) irreconcilable differences (Bakhtin 1981: 35 8-359). Rather than submerge difference into an opaque hybridity, Said, as Mustapha Marrouchi observes, inhabits "a space of multiple allegiances," or perhaps even more accurately, multiple spaces, that are not always easily reconciled, but provide him with a multiplicity of interpretive locations (Marrouchi 1998: 209). Most discussions of Said with which I am familiar focus on the spatialities that these paradoxes represent, or produce; at the most fundamental level, the cultural "in-betweenness" that informs his self-image and his work. I would like to turn here to a paradox that is temporal, that has been suppressed in the preoccupation with cultural spaces: Said's location in the unfolding of the postcolonial. One of the more intriguing paradoxes in Said's career is the part he has played in the emergence and legitimation of contemporary postcolonial criticism, with its preoccupation with the culture and politics of identity. On the other hand, Said has drawn insistently on an earlier, more politically oriented, postcolonialism preoccupied with questions of national liberation, revolution, and Third World alternatives to capitalism and existing forms of socialism; and objects to the postcolonialist preoccupation with identity, its repudiation of metanarratives, and even the term postcolonial itself (Said 1998/9: 92). These different versions ofpostcolonialism also pervade much of Said's writing in tense co-existence, raising questions about his work among contemporary postcolonials who feel uneasy about Said's continued willingness to affirm "binarisms" and even "essentialisms." That Said has nevertheless played an important part in the emergence of this contemporary postcolonialism also raises questions concerning his departures from an earlier, politically radical, postcolonialism, that need to be queried for closer assessment of some of the more problematic aspects of his thinking. Benita Parry has recognized Said's complex positioning in the field of postcolonialism in observing that, A critique of culture and imperialism that situates itself on the borders and boundaries of knowable communities, intellectual systems, and critical practices, celebrating the unhoused and decentred counter-energies generated by the displaced critical consciousness, enacts a theoretical mode symptomatic of a postcolonial cosmopolitanism which proclaims its multiple


ArifDirlik detachments and occupancy of a hybrid discursive space. It is a precarious position for a politically aligned theorist to maintain, and a demonstration of Said apparently contradicting himself is when in the same breath he acknowledges the importance of moving from one identity to another, and afflilllS that "[O]ne of the virtues of being a Palestinian is that it teaches you to feel your particularity in a new way, not only as a problem but as a kind of gift" (Parry 1992: 19-20).

I would like to pursue this contradiction a bit further, in the perspective of the history of postcolonialism; which requires a diversion from the subject at hand, but is necessary nevertheless to place what I have to say in historical context. As Aijaz Ahmad has pointed out, the idea of the postcolonial itself has a history (Ahmad 1995: 1). In its initial, more or less literal, temporal sense, it referred to newly liberated colonies, and was quite radical in its social, economic and political implications: breaking with the colonial past to create new societies economically, politically and culturally. Integral to the postcolonial vision of this early period (peaking in the 1960s) were ideologies of national liberation that sought national autonomy in all realms from the colonial past as well as the neo-colonial present. National liberation movements of this early period were informed for the most part by socialist programs of one kind or another; which also explains the affinity between ideologies of national liberation and Third World socialisms such as the Chinese. Against an earlier scholarship infused with colonial or neo-colonial assumptions, the radical postcolonial vision fostered both at home and abroad a new anti-colonial scholarship. These beginnings are largely forgotten in contemporary conceptions of postcoloniality, which not only have turned their back on these origins, but indeed may be viewed as a negation of the original sense of the postcolonial of which they are products. The ambivalence produced by this dialectical positioning is visible in the works of Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak and Stuart Hall who today are hailed as originators of postcolonial criticism as we have it now, but whose works are nevertheless deeply marked by their points of departure in an earlier sense of the postcolonial, connected to its radical social programs even as they articulated a new discourse of culture that would ultimately negate those origins. It is not that culture was missing from earlier discussions of postcoloniality; but it is a long ways from the "cultural revolutions" of national liberation movements in which culture appeared as part of a broader political program to the contemporary disappearance of

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


radical social, economic and political programs into the problematic of cultural discourse. The postcolonial in its contemporary appearance is shaped by the retreat from revolution with the reconfiguration of global relations in the eighties. This retreat is most readily visible in the abandonment in postcolonial criticism of two categories that were fundamental to earlier revolutionary discourses: nation and class. There are complex reasons for the increasingly problematic nature of these two categories in our day, some of which I have discussed elsewhere. Here I will speak briefly to those aspects of the problem that are directly pertinent to the issues at hand. Ironically, in our day, when formal political colonialism has all but disappeared, it is the nation and nationalism in their claims to homogeneous cultural identities that appear as the greatest foes of cultural and historical diversity, and the free play of individual and group identities-including those that are the legacies of colonialism. Whereas an earlier generation experienced colonialism as erasure of real or imagined native identities, and set out to recover those identities through the agency of the nation, postcolonial selfidentification with hybridity, in-betweenness, marginality, borderlands, etc., represents in some fundamental ways the revolt against claims to authentic national identity of those whose very cultural formation was a product of the colonial encounter at home and abroad. While postcolonial criticism devotes much effort to the critique of the ideologies of colonial domination (chief among them, Eurocentrism), it ironically also represents an affirmation of the colonial past-at least of the colonial past in the postcolonial. The postcolonial celebration of hybridity and in-betweenness is a celebration against nationalist cultural claims of a culture which includes the culture of the colonizer as a constituent moment; that also reasserts the claims to cultural priority of those groups in society shaped by the colonial encounter. The failure of postcolonial national liberation regimes to deliver on their political, economic and cultural promises is no doubt an important factor in this tmnabout. But so is the proliferation of diasporic populations that has accompanied economic and political globalization, whose demographic dispersal has created a situation in which it is no longer possible to identify cultures with national boundaries. One of the important by-products of this situation-encompassed in slogans of globalization-is increased porosity of the boundaries that earlier separated the colonizers from the colonized; which may account for the receptivity to postcolonialism among the intellectuals and



institutions of metropolitan centers (unlike, say, in earlier largely negative responses to third-worldist separatism). There is also a reminder here, however, of the need for caution in generalizing the postcolonial experience, which was historically the most significant for those who experienced colonialism as a transformative cultural force. Even in those cases, there is much that is problematic. The questioning of authenticity to nationalist claims has had as an underlying purpose the recognition of equal "authenticity" to those who were products of the colonial "borderlands," whose cultures include the cultures of colonialism. Unreflective promotion of "borderlands," however, has gone beyond such demands for recognition to the erasure of all alternatives to the borderlands, and "borderlands" that were products of encounters other than the colonial. At a time when claims to ethnic authenticities proliferate, the preoccupation with "borderlands" makes for a blindness to other ways of perceiving cultural selfidentification that have as much claim to their self-identifications as diasporic intellectuals and populations. Indeed, diasporic populations are hardly homogeneous, but deeply divided socially; against the insistence on cultural hybridity of diasporic elites, large sections of these populations appear to be more adamant about their cultural authenticities-traditions-than the populations at their places of departure. That the "border" claims of postcolonialism are taken more seriously at first world locations than in third world origins also point to the power context for contemporary discussions of culture. There is little that is puzzling about the receptivity in metropolitan centers to postcolonialist arguments in favor of "border" cultures, as those arguments confirm that metropolitan cultures have become inevitable components of the colonized. While the retreat from class presents its own problems within the context of globalization, it is not entirely unrelated to the question of the nation. One of the fundamental premises of earlier national liberation movements, that distinguished them from other forms of Third World nationalism, was conviction in the necessity of a social revolution as a prerequisite of national liberation and autonomy, which also explains their affinity to socialism. The reason was fairly straightforward from the perspective of a Leninist (if not just a Leninist) appreciation of the contradictions of imperialism: that colonial or imperialist domination required for its effectiveness and perpetuation the complicity of native classes-"feudal" classes bent on preserving their power against new nationalist forces, or "bourgeoisies" who were products of the

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


importation of capitalism through the agency of colonialism and, in spite of their resentment of imperialist domination, also shared common interests with the latter. Given the ties of these groups to imperialism, national liberation must be unsuccessful so long as they retained their power. Much the same pertained to nation-building as a cultural project: that the recovery of authentic national traditions also required the "re-nationalization" of those who had come under colonial cultural hegemony. The Chinese Cultural Revolution in the sixties may be seen as one eloquent testimonial to the coincidence of economic, political and cultural projects in a situation of obsessive concern with national autonomy, where the necessity of purging the culturally "contaminated" classes appeared as a primary task. Such extremist nativism was not restricted to China, needless to say, but entered in various ways speculation over the future of national cultures in all national liberation movements. It is not difficult to appreciate why the revolt against claims to national cultural authenticity on the part of those disenfranchised culturally by nativism should tum "class" itself into an undesirable category.• On the other hand, the abandonment of class issues deprives analysis of a major intellectual instrument in evaluating differences in claims to marginality, nourishing pretensions to ethnic unity and homogeneity. Strong traces of the origins of the postcolonial in the colonial persist in the preoccupation with questions of race and ethnicity. And in its ideological effects, the generalization of the postcolonial has resulted also in the generalization of the problematics of ethnicity and race above all other questions. The meaning and politics of postcoloniality have been transformed as postcolonial criticism has suppressed important elements that earlier structured the concept of the postcolonial; ethnicity and race have been the 1 The

historical context for these developments is the renunciation by national liberation states of their own pasts. Nevertheless, this does not eliminate the contradictions generated by past legacies. Thus, a state such as the Chinese, has abandoned its earlier commitments to national autonomy in the economic realm; but it continues to pretend that cultural boundaries can and should be policed. This is less convincing than ever before in its contradictions with the economic policies of the regime. Arguments in favour of borderlands cultures are obviously of important critical significance in the critique of such policies. On the other hand, such state policies and postcolonial criticism may be contemporaries, especially with regard to a compartmentalized isolation of various realms of life from one another. As the Chinese state wishes to concentrate on the economic realm, and is reluctant to speak to issues of culture(or even politics), postcolonial criticism focuses on issues of culture and relegates issues of political economy to the background. Such compartmentalization betrays the legacy of



chief beneficiaries of the retreat from nation and class-especially in the homelands of the new version of the postcolonial in metropolitan institutions. In the academic discourse of the early to mid-1980s, ethnicity and race appeared mostly in conjunction with class and gender, which pointed to a discursive conjuncture between feminism and the postcolonial in it original sense as a problem in culture and ethnicity as well as in the structures of political economy. Class was the first casualty as the postcolonial in its unfolding tmned its back on structures of political economy. Issues of gender, too, were quickly infiltrated by issues of race and ethnicity. By the time postcolonialism in its contemporary guise appeared in the nineties, ethnicity and race had moved to the center of the discourse. Conceived to combat ethnocentrism and racism, postcolonial discourse ironically contributes presently to the racialization and ethnicization ofthe languages of both critical intellectual work and politics-with liberal intentions, no doubt, but at the risk on the one hand of covering up proliferating problems of social inequality and oppression whose origins lie elsewhere, and, on the other hand, of contributing to the consolidation of the very ethnic, national and racial boundaries that it is intended to render porous and traversible. Both risks are visible plainly in that slogan that has become dear to a an emergent multiethnic globalist establishment: multi-culturalism. I have no wish here to go in any depth into a problem that I have discussed at length in a number of places; namely, the relationship between globalization and postcolonialism. Suffice it to say here that postcolonial concerns resonate with questions concerning the status of the nation-state, classes, identities, etc. in a world where globalization real or imagined has also captured the imagination of many; and it is hardly coincidental that the two have gained in intellectual popularity in tandem. If globalization for its promoters represents a break with an older world of colonialism, nationalism and revolution, that requires a re-writing of the past, postcolonialism offers valuable tools for doing so. Postcolonialism, in other words, enjoys wide appeal because it has something important to say about the contemporary world. This also is its predicament as a critical discourse. What is intended as a critique turns into a legitimation of a new ideology of globalization when it is mobilized in service of the latter. The failure of most so-called postcolonial critics to position themselves critically vis-a-vis the ideology of globalizationfunctionalism, which ignored that the economic is also social, political and cultural, just as the

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


a product largely of a refusal to address questions of structure and totality-has facilitated such ideological use of postcolonial ism. Such questions of structure include the legacies of colonial spaces which persist beneath the appearances of globality and continue to shape not only the configurations of power and political economy, but also diasporic motions and cultural formations. An excessive attention to free-floating cosmopolitans conceals that most diasporic motions are regulated by conditions of political economy and, in the case of migrations out of former colonies, follow paths that end up in the "mother" country. On the other hand, the projection of the postcolonial argument to the past has rendered the colonial past into just one more phase on the way to globalization, while erasing the revolutionary pasts that, for all their failures, envisioned alternatives to capitalist globality. The criticism of the nation, that does not distinguish between different kinds of nationalism, also serves to erase the revolutionary movements that took the nation as their premise. So does the obliviousness to questions of class. In light of what I have observed above with reference to the re-evaluation of class formations in earlier national liberation movements, it may be understandable why postcolonial critics from formerly colonial societies should be reluctant to speak to issues of class, as they hail for the most part from classes that were (and are) suspect in the eyes of nativists. This makes it all the more imperative to speak to issues of class, however, as postcolonial elites are increasingly entangled in the transnational class formations produced by global reconfigurations. In the process, the postcolonial argument is mobilized to serve as an alibi for a cultural colonialism that is so thorough that it is nearly impossible to speak about it, as colonialism itself loses its meaning where it proceeds by consent of the colonized. However diluted in its dissolution of social differences into generalities about marginality or subalterneity, the postcolonial argument even in its later phase initially retained a concern for the underdog; as witness the affinity postcolonial critics have expressed with the Subaltern historians. By now, however, postcolonial criticism has become absorbed into institutions of power, its arguments appropriated by those who may feel marginal in certain ways, but represent new forms of power in others. It may be indicative of this assimilation to transnational power that any call to disentangle postcolonialism as an intellectually and politically critical strategy from its cultural is at once social, political and economic.



service to new structures of power provokes censorial charges of "leftconservatism," racism, and more colorfully, if in language reminiscent of politburo commissars, monsters arising from the netherlands. 2 It may also explain why first-world muchacho postcolonials should be even more adamant than third world postcolonial intellectuals in the defense of postcoloniality. It is even arguable that within the discourse of postcoloniality, the literally postcolonial are increasingly marginalized as the postcolonial is abstracted as "method," and appropriated for first world concerns that have little to do with the colonial per se. Said inhabits both worlds of the postcolonial; the postcolonialism of radical national liberation movements, which informs his writing and his selfimage, as well as the postcolonialism of identity politics, to the articulation of which he has contributed significantly. What I referred to above as his dialectical positioning between these worlds helps account for the paradoxes and contradictions in his thinking. On the other hand, what we might perceive as his quite apparent will to contradictoriness has provided him with an autonomous intellectual identity that enables him to re-read past ideologies with present concerns, while avoiding entrapment in the ideologies of the present, because he continues to invoke the past against the present; contrapuntal reading temporalized, so to speak. Contrapuntal reading, however, is not the same as a dialectical resolution of the questions raised by the history of the postcolonial, and the self-conscious will to contradiction, however powerful as a critical tool, in the end exacts its own price in substituting for political utopia the utopianization of the itinerant intellectual. Said perceives his work as heir to, and continuous with, the critique of colonialism by an earlier generation of intellectuals who played seminal roles in articulating the tasks of anti-colonial politics and culture in the process of national liberation. Commenting on the ways in which culture has been 2

I am referring here to the distempered remarks by Stuart Hall with reference to an earlier critique of mine of postcolonialism: "We always knew that the dismantling of the colonial paradigm would release strange demons from the deep, and that these monsters might come trailing all sorts of subterranean material," (Hall 1996: 259). The "we always knew" part suggests that postcolonial criticism emerged as some premeditated strategy devised by an UMamed group, but Hall does not tell us what the occasion was for the "conspiracy." That a distinguished intellectual should be so oblivious to the history in postcolonial criticism is indicative of the pitfalls in postcolonialist thinking. I, for one, appreciate Hall's readiness to jump to the defense of his fellow-"conspirators," but such name-calling avoids the issues involved-with which he would seem to agree, and which coincide with theoretical and political positions he has adopted elsewhere.

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


utilized in European writing since the Renaissance to inform and invigorate "the economic and political machinery that...stands at the center of imperialism," he writes that, ... if it is embarrassing for us to remark that those elements of a society we have long considered to be progressive were, so far as empire was concerned, uniformly retrograde, we still must not be afraid to say it. When I say "retrograde" I speak here of advanced writers and artists, of the working class, and of women, whose imperialist fervor increased in intensity and perfervid enthusiasm for the acquisition of and sheer bloodthirsty dominance over innumerable niggers, bog dwellers, babus and wogs, as the competition . .. also increased in brutality and senseless, even profitless, control. What enables us to say all of those things retrospectively is the perspective provided for us in the twentieth century by theoreticians, militants, and insurgent analysts of imperialism like Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, C.L.R. James, Aime Cesaire, Walter Rodney, plus many others like them, on the one hand, and on the other hand, by the great nationalist artists of decolonization and revolutionary nationalism, like Tagore, Senghor, Neruda, Vellejo, Cesaire, Faiz, Darwish ... and Yeats (Eagleton, Jameson and Said 1990: 72-3).

These anti-colonial writers' names and works (with Fanon holding a special place) appear repeatedly in Said's work, and so do the issues that they raised; it is possible to detect in Said's writing on occasion even the language in which they raised those issues. He remarks in his interview with Jennifer Wicke and Michael Sprinker that, "what Fanon calls the conversion, the transformation, of national into political and social consciousness, hasn't yet taken place. It's an unfinished project, and that's where I think my work has begun" (236). He is willing to condone, at least as a "tactical" necessity, the advocacy of redemptive violence by Fanon, and "the extraordinary intensity" of Cabral's "mobilizing force, his animosity and violence, the way ressentiment and hate keep turning up-all the more evident against the particularly ugly backdrop of Portuguese colonialism" (Said 1993: 274-5). He is equally unwilling to condemn the Marxist (especially Leninist) inspiration that informed ideologies and cultural products of national liberation movements. While Said confesses to an inability to "identify with Marxism" because of its totalizations, its tendencies to orthodoxy, and the less than savory careers of Marxist parties, Marxists from G. LukAcs to A.Gramsci, T. Adorno and R. Williams (especially Gramsci and Williams) are among his acknowledged inspirations.



Such claims may not mean much, as these various writers and literary figures are claimed by most contemporary postcolonial intellectuals in their re-readings of the past, but unlike in the case of the latter, Said interestingly readily confesses to "limitations" of background in his ambivalent relationship to Marxism (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 260-261). 3 His involvement with the Palestinian cause is no doubt a central element in the way he reads national liberation and Marxist texts, as the Palestine liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s was widely perceived by friends and foes alike as one of the many anti-colonial national liberation struggles of the time. If Said's "Palestinian nationalism" drives him to the texts of national liberation for answers, the texts themselves, read with due regard for their integrity, compel attention to the politics and theories that inform them. Palestinian nationalist though he is, Said acknowledges nevertheless that "[I] draw out patterns from my peculiar background, not so much my ethnic background, but the non-European background" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 230). This background also plays an obvious part in Said's ambivalence on the question of nationalism. Over the last decade in particular, criticism of "the fetishization of national identity," for its oppressive consequences as well as its destructive divisiveness, has been a constant theme in Said's writing (232). In one of the series of lectures that comprise his 1994 volume, Representations ofthe Intellectual, Said devotes a few pages of his discussion to the use of pronouns such as "we" and "our" in political language, which refer not only to the writer or the speaker, but suggest "a national corporate identity" (1994: 29). He observes in elaboration that "there seems to be no way of escaping the frontiers and enclosures built around us either by nations or by other kinds of communities (like Europe, Africa, the West, or Asia) that share a common language and a whole set of implied and shared characteristics, prejudices, fixed habits of thought" (30). On the other hand, he is quite obviously wary of the implications of such "corporate thinking," which makes it "only too easy to repeat collective formulas, since merely to use a national language at all (there being no alternative to it) tends to commit you to what is readiest at hand, herding you into those stock phrases and popular metaphors for 'us' 'and them' that so many agencies, including journalism, academic professionalism, and expedient communal intelligibility,


See, also, pp. 227-229, for the influence of his class background on his response as a young man to Nasserite socialism.

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


keep in currency" (32) (emphasis mine). Even in the case of "defensive nationalisms" such as those of the Third World, it is imperative for the intellectual who seeks critical independence not to put solidarity ahead of criticism, as these nationalisms, too, perpetuate oppression of "disadvantaged populations locked inside ... unrepresented or suppressed" by the "status quo powers of the national state," which "provides the intellectual with a real opportunity to resist the forward march of the victors" (39). By the time Said concludes his discussion, there is little doubt left in the mind of the reader that the public intellectual must at all times resist incorporation into the collective ''we" if s/he is to maintain critical autonomy against pressures of culture and language, or the political demands for loyalty. The reader of these lectures is likely to be surprised, then, by Said's prolific use of "we" and "our" a few years earlier in what may be his most personal work, After the Last Sky. He writes there, with reference to Palestinian identity, that: Identity-who we are, where we come from, what we are-is difficult to maintain in exile. Most other people take their identity for granted. Not the Palestinian, who is required to show proofs of identity more or less constantly. It is not only that we are regarded as terrorists, but that our existence as native Arab inhabitants of Palestine, with primordial rights there (and not elsewhere), is either denied or challenged. And there is more. Such as it is, our existence is linked negatively to encomiums about Israel's democracy, achievements, excitement; in much Western rhetoric we have slipped into the place occupied by Nazis and anti-Semites; collectively, we can aspire to little except political anonymity and resettlement; we are known for no actual achievement, no characteristic worthy of esteem, except the effrontery of disrupting Middle East peace ... We have known no Einsteins, no Cbagall, no Freud or Rubinstein to protect us with a legacy of achievements. We have had no Holocaust to protect us with the world's compassion. We are "other," and opposite, a flaw in the geometry of resettlement and exodus (Said 1986: 16-17).

It will not do to ascribe these contrasting stances to the nostalgic tone of this earlier work against the more analytical orientation of the lectures, or a passage of time that has witnessed a transformation of the author's views. While there may be a tone of nostalgia in After the Last Sky, to view it as merely nostalgic would be to trivialize both the work and what Said has to say there. And if there have been shifts in Said's emphases over the years, ambivalence toward nationalism has been one of the persistent traits of his



thinking. 4 It may be more productive, therefore, to read one statement against the other, so as to bring out the tensions that have animated Said as an intellectual, and lent his work cultural and political complexity. While it is not quite clear how it applies to him, his insistence on the pronoun "we" with reference to Palestinians resonates with his remarks in his lecture about the confmement of the intellect by national language, and even by geographical region. Said's lecture may also enable us to read After the Last Sky deconstructively. After the Last Sky is in a fundamental sense a skillful work of propaganda (in a positive sense of that term), if not just a work of propaganda. It was written for Western readers, to impart to them a sense of Palestinian life in all its variety in order to humanize Palestinians against their de-humanization in a hostile environment. It is also a deeply "place-based" work, thanks largely to Jean Mohr's photography which seeks successfully to capture Palestinian life in its concrete everydayness. 5 Said, who at the time of writing had been away from Palestine for almost four decades, in his commentary reflects on these photographs which recall for him memories of Palestine, but also serve as reminders both of the varieties of Palestinian life, and his own distance from the immediacy of Palestine. If he essentializes being Palestinian against his recognition throughout the text of the diversity of Palestinian life in Israel/ Palestine and in exile, it is only partially out of nostalgia; for without the self-identification he reads into the photographs, the work would have lost much of its propaganda value. These considerations may not make the writing any the less essentialist (in a way that contrasts with the place-based diversity implied by the photographs), and Said's selfidentification any the less real, but they suggest a need for reading the text in more complex ways, with due attention to its politics, the distance between the author and the text, and the ambivalence that peeks through its homogenizing nationalism. Said's self-identification as a Palestinian in this text is an imagined if not a willed self-identification; or, as he puts it, a "metaphorical" one. He writes of several photographs of rural life in Palestine that,



For the persistence of cenain questions in Said's work over the years, see, Tim Brennan (1992: 74-95). Said himself continues to use "we" insistently with reference to Palestinians, most recently in an interview on the Serbian crisis on the BBC show, "The World Today," 16 April 1999. I am unable to expand here on the idea of the "place-based," which appears funher in the discussion below. For an elaboration of the idea, readers may be referred to Dirlik ( 1999).

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


A significant segment of Arab Palestinian history has been made up of peasant farming and agricultural life ... Pastoral and rural fonns of existence dominate in our society. The chances are today that one out of every two Palestinians you meet is descended from farmers or shepherds, and has deep roots in a land descended from farmers or shepherds, and has deep roots in a land worked by small rural communities. It is therefore very tempting to think of this life as essentially timeless and anonymously collective. I am perhaps an extreme case of an urban Palestinian whose relationship to the land is basically metaphorical, I view the Palestinian community at a very great remove (1986: 88). 6

In contrast to a depoliticized postcolonialism that dismisses the nation with deceptive ease, Said's political alignment leads him to reaffirm nationalism even as he remains suspicious of it on both political and cultural grounds. He writes in Culture and Imperialism that "[N]ationalism's disabling capacities have been lingered over and caricatured quite long enough by a large army of commentators, expert and amateur alike, for whom the nonWestern world after the whites left it seems to have become little more than a nasty mix of tribal chieftains, despotic barbarians and mindless fundamentalists" (1993: 275-6). This affirmation in tum is informed by a recognition of the deep inequality in power that persists between the First and the Third Worlds, which is suppressed in contemporary postcolonial criticism in the preoccupation with identity politics, politics of location, or the negotiability of cultural identities; in other words, in the separation of culture from politics. While quite contemporary in his recognition of multiple complicities in the making of colonialism as well as postcolonialism, Said insists nevertheless that, An entire massive chapter in cultural history across five continents grows out of ... collaboration between natives on the one hand and conventional as well as eccentric and contradictory representatives of imperialism on the other. In paying respect to it, acknowledging the shared and combined experiences that produced many of us, we must at the same time note how at its center it nevertheless preserved the nineteenth century imperial divide between native and Westerner. The many colonial schools in the Far East, India, the Arab world, East and West Africa, for example, taught generations of the native 6

Said's willful ambivalence on the question of the nation has a parallel in Stuart Hall's ambivalence on the question of ethnicity. Hall, too, is critical of essentialized ethnicity, even as he recognizes the importance of ethnicity to the political identity of the oppressed. See, Hall (1996: 110-121).


ArifDirlik bourgeoisie important truths about history, science, culture. And out of that learning process millions grasped the fundamentals of modem life, yet remained subordinates of a foreign imperial authority ( 1993: 263-4 ).

