Blanket was saddened by the untimely death of
Professor Edward Said (1935-2003) last week. For years,
Edward Said was courageously struggling against leukemia.
When asked by The Blanket in May 2002 whether
he would agree to an interview, Said replied in an
email "Alas I can't now since I am in intensive
treatment for my advancing leukemia and accordingly
have had to cut out all interviews and such like.
Please forgive me." Edward Said was a leading
academic, public intellectual and political activist.
His influence can be attested by the fact that both
the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and the Irish Republican
Socialist Movement sent statements to express
their sympathy. Said was an original thinker with
considerable erudition, and thought with both eloquence
terms of academic contributions, Said is likely to
be remembered for his path-breaking book "Orientalism"
(1978). In this work as well as in his subsequent
book "Culture and Imperialism" (1993),
Said examined how Western discourse on the Orient
was intrinsically related to colonialism and domination,
establishing the genealogy of this orientalist discourse
from Aeschylus to Dante, Marx and Bernard Lewis. The
book belongs to that tradition of works denouncing
the complicity of intellectuals and official culture
with dominant ideologies and power. Said's achievement
is to have brought the question of cultural imperialism
at the very center of theoretical debates within Western
academia. Its novelty was mainly methodological, Said
was able to adapt the work of Michel Foucault to the
context of colonial and postcolonial societies. Said
was at his best when writing about the literary field
and in terms of textual approach. However, there are
many theoretical difficulties, ambivalences and political
confusions in Said's work. In his book "In Theory"
(1992), Ajiz Ahmad criticized Said for coming close
to the conclusion that there is something of an original
ontological flaw in the European psyche and that Europeans
are ontologically incapable of producing any true
knowledge about the Orient.
it was not his main field of interest, Edward Said
wrote on Ireland, Yeats in particular. He contributed
along with Frederic Jameson and Terry Eagleton to
a Field day pamphlet entitled "Ireland: Nationalism,
Colonialism, Literature" (1990). One of his
last contributions was his afterword to "Ireland
and Postcolonial Theory" (2003). Edward Said
recognized the importance and respected the figure
of James Connolly.
Said fought all his life for the rights of the Palestinian
people. His seminal essay "Zionism from the
standpoint of its victims" is probably the
best of those he wrote on Palestine. Many of us of
Ireland have been inspired by his incisive critique
of the "Peace Process" in the Middle East
and the politics of what used to be a national liberation
organization. In 2000 in the London Review of Books
the rhetoric of 'peace' been in essence a gigantic
fraud? Some of the answers to these questions lie
buried in reams of documents signed by the two parties,
unread except by the small handful of people who
negotiated them. Others are simply ignored by the
media and the governments whose job, it now appears,
was to press on with disastrous information, investment
and enforcement policies, regardless of the horrors
taking place on the ground.
few people, myself included, have tried to chronicle
what has been going on, from the initial Palestinian
surrender at Oslo until the present, but in comparison
with the mainstream media and governments, not to
mention the status reports and recommendations circulated
by huge funding agencies like the World Bank, the
European Union and many private foundations who
have played along with the deception, our voices
have had a negligible effect except, sadly, as prophecy."
principled stance of Edward Said may have had a negligible
effect on the institutions of the powerful and the
wealthy and their apparatus of deception, but to us,
it is an inspiration.
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