Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Megan Talks about Orientalism

Considering I just defended my thesis on the subject two days ago, I'm delighted that Megan chose to excrete her thoughts all over Edward Said's landmark tract, Orientalism.

First of all, Megan callers Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind "somewhat kooky." No Megan, its a complete racist piece of shit.

This is basically a fruitless debate, because as in the Israel/Palestine debate--for which this is basically a proxy--there is precious little middle ground. Middle Eastern Studies professors are, as far as I can tell, overwhelmingly in the Edward Said camp; they regard Bernard Lewis the same way those in the Lewis/Pipes camp regard Said.

Um, so the debate over whether intellectuals in France, Britain, and the US possess demeaning and reductionist views of Arabs is a proxy for whether Palestinians should have a state? If I were a reader of Commentary, I would howl, fit, and poop that Megan would denigrate and delegitimized the interests of Israel by comparing them to Renan's 200 year old baseless observations.

Saying that there is 'precious little middle ground' between these two paradigms is complete ignorance. There are numerous works that don't use Said's or Lewis' paradigm, e.g., Gran, Yaqub, every realist writer on US foreign relations, and my own work.

You don't have to be a disciple of Said to know that Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes are complete hacks.

BTW, if anyone can parse this sentence I'll reward you:

"And I'd say that Edward Said's main error was in thinking that because the west is the hegemonic culture, he was immune from this problem."


I wanted to add a couple of observations regarding the commentors in Megan's post.

Edward Said, in addition to being a first-rate intellectual, was morally brave, and his reputation deserves not to be sullied. Anyway, Megan's commentors spout the usual anti-intellectual tripe.

JoshK writes:
Said was an English professor, not a real deep middle eastern expert. IMHO, his work caught on with the general anti-everything-western movement in academia that was taking place in the 70's.

I must have missed that movement. Citing Said's formal appointment as some sort of slander against the man reminds me of that line from Kinsey when Kinsey says "How long do I have to study humans to not be considered just an etymologist?"

Another commentor: "Actually Edward Said was pretty standard academic Western babyboomer leftist in approach."

got that? A Christian Palestinian refugee born under the mandate is a babyboomer.

Then Sigivald says to me that its "Interesting that you don't include Said in the "has-been hacks" category, despite it fitting him, on the scholarly evidence, better than Lewis."

BTW, Said was a has-been, despite being a prolific writer and lecturer until the day he died.


spencer said...

Dang, there shore are a lotta eggheads on this 'ere blog.

rickm said...

Unfortunately, I'm still too stupid to make sense of her last sentence.

spencer said...

Who isn't?

Clever Pseudonym said...

I can't stand the bullshit assumption that a person can't be an expert on a topic unless they've studied it institutionally. As if fanatic sports fans have a degree in "Baseball Studies." Ask me anything at all about Ireland and if I don't already know the answer, I will know where to find it in minutes. Give me a break.