How this was achieved is the subject of Orienta/ism which, for all its shortcomings, is likely to remain as Said's most lasting contribution to postcolonial thinking. It is in many senses a pivotal work; a cultural product of a transition between the two senses of the postcolonial. Terry Eagleton, citing Raymond Williams, points to an "impossible irony" of nationalism; that "it is .. .like class. To have it and to feel it, is the only way to end it. If you fail to claim it, or give it up too soon, you will merely be cheated, by other classes and other nations" (1990: 23). To overcome nationalism, he remarks, it is necessary first to go through it. The problem to which he points is not a philosophical or a theoretical problem but a historical one. With some qualification, there is some of this same sense of irony in Said's approach to nationalism. Said, following Fanon, draws a distinction between "independence" and "liberation": "If I have so often cited Fanon, it is because more dramatically and decisively than any one, I believe, he expresses the immense cultural shift from the terrain of nationalist independence to the theoretical domain of liberation" (1993: 268). This shift entails a transformation of national into social and political consciousness, transcending the nation in its compass, and aiming at some kind of universalist humanism. The necessity of national consciousness on the way to liberation, that appears in Fanon's work as an immediate historical necessity, and for Eagleton and Williams, as irony, however, appears in Said's thinking also as tragedy: "It's the tragedy, the irony, the paradox of all anti-imperial or decolonizing struggles that independence is the stage through which you must try to pass: for us independence is the only alternative to the continued horrors of the Israeli occupation, whose goal is the extermination of a Palestinian national identity" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 236-237). I will comment below on the possible significance of this addition of "tragedy" to irony and paradox. More immediately here, very much in the tradition of earlier writers on national liberation, Said continues to invoke class as a problem both for independence and liberation. I have noted above Said's frequent references to his own class background, that in his view "disadvantages" him on some political issues. He is also sensitive to differences in experience of exile or migration between those like himself, and

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


the great majority of the displaced, when he writes that, "there is a great difference ...between the optimistic mobility, the intellectual liveliness, and 'the logic of daring' described by the various theoreticians on whose work I have drawn, and the massive dislocations, waste, misery, and horrors endured in our century's migrations and mutilated lives" (1993: 332). Politically, he complains of "the extent to which, at least outside the Occupied Territories, the [Palestinian] movement is dominated by class interests that are not at all progressive. There is a tremendous confluence of the high Palestinian bourgeoisie in the PLO, and with it an ideological dependency upon the United States viewed as the private fiefdom of whichever administration happens to be in office" (1993: 332). The issue of class in his thinking is not merely a tactical one, but a persistent problem of oppression and liberation, as when he writes, with reference to the periodical, Subaltern Studies, that, The resonances of the word subaltern derive from Gramsci's usage in the Prison Notebooks in which, ever the astute political analyst and theoretical genius, he shows how, wherever there is history, there is class, and that the essence of the historical is the long and extraordinarily varied socioeconomic interplay between ruler and ruled, between the elite, dominant, or hegemonic class and the subaltern and, as Gramsci calls it, the emergent class of the much greater mass of people ruled by coercive or sometimes mainly ideological domination from above (Said 1988: vi).

While Edward Said, to my lmowledge, has not spoken extensively and systematically to the problem of revolution that to an earlier generation seemed to be inextricable from questions of national liberation and class struggle, he has not repudiated it either. I noted above the ways in which he seems on occasion to condone the violence advocated by national liberation thinkers and theorists. But the issue of revolution is not merely one of violence. Fanon also perceived in the process of revolution the process of creating a new national culture, that would ultimately transcend nationalism to create new cultural forms on the way to liberation. On a rare occasion, Said sounds quite like Fanon when, discussing the Palestinian intifada, he observes that, ... we should present the intifada as an alternative, an emergent formation, by which on the simplest level Palestinians under occupation have decided to declare their independence from the occupation by providing different, not so much models, but different forms for their lives which they themselves


ArifDirlik administer, develop and have in fact created .. .lt's a cultural movement which says that we are not going to cooperate, we can't any longer live under the occupation, and therefore we must provide for ourselves ... So what has happened is that now with the expropriation of land, with a domination of the network of settlements defended by the Israeli army, there is the possibility for the Palestinians to provide an agricultural alternative to that one. That is to say, the use ... of private gardens and houses and the creation of a food delivery service through the collectivization of bakeries ... places on the West bank ...have become in effect liberated zones (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 237238).

There is an interesting elision in Edward Said's work of the difference between genealogy and history. Said has been insistent on the centrality of history to literary and cultural analysis.' And he has been sensitive in his analyses to the changing environment of both culture and politics, as in his concluding chapter to Culture and Imperialism, where he discusses the problems thrown up by a changing world situation. On the other hand, in a great deal of his work, most notably in Orienta/ism, as critics have pointed out, the genealogy of ideas seems to take precedence over history and historical context (which need not be linear, but concretely historical, with attention to diversity in time and space). This is true in some respects for the genealogy he establishes for his own work. While Said is quite justified in stressing his genealogical affinities with an earlier generation of postcolonials, he has had little to say on how his historicity separates him not only from contemporary postcolonials, but also from this earlier generation. It is important to read Said's work, in other words, not only in its continuities but also with an eye to the ways in which he breaks with the past, which account for some of his affmities with a contemporary postcolonialism. While Said may quite justifiably point to the commitment in his work to the liberationist utopianism of an earlier generation of national liberation theorists who perceived national independence as one phase of a more transcendental historical project of liberation, he would be more hard put to it to claim them for his feeling of disconnectedness to the nation (or the ethnic or racial group), or his fragmented vision of the nation; which in the last analysis may rest upon different conceptions of history. There is an


See, for example, "Reflections on American 'Left' Literary Criticism," in (Said 1983: 158177; 167-168), where he complains of the obliviousness to history of new trends in literary criticism, and compares revisionist work in history favourably to that in literary criticism.

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


immediacy in much of this earlier writing to the need to create and/or invent a national culture to fulfill the urgent task of national independence and liberation, that is missing from Said's work. While a thinker such as Fanon was quite aware of the heterogeneity and fragmentedness of being black, he retained a faith nevertheless that a new historical narrative could be reconstructed in the process of the struggle for national liberation. Said, on the other hand, while he frequently refers to a Palestinian identity (against his repudiation otherwise of homogeneous national identities) that has been shattered by the experience of exile, is sceptical of the possibility of reconstructing a historical narrative of the nation, as when he notes that, "there are many different kinds of Palestinian experience, which cannot be assembled into one. One would therefore have to write parallel histories of the communities in Lebanon, the Occupied Territories, and so on. That is the central problem. It is almost impossible to imagine a single narrative" (Said 1994b: 119). And when he wills such a narrative into existence, as in After the Last Sky, he views the task as a "tragic" necessity, and perceives his relationship to such a narrative as "metaphorical." In the end, the insistence on the possessive pronoun, "we," in After the Last Sky suggests not just a willed identification with a national narrative that does not exist, but also the production of an exilic nationalism that is abstract and off-ground. Abdul JanMohamed observes astutely that "Said's subject-position is only partly that of articulator and defender of Palestinian aspirations within the West; he is also an active and important producer of the evolving Palestinian identity ... [Said, in his book, The Question of Palestine,] is motivated not only by the current plight of Palestinians, but also by a utopian vision of Palestine, a 'nonplace,' an idea that galvanizes Palestinians everywhere" (JanMohamed 1992: 104). We may add, however, that ultimately the idea is Said's own, a product of his idiosyncrasies, that are not necessarily shared by most Palestinians, as he is willing to admit. Similarly with the question of class. Said's recognition of the importance of class-related questions to the project of liberation draws on the legacy of Marxism in earlier national liberation movements. On the other hand, in spite of his references to the fundamentally economic and political nature of imperialism and colonialism, his attention to the question of class is restricted to its implications for national struggles, divorced from class analysis in the critique of capitalism, and the internationalism that motivated earlier national liberation theorists who perceived in the struggle for national liberation a



struggle both for the nation-and against a capitalism which was viewed, rightly or wrongly, as the ultimate source of colonialism. The project of "liberation," as distinct from "independence," was in fact premised on just such an internationalism, that drove Canadian (Norman Bethune) and ArabAmerican (George Hatem) doctors to fight in the Chinese Revolution, or for a brief time rendered Guangzhou (Canton) in South China into the "headquarters" of world revolution. Said dismisses "internationalism" a bit too cavalierly, when he observes that, "the force of the phenomenon I am talking about [that is, subaltern struggles] is that it takes place in many different places, and I suppose those places taken all together could be considered international. But I think it still has very deep roots in a local and national situation" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 235). Internationalism, needless to say, is hardly inconsistent with "roots in a local and national situation," but, on the contrary, unlike contemporary globalism, is premised on those localisms. Said's apparent reluctance to recognize this earlier internationalism as a unifying force across the various worlds is all the more ironic, as he observes elsewhere that the presence in metropolitan areas of supporters for Third World causes eliminates an earlier need for drawing strict boundaries between the different worlds of colonialism and anti-colonialism (231-33). What he does not say is that the global cosmopolitans of whom he speaks now inhabit not "places" or political movements but universities, idealized locations where complex "hybridities" may be discussed and negotiated (Said 1991). And if universities are indeed locations where classes may be less visible than most other locations, they are also locations the inhabitants of which play an active part in erasing the question of class in society in general. One ofthe serious shortcomings in Said's analysis is his failure to address questions of class under contemporary conditions of globality, that indeed produce transnational classes that abolish earlier distinctions between the First and the Third Worlds, but do not therefore abolish the importance of class. Admirable though he is in his acknowledgment of his own class positions, too much emphasis on the personal distracts from the need to address broader questions of social formations. Said has little to say about the significance of contemporary class formations understanding which may be essential both to contemporary projects of liberation, and to the role intellectuals may play in their realization. For all his insistence on "places," as in the statement above, Said celebrates the "placelessness" of a New York, which makes his defense of ''places" seem less than genuine. He associates places and localisms with

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


the locations for unpleasant fundamentalism's, and as a good, cosmopolitan New York intellectual, is not beyond speaking of them with a hint of contempt, as in his condescending reference to Youngstown, Ohio, in his conversation with Salman Rushdie, as "a town I don't know, but you can imagine what it's like" (Said 1994b: 115). According to Said, Youngstown, Ohio, is a recipient of Palestinian immigrants, and he is concerned mainly with their plight. But Youngstown, Ohio, in the American "rust belt," is also an old working class city in decline with the decline in steel industries, and the globalization of the US economy; its non-Arab inhabitants, too, may be deserving of empathy-and solidarity. The question here is not whether earlier ideas of nation, class or revolution should be preserved intact in the unfolding of postcolonial criticism. New times indeed call for new conceptualizations both of liberation, and of the problems to be confronted to that end. Said's own thinking is in some ways entrapped in the contradiction between the present and the past; playing the one against the other, but unable to transcend the parameters they set. Said's personalization of contradictions makes him unable or unwilling to see them as also products of confrontations between shifting social formations; an unwillingness that is very much informed by contemporary suspicions of totalities.• At the same time, his assumption of continuity with the past also evades the problems presented by the enormous political distance between the present and the past. In the end, Said's critical stance is achieved at the cost of an inability to look through the present with the critical help of the past to consider radical alternatives for the future; leaving the past behind without forgetting it, and overcoming the complicities with power of the present while taking seriously the new problems that it has thrown up. National liberation is no longer a problem when, by his own admission, the very status of the nation 8

One wishes that Said followed more closely on the question of the postcolonial the acute awareness of the relationship between structure and agency that informs his analyses. He observes, with relationship to the relationship between culture and the individual, that: "All this, then shows us the individual consciousness placed at a sensitive nodal point, and it is this consciousness at that critical point which this book[The World, the Text, and the Critic] attempts to explore in the form of what I call criticism. On the one hand, the individual mind registers and is very much aware of the collective whole, context, or situation in which it finds itself. On the other hand, precisely because of this awareness-a worldly self-situating, a sensitive response to the dominant culture-that the individual consciousness is not naturally and easily a mere child of culture, but a historical and social actor in it. And because of that perspective, which introduces circumstance and distinction where there had been only confonnity and belonging, there is distance, or what we might also call criticism," (1983: 15).



has become problematic. That he continues to speak, however paradoxically, as if a contemporary postcolonialism is continuous with that of the past, serves mainly to conceal the history that divides postcolonialism past and present. While Said's paradoxes enable him to distance himself from the past and the present, the "dis-identification" thus achieved also obviates the need to confront the issues raised by the juxtaposition of the past against the present. Said assumes the mantle of past theorists without sharing in the political and ideological burdens that they faced. On the other hand, that same mantle disguises his relationship to a present in which the Third World intellectual occupies a vastly different place in the metropolitan centres than in the past. The avoidance of the need to account for the gaps between the present and the past is a condition of the predicament faced by a contemporary postcolonialism whose contestatory stance over issues of cultural identity displaces political issues to the realm of culture, and refuses to confront its possible complicity otherwise with the structures of power in a new situation of globalism. While no one in good conscience could say of Said that he is a defender of a contemporary establishment, we may perhaps observe of his contrasts with earlier national liberation theorists what he has to say himself of what he describes as the "degradation" of George Lukacs' theories at the hands of Lucien Goldmann: I do not think... that degradation here has a moral implication, but rather... that degradation conveys the lowering of colour, the greater degree of distance, the loss of inunediate force that occurs when Goldmann's notions of consciousness and theory are compared with the meaning and role intended by Lukacs for theory. Nor do I want to suggest that there is something inherently wrong about Goldmann's conversion of insurrectionary, radically adversarial consciousness into an acconunodating consciousness of correspondence and homology. It is just that the situation has changed sufficiently for the degradation to have occurred, although there is no doubt that Goldmann's reading of Lukacs mutes the latter's almost apocalyptic version of consciousness (1983: 236).

Said's "postcolonial cosmopolitanism" has been kept under check over the years by his political commitments, by his affiliations with earlier ideologies of national liberation, and by his exilic self-consciousness. In one of his earliest interviews, he described himself as living in two worlds separated as if in different boxes; the world of the cosmopolitan literature professor in a prominent American university, and the world of the Palestinian nationalist,

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


whose activities were not appreciated by his other cosmopolitan colleagues, let alone the public at large (Said 1976: 35). Exile, under the circumstances, could not but appear as occasion for mourning. In his 1986 essay, "The Mind of Winter," where he addressed the question of exile directly, he referred to the liberating potential of exile, while still mourning it, and wrote that, "I am speaking of exile not as a privileged site for individual self-reflection but as an alternative to the mass institutions looming over much of modem life" (Said 1984: 54). It is my impression from reading his works-and it must remain as an impression-that over the following decade, as he has brought his two worlds closer together before a public more receptive to his politics, he has moved in the direction of privileging exile as the site for a superior fonn of knowledge, even as the mournful aspects of exile have receded to the background. This may also have something to do with his and an increasing sense of distance from Palestine, which he first expressed following his return to Palestine/ Israel in 1992.9 The exilic self-consciousness, in Said's own self-image, accounts for many of his paradoxes. He concluded his interview with Wicke and Sprinker in 1989 with a confession to a perpetual sense of placelessness, and an uncertainty "about what I'm doing and my whole enterprise" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 263). 10 But exile has also empowered him, and his paradoxes. It is exile that enables Said to use the pronoun "we" (with reference, variously, to being Palestinian, American, or "Western") against his own theoretical positions; an option that is not open to others, non-exilic migrants, who perceive their places of origin not just as "beginnings," but also as places that must be repudiated as locations of oppression-! am referring here, reluctantly (out of a resistance to confound the personal and the political, and the private and the public), to my own inability to identify with a Turkish society that continues to suppress its past atrocities, as against the Armenian minority, and is incapable, therefore, of forestalling continued atrocity and oppression presently, as with its Kurdish minority. The history in identity, in the latter case, becomes more important as a question than the multiplicity of identities.


"Return to Palestine-Israel," in The Politics of Dispossession (1994: 175-199). Said's acknowledgment of the differences in "language" between himself and the Palestinians living in Palestine, or his alienation from Palestinian political leadership, has not kept him from continued involvement in Palestine, and Palestinian issues. 10 Said has referred to this sense of uncertainty most recently in his article, "On Writing a Memoir," (1999: 8).



So do the places of arrival against the places of origin. It does not take an "uncritical gregariousness" to identify with places of arrival against origins, if only because creative politics, while mindful of the past, needs also to come to terms with where one lives, and how. This may mean anonymity, and disappearance of identity into place, but that is not much of a problem if identity is conceived in terms of its historicity, and the abolition of ethnic identity is viewed as a desirable goal. It may also be the case that too much preoccupation with identity, which Said shares with contemporary postcolonial criticism, ends up erasing the historicity of the question of identity, easily reverts back to the presumption of reified cultural identities that defy history, and is depoliticizing in its consequences.'' Inhabiting a multiplicity of spaces without being entrapped by any of them offers obvious critical possibilities. It may also serve the ultimate goal of criticism which, according to Said, "must think of itself as lifeenhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination and abuse; its social goals are non-coercive knowledge produced in the interest of human freedom" (Said 1983: 29). I say "it may" quite selfconsciously because there is an elision in much of Said's writing of the difference between textual criticism, or even the criticism of power, and "knowledge produced in the interest of human freedom." Abdul JanMohamed who in his incisive essay has described Said as a "specular border intellectual," observes that such an intellectual "subjects... cultures to analytic scrutiny rather than combining them; he or she utilizes his or her interstitial cultural space as a vantage point from which to define, implicitly or explicitly, other, utopian possibilities of group formation" (JanMohamed 1992: 97). Said himself frequently refers to borders and border crossings, but even borderlands inhabitance would seem to appear potentially suffocating to him, as he also associates "contrapuntal" with "nomadic," and tells us that: "The need for a relatively more unbuttoned, unfixed, and mobile mode of proceeding-that's why the Deleuzian idea of the nomadic is so interesting-is to me a much more useful and liberating instrument... You might say the real conflict is between the unhoused and the housed" (Wicke and Sprinker 1992: 241 ). The issue here is not merely one of method of analysis. In a similar vein, he says of himself that "The sense of being between cultures has been very,


For a critique of Said's use of culture, specifically with reference to Orientalism, see, James Clifford, "On Orientalism," in Clifford (1988: 255-6).

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


very strong for me. I would say that's the single strongest strand running through my life: the fact that I'm always in and out of things, and never really of anything for very long" (Saluzinsky 1987: 123). While such a statement suggests the profound alienation of the placeless stranger, it is the knowledge produced by such alienation that Said privileges. He writes, without apparent qualification: .. .it is no exaggeration to say that liberation as an intellectual mission, born in the resistance and opposition to the confinements and ravages of imperialism, has now shifted from the settled, established, and domesticated dynamics of culture to its unhoused, decentred, and exilic energies, energies whose incarnation today is the migrant, and whose consciousness is that of the intellectual and artist in exile, the political figure between domains, between forms, between homes, and between languages ( 1993: 332).

If I may return to JanMohammed's statement above, what is being utopianized here are not new "possibilities of group formation," but the placeless intellectual, and the kind of knowledge that produces and is produced by such an intellectual-critical knowledge that nourishes off paradox and contradiction. Such knowledge may help against the ravages of past localisms and their contemporary manifestations, but it is also oblivious to the place-based knowledges by which people conduct their everyday lives in order to survive. If place-based knowledges need global visions to overcome their parochialisms, globalized knowledge without attention to concrete places may easily slip into complicity with new forms of power. Said himself has managed to ward off such complicity by retaining localized commitments, however imaginary, against the invasion of offground globalism. If his paradoxes distance him from the past, they also help ward off the predicament of complicity in the present. But the avoidance is personal, and tenuous. It may seem strange to say of a politically committed individual like Said, but needs to be said anyway, that the very paradoxes in his politics inexorably displace political concerns toward the realm of culture, and utopianized cultural places, such as the university, where politics may be interpellated into cultural politics. While cultural politics is not to be disdained, if it is to serve the purposes of "liberation," it needs to be returned to where it may serve this goal for society at large: the everyday lives of people in concrete places. Living with contradictions in the end is not a



substitute for resolving them, hopefully toward the end of human liberation, and not the extinction of any meaningful sense of being human.

AUTHOR'S NOTE This is the second essay I have written over the last six months on a contemporary intellectual (the other was on the Indian thinker, Ashis Nandy). I have written these essays reluctantly, not so much out of the historian's qualms about writing on contemporaries, but out of a resistance to contributing to what I perceive to be a tendency of contemporary intellectual life to create if not to fetishize iconic intellectuals. I have felt a simultaneous obligation to write these essays, however, as this tendency needs to be confronted as an intellectual and political problem. I also feel that if we are to grasp postcolonialism as a problem, we need a better understanding of those whose works have played an important part in its historical unfolding. Writing this essay has been particularly difficult because, while I am sympathetic to Said's positions, I am also critical of his stance, and I have had to be quite careful in my criticisms as I would hate to play into the hands of the politically motivated hostility that has been directed at him over the years. Having attended an American school myself (Robert College in Istanbul), I am appreciative of much of what Said has to say on questions of identity. These questions are not questions of abstract ethnicity, but questions of everyday life; as the student in the course of such schooling moves daily from a class, say, on English literature, where s/he is taught the glories of Chaucer or Shakespeare, to a class on Turkish literature, where the instructor tells him/her that Europeans at the time of those great authors defecated in their living rooms while subjects of the Ottoman Empire basked in the glory of hamams. Such contrasts do not just create different identities in the same person, they also create an urge to transcend silly and self-serving claims to ethnic and national identity. Entrapment in ethnic and national identity may be inevitable for the underprivileged who are not allowed to escape it, or an exilic intellectual such as Said where the very condition of exile makes it an intractable problem. I also believe, however, that the preoccupation with ethnic and national cultural identity that is a prominent a feature of contemporary intellectual and political life, especially in the United States, needs to be resisted because it contributes to the perpetuation of the very

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


problem that it would overcome. There are other ways of self-identification than ethnic and national origin. To overcome national and ethnic identity, it is necessary in my opinion to view identity itself historically, as the product, not determinant, of personal or group trajectory. This, interestingly, is also Said's point in his discussions of "beginnings" that are not determinants of what follows, but are subject to all the contingencies of history; it is all the more puzzling, therefore, that he should also be insistent on multiple identities that resist history, which, however complicated, non-linear, and resistant to narrativization it may be rendered by the vagaries of identity formation, assumes some coherence nevertheless in the process of living. I differ from Said most importantly in my insistence on greater attention to places of arrival against places of origin, and on the place-based against offground cosmopolitanism, which informs my critique above. A number of friends and colleagues have read the paper. I would like to name especially Terry Eagleton, Fred Inglis, Charles Lock, Masao Miyoshi, Benita Parry, Roxann Prazniak, Michael Sprinker, Richard Todd and Zhang Xudong. I am grateful for their comments and encouragement.

WORKS CITED Ahmad, Aijaz (1995), "The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality," Race and Class, 36.3: 1-20. Bakhtin, M.M. (1981), The Dialogic Imagination, (ed. Michael Holquist, tr. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist), Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. Brennan, Tim (1992), "Place of Mind, Occupied Lands: Edward Said and Philology," in Sprinker 1992: 74-95. Chambers, Ian and Linda Curti (1996), The Post-Colonial Question, London: Routledge. Clifford, James (1988), "On Orientalism," in James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press: 255-276. Dirlik, Arif (1999), "Place-Based Imagination: Globalism and the Politics of Place," Review XXIT.2 (Spring). Eagleton, Terry (1990), "Nationalism: Irony and Conunitment," in Eagleton, Jameson and Said: 23-39.



Eagleton, Teny, Fredric Jameson and Edward W. Said (1990), Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Hall, Stuart (1996), "Cultural Identity and Diaspora," in Padmini Mongia (ed.), Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, London: Arnold Books. Hall, Stuart (1996), "When was the post-colonial: thinking at the limit," in Ian Chambers and Linda Curti (1996). Marrouchi, Mustapha (1998), "Countemarratives, Recoveries, Refusals," boundary 2 25.2(Summer 1998): 205-257. Pany, Benita (1992), "Overlapping Territories and Intertwined Histories: Edward Said's Postcolonial Cosmopolitanism," in Sprinker 1992: 19-47. Said, Edward (1993), Culture and Imperialism, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Said, Edward (1994), "Holding Nations and Traditions at Bay," in Representations of the Intellectual, The 1993 Reith Lectures New York: Pantheon Books. Said, Edward (1994b), "On Palestinian Identity: A Conversation with Salman Rushdie," in Edward W. Said, The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994 New York: Pantheon: 107129. Said, Edward (1976), "Interview," Diacritics, 6.3(Fall): 30-47. Said, Edward (1983), The World, the Text and the Critic, Cambridge MA: Harvard Said, Edward (1984), "The Mind of Winter: Reflections on Life in Exile," Harper's Magazine No. 269:49-55, Said, Edward (1986) After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, photographs by Jean Mohr. London: Faber and Faber. Said, Edward (1988), "Foreword," Selected Subaltern Studies, (ed. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak), New York: Oxford University Press. Said, Edward (1990), "Yeats and Decolonization," in Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson and Edward W. Said, Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press: 69-95. Said, Edward (1991), "Identity, Authority and Freedom: The Potentate and the Traveller," (31st TB Davie Memorial Lecture, 22 May 1991), Cape Town: University of Cape Town.

Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist


Said, Edward ( 1994), The Politics of Dispossession: the Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination 1969-1994 New York: Pantheon. Said, Edward (1998/9), "Edward Said, in conversation with Neeladri Bhattacharya, Suvir Kaul and Ania Loomba, New Delhi, 16 December 1997," Interventions, 1.1 (1998/9): 81-96. Said, Edward (1999), "On Writing a Memoir," London Review of Books, Volume 21 Number 9(29 April): 8-11 Saluzinszky, Imre ( 198 7), "Edward Said," in Criticism in Society: Interviews London and New York: Methuen. Sprinker, Michael ed. ( 1992), Edward Said: A Critical Reader Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Wicke, Jennifer and Michael Sprinker, "Interview with Edward Said," in Sprinker 1992: 221-264.



Patrick Williams In the truly remarkable oeuvre of Edward Said, the figure of the intellectual looms large. 1 In addition, Said himself is increasingly being acknowledged as one of the late twentieth century's representative intellectuals. 2 Much of Said's work has involved engaged analysis of intellectual production of all sorts and from all sites - institutional and non1 This

is reflected in the fact that at least two of the contributions to the present volume address directly questions of intellectuals in relation to Said. While this essay will try hard to avoid overlap with Patrick Brantlinger's analysis of the public intellectual, it is worth noting in passing that numbers of post-colonial intellectuals - including, of course, Said - are among the more prominent and influential of public intellectuals today. Robert Boynton's discussion of African-Americans (Boynton, "The New Intellectuals") as the epitome of contemporary public intellectuals in the United States recognises one dimension of that. 2 This is not without its problems, perhaps most particularly in terms of being taken to represent a pre-given position. In the most recent general study of intellectuals, (Goldfarb 1998) Said figures as 'the subversive intellectual', caught up in the stagnation and contemporary irrelevance of the Left. However, the fact that we are told that he is an ideologue, that he is "subversive not in the name of truth but of an identity position", that he is guilty of "simpleminded leftism", and that he and others like him behave as if communism had not ended, suggests that the author may have a few intellectual problems of his own.


