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Said directly challenged what Euro-American scholars traditionally referred to as "Orientalism." Orientalism is an entrenched structure of thought, a pattern of making certain generalizations about the part of the world known as the 'East'.
I was on the panel to talk about literary studies, especially his books (1993).
Preparing a presentation gave me an opportunity to look at some Said essays on literature I hadn't ever read (see for instance this at LRB; or this at Al-Ahram).
You see some of this in the famous quote from The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea -- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. He is a veteran, of the colonial system, and this is the first place where his views become apparent.
Like many others in his trade, Marlowe was in fact ambivalent about what was, in effect, his job.
It was written before the peak of the academic ‘culture wars’, when key words like relativism, pluralism, and multiculturalism would be the order of the day.
Said has often been lumped in with relativists and pluralists, but in fact he doesn’t belong there.
Post-colonial Criticism was a book about a particular pattern in western thought.
It was not, in and of itself, an evaluation of the importance of that thought.
REQUEST: If you were assigned this post on Edward Said's "Orientalism" as part of a course, or if you're a teacher who is assigning the below, I would greatly appreciate it if you would leave a comment stating which class and which school below. It's been about a year since Edward Said passed away.
Recently, there was a panel at Lehigh to talk about his legacy, specifically in the spheres of his contribution to literary studies, the representation of Islam, as well as his political advocacy.