Patrick Williams

institutional; on the side of different forces and forms of oppression, or resolutely ranged against them; aspiring simply to be 'private', or determined to be as public as possible - and has enlarged understanding in all the areas he has covered, as well as in others where his insights have inspired work in disciplines apparently little related. It is difficult to find his equal today in terms of his embodiment of committed and courageous taking of positions and defending of causes combined with generosity of spirit. The present essay (in what wiiJ no doubt look to some as the very opposite of a spirit of generosity) will take as its starting point an intriguing absence in Said's work - postcolonial studies in general and post-colonial intellectuals in particular. A discussion of this sort is, of course, anything but disinterested; as Pierre Bourdieu (of whom more later) says: We have an interest in the problems that seem to us to be interesting .... But to say we are interested in a problem is a euphemistic way of naming the fundamental fact that we have vital stakes in our scientific production (Bourdieu, 1993: 49).

Post-colonial studies seems to me not only an interesting but also an academically and politically important (and of course endlessly conflicted and contested) area of current intellectual production - and Said's silence on it is thus also a matter of interest. It is indeed hard not to register the post-colonial as an enormous silence in Said's work, and even as a growing or more entrenched one, given that he was (briefly) content to use the term a decade ago. Whether such silence is the mark of a principled refusal or, however paradoxically, the sign of something more akin to the cultural conservatism and disciplinary boundary policing which he so acutely identifies in the work of others, may be difficult to ascertain. There is, nevertheless, an undoubted irony in the turning away from the concept of post-colonialism by the man who has done so much to stimulate inquiry in that area, and who for many might represent something like the very figure of a post-colonial intellectual. 3 At the same time, the reluctance to sign up to any movement, party or group - particularly anything which hints at the merely fashionable - has always been part of Said's 3

Said is not quite alone in this high-profile disavowal - another paradigmatic post-colonial intellectual who has recently gone back on earlier positions is Gayatri Spivak. In a forthcoming piece she says, among other things: "In the era of cyberpolitics and electronic capitalism, the "postcolonial" seems to me to be residual" (Spivak 1999).

Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


approach. Even when the movement concerned was the PLO and the cause as compelling as justice and freedom for his own people, Said has always held back: "I refused all inducements to join one of the groups or to work in the PLO, largely because I felt it was important to preserve my distance. I was a partisan, yes, but a joiner and member, no."(Said 1995a xxivt In that kind of perspective, refusal to identify with post-colonialism is nothing special. At the level of post-colonial literature, there is the paradox that although Said has frequently championed individual post-colonial writers, or used them as illustrative examples in his work, post-colonial texts more generally seem to suffer in comparison with Western canonical ones. There is, for instance, the feeling that the inclusion of post-colonial texts on university curricula is likely to occur for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way: one can sympathize with the dissatisfaction of students who come here from the Third World looking for ways out. But I'm not sure that the way out is simply the mechanical substitution of post-colonial fiction for nineteenth century fiction (Sprinker 1992: 257).

In addition, a certain (post-colonial) questioning of canonical texts - which may form the basis for calls for 'mechanical substitution' - also strikes Said as inappropriate or inadequate: There's no reason for me to perform acts of amputation on myself, intellectually, spiritually or aesthetically, simply because in the experience of other people from the Third World, a black novelist from Nigeria like Achebe, or your West Indian friend, can make my Proust or Conrad into someone who is only despicable (Sprinker: 1992: 253).

Apart from the fact that making Conrad 'only despicable' is not part of Achebe's argument, (he could be said to be offering nothing more than a heartfelt 'politics of representation' reading of Conrad, of the kind which Said himself does in a more sophisticated and successful manner), it is interesting to note both the strength of feeling and level of personal investment here with regard to the canonical: loss of 'my Proust' would be an 'amputation'. Said, of course, has always been unapologetic in his admiration for the monuments of


There is of course an interesting tension between Said's years of commitment to, and involvement in, the Palestinian struggle, and his refusal to ~oin'.


Patrick Williams

Western culture, but the fact and manner of their defence against illegitimate intruders from the Third World strikes a curious note. If Said very much wants to hang on to Western literature, something like the opposite is the case with (Western) theory. His silence on post-colonialism at the theoretical level may be no more than the result of his loss of interest in theory generally, following its decline, in his view, into "a guild designation now that has produced a jargon I find hopelessly tiresome" (Sprinker 1992: 249). Said's statement from 1991: "I simply lost interest in literary theory about ten years ago. It just doesn't strike me as something that is of interest to me in what I'm doing on a given day"(247) is also important. If theory 'died' for him in 1980 or thereabouts, then clearly a lot of flogging of dead horses has taken place since. Ironically, many people would see 1980 (or thereabouts) as precisely the moment when literary theory took off- though perhaps Said's loss of interest is not unconnected to what might be seen as the professionalisation, institutionalisation, even vulgarisation of theory which its eventual success involved. Though the institutionalisation of oppositional forms of theory - Marxism, feminism, latterly post-colonialism - has generally been perceived in terms of loss of resistant potential, for a critic like Stuart Hall it is a (painful) necessity: "One needs to go through the organisational moment- 'the long march through the institutions'- to get people together, to build some kind of collective intellectual project" (Hall 149). Along with theory's 'success' has come accusations that it is merely fashionable, and for critics such as Russell Jacoby, that applies very much to post-colonial studies, which may ultimately prove to be no more than "another boutique in the academic mall of human knowledge" (Jacoby 1995: 17). For others, however, the pressures of fashion constitute a more generalised problem for intellectuals: There is something desperate in the way in which 'free intellectuals' hand in their essays on the required subject of the moment, currently desire, the body, or seduction. And there is no more dismal reading, twenty years on, than these obligatory exercises brought together, in perfect harmony, by the special issues of the major 'intellectual' magazines (Bourdieu 1993: 43).

For some, that would no doubt be a perfect characterisation - and dismissal - of the current state of post-colonial studies, though we might ask on what reliable grounds it would be possible to distinguish such dismal and

Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


desperate-docile intellectual activity from, say, a special issue of Boundary 2 devoted to Said, or indeed a volume of essays in his honour. Said is far from alone in his unhappiness with the 'hopelessly tiresome ... jargon' of post-colonial theory. Certain post-colonial theorists (most obviously or notoriously, but not exclusively, Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak) have been repeatedly accused of jargon-ridden obscurantism, as has the kind of post-colonial work most strongly influenced by post-structuralism or other fonns of 'high' theory. Such criticisms have come from those within the field as well as outside, and for the former at least, have in no way diminished the importance either of theory or of the field. For Said, however, even at rare moments when he appears well-disposed towards post-colonial studies in general, the 'excess' and 'risible jargon' he perceives (Said 1995b, 350) clearly constitute a significant stumbling block. In addition, terminological excess and a share in the general problems of the 'post-' are among the factors which can lead post-colonial studies to have what in Said's eyes is the most deleterious of effects: luring intellectuals away from any sort of meaningful political engagement. In the wake of the generalised failure of intellectuals - especially in the United States - to respond to American imperialism in the shape of the Gulf War, Said said: One would pretty much have to scuttle all the jaw-shattering postmodernisms that now dot the landscape. They are worse than useless. They are neither capable of understanding and analyzing the power structure of this country nor are they capable of understanding the particular aesthetic merit of an individual work of art. Whether you call it deconstruction or postmodemism or poststructuralism or post-anything, they all represent a sort of spectacle of giving back tickets at the entrance and saying, we're really out of it. We want to check into our private resort and be left alone. (Said 1995a: 316)

Said's growing objections to theory are also based on what he sees as the latter's totalising aspirations, its desire to install itself as all-encompassing system. Thus he is at pains to point out in Culture and Imperialism that he is not proposing a "completely worked out theory" and that the book offers a "globalized (not total) description" (233) though it is not clear exactly what beyond the ideological (and theoretical) unacceptability of the T -word - would constitute the difference. Certainly, to the extent that post-colonial theory is forced to address universalising phenomena, it immediately risks being or becoming too all-embracing in a way that other theories are not. This,


Patrick Williams

however, could be understood otherwise: if post-colonial theory has to grapple with imperialism, the globalization of capitalism, etc., then its own global reach might be seen as entirely appropriate, grounded in material conditions in a way that, for instance, deconstruction might not be, and any universal pretensions on the part of the latter would need to be resisted. The refusal of theory-as-system, and of all-encompassing models in general, is the intellectual or conceptual correlate of the political party, nation or ethnic group whose claims and clutches he is determined to avoid. For Said, collectivities - by their very nature, no doubt - constrain the individual's sphere of operations, and this applies particularly to intellectuals. As a result, he is concerned to resist such limitations, and hence refuses all kinds of nominalised belonging and identification. In this context, it would be possible to see post-colonialism as naming yet another (potentially) constricting identity; just one more label to be avoided. At the same time as criticising theory, Said has expressed his interest in the kind of analysis which is historically based, which is not confined within traditional disciplinary or discursive boundaries, and which tries to construct historical or intellectual linkages - all of which, one could argue, applies to so much of the work done in the post-colonial field, and which even a profound sceptic like Jacoby is prepared to admit: "Any evaluation of post-colonial theory must acknowledge its salutary effort to challenge repressive intellectual divisions of labour." (Jacoby, 17). In addition, Said has repeatedly accused theory in general of ignoring colonialism and imperialism: All the energies poured into critical theory, into novel and demystifying theoretical praxes, like the new historicism and deconstruction and Marxism, have avoided the major, I would say determining, political horizon of modern Western culture, namely imperialism (1993: 70).

However, a strange and unexpected 'ignoring' is also taking place here precisely of all those books and articles which, following his lead and that of others, have attempted to tackle imperialism, its practices and cultural products, in a range ofways. 5


It is no doubt invidious to name even a few names, but the work of Neil Lazarus, Nicholas Thomas, Peter Hulme, Ranajit Guha and the Subaltern Studies group, Benita Parry, and, yes, Gayatri Spivak (to take some rather random and disparate examples) is theorised, politicised, historicized, engaged with imperialism- and exemplary in different ways.

Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . ..


A further post-colonial absence in Said's writing, and the one which most concerns us here, is intellectuals. A similar process is discernible here to that which operates in relation to texts and theory: there is no discussion of postcolonial intellectuals (texts or theories) in general; when individual postcolonial intellectuals (texts or theories) are mentioned, they are not identified as such. Even when the discussion involves intellectuals in relation to concepts or processes such as exile which for so many other critics are paradigmatic of post-colonialism, the term is still avoided. The notable exception to this is the paper "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World". Even here, although Conor Cruise O'Brien in the accompanying discussion is quite wrong to remark that Said has more to say about the pre-colonial world, the post-colonial somehow contrives to slip out of focus. Also, the critical intellectual activity Said notes in this article is in areas such as theories of development and dependency, and not those of literature and culture. In the more recent "Third World Intellectuals and Metropolitan Culture" (subsequently absorbed, along with "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World", into Culture and Imperialism) Said addresses both the particular gap represented by literature and culture, as well as one of Orienta/ism's most frequently remarked upon absences - the voices of intellectuals answering Orientalism and imperialism back, theorising and representing anti-colonial and post-colonial resistance. In terms of the growing silence (or resistance) on Said's part regarding post-colonialism, it is perhaps worth noting that when "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World" is dispersed across Chapter 1 of Culture and Imperialism, most of the references to post-colonialism, and particularly to post-colonial intellectuals, are reworded or simply removed. Probably the most frequent transformation is to 'post-imperialism', a term which begs even more questions and raises more potential problems than post-colonial. One of the more significant problems relates to the fact that some of the most useful thinking in this area has been based on a particular differentiation between colonialism and imperialism, with the former seen as a distinct historical phase ofthe latter, and one which is almost entirely concluded. The latter, on the other hand, considered as the globalizing of the capitalist mode of production, is a process which is far from finished, and therefore to talk of 'post-imperialism' in this context as having already arrived would make no sense. Work done in post-colonial studies in the last decade would allow the retrospective argument which would emphasise the sense of 'post-colonial' as


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either the discourse of resistance to colonialism and therefore potentially contemporary with it, or as the discourse of anticipation of the eventual achievement of a properly post-colonial state. Said might then be argued to be using 'post-imperial' in either anticipatory or resistant mode; there is, however, nothing in his use of the term to support such a view. The process of transforming or omitting the post-colonial in the passage to Culture and Imperialism is all the more remarkable, given that by the time of its publication in 1993 post-colonialism had gained far greater currency (and thus potential intellectual resonance) than it had when "Intellectuals in the PostColonial World" appeared in 1986 (whereas 'post-imperialism' remains an awkward and deeply troubling term). If the role of intellectuals in the post-colonial world has (despite Said's article) yet to receive its proper theorisation, it has so far not lacked for denunciations, and some of the best-known polemical interventions, such as those by Aijaz Ahmad, Anthony Appiah and Arif Dirlik, regarding the nature of post-colonialism, and the legitimacy, utility or scope of the term, have focused on intellectuals. There is a notable dynamic here, with post-colonial intellectuals who do not want to identify themselves as such attacking others who do. If, as Zygmunt Bauman has argued, "Any attempt to define intellectuals is an attempt at self-definition; any attempt to accord or deny the status of an intellectual is an attempt at self-construction" (Bauman 1992: 81), then one of the things being played out here is a particular kind of power game, a territorial struggle for certain forms of (intellectual) legitimacy. Said himself has frequently rejected the ideology of what he terms "possessive insiderism", the idea that only a particular identity grants the holder the right to research or speak on a particular topic: I mean simply that if you believe with Gramsci that an intellectual vocation is socially possible as well as desirable, it is an inadmissible contradiction at the same time to build analyses of historical experience around exclusions, exclusions that stipulate, for instance, only women can understand feminine experience, only Jews can understand Jewish suffering, only formerly colonial subjects can understand colonial experience (1986: 55).

The processes of labelling and accreditation, inclusion or exclusion (of self and/or others) are central to strategies in the intellectual field. This, despite the self-confident pronouncements of those involved in the field, is a practice without closure, since, as Bourdieu has pointed out, it relates to

Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial .. .


a question which is not settled in reality, that of knowing who is an intellectual and who isn't, who are the 'real' intellectuals, those who really realize the essence of the intellectual. In fact, one of the major issues at stake in the literary or artistic field is the definition of the limits of that field, that is, oflegitimate participation in the struggles (1990: 143).6

If these - the (positive) legitimation of the boundaries of a field and of the participation of certain individuals within it - are significant examples of, in Bourdieu's terms, 'symbolic power', how much more so are those gestures which delegitimate, not only individuals but entire fields, as Said does in one of his most recent interviews. Asked by Ani a Loomba whether he thought the field of post-colonial studies was subject to some of the same problems as Orientalism, he responded: I would rather myself not talk about it because I do not think I belong to that. First of all I don't think colonialism is over, really. I don't know what they are really talking about... So I think to use the word postcolonialism is really a misnomer and I think I referred to the problems of that term in the Afterword to Orienta/ism (1998/9: 82).

Apart from the recognised refusal to be labelled or co-opted, this represents the striking dismissal of a substantial body of recent and continuing intellectual endeavour. It is striking because on the face of it one would have thought that Said would have been sympathetic to what post-colonial studies is trying to do - not least because part of it is precisely the same as what he himself does, in terms of textual or cultural analysis, in Orienta/ism or Culture and Imperialism. It is striking, too, because his categorisation of post-colonial studies seems to have so little to do with current practice. In the response just quoted, Said goes on to say: I mean colonialism in the formal sense is over, but I am very interested in neo-colonialism, I am very interested in the workings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and I have written about them. I care very much about the structures of dependency ... ( 1998/9: 82).

The suggestion that people working in the post-colonial studies somehow believe that colonialism (in the shape of neo-colonialism) is past and gone 6

Defining the 'real' post-colonial intellectuals is one part of the 'game' (in Bourdieu's terms) which the present essay will not attempt.


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indicates that unfortunately in a sense Said really doesn't know what they are talking about. It is of course perfectly possible to read all kinds of work in postcolonial studies which betrays no necessary or immediate concern with the workings of the IMF or the structures of dependency, but then some readers might feel that the same could be said of a number of Said's own literary and cultural analyses - though it would be a peculiarly rash or illinformed commentator who attempted on that basis to suggest that Said himself had no interest in international political matters. (And if the political affiliations of someone as clear and committed as Said can be overlooked or misinterpreted in particular pieces, how much more understandable is that in the case of the mass of 'ordinary' post-colonial intellectuals ?) Ultimately, post-colonialism may prove to be a misnomer, as Said suggests, but then what are we to make of his preference for 'post-imperialism' in terms of its implications for the disappearance or persistence of international structures and practices of domination and exploitation ? The interview continues: [Ania Loomba] I just wanted to fmish this by saying that there is a whole debate about the literary emphasis of post-colonial studies or the genesis, the disciplinary home, from which it began. One of the unfortunate spillovers is that precisely those material details- you know what ArifDirlik says[Said] (intervenes) - are left out. Yes I agree. I have quoted Arif Dirlik precisely for that reason (1998/9: 83).

Dirlik is well known as the author of one of the most trenchant attacks on post-colonial intellectuals, and in view both of the approving reference and because his article offers a more sustained discussion of the question of intellectuals, it is useful to examine his reservations alongside those of Said. "The Postcolonial Aura" is powerfully written, and makes uncomfortable reading for anyone - especially anyone with materialist or socialist affiliations -working in the post-colonial field, firstly because of the strength of its denunciation from a 'friendly' theoretical-political position, and secondly because it can leave the reader wondering how such a powerful critique could get things so wrong ... Questions of the identity, location and behaviour of intellectuals are central to Dirlik's discussion of post-colonialism:

Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


"When exactly... does the 'post-colonial' begin ?" queries Ella Shohat in a recent discussion of the subject. Misreading the question deliberately, I will supply here an answer that is only partly facetious: When Third World intellectuals have arrived in first world academe (328-9).

Here in his opening sentences, Dirlik inadvertently does exactly what he later criticises post-colonial intellectuals for doing - taking the local for the global- since although the 'arrival' of Third World intellectuals may mark the inauguration of post-colonial studies in the United States, that is not the case in other first world academic centres, for example Britain or Germany, where, on the contrary, the presence of more Third World intellectuals would be welcome. Similar worries to Dirlik's are voiced by Gayatri Spivak: Neocolonialism is fabricating its allies by proposing a share of the centre in a seemingly new way (not a rupture but a displacement): disciplinary support for the conviction of authentic marginality by the (aspiring) elite .... When a cultural identity is thrust upon one because the centre wants an identifiable margin, claims for marginality assure validation from the centre (Spivak 1993: 57, 55).

The fact that these are repeated does not affect the parochial reach of the claims in so far as they relate to the behaviour of post-colonial intellectuals. Otherwise, they have a general (but not specifically post-colonial) application in terms of how the 'centre' in any hegemonic system works to co-opt those outside its 'natural' constituency- and conversely how those outside the centre may aspire to advancement or reward. (The assertion that Dirlik's and Spivak's claims do not apply to the situation in post-colonial studies in Britain should not be taken as suggesting any superior resistance to co-optation, simply that there is not the same constituency hoping for promotion.) Among Dirlik's central concerns is the relation of post-colonial intellectuals to global capitalism: formed by it, complicit with it, and simultaneously repudiating its power in their writings, (when not simply ignoring it altogether in his view). There are, however, all sorts of problems with this. Dirlik's observations on the (academic) emergence of post-colonial studies in the contemporary period of global capitalism are correct, but not his conclusions regarding the linkages of complicity (with no other grounding than the bare fact of simultaneity). Exactly the same chronology could be used


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to argue for post-colonial studies as in fact resistant reaction to the neocolonial or globalising moment of capitalism. More importantly, Dirlik's view of post-colonial studies as more or less springing fully co-opted from the head of capitalism (to mangle a classical allusion) ignores that significant part of the discipline's roots which lie in the tradition of anti-colonial writing and activism of Cesaire, Cabral, Fan on and others. Dirlik's contention that post-colonial critics in general deny the 'foundational' importance of capitalism rests on his reading of an article by Gyan Prakash. In itself, the reading is correct- there is no getting away from the fact that Prakash makes just such a denial; for example: "we cannot thematize Indian history in terms of the development of capitalism and simultaneously contest capitalism's homogenization of the contemporary world." (Prakash 1992: 13). The problem is rather that Dirlik once again mistakes the local for the global. In this case, he takes Prakash's article for the whole of post-colonial studies, when in fact, impressive and thoughtprovoking though the piece is, it is arguably eccentric in terms of debates within the field, and certainly in no way represents anything resembling a consensus or dominant view. There is the additional problem for Dirlik's extrapolation that Prakash is arguably quite wrong: apart from the curious self-limiting aspect of such a theoretical gesture, it conflates the (analytical and political) importance of recognising and understanding the historical role of capitalism with the simple acceptance of capitalism's global'success'. Like Said, Dirlik is concerned to establish his (problematic and paradoxical) distance from post-colonialism: "I myself share in the concerns (and even some of the viewpoints) of post-colonial intellectuals, though from a somewhat different perspective than those who describe themselves as such" (328). Although there is the sense of a division of post-colonial intellectuals into the suspect or illegitimate ("those who describe themselves as such") and others less gripped by unseemly haste to be part of the club, it is somewhat unclear why Dirlik would wish to admit to even partial alignment with a discourse or approach which otherwise seems to him so utterly compromised ("postcoloniality is the condition of the intelligentsia of global capitalism", etc (356)). It is also unclear how, being in his own words "(more or less) one of the Third World intellectuals in First World academe" (328), he manages to avoid being part of the compromised "intelligentsia of global capitalism".

Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


The latter point is representative of a typical stumbling block in discussions of intellectuals - the (unresolved) issue of the extent to which questions of location (class I geographical I institutional I hierarchical I etc) and formation (social I cultural I class I gender I intellectual) are regarded as simple indicators or ineluctable determinants of the nature of intellectual praxis and production. Probably more than any other similar group, postcolonial intellectuals have been subject to routine dismissal precisely on grounds oflocation in the West (especially if that is combined with location in a university deemed elite). What that rather simplistic kind of argument ignores is the fact that 'the West' is not ideologically homogeneous in itself, nor able to enforce ideological compliance on anyone who happens to reside within its increasingly porous borders. It also ignores issues of hierarchy and status among institutions both nationally and internationally: Columbia University may be more 'powerful' than the University of Kelaniya, but equally an institution like the University of Singapore can far outrank the University of Sunderland on the global stage. Also, as Rajeswari Sunder Raj an points out, the institutional gamut from elite and powerful to obscure and marginalised runs through universities in India as much as in the United States, and entrenched norms and practices may be more constraining on the work of post-colonial intellectuals in situ than in the West (Rajan, 1997). An attempt to engage with particular examples of post-colonial intellectual formation and location, and one which also does so on the basis of a specific theory, rather than generalised assertions, is Anthony Amove's "Pierre Bourdieu, the Sociology of Intellectuals, and the Language of African Literature". Although its focus is, as stated, African, it has potential for moving general post-colonial debates beyond simple accusations of culpability or complicity. Amove's account, while more sympathetically inclined than some others we have encountered, does not necessarily offer much immediate comfort. He draws on Bourdieu's theories of intellectuals in order to assess the arguments around post-colonial cultural production polarised and personalised in terms of Chinua Achebe versus Ngugi wa Thiong'o and their views on language choice. Amove is also interested in the location of intellectuals - though in terms of various analytical 'fields' of class or 'social space', rather than Ivy League universities. In particular, he is concerned with the way that their location in these fields causes Achebe and Ngugi, in his view, to misrecognise both the nature of their position and the tenns of their disagreement. For Bourdieu, "artists and writers, and more


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generally intellectuals, are a dominated fraction of the dominant class." (Bourdieu 1990: 145), and this membership of the dominant class is, in Amove's eyes, what Ngugi in particular misrecognises. (Such an apparent refusal or inability to recognise a problematic privileged location has, on the face of it, some connection with Dirlik's criticisms.) Although Ngugi is able to critique Achebe's unwarranted generalising of his own petit-bourgeois experience to represent the nation as a whole, he remains, for Amove, unable to recognise the problems caused by "the effacement of his class position in an idealization of his relationship to 'the people"' (286) Amove goes on to say: Ngugi's use of 'the people' is bound up in the struggle for cultural capital, for social recognition, and the "profit of distinction" (LSP 55) that is secured by being recognised as an authentic spokesperson for the dominated classes, someone who can be seen as "courageous" and "committed" for his decision to write in Gikuyu (287).

Although Amove opens his article by considering - and rejecting - the idea that using Bourdieu in this context might represent a "colonial imposition", there are nevertheless grounds for wondering whether Bourdieu's generally powerful and persuasive arguments quite fit their chosen postcolonial object. Firstly, there is the question of whether intellectuals necessarily belong to the dominant class. Apart from the fact that it leaves no space for anything resembling Gramsci's organic intellectual, emerging from and belonging to - subaltern as well as dominant classes, the idea that going to school and university automatically declasses I reclassifies in this way someone like Ngugi from a landless peasant background assigns enormous power to cultural institutions to influence and situate individuals. (Ironically, this institutional/cultural effect is something which Amove is at great pains to play down when it is a case of Ngugi arguing for colonialism's profound mental impact on colonised peoples, especially through education.) Ache be and Ngugi's position within the 'field' of intellectual (here, literary and cultural) production appears remarkably constraining or determining (especially in view of Amove's basically materialist stance) in relation to class location, and the possession and deployment of, in Bourdieu's terms, 'cultural capital' and 'symbolic power'. Essentially, once you are in, there seems to be no way out of the 'field'. Also, there is the assumption that, once located in the field, Achebe and Ngugi inevitably follow its logic:

Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


It is precisely in this context - the competition within a field for a dominant position, with the recognition and cultural capital (convertible to economic capital through the institutions of publishing, teaching, lecturing and awardgranting) it confers - that Ngugi's and Achebe's 'position-takings' ... on the language of African literature should be situated. (288).

The idea that Ngugi might be more urgently concerned with things other than the accumulation of (convertible) cultural capital - such as opposing the neo-colonial regime in Kenya for example - is either not entertained or dismissed as another form of self-misrecognition. For Amove, the most particular form of Ngugi's misrecognition is, as mentioned, his relation to the 'people'. Bourdieu suggests that: the 'people' or the 'popular' .. .is frrst of all one of the things at stake in the struggle between intellectuals. The fact of being or feeling authorized to speak about the 'people' or of speaking for (in both senses of the word) the 'people' may constitute, in itself, a force in the struggles within different fields -political, religious, artistic ... the stances adopted towards the 'people' or the 'popular' depend in their form and content on specific interests linked frrst and foremost to belonging to a cultural field of production and, secondly, to the position occupied within this field (1990: 150).

The first section of this is unobjectionable as the recognition of a particular kind of politics of the sort Bakhtin and Voloshinov would endorse. For Bourdieu, however, the access to the role of spokesperson inevitably involves a break with the 'people', in which case the 'people' can presumably never have a 'genuine' spokesperson, one who is not vulnerable, like Achebe and Ngugi, to the charge of idealizing or romanticizing their relationship with the people (since he or she is no longer fully one of them). The second part of the quote from Bourdieu reinforces the containing or constraining sense of the field. Ngugi's use of the 'people', and his behaviour towards those he sees as his people hardly seem to be those constituted by his position within the field: world-famous novelist and head of a university department. Bourdieu's theory (as used by Amove) appears to take no account of the possibility of someone located within the field of literature deriving their stance and organising their behaviour towards the 'people' on the basis of concepts derived from a completely different field - politics, for instance. Above all, Amove's view of Ngugi crucially - and surprisingly, given his


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materialist approach - ignores the possibility of praxis as an activity which can connect the intellectual and the 'people'. In Ngugi's case, the best-known example was his involvement in collaborative radical theatre projects with the people of his village of Kamiriithu using indigenous languages and cultural forms. The first of these projects was strongly Gilruyu-based; the second aimed at the production of a more truly national-popular form. The fact that the first led to his imprisonment without trial for a year did not stop the attempt at a second (which had more than a little to do with his subsequent exile). From exile Ngugi has been involved (culturally and more 'practically') in the protracted struggles to establish democracy in Kenya - participation, in his view, in people-oriented praxis. If, however, Amove and Bourdieu are correct, and the basis for all of this is no more than a fundamental self-misrecognition, it is difficult to see what sort of legitimate linkage a post-colonial intellectual, or any other, aiming for connection with ordinary people (whether at the modest level of simply retaining class belonging, or the much more ambitious one of mass political mobilisation) could ever hope for. In tum, the prospects for any post-colonial intellectuals' relation to politicised agency would look extremely bleak. Another of Amove's criticisms ofNgugi is one which is frequently leveled at post-colonial intellectuals - the bias towards culturalism and neglect of the material, which we have already encountered in Said's comments, and will do so again. For Amove: "the tendency of positions generated from the dominant-dominated position [i.e. that of intellectuals] to interpret the social world according to culturalist protocols tends to obscure the economic stakes of cultural struggles" (289). If, however, the dominant-dominated is the position of all intellectuals (according to Bourdieu and Amove) that ought logically to mean that all intellectuals produce culturalist readings of the world. In addition, it is impossible to see this - as it is intended - as a useful assessment ofNgugi. Even in the book on which Amove bases his discussion (and which is admittedly one of Ngugi's more culturalist), Decolonising the Mind, there are numerous examples of statements like the following: The language question cannot be solved outside the larger arena of economics and politics, or outside the answer to the question of what society we want. § But the search for new directions in language, literature, theatre, poetry, fiction and scholarly studies in Africa is part and parcel of the overall struggles of African people against imperialism in its neo-colonial stage (106).

Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


And in case there is any doubt about whether Ngugi might somehow be conceptualising imperialism in culturalist terms: Imperialism is the rule of consolidated finance capital, and since 1884 this monopolistic parasitic capital has affected and continues to affect the lives of even the peasants in the remotest comers of our countries (2).

-not Ngugi's most elegant exposition, perhaps, but scarcely one that could be called culturalist. From a certain perspective, of course, the strenuous distinctions drawn between the cultural and the material would appear not only ideologically loaded, but also virtually meaningless: the materiality of culture, its practices and processes, as well as its products, has been one of the basic tenets of cultural studies, with which post-colonial studies shares a great deal of common analytical ground, political aspirations and even intellectual practitioners. If the use of Bourdieu might seem to lead to an underestimation of the extent to which a post-colonial intellectual like Ngugi might retain links with 'the people', or might be engaged in the struggle for more than just 'the profit of distinction' in his mobilisation of 'the people' (discursively and practically), there are nevertheless other aspects of his thought which appear more promising in our context. In his inaugural lecture at the College de France, Bourdieu said: it is supremely difficult for intellectuals to escape the logic of the struggle in which everyone willingly turns himself into the sociologist of his enemies, at the same time as turning himself into his own ideologue, in accordance with the law of reciprocal blindness and insight which governs all social struggles for truth. It is, however, only if he apprehends the game as a game, with the stakes, rules or regular sequences that are proper to it, the specific interests created in it and the interests satisfied by it, that he can both extricate himself through and for that distancing which grounds theoretical representation, and, simultaneously, discover himself to be implicated in the game, in a determined place, with his own determined and determinant stakes and investments. (1990: 183-4).

One result of this is the recognition of the morally and ideologically loaded - and, for Bourdieu, ultimately untenable - nature of the distinction between 'good' intellectuals (proper, legitimate, non-co-opted) and 'bad' (complicit, co-opted, contaminated) with which so many critics operate. In


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this perspective, since everyone is variously involved and implicated in the field, no one is pure. At the same time, even if there is no position of purity available, there is, in Bourdieu's opinion, the possibility of a more or less detached or distanced position. Whether or not they can actually achieve a position of (relative) detachment from which to scrutinise society, and how they might get there, is a recurrent issue for intellectuals, post-colonial and other. Said is a great believer in the possibility of this, but some of his critics have been less than convinced: Said's constant questioning of the role of the intellectual assumes - against the evidence and argument of his own book [Orienta/ism] - his or her ability to operate in a separate space independent from contemporary ideology, even without the customary benefit of the scientific knowledge of Marxism.... Said's difficulty is that his ethical and theoretical values are so deeply involved in the history of the culture that he criticizes that they undermine his claims for the possibility of the individual being in a position to choose, in an uncomplicated process of separation, to be both inside and outside his or her own culture (Young 1990: 132).

Although Robert Young identifies an area of difficulty in Said's thought, it is by no means certain that Said is as trapped as Young thinks. For example, the question is not necessarily one of simple voluntaristic selection: Said is concerned with where intellectuals are objectively positioned, not just where they might hope or choose to be. The more they occupy positions proximate to, or within, structures and systems of power (like Orientalism), the less they can opt for "an uncomplicated process of separation". As Said discusses later in Representations of the Intellectual, the inside/outside location of intellectuals which might create their critical distance comes more easily - if that is quite the word - with the experience of displacement, migration, diaspora, or, in his favourite term, exile. These forms of dislocation, which result in intellectuals belonging fully neither to their culture of origin nor to the one in which they find themselves, are widely recognised as both formative and representative of the post-colonial world. Once again, however, Said chooses not to discuss this aspect, even though two of his three chosen exiles are paradigmatic post-colonials - CLR James and VS Naipaul. Somewhat more problematically, Said extends intellectual exile from the actual to the metaphorical:

Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


Even intellectuals who are lifelong members of a society can, in a manner of speaking, be divided into insiders and outsiders ... those who can be called yea-sayers, and on the other hand the nay-sayers, the individuals at odds with their society and therefore outsiders and exiles so far as privilege, power and honours are concerned. (Said 1994: 39).

Here, the acquisition of critical perspective seems to be a function of a kind of intellectual asceticism and to have less to do with position than with its renunciation, while the intellectually enabling aspect of distance (geographical, cultural, hierarchical) from power, prestige or privilege could explain why post-colonial intellectuals could be better than average critics of the system (and, equally, why some would aim for the kind of dubious advancement noted by Spivak). For other theorists, critical distance can simply be a function of the practice of being an intellectual - though this may not in itself be absolutely straightforward. Glossing Bourdieu, Dick Pels says: As soon as we begin to observe, we effect an epistemological break that is simultaneously a social break, because we withdraw more or less completely from the world. This posture of the 'impartial observer' is not only socially exceptional but is also supported by concrete social privileges (Pels 1995: 86).

Whether the latter are quite what Said has in mind when he talks of privilege, Bourdieu's account reminds us again that the position of intellectuals is complex, and that privilege, even if unsought, may not be so easily relinquished. The importance, indeed the crucial difference, of the post-colonial perspective on these questions is brought out by Gayatri Spivak. Firstly, there is her repeated call to intellectuals, especially in the West, to "unlearn" their privilege. This, if nothing else, implies (contra Bourdieu) the possibility - if also the difficulty - of members of the 'dominant-dominated' fraction aligning themselves with others who are in no way part of the dominant stratum, though it must be distinguished from the dangerously seductive 'spurious marginality' which she warns of. Secondly, Spivak's work emphasises just how - far from constituting a 'more or less complete withdrawal from the world' - the act of observation, especially in the colonial context, represents a significant intervention in the world. The gaze of the ('impartial') observer here is intimately bound up with imperial surveillance, the accumulation of


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lmowledge as power, and the deployment of power as the freedom to observe at will. This in turn indicates how and why post-colonial intellectual activity must not simply replicate undifferentiated concepts of what it is that intellectuals do. To get a grasp on how the agency of the post-colonial is being obliterated in order to inscribe him and her as marginals, culture studies must use specialisms, but also actively frame and resist the tyranny of the specialist (Spivak 1993: 74).

The use of the imperative - 'must...resist the tyranny of the specialist' - is significant. For Bourdieu, discussions of intellectuals slip inexorably from the descriptive to the prescriptive or, as he calls it, the nonnative. This is certainly true of Said, who moves from a broad descriptive category of intellectuals such as: "Today everyone who works in any field connected with either the production or distribution of knowledge is an intellectual in Gramsci's sense" (1994: 7). to a narrower prescriptive one: "The intellectual's representations ... are always tied to and ought to remain part of an ongoing experience in society: of the poor, the disadvantaged, the voiceless, the unrepresented, the powerless" (84). At the same time, this 'fall' from objectivity into involvement can seem appropriate in view of the increasingly aclmowledged importance of the ethical dimension of post-colonial analysis - from Said's own early query as to the possibility of non-dominative know ledges, to the growing attempt to use Levinas' maximally ethical stance towards the Other as the basis for postcolonial practice. Interestingly, Bourdieu is subject to the same slippage from the descriptive to the nonnative which he identifies in others. In addition to sociological descriptions of what intellectuals are and do, we find him - rather ironically, and against his own best insights - asserting what they must do in order to be proper intellectuals: To be entitled to the name of intellectual, a cultural producer must fulfill two conditions: on the one hand, he must belong to an autonomous intellectual world (a field), that is, independent from religious, political, and economic powers (and so on), and must respect its specific laws; on the other hand, he must invest the competence and authority he has acquired in the intellectual field in a political action, which is in any case carried out outside the intellectual field proper (Bourdieu 1991: 656).

Nothing in the Post?- Said and the Problem ofPost-Colonial ...


Although, as mentioned earlier, Bourdieu's account suggests that the construction of friends and foes stretches right across the intellectual field, Bruce Robbins argues that this type of procedure may belong more to certain disciplines than others (and indeed perhaps not to all). Especially in the humanities, he suggests, it produces a 'rhetoric of praise and blame', detennined by the professional pact that the humanities have concluded with 'society at large' - a pact to transmit values from the past to a commercialized or dehumanized present seen as acutely in need of them - and therefore as invested with considerable social force (Robbins 1993: 101).

Robbins also notes the disciplinary pressure to produce such rhetoric, however little one wants to do so. The quasi-obligation to produce a discourse of value and valorised objects would then suggest one reason why intellectuals such as Dirlik continue to operate with the categories they do. The relation of such constraints to post-colonial intellectuals would once again be complex to the extent that they are removed from traditional disciplinary pressures, they have less need to operate in terms of praise and blame; at the same time, the circumstances in which they think and write - precisely post-colonial - are obviously a powerful incitement to the production of a discourse of value, with potentially a high 'praise and blame' level. Said of course has on various occasions strongly rejected what he sees as a useless - even directly harmful - 'politics of blame' or 'rhetoric of blame' as a strategy in the post-colonial context, though he has had rather less to say about the utility or otherwise of praise. In "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World" he says: "I want first to consider the actualities of the intellectual terrain common as well as discrepant in the post-colonial cultural discourse, especially concentrating on what in it gives rise to and encourages a rhetoric as well as a politics of blame," (45) and goes on to offer a 'politics of secular interpretation' as a more rewarding alternative. It is interesting, however, that he should regard it as the internal features of post-colonial cultural discourse rather than the range of external forces acting on it, for instance - which are responsible for the rhetoric and politics of blame, and could this in tum be an indication of why he appears so little enamoured of post-colonial discourse ? Said briefly refers to some of the terminological debates surrounding postcolonialism in the Afterword to the 1995 edition of Orienta/ism, though (wisely no doubt) he makes no attempt at summary or intervention. Nevertheless, this discussion of post-colonialism stands in sharp contrast to all


Patrick Williams

he has written (or not) on the subject before or since. The manner in which he mentions post-colonialism in the interview quoted earlier locates it firmly and simply as a terrain of problems - incomprehensibility, irrelevance, superficial culturalism as opposed to political engagement - and leads us to expect something similar in the Afterword. What we initially fmd is the following: "There has been [in the years since the publication of Orienta/ism] a revolution in the consciousness of women, minorities and marginals so powerful as to affect mainstream thinking worldwide. Two broad currents can be distinguished: post-colonialism and post-modernism... "(350). Although he sees the two emerging together in the 1980s, Said clearly differentiates between them, unlike a range of critics who, on no good evidence, conflate or over-align them: "As a child of postmodemism, postcolonial ism too is expressive of the logic of this phase of capitalism... "; "I am reminded of something the Cuban-American critic Roman de Ia Campa said to me in conversation, to the effect that 'postcoloniality' is postmodemism's wedge to colonise literatures outside Europe and its North American offshoots ... "; "I would further offer that postcoloniality can only have meaning if we accept postrnodernism as the only current legitimizing narrative." 7 Said, on the other hand, despite recognising an occasional overlap, distinguishes for example: "This crucial difference between the urgent historical and political imperatives of post-colonialism and post-modernism's relative detachrnent ... "(351). Similarly, even when post-colonialism, like post-modernism, interests itself in the local, the former "seems to me to be most interestingly connected in its general approach to a universal set of concerns, all of them relating to emancipation, revisionist attitudes towards history and culture ... " (351-2). Said further recognises the interdisciplinarity of post-colonial studies in its, for him, particularly interesting extension to questions of geography, and finally says of the field: one of the most interesting developments in post-colonial studies was a rereading of canonical cultural works, not to demote or somehow to dish the dirt on them, but to re-investigate some of their assumptions, going beyond the stifling hold on them of some version of the master-slave binary dialectic (352-3).


Dirlik (1994: 348), Ahmad (1995: 1), Davies (1994: 80).

Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


We are clearly a long way from the idea of post-colonial readings as offering Conrad as 'only despicable', precisely 'dishing the dirt' on him. What has changed ? And why - having made the quite startling claim for it as the more important partner in a global revolution of consciousness - does Said revert, in the interview quoted earlier, to the deeply negative, and worryingly superficial, version of post-colonial studies within the space of a year or two ? Although geography is only one of the disciplinary areas to be affected by post-colonial studies, or, conversely, on which work in post-colonial studies has drawn, it is interesting that the acknowledged interaction with such a (literally) materially-grounded field does not affect Said's later negative assessment of post-colonialism's apparent neglect of the material. Perhaps the most surprising of Said's positive evaluations of post-colonial studies in the Afterword is the perceived connection to 'universal concerns'. This is surprising firstly because elsewhere post-colonialism figures as negative, divisive or sectarian, productive (as we have seen) of a politics or rhetoric of blame. It is also surprising because addressing universal concerns, or, even more so, upholding universal values, is for Said the epitome of proper intellectual activity: "[The intellectual's] raison d'etre is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug. The intellectual does so on the basis of universal principles ... " (Said 1996: 9). In that sort of perspective, post-colonial intellectuals ought to be the contemporary intellectuals, rather than a group not worthy of consideration in their own right. (Certain forms of contemporary theory would of course be extremely unhappy with the idea of the actual or possible existence of universal values, but that is not the issue here.) For Bourdieu, defending 'the universal' is one of the most urgent tasks for intellectuals, but for him it is definitely not an ahistorical category: Against a universal pragmatics in Habermas' sense, a politics of the universal should be proposed. Transhistorical universals of communication do not exist, but socially established forms of communication favouring the production ofuniversals do exist. (1991: 661).

Post-colonial studies offers an important sense of what such a politics of the universal needs to address: From the standpoint of postco1onialism, it is today impossible to think about politics without invoking the category of universality. For in the postcolonial


Patrick Williams world system, experience is multiply overdetennined, and not least by imperialism itself. Social identity has become world-historical in its

constitution (Lazarus 1994: 219). If some of the language here sounds a little old-fashioned, it is worth recalling the words of a resolutely internationalist - if not post-colonial intellectual: "Those who cannot defend old positions will never conquer new ones." (Trotsky 1973: 178). It is the sort of sentiment with which it is difficult to imagine Said disagreeing, whatever qualms he might have about the author, not to mention some of the new positions currently being conquered.

WoRKS CITED Ahmad, Aijaz (1995), "The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality," Race and Class 30 (3): 1-20. Amove, Anthony ( 1993 ), "Pierre Bourdieu, the Sociology of Intellectuals, and the Language of African Literature," Novel. 26, 3 (Spring): 278-96. Bauman, Zygmunt (1987), Legislators and Interpreters. Oxford: Polity Press. Bauman, Zygmunt (1992), "Love in Adversity: On the State and the Intellectuals, and the State ofthe Intellectuals," Thesis Eleven 31: 81-104. Bourdieu, Pierre (1990), In Other Words. Oxford: Polity Press. Bourdieu, Pierre (1993), Sociology in Question. London: Sage. Bourdieu, Pierre (1991), "Universal Corporatism". Poetics Today. 12: 4 (Winter): 655-669. Boynton, Robert (1995), "The New Intellectuals," Atlantic Monthly. March: 53-70. Davies, Carole Boyce (1994), Black Women, Writing and Identity. London: Routledge. Dirlik, Arif (1994), "The Postcolonial Aura," Critical Inquiry 20 (Winter): 328-56. Goldfarb, Jeffrey C. {1998), Civility and Subversion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hall, Stuart (1996), "On postmodemism and articulation: an interview with Stuart Hall," in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. eds. David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen. London: Verso: 131-150. Jacoby, Russell (1995), "Colonial writers lost in the post," Times Higher. (December 29): 17.

Nothing in the Post? - Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial . . .


Lazarus, Neil (1990), Resistance in Postcolonial African Fiction. New Haven: Yale University Press. Lazarus, Neil (1994), "National consciousness and the specificity of (post) colonial intellectualism," in Colonial Discourse I Postcolonial Theory. ed. Francis Barker et.al. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 197-220. Morley, David, and Kuan-Hsing Chen, eds. (1996), Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge. Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1986), Deco/onising the Mind. London: James Currey Pels, Dick (1995), "Knowledge politics and anti-politics," Theory and Society. 24: 79-104. Prakash, Gyan (1992), "Postcolonial Criticism and Indian Historiography," Social Text. 3112: 8-19. Rajan, Rajeswari Sunder (1997), "The Third World Academic in Other Places; or, the Postcolonial Intellectual Revisited" Critical Inquiry. 23 (Spring): 596-616. Robbins, Bruce (1993), Secular Vocations. London: Verso. Said, Edward (1978), Orienta/ism. New York: Vintage. Said, Edward (1992), Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus. Said, Edward (1994), Representations of the Intellectual. London: Vintage. Said, Edward (1995a), The Politics ofDispossession. London: Vintage, . Said, Edward (1995b), "Afterword to the 1995 printing". Orienta/ism. London: Vintage,: 329-54. Said, Edward (1986), "Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World". Salmagundi. 7112 (Spring-Summer): 44-81. Said, Edward (1990), "Third World Intellectuals and Metropolitan Culture". Raritan. IX, 3: 81-97. Said, Edward (1998/9), "Edward Said, in conversation with Neeladri Bhattacharya, Suvir Kaul and Ania Loomba, New Delhi, 16 December 1997," Interventions, 1.1 ( 1998/9): 81-96. Spivak, Gayatri (1993), Outside in the Teaching Machine. London: Routledge. Spivak, Gayatri (1999) "The Labour of the Negative", Interventions, 1, 2 Sprinker, Michael ed. (1992), Edward Said: A Critical Reader Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Trotsky, Leon (1973), In Defence ofMarxism. New York: Pathfinder. Young, Robert (1991), White Mythologies. London: Routledge.



Patrick Brantlinger In "What Is an Author?" Michel Foucault writes that "a person can be the author of much more than a book-of a theory, for instance, of a tradition or discipline within which new books and authors can proliferate." Foucault suggests calling such meta-authors "initiators of discursive practices," and he names as two prominent examples Marx and Freud (131). As does Foucault himself, both Raymond Williams and Edward Said come close to being "initiators of discursive practices." A case can at least be made that Williams initiated the discursive practice of cultural studies and that Said has, if not exactly initiated, certainly had a formative role in the discursive practice of postcolonial studies. Of course, as is undoubtedly true of all complex cultural formations, both cultural studies and postcolonial studies have multiple points of origin. Besides Williams, E. P. Thompson, Richard Haggart, and Stuart Hall helped to initiate cultural studies as it took shape in and around the Birmingham Centre in the early sixties. A full genealogy of cultural studies would include, moreover, members of the Marxist historians group besides Thompson, as well as all of the intellectuals whose theories Williams analyzed in Culture and Society, from Edmund Burke and William Cobbett toR. H. Tawney and


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Christopher Caudwell. So, too, as Aijaz Ahmad notes, postcolonial studies in its American and European university settings arose only after the onset of "the second phase of decolonization" with the Cuban revolution of 1958-59 (1992: 39). By the time Said's Orienta/ism appeared in 1978, a great deal of anti-colonial intellectual work, almost all of it outside western universities, had already been accomplished. In this regard, Frantz Fanon may have a greater claim to being the initiator of postcolonial studies than does Said. But despite these points, and also despite the many criticisms and reservations Ahmad has about Said's work, Ahmad writes: ... Said is undoubtedly the central figure and ... he has at least influenced, if not always directly defined, virtually all the main positions which have had the greatest influence in detennining approaches to questions of colony, empire, nation and postcoloniality as these questions have surfaced in literary theory since the publication of Orienta/ism in 1978 (14).

However complex the origins of the two movements may have been, prior to Orienta/ism, postcolonial studies in western universities did not exist, just as prior to Williams's Culture and Society cultural studies did not exist. Whether either cultural studies or postcolonial studies amounts to a "discursive practice" in Foucault's meaning of that phrase is debatable, though postcolonial studies has a more obvious, public, indeed global genealogy reaching far beyond the academy. Cultural studies, on the other hand, at least according to some perhaps ungenerous interpretations, remains both academically insular and inherently British in orientation. I will consider some of Ahmad's criticisms of Said's work later in this essay. Besides pointing to the major influence that Williams had on cultural studies and that Said has had on postcolonial studies, I will first review the personal and intellectual connections between Williams and Said and then, focusing partly on the chapter on Said in Ahmad's In Theory, examine some of the similarities and differences between cultural studies and postcolonial studies. Said has on many occasions acknowledged Williams's friendship and influence on his own work. As its title suggests, Culture and Imperialism in particular is a self-conscious extension and also critique of Williams's Culture and Society. In the introduction, Said writes: "I need hardly say that many parts of this book are suffused with the ideas and the human and moral example of Raymond Williams, a good friend and a great critic" (xxvii). Orienta/ism, too, reflects Williams's influence: "... we can better understand

Edward Said ami/versus Raymond Williams


the persistence and the durability of saturating hegemonic systems like culture," Said there declares, "when we realize that their internal constraints upon writers were productive, not unilaterally inhibiting." He continues: "It is this idea that Gramsci, certainly, and Foucault and Raymond Williams in their very different ways have been trying to illustrate. Even one or two pages by Williams on 'the uses of the Empire' in The Long Revolution tell us more about nineteenth-century cultural richness than many volumes of hermetic textual analyses" (1993: 14). Said returns to Williams a few pages later, at the end of the introduction to Orienta/ism, when, after noting the parallels between anti-Semitism and Orientalism as well as the irony that those parallels have for "an Arab Palestinian," he adds: But what I should like ... to have contributed here is a better understanding of the way cultural domination has operated. If this stimulates a new kind of dealing with the Orient, indeed if it eliminates the "Orient" and "Occident" altogether, then we shall have advanced a little in the process of what Raymond Williams has called the "unlearning" of "the inherent dominative mode" (1993: 28).

In a brief account of his friendship with Williams, Said recalls that, when he was head of the English Institute at Harvard in the early 1970s, he invited Williams to participate. Williams declined, however, because of the Vietnam War. Williams later reviewed Said's The World the Text. and the Critic favourably - for the Manchester Guardian.• The two first met in London in 1985, when they were panelists on a television program dealing with "intellectuals" (the other panelists were David Caute, Julia Kristeva, and Roger Scruton). They met again in 1986 at a conference on "Cultural Studies, Media Studies and Political Education" held at the Institute of Education in London; a central attraction of the conference was the public dialogue between the two (the edited transcript of this dialogue appears as "Media, Margins and Modernity" in Williams, The Politics of Modernity). And on October 10, 1989 Said delivered the first Raymond Williams Memorial Lecture in London, since published as "Narrative, Geography and Interpretation" in New Left Review. In his comments on his friendship with Williams, Said adds: "Along with E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, and one

1 Raymond

Williams, Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977.


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or two others [Williams] was a member of the Friends of Bir Zeit University, so he was very sympathetic to our [Palestinian] cause." 2 The meeting, friendship, and intellectual relationship between Williams and Said seems, at least on first glance, an odd sorting out of destinies. And indeed there are major intellectual differences between the two that will be one focus of this essay. But the main similarity, and attraction, between the two is at once ethical and political, and is well-expressed by Said's definition of the goal of all critical intellectuals as the production of "noncoercive knowledge .. .in the interests of human freedom" (1983: 29). Williams's moral and political example, including his long record of activism on behalf of democratic socialism, human rights, and nuclear disarmament, has been paralleled on an international scale by Said, including especially his advocacy of the rights to political, cultural, and media representation of the Palestinians. Furthermore, a number of key concepts developed by Said owe at least something to related ideas in Williams. Besides their general insistence that neither literature nor any other form of culture can be fully understood in isolation from the social context within which it is produced, and that therefore "secular criticism," as Said calls it, must necessarily be, in part, social criticism, Said's ideas of "filiation" and "affiliation," for example, are at least akin to Williams's "knowable community" versus its antithesis in the abstract, in some ways "unknowable" and anonymous experience of the modem city and ofmass society (1983: 17-21). So, too, "travelling theory" is an extension, perhaps, of several patterns or lines of thought in Williams; Said makes Williams's reception of the Marxist-structuralist sociology of Lucien Goldmann a key illustration of what happens or can happen to theories as they "travel" from context to context (1983: 237-242). But if Williams is usually close at hand when Said is discussing such concepts, there are also differences-ones suggested by the contrast, which is potentially also an antithesis, between Williams's emphasis on "community" and Said's emphasis on "the world" and "worldliness." The main criticism that Said and other postcolonial intellectuals have had of Williams's work concerns what Said, in his Memorial Lecture, calls Williams's "stubborn" "Anglocentrism" (Said 1990: 83). Only a few passages in The Long Revolution, The Country and the City, Orwell, and elsewhere mention imperialism, and Williams very rarely considered race and racism as 2 This

account is in the form of an e-mail message to me from Said, dated June 12, 1999.

Edward Said ami/versus Raymond Williams


major factors even within the confines of British history and culture. 3 This limitation has led Paul Gilroy, among others, to see in Williams's work a source of the "doggedly ethnocentric focus" (1993: 11) of much cultural studies, at least within Britain. Needless to say, Gilroy has played a major role in changing that focus, moving cultural studies in the directions both of work on race and racism within Britain and of postcolonial studies. In their 1986 dialogue, Said reminds Williams of the moment in Politics and Letters when one of the interviewers for New Left Review points to the omission of imperialism from Culture and Society. Said indicates that Williams responded by saying that his "Welsh experience ... hadn't been as important to [him] then as it later became" (Said and Williams 1989: 196). Williams also said that, in Culture and Society, he had at least mentioned Thomas Carlyle's racism and, in the chapter on "industrial novels," had stressed emigration as an "escape" mechanism in Victorian fiction. Williams went on to tell his interviewers: The way I used the term conununity actually rested on my memories of Wales .... But the Welsh experience was also precisely one of subjection to English expansion and assimilation historically. That is what ought to have alerted me to the dangers of a persuasive type of defmition of community, which is at once dominant and exclusive (1981: 118-119).

But "the Welsh experience" never did finally lead Williams to a full consideration of it as an outcome of imperialism. (One can only speculate that if Williams had been Irish instead of Welsh, the result might have been very different: compare Terry Eagleton's work on Ireland in Heathcliff and the Great Hunger and elsewhere.) Throughout his work, "the Welsh experience" continued to tum on the idea of a "lmowable," close-lmit, rural, and workingclass community that Williams, as in his novels Border Country, Second Generation, and The Fight for Manod, saw as disrupted by capitalist industrialization and modernization, without ever precisely connecting these with imperialism. Although he sympathized with and to a certain, rather aloof extent participated in the Welsh "nco-nationalist" movement (Williams 1981 : 240), that aspect of his political activism is simply not comparable to Said's


It is symptomatic that, while there is an entry for "imperialism" in both the first (1976) and second (1983) editions of Williams's Keywords, "race" makes an appearance only in the second edition, under the heading "racial."


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impassioned and very courageous participation in the Palestinian cause. 4 11 The Welsh experience., tended to serve Williams as an autobiographical synecdoche for, or particular instance of, British working-class experience, coupled with the problem of maintaining the economic and cultural vitality of regions and local communities against the pressures of capitalist and governmental centralization. Far more tragically, 11 the Palestinian experience, .. as Said calls it in The Question of Palestine (ix), involves ongoing war, genocide, and the direct, continuing imperialist appropriation of territory from the Palestinian Arabs by Israel, with the backing of American and European mass media, financial, and military support. While capitalism and class conflict in the industrial era are central to Williams's analyses of the dynamics of British 11 Culture and society," for Said imperialism takes priority, and not just because of his own experience as a Palestinian. After all, as Marx understood, it was the "primitive accumulation" through early imperialist ventures, including the slave trade, that provided the financial basis for capitalist industrialization to develop (and not only in England, but elsewhere in western Europe). In her contribution to Views beyond the Border Country, Gauri Viswanathan offers an extended analysis of what she calls "the limits of metropolitan cultural theory" in relation to British 11 Colonialism." According to Viswanathan: "we would have to go back to ... Williams to trace the genealogy of a critical approach that consistently and exclusively studies the formation of metropolitan culture from within its own boundaries" (218). As she notes, it isn't exactly that Williams completely ignores the imperial factor, but he minimizes it in a number of ways. In his most extended account of imperialism, at the end of The Country and the City, the stress is on British economic exploitation of its colonies. Viswanathan rightly complains: "In his analyses of British culture Williams radically questions that same analytical framework of economic determinism by which he simultaneously explains British imperialism., (225). In other words, Williams understood imperialism as a one-way street-an imposition by the colonizer on the colonized-without developing a model of "reciprocity" or 11 hybridity" like that which characterizes his understanding of community, communications, class conflict, and even 11 neo-nationalism" in the British context. "Williams's reading of Britain in relation to global power," 4

On Welsh nco-nationalism, see Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain, (1986: 196-215). On Said and "the Palestinian experience," see, besides The Question of Palestine and Said's other writings on that topic, the essay by Nubar Hovespian 1992, "Connections with Palestine."

Edward Said ancllversus Raymond Williams


Viswanathan concludes, "suffers from the reintroduction of ... economic and ideological determinism in the absence of a relational and conjectural [conjunctural?] analysis of imperialism" (224). This is quite apart from the quantitative short shrift Williams gives to imperialism, racism, and even Ireland and the Irish throughout his work. s Viswanathan's critique, and others by Leslie Roman, Forest Pyle, and R. Radhalaishnan in Views beyond the Border Country, raise the question of whether cultural studies in general can serve as a basis for pursuing postcolonial studies. To put this question differently, on one understanding postcolonial studies is an offshoot of cultural studies, but on another it is necessarily a distinct, in some ways even antagonistic, field of theoretical and practical debate and political struggle. The question cannot be adequately addressed without considering the roles that "diasporic intellectuals" such as Stuart Hall have played in the development both of the British New Left and of cultural studies (Morley and Chen 1996: 11). But the key issue has to do with whether cultural studies has or even can shed the at least residual organicism and "Anglocentrism" that cling to Williams's models of culture, community, and communication. Said himself comes close to making this point when, during his 1986 dialogue with Williams, he says, "for me ... culture has been used as essentially not a cooperative and communal term but rather as a term of exclusion. Certainly if you read Culture and Society again, and take almost without exception all the major statements on culture in the nineteenth century by the great sages and novelists, they refer to 'our' culture as opposed to 'theirs,' 'theirs' being defined and marginalized essentially, in my argument, by virtue of race" (Said and Williams 1989: 196). Said goes on to mention a number of other factors, related to "exclusion," that inform his conception of culture as it involves both race and imperialism: "And so I think culture has to be seen as not only excluding but also exported; there is this tradition [e.g., English literature] which you are required to understand and learn and so on, but you cannot really be of it; you can be in it but you are not of it. ... and then of course the whole problematic of exile and immigration enters into it, the people who simply don't belong in any culture; this is the great modem or, if you like, post-modem fact, the standing outside of cultures." (Said and


See Williams's remarks, however, about both Ireland and race/racism in Towards 2000, pp. 193-196.


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Williams 1989: 196). Said doesn't mean, of course, that anyone is ever culture-less; he does mean that millions of people today suffer the experience of being "exiled" or "excluded" or otherwise alienated from dominant cultures they nevertheless find themselves living within or moving between. Nor are such people in the minority or "minorities." Certainly as the so-called Third World relates economically and culturally to the centres of European and American power, it is the vast majority who experience alienation, domination, exclusion. Said's postcolonial stress on the experiences of cultural exclusion, exile, and immigration have no parallel in Williams's work in part because, in contrast to "the Palestinian experience," what Williams has to say about Welshness always comes back to tradition, rootedness, and a sense of belonging, rather comfortably, to a minority "nationality" or culture within the so-called United Kingdom. At the same time, the sense of communal and cultural rootedness is part of what Said both admires and perhaps envies about Williams: "For all the great critics of the twentieth century ... Williams is, in my opinion, the most abiding, the most organically grounded in the profound and sustaining rhythms of human life ... " (Said 1990: 82). Nevertheless, as Benita Parry notes, "Lodged within [Said's] handsome appreciation of Williams's pathbreaking studies is a commentary on the irrelevance of the colonial experience to his revisionist narrative of the making of English culture, the zones of exclusion staking out the ground on which Said offers an interpretation of imperialism as constitutive of metropolitan cultures" ( 1992: 21; her italics). It is precisely the "constituting" of European cultures through their empire-building, and as much from the "margins" to the "centre" as the other way around, that is the subject of Culture and Imperialism, making it also in various ways Said's rewriting-extension and correction-of Culture and Society. 6 And, inclusive or totalizing though Williams intended his conception of culture to be, exclusion is of major importance both in Said's thinking about how culture operates and more generally in postcolonial studies focused on imperialism, racism, and the many diasporas and migrations that are such major factors in a postmodem world dominated by war, ethnic cleansings, and transnational capitalism. 6

Said comments directly both on his indebtedness to and on the limitations of Williams's work at various moments in Culture and Imperialism. Besides the introduction, which I have already quoted, see Said's criticisms of The Country and the City-a book he greatly admireson pp. 65 and 82-83 of Culture and Imperialism.

Edward Said ancilversus Raymond Williams


Much that is valuable in Williams's thinking arises from the increasing need that he saw to figure out the relationship, identity, or difference between culture and ideology. This theoretical urgency was a main form taken by his career-long negotiations with Marxism. In these negotiations, Antonio Gramsci's theory of hegemony came to serve Williams, as it has more generally served cultural studies, as a via media between the economic determinism of the base-superstructure model and the reduction of social class and power relations to mere functions of textuality or discourse, as is the case with Foucault and more generally with poststructuralist cultural criticism. This is also how Said uses Gramsci in Orienta/ism and elsewhere; the idea of hegemony is what allows him to do a sort of theoretical balancing act-what some of his critics, including Aijaz Ahmad, believe is a contradictory balancing act-between Marxism and poststructuralism. In White Mythologies, Robert Young, for example, considers Orienta/ism a Foucaultian project that dodges some of the main implications of Foucault's theorization of discourse and power. Thus, Young notes, Said "rejects Foucault's downgrading of the role of individual agency" (134). He quotes Orienta/ism: Unlike Michel Foucault, to whose work I am greatly indebted, I do believe in the determining imprint of individual writers upon the otherwise anonymous collective body of texts constituting a discursive formation like Orientalism (23).

Said clearly wants to assign both agency and responsibility to authors for their roles in constructing, supporting, or contesting modes of cultural domination, including imperialism. He also wants to acknowledge literary or aesthetic quality and power. The dual aspects of art and literature, one aesthetic and the other ideological, are never separable from each other. From a very different perspective than Young's, Ahmad also criticizes Said's apparent privileging of canonical, western authors: "... what is remarkable is that with the exception of Said's own voice, the only voices we encounter in [Orienta/ism] are precisely those of the very Western canonicity which, Said complains, has always silenced the Orient" (Ahmad 1992: 172). But Ahmad's reasoning here is tautological: both Orienta/ism and Culture and Imperialism are perforce focused on "Western canonicity," because Orientalism and imperialism (as discursive or ideological formations) are western constructions and impositions on the rest of the world. Ahmad is


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simply restating the major point that Said is making, while assuming that he can tum it into a valid criticism of that very point. Ahmad is no doubt right that Said is deeply indebted to the "High Humanism" of Eric Auerbach, Leo Spitzer, and others, as he is certainly right to praise Said for being, in "the field of Cultural Studies... our most vivacious narrator of the history of European humanism's complicity in the history of European colonialism" (163). But it would be fairer to stress, as does Said himself, that Said's critique of that "complicity" comes through cultural studies, or anyway through the work and influence of Raymond Williams, more obviously than through "High Humanism." This is all the more ironic, given the high praise that Ahmad accords Williams (46-49). Ahmad sees Williams as developing in an increasingly leftward, Marxist direction, and adds: The work of his last decade went from strength to strength... though the breadth of its engagements was hardly to be contained in a given book. In the process, Williams helped to sustain a level of critical discourse not easily dislodged by the kind of new fashions and new orthodoxies that came to dominate literary studies-in sections of the British Left itself but, even more, in the United States (49). At the end of this passage, Ahmad expresses his Marxist hostility to the various versions of poststructuralist theory, including Foucaultism, that have challenged Marxist historical materialism in a variety of ways. Neither acknowledging the influence of poststructuralism on Williams's thinking, nor acknowledging the full influence of Williams on Said's thinking, Ahmad reaches what seems to me the mistaken conclusion that Orienta/ism and the later essays that went into the making of Culture and Imperialism are either Foucaultist in a doctrinaire way or marred by a "theoretical eclecticism [which] runs increasingly out of control: sweeping, patently poststructuralist denunciations of Marxism can be delivered in the name of Gramsci, using the terminology explicitly drawn from Althusser, and listing the names of communist poets like Aime Cesaire, Pablo Neruda and Mahmoud Darwish to illustrate the sites of resistance" (200). No doubt it would be unfair to Ahmad to infer from this statement that for any non-communist even to name "communist poets" is either a logical inconsistency or sacrilege. More to the point is the issue of theoretical "eclecticism," which Ahmad repeatedly dismisses, in Fredric Jameson, Gayatri Spivak, Ranajit Guha, and others as

Edward Said and/versus Raymond Williams


well as in Said, as a version of "postmodem pastiche' (202 and elsewhere). But Williams himself, and more generally the cultural studies movement that he helped to generate, committed the (theoretical) sin of theoretical "eclecticism" many times over. Citing Said's insistence that texts must be studied in their "affiliations" with the social, economic, and political, Stuart Hall points out that eclecticism rather than theoretical consistency has been one of the strengths of cultural studies, part of what has allowed it to hold "theoretical and political questions in an ever irresolvable but permanent" and productive "tension" (Hall, "Cultural Studies" 1996: 271-272). That Williams never engaged in theoretical debate with Foucault, Derrida, or even Louis Althusser may be a virtue, but is more likely another limitation of his work (compare Said's critical engagements with especially Foucault and Derrida in The World, the Text, and the Critic, or JUrgen Habermas's often analogous engagements with these and many other theorists in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, among many other places). But Williams's "culturalist" reformulations of the Marxist base/superstructure model and of certain Marxist conceptions of ideology as mere "false consciousness" clearly moved him, and cultural studies after him, in the direction of the poststructuralist emphasis on "discourse." This emphasis in turn allows both Williams and Said to focus on issues of representation and misrepresentation in the linguistic, cultural, and political meanings of these terms (see, for example, Said's "Representing the Colonized"). And poststructuralism has also supplied Said and many other cultural critics and theorists with tools for theorizing other forms of "difference" besides and in relation to social class. As for Williams, noting "the terror of economic reductionism" expressed by the founders of Cultural Studies, Jim McGuigan points to the many occasions when they have said, in effect, "The Marxist bases/superstructure paradigm is a necessary starting place for thinking about culture and ideology, but it is also too crude. The relations between cultures and economic modes of production are multi-leveled and reciprocal rather than straightforwardly deterministic." Williams makes these points in "Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory" (1980: 31-49) and also in Marxism and Literature, where he writes: "A Marxism without some concept of determination is in effect worthless. A Marxism with many of the concepts of determination it now has is quite radically disabled" (83).


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For Williams, neither a crude economic determinism nor a complete abandonment of base/superstructure analysis made sense. To lose sight of the economic altogether, or even to treat it as another aspect of a given social formation, on a par with politics or religion, also meant losing sight of class conflict as the central dynamic of history. Yet Williams always insisted that culture is an active, productive process or set of processes that can challenge but that can't be neatly separated from economic factors. In a sequel to his "Base and Superstructure" essay, Williams examines "communication" as a "means of production" (1980: 50-63). Given the proximity of the terms, one can substitute "culture" for "communication" and reach the same result. Williams writes that "communication and its material means are intrinsic to all ... forms of labour and social organization, thus constituting indispensable elements... of the productive forces" (50). Though rejecting McLuhan's "technological determinism" (52), Williams argues that "A theoretical emphasis on the means of communication as means of production ...should ... encourage new approaches to the history of the means of communication themselves" (53). Williams did not, of course, arrive at the facile conclusion that communication, or discourse, or textuality is all that there is. Gramsci's conception of hegemony allowed him to analyze various modes of cultural domination while continuing to assert quite logically that such analysis was both materialist and Marxist. At the same time, if instead of Foucault's "discourse," Williams continued to use and emphasize the term "culture," the differences between their theoretical positions were not finally, perhaps, very significant. And though Said, perhaps especially in Orienta/ism, uses "discourse," "representation," and "culture" almost interchangeably, that is not necessarily a matter of theoretical inconsistency. For both Williams and Said, "culture" names the key site or condition of hegemonic struggles over economic resources, political power, and representation. For both, though no doubt in different measures and ways, culture is simultaneously inclusive and exclusive, the very stuff of modes of domination throughout history and at the same time the stuff of human hope and possibility. It is this last, positive or potentially positive aspect of culture that helps to explain why both Williams and Said privilege - if that is the proper term - great works of literature (whether western or nonwestem), even as they combine literary and social criticism. Just as the Frankfurt School theorists-Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and more recently Jiirgen Habermas-have seen

Edward Said ami/versus Raymond Williams


in the "aesthetic dimension" a source of utopian possibility, so Williams and Said see such a source in great literature and art. Why else is it that so many novelists, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers have been censored, incarcerated, executed, or otherwise silenced by repressive regimes around the world and throughout history? Culture and Imperialism names many such writers, artists, and intellectuals. So do Said's numerous books and articles on the Palestinian struggle. But it isn't the "humanist" or "idealist" privileging of western, canonical literature that Ahmad finds most upsetting about Orienta/ism. It is instead what Ahmad calls Said's "breezy dismissal" of Marx as an Orientalist and even a collaborator with British imperialism: So uncompromising is [Orienta/ism] in its Third-Worldist passion that Marxism itself, which has historically given such sustenance to so many of the anti-imperialist movements of our time, can be dismissed, breezily, as a child ofOrientalism and an accomplice of British colonialism (195).

But what Said actually says about Marx in Orienta/ism differs considerably from breezy dismissal: Karl Marx identified the notion of an Asiatic economic system in his 1853 analyses of British rule in India, and then put beside that immediately the human depredation introduced into this system by English colonial interference, rapacity, and outright cruelty. In article after article he returned with increasing conviction to the idea that even in destroying Asia, Britain was making possible there a real social revolution (153).

This passage is only a fraction of Said's treatment of Marx and Marxism in Orienta/ism. Marx, Said rightly insists, was at once passionately antiimperialist and yet also capable of "orientalizing" Asia in three major ways shared by other Orientalists such as John Stuart Mill. First, Marx identified a static mode of production-the Asiatic mode-that, he believed, held true throughout the Orient. Second, he translated this notion of economic inertia into the claim that all of Asia had no "history" worthy of consideration. And third, he believed that, however painfully and tragically, the road of progress for all of Asia was the road that capitalist imperialism was forcing it to travel. These are the same points that Brian Turner, for one, makes about Marx in Orienta/ism, Postmodernism and Globalism. The conclusion is inescapable that "Marx... share[s] much of this Western legacy of perceiving the Orient as a


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unified system, one characterized by stationariness, lack of social change, the absence of modernization, the absence of a middle-class bourgeois culture, and the absence of a civil society" (Turner 1994: 5). A number of Ahmad's criticisms of Orienta/ism have been made, more temperately, by Turner, Robert Young, Lisa Lowe, and others, as well as by Said himself. But that Said "dismissed" Marx as an Orientalist and collaborator with British imperialism is not a valid criticism. Rather, in Orienta/ism and many other places, Said expresses high respect for Marx, as he does also for Raymond Williams. In Culture and Imperialism, Said criticizes "much of Western Marxism, in its aesthetic and cultural departments," for being "blinded to the matter of imperialism." He goes on to cite Habermas's assertion, in an interview published in New Left Review, that Frankfurt School critical theory has "nothing to say to anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggles in the Third World,' even if, [Habermas] adds, I am aware ... that this is a eurocentrically limited view."' Said continues: All the major French theoreticians except Deleuze, Todorov, and Derrida have been similarly unheeding, which has not prevented their ateliers from churning out theories of Marxism, language, psychoanalysis, and history with an implied applicability to the whole world. Much the same thing can be said of most Anglo-Saxon cultural theory, with the important exceptions of feminism, and a small handful of work by young critics influenced by Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall (1993: 278).

Said then asks, "if European theory and Western Marxism...haven't in the main proved themselves to be reliable allies in the resistance to imperialism...how has .. .liberationist anti-imperialism tried to break [the] shackling unity" of western cultural, political, and economic domination? One answer to that question is through Said's own work, and more generally through the postcolonial studies movement which Said has done so much to shape and inspire. Whether such work is an extension of cultural studies or is instead a distinct development necessarily critical of cultural studies is fmally, perhaps, undecidable. What is at least clear is that, as far as Said himself is concerned, Marx, the Marxist tradition, and Raymond Williams as a major recent exemplar of that tradition must continue to be read, respected, and emulated for postcolonial studies to achieve its own goals of cultural critique and liberation from imperialist and racist domination.

Edward Said amj/versus Raymond Williams


WORKS CITED Ahmad, Aijaz (1992), In Theory: Classes, Nations Literatures. London: Verso Books. Brennan, Tim (1992), "Places of Mind, Occupied Lands: Edward Said and Philology." Sprinker, ed. Edward Said: 74-95. Dworkin, Dennis L. and Leslie G. Roman, eds. (1993),Views Beyond the Border Country: Raymond Williams and Cultural Politics. London and New York: Routledge. Foucault, Michel ( 1977), "What Is an Author?" Language. Counter-Memory. Practice. Ithaca: Cornell UP: 113-138. Gilroy, Paul (1993), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. Habennas, Jurgen (1987), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hall, Stuart (1996), "Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies. Morley and Chen, eds. Stuart Hall: 262-275. Hall, Stuart (1996), "The Formation of a Diasporic Intellectual." Morley and Chen, eds. Stuart Hall: 484-503. Hovespian, Nubar (1992), "Connections with Palestine." Sprinker, ed. Edward Said: 5-18. Lowe, Lisa (1991), Critical Terrains: French and British Orienta/isms. Ithaca: Cornell UP. McGuigan, Jim (1992), Cultural Populism. London and New York: Routledge. Morley, David, and Kuan-Hsing Chen, eds. (1996), Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge. Nairn, Tom (1981), The Break-up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism. London: Verso. Parry, Benita (1992), "Overlapping Territories and Intertwined Histories: Edward Said's Postcolonial Cosmopolitanism." Sprinker, ed. Edward Said: 19-47. Said, Edward (1978), Orienta/ism. New York: Vintage Books. Said, Edward (1979), "Orientalism Reconsidered." Race and Class 27:2 (1985): 1-15. Said, Edward (1979), The Question of Palestine. New York: Times Books.


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Said, Edward (1983), The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. Said, Edward (1990), .,Narrative, Geography and Interpretation." New Left Review 180: 81-97. Said, Edward (1993), Culture and Imperialism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Said, Edward, and Raymond Williams (1989), 11Media, Margins and Modernity." In Raymond Williams, The Politics ofModernism: 177-197. Sprinker, Michael, ed. (1992), Edward Said: A Critical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. Turner, Brian S. (1994), Orienta/ism. Postmodernism and Globalism. London and New York: Routledge. Viswanathan, Gauri (1993), 11 Raymond Williams and British Colonialism: The Limits of Metropolitan Cultural Theory... Dworkin and Roman, eds. Border Country: 217-230. Williams, Raymond (1980), Problems in Materialism and Culture. London: Verso. Williams, Raymond (1981), Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review. London: Verso. Williams, Raymond (1983), Towards 2000 London: Chatto and Windus Williams, Raymond (1989),Resources of Hope: Culture Democracy. Socialism. London: Verso. Williams, Raymond (1989),The Politics of Modernism. Ed. Tony Pinkney. London: Verso. Young, Robert (l990),W'hite Mythologies: Writing History and the West. New York and London: Routledge.



Bill Ashcroft Readers of this book will by now be aware of how complicated and paradoxical Edward Said's relationship with post-colonial studies can be seen to be. While we can never take any of Said's pronouncements on matters of contemporary theory as fixed in stone for all time, it is clear that he has neither a close acquaintance with post-colonial theory, nor, in many of his statements (because he hates all 'isms'), a clear understanding of its aims. Post-colonial theory itself, as we may deduce from Arif Dirlik's view of its supposed nonmateriality, is open to almost endless interpretation. So, not surprisingly, it is not at all clear what Said himself means by the term. Nevertheless, whether we accept the myth of Said's originary status or not, a close look at Said's writing, to assess what, exactly, is identifiably 'postcolonial' about his work, might prove to be of great benefit. Edward Said and Orienta/ism have become synonymous in contemporary critical thinking. If any book has stood out as a pivotal text in contemporary cultural theory it is his ground breaking analysis of Europe's discursive construction of the Orient. But this book, and indeed, all of Said's work, can only be understood fully in the context of his view of the role of the intellectual in contemporary society and the function of criticism itself. Despite the widespread celebration of Orienta/ism, and its pivotal place in


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post-colonial theory, it is the concept of 'worldliness' which stands as Said's most significant contribution to critical theory.' Apart from arguments about his status as a post-colonial intellectual, and whether he is aware of it or not, worldliness defines Said's post-coloniality. Worldliness underlies the project of Orienta/ism itself, and perhaps more importantly, represents a view of the text, of the material situation of writing, of the location of literature, which will outlast the poststructuralist anxiety which often haunts contemporary critical practice. It is this dogged and unfashionable commitment to worldliness, rather than the immensely influential analysis of lmowledge/power in Orienta/ism that best characterises Said's place in that shifting field called 'post-colonial theory.' While Said's 'place' in post-colonial theory is controversial, both politically and historically, (and by most accounts constantly changing), there is no doubt that at the level of the materiality of the text, and the commitment to understanding writing as a political practice, his interests converge very strongly with post-colonial analysis. Said's own worldliness, the paradox of his identity, is so pronounced, and such a central feature of his cultural theory, that he forces us to re-assess the nature of the link between the text and its author. The controversies surrounding his position as a post-colonial intellectual, several of which are aired in this book, may well benefit from a consideration of the issue of worldliness. In the end, the proper assessment of Edward Said's relationship to post-colonial theory may not reside so much in his cultural criticism, in books such as Orienta/ism, as in his contribution to textual theory. Whatever his stated view of the critical landscape, worldliness is Said's most 'post-colonial' contribution to textual analysis. The trenchant consistency of Said's position and the wide-ranging scope of his interests have been obscured by two things: the dominance of poststructuralism in textual analysis over the last two decades; and the extraordinary prominence of Orienta/ism in his reputation as a cultural critic. In the concept of worldliness we discover a principle which retrieves the materiality of the world for political and cultural theory and which offers a powerful resource in the post-colonial resistance to the poststructuralist dispersal of meaning. Said's insistence on the materiality of the text, the 'worldliness' of its production and reception, its being-in-the-world, pre-dates


This, and other aspects of Said's work, are more fully elaborated in Bill Ashcroft and Pal Ahluwalia, Edward Said: the Paradox of Identity London: Routledge 1999.



the euphoric reception of deconstruction by the American academy in the seventies which Said helped introduce (1971; 1971 a; 1972). As poststructuralism begins to wane, Said's commitment to 'worldliness' remains as strong as ever. Yet one more paradox in a paradoxical career, we fmd that Said's extensive reputation as a cultural critic is underpinned by his much lesser known intellectual position as a literary theorist, particularly his stance on textuality. The issues which stand out in Said's writing include: his concept of 'secular criticism,' by which he means a criticism freed from the priestly restrictions and unreflective certainties of intellectual specialization; his concomitant advocacy of 'amateurism' in intellectual life; a need for the intellectual's actual or metaphoric exile from 'home,' and his passionate view of the need for intellectual work to recover its connections with the political realities of the society in which it occurs, to recognize its 'worldliness.' It is the relationship of criticism to the world which underlies his exposure of the way in which the 'Orient' has emerged as a discursive construction, and how contemporary 'Islam' continues to evolve as an alien construction of the West, indeed of the way the West continually constructs its others. The almost obsessive commitment to 'secularism' and 'amateurism' in critical practice and the suspicion of intellectual specialization this produces, puts Said in an ambiguous relationship with that discourse with which so many have connected him - post-colonial criticism. As Patrick Williams points out in this volume, Said's flirtation with the term in the 1980s has turned to opposition, partly, as becomes clear, because he has not read much post-colonial theory, but mostly because he remains suspicious of 'specializations' of any kind. Hence, a discussion of 'Edward Said and the Postcolonial' is a far from simple or hagiographic activity. No contemporary cultural critic is more paradoxically located in a political and professional milieu. This paradox is the key to Said's own worldliness, for it leaves him in a certain antipathy, if we are to read the signs aright, with the very intellectual discourse which has been a major vehicle of his increasing stature as a cultural critic. This question of worldliness, of the writer's own position in the world, gets to the heart of another paradox central to this consideration of Edward Said's work - how do we read texts? For, any text, Said's included, is constructed out of many available discourses, discourses within which writers themselves may be seen as subjects 'in process', and which they may not have


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had in mind when they put pen to paper. Worldliness begins by asking one of the most contentious questions in politically oriented theory: who addresses us in the text? And this is a question we must ask of Edward Said's work, for there is no other cultural theorist who so intimately constructs his identity through his own texts. Ultimately, worldliness is concerned with the materiality of the text's origin, for in this material being is embedded in the very materiality of the matters of which it speaks; dispossession, injustice, marginality, and subjection. In many respects it is this concept of worldliness, a commitment to which underlies his examination of Orientalism, rather than Orienta/ism itself which constitutes Said's most strategic contribution to postcolonial theory. It is the approach to the text's worldliness, and the desire for criticism to actually speak to an intellectual's public audience, that drives Said. All approaches to literary criticism, he claims, have fallen into the trap of specialization, a 'cult of professional expertise' which has rendered them marginal to the pressing political concerns of contemporary societies (1983: 1). In contrast, "Secular Criticism" dispenses with 'priestly' and abstruse specialization in favour of a breadth of interest and an 'amateurism' of approach which avoids the retreat of intellectual work from the actual society in which it occurs. No matter how much intellectuals may believe that their interests are of "higher things or ultimate values" the morality of the intellectual's practice begins with its location in the secular world, and is affected by "where it takes place, whose interests it serves, how it jibes with a consistent and universalist ethic, how it discriminates between power and justice, what it reveals of one's choices and priorities" ( 1994: 89). The secular trinity he espouses - 'world', the 'text' and the 'critic' - is in direct contrast to the 'theologies' of contemporary theoretical schools which lead, he claims, to a continually inward-turning professional critical practice. American criticism, according to Said, had retreated, by the seventies, into the labyrinth of 'textuality', the mystical and disinfected subject matter of literary theory. Textuality is the exact antithesis of history, for although it takes place, it doesn't take place anywhere or anytime in particular. "As it is practiced in the American academy today, literary theory has for the most part isolated textuality from the circumstances, the events, the physical senses that made it possible and render it intelligible as the result of human work" (1983: 4). Ironically, the increasingly complex and even dazzling program of contemporary theory has left it less and less to say to the society from which it



emerges. "In having given up the world entirely for the aporias and unthinkable paradoxes of the text, contemporary criticism has retreated from its constituency, the citizens of modem society, who have been left to the hands of 'free' market forces, multinational corporations" ( 1983: 4 ). The alternative to such specialization is a form of criticism from which ambiguity and contradiction cannot be entirely removed but which happily pay that price in order to reject dogma. As JanMohamed puts it, within this paradoxical formulation "criticism functions to define that which is simultaneously to be affirmed and denied" (1992: 111). Criticism is thus not a science but an act of political and social engagement, that is sometimes paradoxical, sometimes contradictory, but which tries to avoid solidifying into dogmatic certainty. The problem with Said, of course, is that his textual theory has developed no clear way of distinguishing dogma from commitment, nor has his own commitment always avoided the lure of dogma.


Structuralism radically disrupted the classical realist assumption that texts such as books were simple communications from a writer to a reader. But the legacy of its subtle and influential investigation of the structures of texts was the neglect of the fact that texts are actually located in the world. To treat the text as merely a structure of the paradigmatic and syntagmatic, say, is to divorce the text, which is a cultural production, a cultural act, from the relations of power within which it is produced. Such a tendency concretizes, and to some extent renders inert, the desire which drove the text into being in the first place: "a desire - to write - that is ceaseless, varied, and highly unnatural and abstract, since "to write" is a function never exhausted by the completion of a piece of writing" ( 1983: 131 ). Thus, for Said, the notion of a text not only extends beyond its spatial and objective location in the work, as it does for Barthes, it extends beyond the material presence of the script. Writing is the complex, and generally orderly translation of many different forces into decipherable script, forces which all converge on the desire to write which is a choice made over the desire to speak, to dance, to sculpt (1983: 129). The failure to take this into account in literary criticism is not simply a problem for structuralist and poststructuralist analysis. In some respects much professional literary criticism has reduced the text to an object


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and in so doing obscures its own real relations with power. But the concept of the text's worldliness is crucial, for any analysis of a discourse such as Orientalism: such a discourse both constructs and 'emerges' from a particular kind of world. It is the exposure of the link between academic textual practice and such relations of power which underlies Said's critique of Orientalist discourse. Clearly, in societies with no tradition of literary writing, the desire to write can become a highly charged and highly mediated political act. Why one form of writing and not another? Why at that moment and not another? Why literary writing anyway? The fulfilment of the post-colonial desire to write often occurs as a function of that ambivalence instituted by the disarticulation of colonialism itself. But in any case, there are sequences, constellations, complexes of rational choices made by (or for) the writer for which the evidence is a printed text (1983: 129). Writing is not some sort of second order representation of an experience which is already there, but it may be produced for something formed in the writing itself. We may thus dismiss the idea of literature being a copy of an original experience, just as we may reject the idea of history as a line moving from origin to present. A text, in its actually being a text is a being in the world (1983: 33). That is, it has a material presence, a cultural and social history, a political and even an economic being as well as a range of implicit connections to other texts. Any simple diametrical opposition asserted between, on the one hand, speech, bound by situation and reference, and, on the other, the text as an interception or suspension of speech's worldliness, is misleading. Texts have ways of existing which even in their most rarefied form are always enmeshed in circumstance, time, place and society, "in short, they are in the world, and hence worldly" (1983: 35). This is crucial fact which has been obscured by the contemporary obsession with signification: while the meaning of the text might be deferable, its locatedness is not. Locatedness is the point from which the elaboration of meaning proceeds, not the unreachable point to which the understanding of meaning is directed. Like Derrida, Said disputes the idea that speech is prior to writing, that the written text merely reflects or reproduces the ideal spoken text. But Said rejects Derrida's proposition of the deferral of signification, the endlessness of interpretation. Rather, for him, texts announce their materiality, their worldliness by their situatedness in just the same way as speech. Rather than a separation from the world, or from speech, texts announce their link with



verbality. The structural features of textuality are an extremely useful analytical tool, but they run the risk of positing the social and political significance of the text as merely an effect of textuality, an invention of those textual strategies which inscribe it. Clearly, the political necessity of the text's worldliness is crucial for the post-colonial text in particular, not only for its capacity to represent the world but also for its aim to actually be in, to intervene in the world. This worldliness is a feature of all texts as a feature of their way of being in the world, but it is obviously critical to those dominated societies attempting to resist and transform the discourses of the dominant. Theoretically, the key challenge for Said is to negotiate a path between two attitudes to the text which in different ways misrepresent how texts have a being in the world. On the one hand, the classical realist position sees the text as simply referring to the world 'out there.' Such a view fails to take into account the ways in which language mediates and determines what is seen in the world. On the other hand, a structuralist-inspired position sees the world as having no absolute existence at all but as being entirely constructed by the text. This view would not allow for any non-textual experience of the world, nor for any world outside the text. Said negotiates these extremes in this way: the text (and by this we can mean speech, pictures and all other forms of texts) is important in negotiating our experience of the world, but the worldliness and circumstantiality of the text, "the text's status as an event having sensuous particularity as well as historical contingency, are considered as being incorporated in the text, an infrangible part of its capacity for conveying and producing meaning" (1983: 39). This means that the text is crucial in the way we 'have' a world, but the world exists as the text's location, and that worldliness is constructed within the text. The text has a specific situation which places restraints upon an interpreter, "not because the situation is hidden within the text as a mystery but because the situation exists at the same level of surface particularity as the textual object itself' (1983: 39). The text does not exist outside the world, as is the implication in both the realist and structuralist positions, but is a part of the world of which it speaks, and this worldliness is itself present in the text as a part of its formation. Writing is 'affiliative' rather than 'filiative' with experience; it "counters nature." But in this affiliation with the social world, this production of experience Said sees one of the most resonant confrrmations of the text's worldliness. While filiation (or inheritance) suggests a utopian domain of texts connected serially, homologously and seamlessly with other texts, in a body of


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works called, for instance "English Literature," affiliation (or active association) is that which enables a text to maintain itself as a text, the "status of the author, historical moment, conditions of publication, diffusion and reception, values drawn upon, values and ideas assumed, a framework of consensually held tacit assumptions, presumed background, and so on" (1983: 174-5). The affiliations of the text constantly lead us back to its worldliness, for we are drawn to ask the questions "Where is the text taking place?'' "How is it taking place?'' (Ashcroft 1996: 6). Affiliation draws us inexorably to the location and the locatedness of the text's production. Affiliation sends the critical gaze beyond the narrow confines of the European literary canon, or any literary tradition, into this cultural texture. "To recreate the affiliative network is therefore to make visible, to give materiality back to the strands holding the text to society, author and culture" (Said 1983: 175). This concern with the materiality of the text also allows Said to read the texts of English literature 'contrapuntally' (1993: 59), to see the extent to which they are implicated in the broad political project of imperialism. Traditionally assumed to be connected filiatively to the discourse of 'English literature,' the text now can be seen to be affiliated with the network of history, culture and society within which it comes into being and is read. Said has also used the concept to describe the way the network of affiliation links colonised societies to imperial culture. Cultural identities are understood as "contrapuntal ensembles" (1993: 60) and the often hidden affiliations of both imperial and colonial cultures are amenable to a contrapuntal reading. Clearly, the concept of affiliation is useful for describing the ways in which colonized societies replace filiative connections to indigenous cultural traditions with affiliations to the social, political and cultural institutions of empire. Affiliation refers to "that implicit network of peculiarly cultural associations between forms, statements and other aesthetic elaborations on the one hand and, on the other, institutions, agencies, classes, and amorphous social forces" (174). Said links the concept to Gramsci's notion of hegemony by suggesting that the affiliative network itself is the field of operation of hegemonic control, and this may be evident particularly in the case ofthe control of imperial culture. We can see the significance of Said's preference for affiliation extending into every aspect of his work. For just as the idea of the text related 'filiatively' to "English Literature" seems to sever it from its connection with the world, to the extent that critical appreciation becomes ever more inward



turning, so the filiative connection of the intellectual to some professional specialisation seems to remove him or her from the very world in which the work of the intellectual can take effect. More sinisterly, it prevents professional practice from any recognition of the actual relations of power within which it operates. In both cases the filiative connection to some form of tradition removes the possibility, as it removes the desire, for agency, the possibility to speak truth to falsehood, oppression and injustice. Worldliness is affiliative, and the tendency for the critic to be locked into some limited professional identity must be resisted at all costs because it removes the critic from the a fundamental responsibility- to criticize.

THE CRITIC Criticism, for Said, is personal, active, entwined with the world, implicated in its processes of representation, and committed to the notion that the intellectual, through the operation of the oppositional, critical spirit, can reveal hypocrisy, uncover the false, prepare the ground for change. The critic operates within as complex a network of affiliations as does the text. Critics are not the simple translators of texts into circumstantial reality. The reproduction of textuality in criticism is itself bound up in circumstance, in 'worldliness.' Indeed, for both post-colonial writer and critic, this worldliness is a crucial factor, for the manner and target of its address, its oppositionality, its revelatory powers of representation, its liminality, are fundamental features of its being in the world. Ontology and epistemology are joined: what it can know is indistinguishable from what it is in the world. That is to say that the way in which the post-colonial text exists in discourse determines what can be said. Consequently, the 'worldliness' of the critic is just as fundamental as the worldliness of the text. Thus, when we read Said's analysis of Orientalist discourse, or the link between imperial culture and imperial domination, or the continuation of this link in contemporary representations of Palestinians (1980; 1981 ), the issue of worldliness becomes a crucial feature of the engagement of those texts. Orienta/ism for instance, does not simply aim to investigate the array of disciplines or to exhaustively elaborate the historical or cultural provenance of Orientalism, but rather to reverse the 'gaze' of the discourse, to analyze it from the point of view of an 'Oriental'- to "inventory


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the traces upon ... the Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a fact in the life of all Orientals" (Said 1978: 25). How Said, the celebrated American academic, can represent himself as a marginalised oriental, demonstrates how paradoxical worldliness can become. The problem with contemporary criticism is an extreme functionalism which pays too much attention to the text's formal operations, but far too little to its materiality. The result of this is that the text becomes "a kind of selfconsuming artefact; idealized, essentialized, instead of remaining the special kind of cultural object it is with a causation, persistence, durability and social presence quite its own" (1983: 148). The materiality of the text refers to various things: the ways, for example in which the text is a monument, a cultural object sought after, fought over, possessed, rejected, or achieved in time. The text's materiality also includes the range of its authority. But these all locate it in the world. The need for criticism to return to the world is the desire of post-colonial criticism in general. It is all very well, for instance, to unravel the endless paradoxes involved in the question 'what is reality?' while safely ensconced in the metropolitan academy. But if that reality involves material and emotional deprivation, cultural exclusion and even death, such questions appear selfindulgent and irrelevant. This 'secular' return to the world captures the particular nature of the ambivalent relationship between post-colonial studies and contemporary theory, quite apart from Said's direct exposure of the constructions of the post-colonial world by the West. For Said, criticism goes beyond specific positions. Criticism that is "modified in advance by labels like "Marxism" or "liberalism" (1983: 28)" (or "feminism" or, paradoxically, "postcolonialism" as well, we may assume), is to him an oxymoron. "The history of thought, to say nothing of political movements is extravagantly illustrative of how the dictum "solidarity before criticism" means the end of criticism" ( 1983: 28). This really gets to the heart of what Said means by 'secular criticism,' for it is not only the quasi-religious quietism of complex and abstruse theoretical thought - that of the "priestly caste of acolytes" which he rejects, but also the ideologically impacted and impervious position of "the dogmatic metaphysicians" (1983: 5). He takes criticism so seriously as to believe that "even in the very midst of a battle in which one is unmistakably on one side against another, there should be criticism, because there must be critical consciousness if there are to be issues,



problems, values, even lives to be fought for" (1983: 28). Here, we find encapsulated his view of the function of the public intellectual. This is a difficult, not to say determinedly heroic position, but it cannot be separated from the social historical conditions of his own location as a Palestinian speaking from the 'centre,' the elite metropolitan academy. That is to say, Said's own life has provided ample evidence of the need to aim one's criticism in every direction: antagonism from Arafat, exclusion from Palestinian politics, and the banning of his books in Palestine. Too often, oppositional criticism can become stuck in an uncritical and unreflective ideological mire. For Said, criticism is by its very nature oppositional; "If criticism is reducible neither to a doctrine or a political position on a particular question, and if it is to be in the world and self-aware simultaneously, then its identity is its difference from other cultural activities and from systems of thought or of method" (1983: 29). This is salutary advice for critical positions, such as post-colonial ones, which see themselves, if not exactly embattled and marginalized, at least providing a venue for the critical work of those who feel culturally dominated. Said's refusal of both the rarefied world of pure textuality and the ideologically impacted world of political dogma, is the ground of his effort to reconnect literary criticism with the world of political and cultural reality. The essence of Said's critical spirit, despite his impassioned espousal of the cause of those marginalized by what some have called "NATOpolitan" hegemony, is the refusal to be locked into a school, ideology or political party, and his determination not to exempt anything from criticism. Whether he has achieved this to the extent he might have wished, particularly in his discussions of Orientalism and Islam, is debatable, but it does not diminish the fundamental impetus of his desire to return criticism to the world. The consequences of 'worldliness' are quite profound for the critic. Said introduces the disarming, not to say disconcerting idea of the critic as 'amateur,' by which he means that the critic must refuse to be locked into narrow professional specializations which produce their own arcane vocabulary and speak only to other specialists. The cult of professional expertise in criticism is pernicious because it surrenders the actual material and political concerns of society to a discourse dominated by economists and technocrats. This situation obtains in every developed nation in the world today, to the extent that economic and technological discourse is regarded not only as being the best and most canny representation of the real world, but the


Bill Ashcroft

only true reflection of human affairs. Questions of justice, oppression, marginalisation, or hemispheric, national and racial equality are submerged almost entirely beneath the language of money economy with its utopian dream that 'if the figures are right everything else wiJJ fall into place.' It is in such "amateurism" that the worldliness of the critic can be fully realised. This does not mean a superficial dilettantism but a reversal of the trend of literary theory (in particular) to tum its back on the circumstances and real events of the society for which criticism actually exists. The word 'amateur' is a useful one because its petjorative connotations disrupt our sense of the function that the intellectual fills in contemporary society. Asked why he used the term amateur rather than 'generalist', Said replied that he was drawn to the literal meaning of the French word which means a Jove of something, "very involved in something without being professional" (Ashcroft 1996: 8). Said's own work is ample demonstration of the somewhat ironically termed business of the amateur. His province has been everything from literary theory, to textual criticism, history, discursive analysis, sociology, musicology, anthropology, and all this emerging in a form of cultural studies which, above all, has highlighted the politics of cultural difference in the postcolonial world. There is possibly no other contemporary cultural theorist who demonstrates so well the situatedness of the text of criticism, who reinforces so completely the need to consider the affiliations of criticism itself in any appreciation of its relationship with the text or texts it scrutinizes. The attempt to produce a criticism which engages the real material ground of political and social life is one which persists unflaggingly over the last twenty years. For Said, criticism continually crosses the boundaries between academic and journalistic texts, between professional and public forums, and between professional specialisations for at base its character and purpose are urgent and immediate. "Criticism must think of itself as life-enhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination, and abuse; its social goals are noncoercive lmowledge produced in the interests of human freedom" (1983: 29). The refusal of ideological or theoretical dogma also underlies Said's willingness to consider what normally might be regarded as conservative positions, particularly in relation to the efficacy of historical and empirical scholarship, alongside radical views of social and political relations.




When we talk about the affiliations of the critic, it becomes extremely difficult to relegate criticism to some idealized zone of textuality. For the critic, the affiliations within which he or she operates are crucial to what is actually produced. Said's own case is a consummate demonstration of this: occupying a prestigious position in a major university, he has become one of the most widely lmown critics in the world. In his own position as a powerful and prestigious academic, he must engage constantly on the one hand with the academic discourse which, in a sense, gave him intellectual birth and from which he speaks, and on the other hand with the extensively rnarginalised position ofhis own constituency- the Palestinian and Islamic world. Edward Said's own worldliness is marked by a series of contradictions, which, far from being debilitating, demonstrate the paradoxical nature of all identity formation, and in particular the identity of diasporic peoples. A great deal of the problem with 'regulated' identities, such as national, ethnic or religious filiations, is that the formula is generally unable to accommodate the actual disparate, contradictory and developing character of subjectivity. Because of his public profile Edward Said demonstrates these contradictions in full measure. But most significantly, he reveals that contradiction may well be an essential feature of identity, this is precisely why restricted notions of identity tend towards exclusion rather than inclusion. The celebrated American academic who passionately and paradoxically claims his status as a marginalised and besieged Palestinian, reveals contradictions at many other levels. The cultural critic reveals himself to be a cultural elitist in his tastes, preferring Western music and canonical literature; the cultural critic who repeatedly constructs himself as an exile has a home in Columbia University, indeed, could not live anywhere but New York. Lionized and famous yet victim of a "uniquely punishing destiny," the destiny of an exile, Edward Said demonstrates above all the paradox of the textual nature of identity, the worldliness he espouses so forcefully, being one which in his case is 'written' constantly, inscribed in all his criticism. Paradox and contradiction are the very essence of Said's own worldliness, because this 'world' is the world of the exile. For Said, exile is the key to the secular, non-partisan capacity of the public intellectual to criticize, to "speak truth to power," to expose sham and injustice in governing institutions. Perhaps the best conception of the world of the


Bill Ashcroft

critic's worldliness can be found in a passage from a twelfth century Saxon monk called Hugo of St Victor which Said uses more than once: The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his (cited in Said 1984: 55).

"Only by embracing this attitude," says Said, "can a historian begin to grasp human experience and its written records in their diversity and particularity" (1984: 55). So, paradoxically, to the critic for whom "the entire world is as a foreign land," the almost boundless affiliations of the text's worldliness are readily accessible. Such an attitude not only makes possible originality of vision, but also (since exiles are aware of at least two cultures) a plurality of vision that is essentially contrapuntal ( 1984: 55). "Because the exile sees things both in terms of what has been left behind and what is actual here and now, there is a double perspective that never sees things in isolation" (1994: 44). Thus the form of contrapuntal reading which enables Said to explicate the deep embedding of imperialism in the Western canon in Culture and Imperialism, is posited as a habit of mind of the exile. But while exile is an almost necessary condition for true critical worldliness, "the achievements of any exile are permanently undermined by his or her sense of loss" ( 1984: 49). While it is "the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place" (1984: 49), nevertheless, the canon of modern Western culture "is in large part the work of exiles" (1984: 49). This tension between personal desolation and cultural empowerment is the tension of exile in Said's own work, a tension which helps explain his own deep investment in the link between the text and the world. For that very worldliness is the guarantee of the invalidity of the text's ownership by nation or community or religion, however powerful those filiative connections might be. The most insistent of these filiations, that of nationalism, arises "to overcome some form of estrangement - from soil, from roots, from unity, from destiny" (1984: 50) because just "beyond the perimeter of what nationalism constructs as the nation, at the frontier separating "us" from what is alien, is the perilous territory of not-belonging" ( 1984: 51). It is the very risk of entering the territory of not belonging which the 'worldly' critic must take, because the frontier of the nation sets a limit to openness and originality,



as well as that oppositionality and critical rebelliousness which is the very mark of the public intellectual. Perhaps the deepest paradoxes emerge from the intellectual's relationship to culture, because while he or she may be saturated by culture, the deep link between that culture and place locates the exile within the unsettling provisionality of a diasporic culture. The connection between culture and place does not refer simply to a connection with a nation or region, but includes "all the nuances or reassurance, fitness, belonging, association, and community, entailed in the phrase at home or in place . .. It is in culture that we can seek out the range of meanings and ideas conveyed by the phrases belonging to or in a place, being at home in a place" ( 1983: 8). This places the exile in a singular position with regard to history and society, but also a much more anxious and ambivalent position with regard to culture: Exile .. .is "a mind of winter" in which the pathos of summer and autumn as much as the potential of spring are nearby but unobtainable. Perhaps this is another way of saying that a life of exile moves according to a different calendar, and is less seasonal and settled than life at home. Exile is life led outside habitual order. It is nomadic, decentred, contrapuntal; but no sooner does one get accustomed to it than its unsettling force erupts anew (1984: 55).

Much of the contradictory nature of Said's view of the interrelation of exile, intellectual and culture, can be explained perhaps by the fact that for him exile is both an actual and a metaphorical condition: The pattern that sets the course for the intellectual as outsider is best exemplified by the condition of exile, the state of never being fully adjusted, always feeling outside the chatty, familiar world inhabited by natives ... Exile for the intellectual in this metaphysical sense is restlessness, movement, constantly being unsettled, and unsettling others. You cannot go back to some earlier and perhaps more stable condition of being at home; and, alas, you can never fully arrive, be at one in your new home or situation (1994: 39).

One can detect a certain slippage even here between the actual and the metaphorical which suggests that for Said exile is also an act of will that the intellectual performs in order to stand outside the comfortable receptivity of home or nation. For it is difficult to see how far the idea of metaphoricity can be taken without dissolving the concept of exile altogether.


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Certainly in the most powerful exilic influence upon Said, Theodor Adorno, the combination of separation from home and the willed distancing from the everyday world seems complete. The "dominating intellectual conscience of the middle twentieth century, whose entire career skirted and fought the dangers of fascism, communism and Western consumerism" (Said 1994a: 40), Adorno is a figure whose intellectual and personal life has uncanny echoes in Edward Said's. But curiously, whereas Adorno is the consummate example of the exiled intellectual, he is also one who problematizes the notion, because: Adorno was the quintessential intellectual, hating all systems, whether on our side or theirs, with equal distaste. For him. life was at its most false in the aggregate - the whole is always the untrue, he once said - and this, he continued, placed an even greater premium on subjectivity, on the individual's consciousness, on what could not be regimented in the totally administered society (1994: 41).

In some respects, Adorno was an exile before he left home. To what extent actual exile exacerbated the tendencies of metaphoric exile already deeply embedded in his nature is a matter of conjecture. It is in exile perhaps, that the unresolvable paradox of Edward Said's worldliness is located. For the line between geographical displacement and intellectual distancing seems impossible to draw. The worldliness of the exiled intellectual does not exist outside textuality, and yet it is a reality which transforms our understanding of the text: while a text has a being in the world, all being is textual at some level. Said's identity is constantly written in his work in a way which blurs the edge between work and life. But that materiality within which the text and the critic must be addressed, that worldliness which disrupts the priestly program of textual analysis, is the key to Said's importance to contemporary cultural and literary theory. Like a cork continually bobbing to the surface, the passionate claim for the text's worldliness survives all attempts to dissolve writing into the endless deferral of poststructuralist analysis. It is this worldliness which gives intellectual work its seriousness, which makes it "matter," which returns to writing its cultural and political force.



WoRKS CITED Ashcroft, B. (1996), "Interview with Edward Said", New Literatures Review, 32: 3-22. JanMohamed, A. (1992), "Worldliness-without-World, Homelessness-asHome: Toward a Definition of the Specular Border Intellectual" in Michael Sprinker (ed.), Edward Said: A Critical Reader, Oxford: Blackwells. Said, E. (1971 ), "Abecedarium Culturae: Structuralism, Absence, Writing," TriQuarterly, (Winter). Said, E. (1971a) "What is Beyond Formalism?" MLN, December 1971. Said, E. (1972), "Michel Foucault as an Intellectual Imagination," Boundary 2, (July) 1: 1. 1972. Said, E. (1978), Orienta/ism, New York: Vintage Books. Said, E. ( 1980) The Question ofPalestine, London: Vintage. Said, E. (1981) Covering Islam, New York: Vintage (1997) Said, E. (1983), The World, the Text and the Critic, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Said, E. (1984), "The Mind of Winter: Reflections on life in Exile", Harpers, 269:49-55. Said, E. (1991a), "Identity, Authority, And Freedom: The Potentate And The Traveler", Transition, 54: 4-18. Said, E. (1993), Culture and Imperialism, London: Chatto and Windus. Said, E. (1994), Representations of the Intellectual, The 1993 Reith Lectures, London: Vintage Books. Said, E. (1994a), The Pen and the Sword: Conversations with David Barsamian, Monroe: Common Courage Press. Said, E. (1994b), The Politics ofDispossession, London: Chatto and Windus.



Linda Hutcheon There is no doubt, as Robert Young ( 1990: 126) and many others have pointed out, that Edward Said's Orienta/ism opened up the academic literary scene to the serious study of imperialism. It was both in itself a significant work of literary and cultural history and a self-conscious positioning of the very act of writing history within a larger context, a "strategic formation," as Said called it, that acquired "strength and authority" through its presence "in time, in discourse, in institutions" (1979: 20). Nevertheless, unlike the traditional (usually national) histories that have aimed to legitimize their literatures and cultures through a teleological narrative of progress and development, 1 this history's intent was more to "de-legitimize" (Clifford 1988: 266), and fittingly its narrative took a different form - that of an insistent and repetitive witnessing of the constructions and consequences of imperial power. What it de-legitimized was the way the "Orient" had been

1 On

the continuing power of the teleological model in the writing of literary history even from the perspectives of what today we would call "identity politics," see Hutcheon, "Interventionist Literary Histories."


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represented in the discourses of the "West. "2 In so doing, it inaugurated a field of research known as colonial discourse studies - the examination of "how stereotypes, images, and 'knowledge' of colonial subjects and cultures tie in with institutions of economic, administrative, judicial, and bio-medical control" (Loomba 1998: 47). Such an interrogation of colonial power can obviously be carried out from two opposite points of reference, however: that of empire and that of colony. If the latter is what we have come to call "postcolonial," then the former should most accurately be labelled as "postimperial" to signal its significant difference. It is in its concentration on the imperial discourses of the West that Orienta/ism constitutes a postimperial literary and cultural history rather than a postcolonial one. Its act of historical witnessing is different in focus and content from anything we could call postcolonial. I use the idea of witnessing here not in its religious sense, but in order to invoke instead its legal and especially its historical meanings. Literary and cultural historians like Said are analogous to the historians Dominick LaCapra calls "secondary witnesses" whose task it is to come to terms with "secondary memory" or "the result of critical work on primary memory" (LaCapra 1998: 20) - that is, in this case, work on literary and cultural texts and their representations. Secondary memory is also what the historian "attempts to impart to others who have not themselves lived through the experience or events in question" (21 ). This is, in the end, why such histories are written: as testimonial witnessings of past traumatic encounters between colonizer and colonized. Although, as we shall see, the postimperial and the postcolonial represent constitutively different acts of witnessing, it is at once interesting and significant that Edward Said's various theoretical and political works have participated in and, indeed, been crucial to both. From a literary historical point of view, the founding moment of the postcolonial would be that of its contact with empire - a fact embedded in its very name. The witnessing of the impact of that traumatic encounter over time on the colony (and its discourses of both complicity and resistance) is the task of the postcolonial historian; the witnessing of the sometimes equally strong, 2 My

quotation marks for this first usage of these two terms (to be dropped subsequently) are intended to signal my agreement with those critics of Said's text who see an essentializing and stereotyping of the West into a monolithic whole that, in a sense, duplicates in reverse the work of Orientalism itself. For sample summaries of such responses, see, for example, Buell ( 1994: 38); Bhabha ( 1986); Ahmad ( 1992: 183 ).

Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing


but totally different, impact of that encounter over time on empire (and its discourses of both dominance and decline) is what the postimperial historian undertakes. 3 Making such a distinction might illuminate some of the confusions about and misdirected critiques of Orienta/ism over the last two decades. It might also allow some perspective on Said's complex selfpositioning in his writings. The term postcolonial is a contested one in literary circles these days; 4 nevertheless, it has also come to provide a capacious space within which to negotiate a complex series of issues involving inequities of power within the colonial situation. But, in literary historical terms, the perspective taken on that colonial situation from a postcolonial point of view would be that of the culture both as colonized and after. A postcolonial cultural history of India, therefore, would not be an extended history of the nation's complex and multiple cultures, for such a history would clearly include much besides colonialism (Ahmad 1992: 172); instead, it would be a record only of the impact on and resistances to the traumatic imperial legacy. (Settler-invader colonies would therefore have a different kind of historical narrative of witnessing than subjugated colonies, largely because they did not experience a specific traumatic cultural break with the imposition of empire. 5) While some have protested the use of the term postcolonial because it linguistically reproduces the centrality of the colonial narrative, surely that is the entire point. To call a history postcolonial (rather than Pakistani, Kenyan, or even Commonwealth) is precisely to state the intent to study the political, historical, aesthetic, and cultural impact of empire upon colony. To write a postimperial or literary history, on the other hand, is not only to study the ways in which imperial discourse constructs and represents the colonized; such a history would also trace the often occulted impact of colony


A postcolonial perspective can also force a rethinking of imperial canons, of course: "In the very act of distinguishing the Western literary tradition from its other, one discovers unsuspected fissures and highly stratified levels of cultural sedimentation at its foundation," argues Moses ( 1991: 219). Different writers will look influential in different contexts (217). With a postcolonial focus, it might be Kipling and Conrad rather than Pound and James that become significant. Joyce might not be seen as a formalist modernist but as an Irish anticolonialist. 4 For overviews ofthese issues, see Shohat (1992); Hutcheon (1995). 5 The native peoples of settler-invader colonies like Canada, New Zealand and Australia did, of course, experience such a traumatic break, but their continuing difficult position within these cultures suggests that postcolonial may be too optimistic a term.


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upon empire. In each case, it is imperial discourse (frequently the canon6) that is the focus of attention and interrogation. Trauma is obviously something experienced by victims; but it also has an impact upon its perpetrators, as LaCapra has argued in his work on the vexed aesthetic, ethical and political relationship between memory and history in the context of the "transvaluing" of trauma (1998: 8-9). In Orienta/ism and in many studies since then, including Culture and Imperialism, Said has ably shown that, following the colonial encounter, the perpetrator's culture is never the same again either (though the difference is not only manifest in various forms of guilt). As Balachandra Rajan has cogently remarked: "Postcolonialists are more interested in how imperial discourse fell apart than in how it came together. But it had to come together in order to fall apart" (1998: 494). It is precisely the task of postimperialist cultural historians to examine how imperial discourse has come together. Interestingly, Edward Said has taken up the position of both postimperialist and postcolonial historian. He asserts that one of his personal reasons for writing Orienta/ism was to "inventory the traces upon me, the Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a factor in the life of all Orientals" ( 1979: 25). Yet Aijaz Ahmad and others are not wrong in pointing, nonetheless, to the "overwhelmingly European" nature of the book's cultural apparatus and the "authoritative presence" Said himself commands within the Western academy (Ahmad 1992: 171). Despite its postimperial scholarly and theoretical focus, Orienta/ism's enunciative position is nonetheless postcolonial. The signs of such positioning - and address- can be seen everywhere, including in Said's decision to limit the definition of the Orient to the Middle East, and thus largely to ignore India, arguably the most significant of Britain's colonies in cultural terms. 7 As the books and pamphlets that follow Orienta/ism make clear, Palestine is the personal focus of both Said's academic theorizing and his engaged politics. We need only recall such works as The Question of Palestine (1979), 6

For a recent example of how much canonical discourses can teach about the impact of imperialism, see Rajan, Under Western Eyes(2000). Lately, there have also been works that study non- canonical discourses-travel writing, political reports and speeches, religious tracts. See, for instance, Teltscher ( 1995). 7 Schwarz articulates boldly the case for India: "India had experienced Westernization [and, he implies, Orientalization] out of all proportion to other colonized formations. There simply was no equating colonial India to colonial Africa or colonial Latin American when evaluating the cultural legacy'' ( 1997: II 0).

Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing


Coveri1zg Islam (1981 ), After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives ( 1986), or The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination 1969-1994 (1994). Just as Said contains within his person and his intellectual formation the "traces" of both the Orient and the West and of both political activist and humanist theorist, so too his oeuvre contains within it both postcolonial and postimperial impulses. He writes from a plural space, a version of that "intermediary area" that Homi Bhabha calls the "middle of difference" (1997: 435). While it is evident that the postcolonial and the postimperial are mutually implicated and mutually dependent concepts, they are also distinguishable one from the other. After all, in conflictual historical encounters, those who are subjected might well remember- and forget- differently than those who do the subjecting. As Said has shown, the cultural history of the Orient in the West was written from the point of view of the "victors"; that history was also at times conveniently forgotten by them. Historically, the winners "can afford to forget," argues Peter Burke, "while the losers are unable to accept what happened and are condemned to brood over it, relive it, and reflect how different it might have been" (1989: 106). As postcolonial cultural historian, Said does not so much brood, however, as witness- that is, remember and analyse what happened to the colony, especially to Palestine; by contrast, as postimperial historian, Said forces the winners not to forget, and does so by showing them the consequences of imperial power on their own metropolitan culture's representations of both themselves and those oppressed by that power. From this perspective, Orienta/ism accomplishes what Said claims of Fanon's work: it forces "the European metropolis to think its history together with the history of colonies awakening from the cruel stupor and abused immobility of imperial domination" (1989: 223). Said's use of the language of traumatic encounter here is echoed by many who write about this same need to decolonize European thought: Robert Young writes that the "legacy of colonialism is as much a problem for the West as it is for the scarred lands in the world beyond" (1990: 126). In each case, the stronger language of trauma ("cruel stupor and abused immobility" or "scarred lands") is rightly reserved for the trauma of the victims, but that trauma is not without its effects on its perpetrators. It is, in part, these latter effects that Orienta/ism registers and analyzes. As a postimperial work, it does not produce a postcolonial history of the silenced and the subjugated, that is, what Gayatri Spivak calls "a narrative, in literary


Linda Hutcheon

history, of the 'worlding' of what is now called 'the Third World"' (1985: 243-4). Despite its subject matter, its object of lrnowledge is Western; its primary interest is openly in Orientalism not in the Orient itself. In their postimperial articulation, Orienta/ism's strong judgmental positions on individual Orientalists and on the discourses of Orientalism in general stand in contrast with, for instance, Bhabha's different- indeed, postcolonial- focus on the colonial impact of the "force of ambivalence" that he locates in imperial discourse and that, he implies, gives it its stereotyping currency in and power over the real (not only discursive) Orient (1986: 148-9). In Orienta/ism, Said never claimed to do other than study imperial discourse, whatever his critics may have asserted (and however postcolonial his own self-positioning may be). In his introductory remarks to Culture and Imperialism in 1993, he addresses his earlier omission of Third World response and resistance to Western discursive domination (xii). While he voices a strong interest in the later work in what he calls a "contrapuntal" point of view that aclrnowledges the reciprocity of colony and empire - as opposed to a "politics of blame" or of "confrontation and hostility" ( 18) - his position in that book, as in Orienta/ism, is still that of what he too refers to as the ''post-imperial intellectual." Even if his intent is to study the "overlapping community between metropolitan and formerly colonized societies" (18), as in his earlier work Said's main interest here is in questioning the cultural categories of Western thought, including Western historiography. To that end, he offers what Ahmad has called a "perfectly necessary rereading of the Western archive" (1992: 63). This is what a postimperial cultural history takes as its witnessing task, its opportunity, and its responsibility. If Said's later postimperial works do mention non-Western works, it is also the case that he does not always give them the kind of detailed scrutiny he gives to canonical Western ones (Ahmad 1992: 202). As Said claimed at the very start, Orienta/ism would contribute little of interest to the "lives, histories, and customs" of the Orient which "have a brute reality obviously greater than anything that could be said about them in the West" (1979: 5). In short, the postcolonial was not its focus; instead it claimed to offer an analysis of the discursive construction of the intellectual and aesthetic superiority and authority of the West over the Orient within Western culture (1979: 19). It is not Bengali or Egyptian writers and thinkers who are his focus, but the Europeans - Goethe, Hugo, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Kinglake, Nervale,

Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing


Flaubert, Burton, Scott, Byron, Vigny, Disraeli, George Eliot, Gautier, Barres, Loti, T.E. Lawrence, Forster, and so on. Of course, what Said calls the "discursive consistency" (1979: 273) of imperial representations within European culture can lead and have often led to an internalizing by the colonized of those stereotypes of (and imposed judgments on) them. And this is where the postcolonial cultural history takes over from the postimperial; this, for example, is where Bhabha can analyse the hybridization of the Bible as communicated to and understood by Indians (in "Signs Taken for Wonders"). Here the gaps in imperial discourse can be worked for their possibilities of resistance - from a colonial perspective. This is also where Xiaomei Chen can theorize "Occidentalism" in terms of a postMao Chinese self-reappropriation of the West's appropriating construction of Orientalism. This is postcolonial literary and cultural history - as Said too has written it in those pamphlets and books on Palestine. Such is not the postimperial space of Orienta/ism, however. How empire represented itself to itself as well as to others is as central to this different space as how empire represented its silenced "Other" to itself and the world. Orientalism, as Said later put it, offered "a worldview with considerable political force not easily brushed away as so much epistemology" ("Representing the Colonized" 211) - but that is as true in the imperial as in the colonized context. It is a question of different acts of witnessing: rather than offering an inventory of the traumatic traces of empire upon himself or other colonized peoples, in Orienta/ism Said actually inventories the perpetrator's traumatic acts of discursive violence. The subsequent works on Palestine, however, then take up the other task of postcolonial witnessing. What Orienta/ism offers is an extensive cataloguing of the silencing, reifying, essentializing, and stereotyping techniques of the imperial discourses of both knowledge and the imagination. It refers to, but does not document, the material effects on the colonized of those techniques which construct them as inferior, dehumanized, infantilized. The emphasis is on how empire inflicts trauma, not on the trauma itself. I am using this (admittedly loaded) term trauma in an extended fashion, in full awareness of its associations with psychoanalytic work done in recent years that has had a major impact on literary studies. 8 Concepts of psychological trauma have already been 8

See Hartman on what trauma studies appears to offer to literary studies: a connection or "a more natural transition to a 'real' world often falsely split off from that of the university, as if the one were activist and engaged and the other self-absorbed and detached" (1995: 543-4).


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extended to include the social trauma of disaster (that both damages and creates communities), and some of the ways this has been done prove suggestive for thinking about postcolonial and postimperial cultural histories: "traumatic experiences work their way so thoroughly into the grain of the affected community that they come to supply its prevailing mood and temper, dominating its imagery and its sense of self, govern the way its members relate to one another" (Erikson 1995: 190). The work on individual psychic trauma by Cathy Caruth and others is equally suggestive- again in extended terms- in conceptualizing that major originary moment of encounter for both postimperial and postcolonial historical thinking. Theories of the way trauma works belatedly, even transgenerationally, recall the belated or "aftermath" quality (Chambers 1998) of cultural historical witnessing, of the narrating of the traumatic contact of empire and colony - by those who "survived" the experiences of both enduring and perpetrating the trauma. That originating traumatic moment becomes transformed, to borrow and extend Caruth's terms, into a narrative memory "that allows the story to be verbalized and communicated, to be integrated into one's own, and others', knowledge of the past" ("Introduction: Recapturing the Past" 1995: 153). But the stories of a postimperial history are going to differ in focus and emphasis from those of a postcolonial one. However, both will presume a reader to whom the responsibility of remembering can be passed. As Caruth puts it, "the history of a trauma ... can only take place through the listening of another" ("Introduction: Trauma and Experience" 1995: 11). This agency, this move outward to readers and listeners, is one of the reasons why trauma can be called "not simply an effect of destruction but also, fundamentally, an enigma of survival" (Caruth 1995: 58). In a sense, then, postcolonial histories can also be interpreted as forms of recovery narratives or "testimonial resolution" of witnessing (Felman and Laub 1992: xvii). Ania Loomba writes that colonialism "locked the original inhabitants and the newcomers into the most complex and traumatic relationships in human history" (1998: 2). Her language here -like that of many others- reveals how postcolonial as well as postimperial discourses obsessively repeat these notions of trauma, degradation and humiliation (see Buell 1994: 26; Cobham 1992: 56; Said 1993: 212). Postcolonial writers are said by Said to "bear their By "real" world, Hartman means mental health issues, but in my allegorical extension of the

Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing


past within them - as scars of humiliating wounds" (1993: 13): "What an Algerian intellectual today remembers of his country's colonial past focusses severely on such events as France's military attacks on villages and the torture of prisoners during the war of liberation" (1993: 11). These are the traumatic memories that the postcolonial cultural historian witnesses, the memories of those who have "suffered the sentence of history," to us Bhabha's felicitous phrase (1994: 172). Or, in Gyan Prakash's equally vivid terms, the postcolonial "exists as an aftermath, as an after - after being worked over by colonialism" (1997: 491). 9 The postimperial also exists as an aftermath, but the focus is very different. There is no doubt that Orienta/ism shares with Said's even more overtly politically engaged work in the decades since 1978 a scathing postcolonial indictment of what he later calls the "dreadful secondariness" imposed upon the colonized, "fixed in zones of dependency and peripherality, stigmatized in the designation of underdeveloped, less-developed, developing states, ruled by a superior, developed, or metropolitan colonizer who was theoretically posited as a categorically antithetical overlord" ( 1989: 207). But the body of his actual analyses in Orienta/ism (as opposed to his statements of indictment) is centred on the causes of this situation, examined with a postimperial focus. That these causes need to be examined is manifestly


use of the word trauma, here it would mean the encounter of empire and colony. The postcolonial obviously has no monopoly on trauma or its witnessing, and trauma takes many different forms. The model for my historical extension here as been Holocaust witnessing (see LaCapra 1998) and AIDS survivor narratives, as theorized by Ross Chambers in his 1998 Northrop Frye Professorship lectures at the University of Toronto entitled "Death at the Door: Witnessing as Cultural Practice." But there are many others to consider: for example, for African Americans, it is slavery, not empire, that constitutes the historical trauma. (See Jackson 1989 on this history and its relation to literary history. On the continued elision of the black diaspora and slavery from Eurocentric cultural historical discussions of modernity, see Gilroy (1993: 45ff). On the ignoring of black women in African American literary histories, see both Washington 1990 and Hull 1990). For Chicanos and Chicanas, it is 1848 that marks the date when Mexican citizens north of the Rio Grande became "conquered subjects-that is to say, Mexican Americans" (Martinez and Lomeli 1985: xi). It has been argued in fact that the history of the U.S. Southwest is one of multiple traumas: "the extermination of Native Americans, the enslavement of African-Americans, the subjugation of the Mexican-American people, the oppression of the working class, and the enforcement of patriarchy" (Saldivar 1991: 20). For those studying the cultural history of contemporary China, the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 1989 "brought modem Chinese history to a standstill," claims Rey Chow. "This is the standstill of catastrophe" that she calls "the trauma of 'June 4"' (1993: 61). Perhaps the only difference between these examples and the postcolonial situation is that the latter is explicitly named in traumatic terms: postcolonial.


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evident, but there is an equally strong argument to be made for the importance of differentiating between this postimperial examination and the postcolonial one that would study the effects of those causes: the witnessing from the perspective of the victim of trauma understandably is not the same as that from the angle of the perpetrator. To construct the colonized as savage, inferior, or degenerate in scholarly and imaginative discourses is potentially, as Said has argued, to legitimate and facilitate political and economic conquest and control. But while the ostensible object of study (Orientalist discourse) may be the same in a postimperial and a postcolonial cultural history, their actual subject would be entirely different because of the difference of focus and perspective on the traumatic situation that is being witnessed. The stated subject of Orienta/ism is the "strength of Western cultural discourse," the "formidable structure of colonial domination" (25): "As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-totruth, and knowledge" (204) with the purpose of raising "Europe or a European race to domination over non-European portions of mankind" (232). As LaCapra has pointed out, trauma's effects are felt in complex ways by those who cause it as well as by those who suffer it: trauma "may raise problems of identity for others insofar as it unsettles narcissistic investments and desired self-images, including ... the image of Western civilization itself as the bastion of elevated values if not the high point in the evolution of humanity" (1998: 9). This is arguably as true in the context of the trauma of empire as it is in that of the trauma of the Holocaust. While Aime Cesaire eloquently documented the traumatic objectification and dehumanization of the colonized, 10 he also noted that the trauma of colonial brutality also degraded the colonizer. For him, it made Europe decadent, indeed "morally, spiritually indefensible" (1972: 9). Although a postimperial witnessing is obviously different from a postcolonial witnessing, its verbal form can also betray the familiar external or formal signs of trauma. Critics have frequently noted the tendency of Orienta/ism toward repetition (e.g. Ahmad 1992: 177). Not only is this quality used for effective rhetorical insistence, but perhaps it is also the complex result of witnessing trauma: the constant reiterations of the thesis of Orientalism as the Western construction of a static, essentialized 10

See also Fanon's analysis in Black Skins, White Masks of the inferiority complex created in a colonized society by the "death and burial of its local cultural originality" (1967: 18). For Fanon, this was explicitly a form of psychic trauma.

Orienta/ism as Post-Imperial Witnessing


representation of an unchanging Orient might be seen to function as compulsive repetitions that mark what LaCapra, adapting Freudian terms, calls an "acting-out" that can lead to a "working-through" of trauma. The text's verbal and conceptual repetitions tell their own story, in other words, through their very repeating. So too do iterations of another kind: the (well documented) rehearsal - in Said's own argumentation - of precisely what he is contesting: from humanism's totalizing impulse to Orientalism's systematizing and essentializing (see Ahmad 1992: 167-83; Young 1990: 1279 and 131-2; Buell1994: 38). LaCapra argues that, as the "secondary witness" of trauma, the analyst or historian can counter compulsive acting-out (or the repeating of the trauma) by means of working-through - defined in psychoanalytic terms by Laplanche and Pontalis as a process "expedited by interpretations from the analyst which consist chiefly in showing how the meanings in question may be recognised in different contexts" (1973: 488). (This describes to some extent exactly what Orienta/ism seeks to do in complex ways.) For LaCapra, working-through is made possible for secondary witnesses by "informed, argumentative, selfquestioning" judgment (1998: 196). Acting-out is thus checked through "the role of memory and critical perspective, which are constituents of working through problems" (1998: 206). From this perspective, Orienta/ism marks both an acting-out and a working-through of the trauma of empire - but with a postimperial focus on the perpetrator's discourse. It could be argued that, precisely as such, it is crucial for postcolonial history as well: if Said's postimperialist work inaugurated colonial discourse analysis, it also set the stage for and provoked postcolonial responses (and resistances) that in their turn looked in detail at the differing impacts of imperial discourses on the diversely colonized. This detailed work of differentiation and discrimination within the colonized context is not the task Orienta/ism set for itself. Nevertheless, once his postimperial task was complete, Said himself then turned to the postcolonial in his work on Palestine. Yet, with Culture and Imperialism, he later returned to the earlier postimperialist focus, this time arguing, however, for more of a "contrapuntal" perspective that would take both into account. The passion with which Said has argued his case in all his writing is palpable; all witnessing acts have the power to engage the historian emotionally (LaCapra 1998: 12) - and in various ways that range from outrage to empathy. Historians like LaCapra who secondarily witness the


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Holocaust are in a similar position. Rather than shy away from such full commitment, LaCapra implies, what is needed is a combination of that with "the roles or subject-positions of scholar and critical intellectual, a combination that does not dispense with rigorous scholarship or conflate critical reflection with partisan propaganda but does render allowable or even desirable modes of thought that often are discouraged in the academy" ( 1998: 205). Precisely in this way Said's many statements on the necessary and inevitable "worldliness" of theory and criticism were greeted as undesirable by many in the academy who lamented what they saw as the resultant "politicization" of the literary. Yet, as Said put it, with characteristic force, in the early pages of Orienta/ism: No one has ever devised a method for detaching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of a society. These continue to bear on what he does professionally.... For there is such a thing as knowledge that is less, rather than more, partial than the individual (with his entangling and distracting life circumstances) who produces it. Yet this knowledge is not therefore automatically non- political ( 10).

Witnessing has always been a personalized form of political agency, and this would be as true in the postimperial as in the postcolonial cultural history. Recognizing that these are two different enterprises - by examining their different relationships to and positions within the trauma being witnessed does not simplify, but rather complicates our understanding of Said's own self-positioning in relation to both. As a prime example of what Bhabha calls a "state of acting from the midst of identities" (1997: 438), Said writes from so many split subject positions that his identities are, in fact, multiple: he is at once Western and Oriental, Christian and Arab, American and Palestinian, observer and participant, humanist literary critic of the canon 11 and radical political analyst, postimperial historian and postcolonial activist. It is arguably


In Beginnings, he writes: "My cultural biases are on the whole tinged with conservatism, as the sheer weight in my text given over to the great masterpieces of high modernism amply testifies" (1985: xii). Many have suggested that the same is true of Orienta/ism. But this is a complex issue: as he admits, his passion is for a Western culture that constructs him as Oriental.

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because of this majority/minority borderline quality and this multiplicity of positions, that Said's writing has had the enormous impact that it has. 12 As a de-legitimizing postimperial literary and cultural history, Orienta/ism eschews the traditional teleological narrative forms of the past, and instead acts out and works through the trauma of empire through its witnessing iterations and insistences. As Rajan (1998: 491) notes, the postcolonial resistance to this work has made it into a beginning, in Said's sense of the word - that is, "secular, humanly produced, and ceaselessly re-examined" (Said, 1985: xiii) by both the academy and by himself. But the book's own iterative structure and repetitive rhetoric also contribute to this, because "beginning is basically an activity which ultimately implies return and repetition rather than simple linear accomplishment" (1985: xvii). That theorists and critics - both postimperial and postcolonial - also keep returning to Orienta/ism more than twenty years later suggests that something indeed was begun. If beginning is "making or producing difference" ( 1985: xvii), as Said claims, then Orienta/ism not only made difference but made a difference. 13

WORKS CITED Ahmad, Aijaz (1992), In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. London: Verso. Bhabha, Homi K. (1994), The Location ofCulture. London: Routledge. Bhabha, Homi K. (1997), "Minority Maneuvers and Unsettled Negotiations." Critical Inquiry 23.3: 431-59. Bhabha, Homi K. (1986), "The Other Question: Difference, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism." Literature, Politics and Theory:


Brinner argues that, as a Palestinian Christian, Said is "thoroughly westernized" ( 1982: 230) compared to Muslim women anti-Orientalists like Bint al-Shaitai, but it is also significant that Said's articles are widely read in Arabic newspapers such as ai-Hay_l. My thanks to Hosn Abboud for this information. 13 A debt of gratitude is owed to those colleagues and friends who have inspired, corrected, and provoked me-but above all who been willing to talk and "work through" the issues explored in this essay: Suzanne Akbari, Ross Chambers, Chelva Kanaganayakam, Neil ten Kortenaar, Jill Matus, and Balachandra Raj an.


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Papers from the Essex Conference 1976-84. Ed. Francis Barker et a/. London and New York: Methuen: 148-72. Bhabha, Homi K. (1985), "Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817." Critical Inquiry 12.1: 144-65. Brinner, William M. (1982), "An Egyptian Anti-Orientalist." Islam, Nationalism, and Radicalism in Egypt and the Sudan. Ed. Gabriel R. Warburg and Uri M. Kupferschmidt. New York: Praeger: 229-48. Buell, Frederick (1994), National Culture and the New Global System. Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins UP. Burke, Peter (1989), "History as Social Memory." Memory: History, Culture and the Mind. Ed. T. Butler. Oxford: Blackwell: 97-114. Caruth, Cathy ed. (1995), Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins UP. Caruth, Cathy ( 1996), Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins UP. Cesaire, Aime (1972), Discourse on Colonialism. 1950; New York: Monthly Review P. Chambers, Ross (1998), '"Death at the Door': Witnessing as Cultural Practice." Northrop Frye Professorship Lectures, University of Toronto. Chen, Xiaomei (1995), accidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China. Oxford: Oxford UP. Chow, Rey (1993), Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies. Bloomington: Indiana UP. Clifford, James (1988), The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP. Cobham, Rhonda (1992), "Misgendering the Nation: African Nationalist Fictions and Nuruddin Farah's Maps." Nationalisms and Sexualities. Ed. Andrew Parker eta/. London: Routledge: 42-59. Erikson, Kai (1995), "Notes on Trauma and Community." Caruth, Trauma 183-99. Fanon, Frantz (1967), Black Skins, White Masks. Trans. C.L. Markmann. New York: Grove P. Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub, M.D. (1992), Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. New York: Routledge.

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Gilroy, Paul (1993), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP. Hartman, Geoffrey H. (1995), "On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies." New Literary History 26.3: 537-63. Hull, Gloria T. (1990), "Rewriting Afro-American Literature: A Case for Black Women Writers." O'Malley eta/. 99-109. Hutcheon, Linda ( 1998), "Interventionist Literary Histories: Nostalgic, Pragmatic or Utopian?" Modern Language Quarterly 59.4: 401-17 Hutcheon, Linda (1995), "Introduction: Colonialism and the Postcolonial Condition: Complexities Abounding." PMLA 110.1: 7-16. Jackson, Blyden (1989), A History of Afro-American Literature. Volume I: The Long Beginning, 1746-1895. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP. LaCapra, Dominick (1998), History and Memory after Auschwitz. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP. Laplanche, J. and J.-B. Pontalis (1973), The Language of Psycho-Analysis. 1967; New York: Norton. Loomba, Ania (1998), Co/onialism/Postcolonialism. London and New York: Routledge. Martinez, Julio A. and Francisco A. Lomeli, eds. (1985), Chicano Literature: A Reference Guide. Westport, Conn: Greenwood P. Moses, Michael Valdez (1991), "Caliban and His Precursors: The Politics of Literary History and the Third World." Theoretical Issues in Literary Theory. Ed. David Perkins. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP: 206-26. O'Malley, Susan Gushee, Robert C. Rosen, and Leonard Vogt, eds. (1990), Politics of Education: Essays from Radical Teacher. Albany: State U of NewYorkP. Prakash, Gyan (1997), "Postcolonial Criticism and Indian Historiography." Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives. Ed. Anne McClintock eta/. Minneapolis: U ofMinnesota P: 491-500. Rajan, Balachandra (1998), "Excess of India." Modern Philology 95.4:490500. Rajan, Balachandra (2000), Under Western Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay. Durham, NC: Duke UP. Said, Edward W. (1986), After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives. New York: Pantheon. Said, Edward W. (1985), Beginnings: Intention and Method (1975) New York: Columbia UP.


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Said, Edward W. (1981), Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World. New York: Pantheon. Said, Edward W. (1993), Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf. Said, Edward W. (1979), Orienta/ism. 1978; New York: Vintage. Said, Edward W. (1994), The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994. New York: Pantheon. Said, Edward W. (1979), The Question of Palestine: A Political Essay. New York: Times Books, . Said, Edward W. (1989), "Representing the Colonized: Anthropology's Interlocutors." Critical Inquiry 15.2: 205-25. Saldivar, Ramon (1991), "Narrative, Ideology, and the Reconstruction of American Literary History." Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture, and Ideology. Ed. Hector Calderon and Jose David Saldivar. Durham, NC: Duke UP: 11-20. Schwarz, Henry ( 1997), Writing Cultural History in Colonial and Postcolonial India. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P. Shohat, Ella (1992), "Notes on the 'Post-Colonial."' Social Text 31132: 99113. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1985), "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism." Critical Inquiry 12.1: 243-61. Teltscher, Kate (1995), India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India, I600-1800. Delhi: Oxford UP. Washington, Mary Helen (1990), "These Self-Invented Women: A Theoretical Framework for a Literary History of Black Women." O'Malley et a/. 8997. Young, Robert (1990), White Mythologies: Writing History and the West. London: Routledge.



Susanne Zantop ORIENTALISM-0CCIDENT ALISM One of the underlying assumptions of Edward Said's pioneering study Orienta/ism ( 1978) is that the "Orient" as discursively constructed imaginary space as well as object of knowledge, desire, and control has to be analyzed in conjunction with the "Occident," the place from which these projections were (and continue to be) articulated. Orient and Occident are bound to one another in dialectical, although not equi-valent tension: while the defmition of one sheds light on the self-definition of the other, the former, the Orient, is tied to the self-interest of the latter, the Occident-subjected to its needs, subsumed and appropriated. In Said's words, "The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony... The Orient was Orientalized not only because it was discovered to be 'Oriental' in all those ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be-that is, submitted to being-made Oriental" (5/6). Orientalism then, corresponds less to an attempt to explore and understand the empirical east (although this was the overriding motivation and intent of many travellers and scholars), than to the Occident's need to define itself in opposition to an extemal(ized) other. The "answer to Orientalism is not Occidentalism," Said concludes. "No former


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'Oriental' will be comforted by the thought that having been an Oriental himselfhe is likely-too likely-to study new 'Orientals'--or 'Occidentals'- of his own making" (328). In other words, by turning the tables, by resorting to reverse stereotyping, the original binary-dialectical relationship is not eliminated but perpetuated. In the over twenty years since their publication, Said's theories have received much critical attention, in the east as well as in the west. Critics accused him of doing precisely what he had denounced: namely of creating a monolithic, totalizing, undifferentiated discourse on Orientalism while deconstructing orientalist discourse as a totalizing static system (Bhabha 1983; Clifford 1988; Porter 1983; Ghandi 1998). They reproached him of remaining locked in the binary structures of Hegelianism or Manichean thinking, suggesting instead studies of Orientalism that took into account the roots and cultural specificity of discourse-formation and the psychopathology of the colonizing subject (Young 1990; Ahmad 1992; Ahmed 1982; Mohanty 1984; Trotter 1990; Zonana 1993). Or they advocated an investigation of the heterogeneous approaches to otherness within Orientalism--the struggle between power and desire, attraction and rejection identified by Homi Bhabha as constitutive of colonial discourse-and among occidental cultures, as they intersect at specific historical moments and for very specific politicoideological reasons.' More recent studies in post-colonial theory, such as Robert Young's Colonial Desire (1995), Anne McClintock's Imperial Leather (1995), or Ann Laura Stoler's Race and the Education of Desire (1995), have challenged the binary oppositions by highlighting their internal contradictions and tensions. Focusing on "colonial desire" as it was generated in the metropolis, they explore in detail how theories of race and miscegenation emerged with and produced colonial ventures, and how colonialist gender and race constructs are reinforced by popular culture or by other discourses. While these studies also branch out into different colonial scenarios, their focus is still predominantly on the European Occident, that is, England and France, and on British and French colonialist theory as it applies to the Orient, that is, Africa and Asia.


Lowe (1991); Pathak et al (1991); Said himself addresses, for example, his reluctance to engage in issues of the collective unconscious, in his "Orientalism Reconsidered," (1985). Significantly, Leela Gandhi demands that critics not only "demonstrate the ambivalence of the oriental stereotype," but "refuse the pleasures of an Occidental stereotype" (1998: 79).

Europe's Occidentalisms


Mary Louise Pratt added a new challenge to the ~pposition between Occident and Orient and to the exclusive focus on British colonialism in postcolonial theory when she demanded, in a response to Edward Said at the 1993 MLA in Toronto, that the west of the European west, namely the Americas, be included in the theoretical models. As she suggested, the preoccupation with the Orient-Occident dyad tends to overlook that the "discovery" of a "New World" to the west of the Occident had already expanded and complicated any simple self-other, Occident-Orient dichotomies to include not just many others, but multiple, multivalent, constantly shifting Occidents. 2 The exclusive preoccupation with British and French 19th-century colonialism, she argued, has precluded a critical investigation of the many different manifestations of colonialism throughout history. Hence postcolonial critics have lost sight of the coexistence of colonialism in one part of the world with decolonization and neocolonialism in another-not to mention new fonns of "Western" cultural imperialism. (A similar argument was made by McClintock 1992 and Shohat 1992.) In short, she suggested that Orientalisms be studied in connection and productive exchange with a variety of Occidentalisms. Pratt's suggestion deserves to be heeded. Clearly, to speak of Orientalism or Occidentalism independently of one another makes no sense in view of the multinational entanglements of east and west, north and south, and the resulting multiple forms of subject constitution and othering. Said himself, in his Culture and Imperialism, alludes to this "globalized process set in motion by modem imperialism," a process that produced "the interdependence of cultural terrains in which colonizer and colonized co-existed and battled each other through projections as well as rival geographies, narratives, and histories" (1993: xx). His analysis, in part, pays tribute to this globalization by including references to Latin America and the Caribbean, even though the Orient remains his main area of interest. It is important to emphasize, however, that the categories were never stable nor clearly separate. They always contained internal geographic and ideological dis-locations that undermined simple dichotomies: Orientalism actually never referred to the "east" of Europe, that is, the Russian Empire, but to an imaginary South of the east. Likewise, the Occident was never a unified geographical or even imaginary territory. For centuries it has consisted of "the 2 For

a more recent discussion of this issue see Mignolo (1995).


Susanne Zantop

West," that is, Europe and North America, and "Latin America," a region considered not so much part of the West as of the "Third World"-a problem Enrico Santi tried to address by confronting Orientalism not with Occidentalism, but with "Latinamericanism" (Santi 1992). These semantic pirouettes are all too familiar to those of us who devise college curricula and struggle with "non-Western" or "Western" requirements: where or what is the West, and what-in view of US cultural hegemony-is not? What is Eastern, now that the East is no longer "red" and no Iron Curtain literally divides the globe into two geographic-ideological halves? And what about China, where Western ideas and lifestyles are coming from the east, from that distant empire of jeans and Coca-Cola across the Pacific? Is "the West now everywhere," as the title of a German novel of 1994 suggests? (Baroth 1994). In this paper, I am exploring-in a somewhat summary and schematic fashion- some of the complex interrelations between East and West, North and South in an attempt to reorient postcolonial studies. The task of postcolonial studies, namely to de-centre Europe, can only be achieved, if we include the Americas, north and south, into our reflections. My focus is therefore the "New World," "America," "the West,'' as Europeans conceived, imagined, or represented it against the backdrop of the Old World and the Orient, "the East." As I argue, in consonance with a whole host of Latinoamericanistas from Edmundo O'Gorman onward, Europe's battle of projecting and positioning started as early as 1492 (O'Gorman 1958). It produced not only rival narratives among colonizer and colonized, but rival "Occidentalisms" that competed, and at times overlapped with, European Orientalism(s). 3 IfOrientalism, as Robert Young has stated, is itself a "form of dislocation for the West" insofar as the Orient-if it does not really represent the east-"signifies the West's own dislocation from itself, something inside that is presented, narrativized, as being outside" (139), then European accidentalism constitutes a double dislocation. It positions Europe not only in the Occident, in opposition to an externalized eastern other, but simultaneously in the West and to the east of "!'extreme occident" (Chadoume 1935),4 a kind of Wild West, culturally and politically speaking. What 3

An illustration of this multiplicity within the occidentalist stance is the book edited by James Carrier (1995), in which the contributors explore the "images of the west" in British, French, South East Asian, Japanese and other anthropological discourses. 4 The concept was picked up by Jean Philippe Mathy ( 1993) in his study of French intellectuals' approaches to America.

Europe's Occidentalisms


emerges is what Peter Schneider called, in reference to Germany, an extreme Mittel/age. an extreme position in the middle, an emphatic in-between location that characterizes not just Europe but practically all of today's cultures, irrespective of their geographic place on the globe (Schneider 1990). As Paul Gilroy reminds us in Black Atlantic, contemporary national identities and cultural practices have been constituted in interaction and interdependence, in and through the mutual and often violent exchanges between east and west, south and north. 5 Eurocentrism, I would argue, is the response to a pervasive sense of dislocation or dis-orientation that plagued Europe from the 15th century onward and that resulted in a constant renegotiating of its position vis-a-vis multiple others. 6 The Occident's encounter with the Extreme-Occident can be divided into roughly two phases: the colonial period that lasted from Columbus's "Discovery of America" to the American independence movements in the late 1700s and early 1800s and their reclaiming of a "Western Hemisphere," and the period of decolonization in the 19th century, which went hand in hand with European neo-colonialism and US imperialism and which is still ongoing. 1776 is significant in this context insofar as it marks a break not only between Europe and the New World, England and its former colonies, but also between North and South. Whereas before, the term "American(s)" had referred to the indigenous population of the whole continent-e.g. in Joseph Fran~ois Lafitau's Moeurs des sauvages ameriquains (1724) or Comeille de Pauw's Recherches philosoplziques sur /es Americains (1768)-after 1776 Americans are exclusively those who have "inherited" the right to the land: the European colonists who, by shedding their blood on American soil and wrenching it from the hands of the British, believe to have established themselves as its rightful owners (see Menz 1975: 60).



See Gilroy (1993). James Carrier (1995) points to the fact that "non-Western" cultures also (re-)constituted themselves in often essentialist terms as a consequence of the colonial encounter. Silvia Spitta ( 1996), on the other hand, focuses less on the imaginary distinctions than on the processes of transculturation that were produced by the encounter between Western and non-Western peoples in "the West." I am distinguishing here between Europe's self-centredness, which emerged during and in response to colonialism, and "Eurocentrism" as "the 'normal' view of history that most FirstWorlders, Second Worlders and even many Third Worlders and Fourth Worlders learn at school and imbibe from the media," as Robert Starn (1995) puts it-not because they are different, but because the motivation for espousing Eurocentric views varies.


Susanne Zantop

An anecdote related by Thomas Jefferson illustrates this sea change in terminology, mentality, and ideology. 7 Having moved to Paris in December of 1776, where he would stay until 1785, Benjamin Franklin invited the Abbe Raynal and other Frenchmen for dinner one night. When the unfortunate Abbe began to extol Buffon's and dePauw's theory of the physical "degeneracy" of the "Americans," his host suggested to resolve the matter "empirically": "Come," says he, "M. l'Abbe, let us try this question by the fact before us. We are here one half Americans, and one half French, and it happens that the Americans have placed themselves on one side of the table, and our French friends are on the other. Let both parties rise, and we will see on which side nature has degenerated." As it turned out, the American guests were "of the finest stature and form," while the Frenchmen were "remarkably diminutive, and the Abbe himself particularly, was a mere shrimp." Whereupon Raynal parried by pontificating about exceptions to the rule which in truth do not affect philosophical laws. Beyond implying a critique of a Central European speculative philosophical tradition that had created its theories unconcerned with empirical facts, the anecdote highlights the shift in self-perception mentioned above. Clearly, Benjamin Franklin and his compatriots felt personally attacked by theories that had originally been directed at New World fauna, flora, and indigenous populations (see Zantop 1994). They were now the Americans with claims to America, as was also suggested by the subsequent interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823: to demand that America be "for Americans" meant placing the whole continent, north and south, under United States hegemony. 8 The "Americans" of yore, on the other hand, became "Indians," without an India to claim as their own. Any attempt to identify Europe's accidentalism, that is, its discourse of the West, therefore has to distinguish between the two phases and the two Occidents that emerged before and after Independence.

7 For 8

the following see Koch and Peden ( 1944: 179). The anecdote is also related, in the context of dePauw's theories, in Gerbi (1955: 265 and 265n). While Monroe's original intention may have been to ward off European intervention and promote national self-determination in the Americas, the claim "America to the Americans" was soon understood to support a US imperial imperative. See Lafeber ( 1989: 81-85).

Europe's Occidentalisms


OCCIDENT AND EXTRtME-0CCIDENT European perceptions of and imaginary responses to the New World in the colonial phase can be explained by the nature of its discovery, conquest and colonization. Unlike the Orient, which Europeans had travelled, traded with, and fought against for centuries, the occident was radically new, a "new world," hitherto unlmown. Unlike the Orient's, its treasures were mostly its "natural" resources: after conquerors had pillaged the indigenous peoples' golden and silver artifacts, the settlers had to resort to working the land, setting up mines, or cutting trees for export, through exploitation of the indigenous work force. And unlike in the Orient, the European invaders had to contend not with cultures experienced in century-old interaction with their occident, but with peoples completely ignorant of European mentalities and European-style warfare, at least at first. As has been noted, despite heroic resistance in some instances and willing collaboration in others, armed struggles, forced labor, and diseases transmitted by the Europeans wiped out large parts of the native population in the Americas (see, for example, Stannard 1992; Crosby 1972). It is therefore not surprising that despite myth transfer from east to west and parallel conceptualizations-"Amazons," "cannibals," and "headless men" (acephales) seemed to exist in both hemispheres-different images or emphases would surface when it came to verbal and pictorial representations of the New World. 9 The material conditions of the encounter-the novelty of the New World, the vastness and exuberance of its nature and natural resources, the hospitality of the indigenous peoples, and their military "wealmess" in view of European aggression and greed-led to a textual construction of the American Occident that was often diametrically opposed to that of the Orient. As Anne McClintock and others have pointed out, imperialist discourses persistently gendered the "imperial unknown:" "As European men crossed the dangerous thresholds of their known worlds, they ritualistically feminized borders and boundaries. Female figures were planted like fetishes at the ambiguous points of contact, at the borders and orifices of the contest zone" (24). In that respect, imperialist discourse followed any militarist or power


On myth transfer in the textual construction of "America" see Mason, ( 1990); Marchand and Passman (1994); see also the article by Mason in the same volume.


Susanne Zantop

discourse, which also gender(ed) winners and losers, insiders and outsiders, as Richard Trexler has reminded us (Trexler 1995: 80). Yet the gendering of imperialist encounters in the west took different forms from those in the east. Representations of the latter were dominated by the iconography of the veil and the topos of the harem: colonization implied "lifting the veil," entering the harem to explore its secrets, and wresting power from devious "eunuchs" or aggressive, lascivious "Arabs." (See also McClintock 1992: 31; Said 1978: 286; Ahmed 1982). Representations of the former on the other hand hinged on the notion of the "virgin land"-supposedly unclaimed territory which the "conqueror" strove to penetrate, take possession of, and render fertile. From Jan van der Straet's much-discussed depiction of Vespucci's "re-discovery of America" (1575) to Cesare Ripa's /conologia and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's allegorical frescoes in Wilrzburg (1753), America was represented as a naked woman who invites (male) conquerors to share her riches (See Honour 1976). Throughout the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, countless foundational myths of native maidens willingly falling for the superior Europeans-from the InkleNarico and John-Smith/Pocahontas to Cora/Alonzo and Stedman/Joanna stories-served to reinforce the idea of "love at first sight" between colonizer and colonized and the "child of nature's" voluntary surrender.' 0 Yet the surrender of the virgin territory was not uncontested, neither in reality nor in the representations. The background to van der Straet's allegory is populated by natives who roast body parts on a spit; Pocahontas's tribesmen threaten to kill John Smith; and Tiepolo's "America" rides on a gigantic alligator whose huge open mouth suggests the dangers the European will face if he dares to penetrate the American jungles. Not far from Tiepolo's "America" on her natural throne lie a few decapitated heads, reminders of Europe's favourite fantasy: the horror of being savaged, cannibalized in the contact with the New World. In the early modern European imagination, America was thus an ambiguous female figure: both alluring (the hammock, the treasure chest, the cornucopia of natural produce) and threatening (the bow and arrow; the alligator; the skulls). As an image of promise and menace, she embodied the desires and fears of European colonizers: the desire for land and the exploitation of its resources, and the fears of being annihilated by engulfing swamps, jungles, diseases or "cannibalistic" natives, in short, by the forces of 10

See Hulme ( 1986) and Zan top (1997). A more recent study (Htllz 1998), demonstrates how these European patterns were perpetuated in 19th-century nationalist fictions in Latin America.

Europe's Occidentalisms


"nature." As an allegory of the New World, America in fact allegorized the unconscious ofthe Old. Like all allegories of continents, Africa and Asia (and Europe) were also represented as women. Yet as Tiepolo's frescoes highlight, different colonial relationships and different colonialist interests triggered different fantasies. The black African woman in elaborate gold jewellery rides not on a savage animal, but on a domesticated carrier of burdens, the camel (in repose!). She is surrounded not by fierce warriors who shoot deer, carry off alligators, and devour humans, but by Moorish servants and Arab traders who display the wealth of the continent: cloth, ivory, incense, and gold. As the association with the three Oriental Kings suggests, a domesticated Africa will serve Christianity, that is, Europeans, with goods and resources. Asia in turn is dressed in layers of precious cloth. She is sitting on an elephant that drags along the body of a man whose hands are shackled. She is, again, surrounded by richly clad "Oriental" traders who look down at a group of men -occidental visitors or her own servants?-who kowtow to her (See Buttner 1980). Imperialist Europe, finally, like an absolutist queen, is surrounded by those who made her the "superior" civilization: representatives of the churches, the arts and sciences in the service of empire. Again, the images are above all revealing of European fantasies. Even though the lure of Africa and Asia is also depicted in terms of heterosexual eroticism (the naked, exposed breast or the veiled female body), when it comes to the Orient the secret objects of desire are not lands but goods; the desired relationship is not complete surrender, but commercial exchange (trade); and the fear and hostility towards that imaginary space are not projected onto its fierce "nature," but on its powerful, "despotic" rulers, whom the Europeans cannot eliminate, but must negotiate with (Said 1978: 237; 2867). The anxieties and ambivalences toward the New World, "the recurrent doubling in male imperial discourse," as McClintock has termed it (1992: 26), fmd expression in the image of the cannibal queen which harks back to earlier mythical representations of threatening femininity or ambiguous masculinity: the sexually voracious witch who devours children, and the amazon who, rejecting her natural role as wife and mother, joins a female warrior horde and copulates with men at her initiative, killing off any male offspring (see Brauner 1994: 1-27). European authors of travelogues and accounts of the New World resorted to these mythical images of androgyny or transsexuality


Susanne Zantop

supposedly because the "beardlessness" and long hair of the Amerindians as well as socio-sexual practices suggested the absence of clear gender boundaries (see de Pauw 1768). As Sigrid Brauner and, more recently, Richard Trexler, have pointed out, however, images of transgression were created in the service of imperial violence. To paint the indigenous as either effeminate "sodomites," treacherous cannibals, or mannish warrior women allowed Europeans to construct the "civilizing process," that is, the colonial takeover, as a process of domesticating the savage other and of (re)establishing a supposedly natural order based on heterosexuality and gender hierarchy. Its corollary were the fantasies of domestication and marital bliss mentioned earlier, in which European colonizers and native "princesses" would found new, "natural" alliances based on love and submission. The most popular of these, Marmontel's Les Incas of 1777, combines, once more, all the elements of pre-independence accidentalism: the "marriage" of conqueror and conquered as a means to "pacify" cannibalistic savages and create a new order based on European supremacy and the natural subordination of the weaker, i.e., the female or the effeminate male. This binary setup required that the ("natural") masculinity of the European adventurer/conqueror on the one hand, and the "femininity" or, rather, supposed effeminateness (timidity, weakness, fear in battles, treacherousness, irrationality, self-indulgence, and laziness) of the natives be highlighted-as indeed they were. It furthermore explains why European accounts of Native Americans were eager to stress the men's alleged lack of sexual appetite and procreational passion: 11 as more potent "real men," Europeans were entitled by nature, so to speak, to replace the natives in the possession of the land, virgin or otherwise.

"NORTH" VS. "SOUTH" The gender coordinates of the conquest model outlined above were, however, never fixed or stable. From their inception, they were undermined by another conceptual construct, one that in fact "remasculinized" the indigenous:


See de Pauw, Robertson, Pernety or Hegel on this topic. The alleged lack of the natives' sexual interest was a hotly debated issue among European "philosophes."

Europe's Occidentalisms


the configuration of the "noble" vs. the "ignoble savage." 12 Throughout the colonial period, descriptions of actual encounters with native tribes oscillated between these two poles: there were those Indians who were "hostile" to European conquerors and settlers and those who were "hospitable," that is, who traded with them and subjected themselves to Spanish or English dominion without resistance. In Columbus's account, these two types figured as "Caribs," "fierce man-eating and nomadic" tribes, and "gentle agriculturalists," the "Arawaks," who live in an earthly paradise and whom the Caribs seek to displace (Hulme 1986: 47). As Peter Hulme suggests, the two names "mark an internal division within European perception of the native Caribbean, a division variously articulated in all European accounts, from Columbus's first jottings in his log-book to the historical and anthropological works written today" (46). While the two also have gendered overtones-the compliant, sedentary savage is given traditionally female characteristics, the fierce, nomadic one is gendered male-they undermine the notion that all Indians are degenerate and effeminate, sexually inactive or sexually indeterminate. On the contrary: the true "natural" man is the free-roaming savage, not the European colonizer bound by his society's conventions. In the eighteenth century this reversed gender perspective becomes operative, particularly in the "dispute of the New World" between Corneille de Pauw and Antoine Pernety, which was carried out at the court of Frederick II of Prussia, but which affected all of Europe (see Gerbi 1955 and Zantop 1994). If to the invaders from war-torn, famine-ridden sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, peaceful domesticated tribes living in paradisal bounty had seemed more appealing, to eighteenth-century bourgeois intellectuals, tired of "effeminate" refinement of the aristocratic elites and of political repression, the image of the free-roaming innocent, unrestrained by convention, held greater attraction (Charlton 1984: 124). While both images reflected European dreams-