Law School Archives
READ // Orientalism
Tayyab Mahmud, Seattle University
OrientalismBy Edward SaidNew York : Vintage Books, c1994DS12.S24 2003
From Professor Tayyab Mahmud:
It is not often that a book triggers an epiphany and changes one’s world view. My first reading of Edward Said’s Orientalism did just that. I was about to start writing my doctoral dissertation and was searching for an overreaching theme to tie together my ideas about the structure of international information flows. Reading Orientalism ended this search. Orientalism surveys the production of knowledge in the West about “the Orient” to substantiate the proposition that the production of knowledge is unavoidably entangled with relations of power and domination. The primary argument of the book is that knowledge about “the Orient” produced in the West purports to be objective, yet serves political ends by facilitating the establishment and consolidating the West’s colonial rule. It further argues that the portrayal of “the Orient” as eternal, static, irrational, and effeminate helps constitute the self-identity of the West as progressive, dynamic, rational, and masculine. Orientalism inaugurates a new critical approach to interrogate the production and deployment of hegemonic knowledge’s claims by the West about its “others.” This approach, refined by Said’s later work, has proved to be a productive framework of inquiry within numerous academic disciplines including the humanities, social sciences and the law. Orientalism has been translated in more than 30 languages and has become a canonical text around the world. It has enriched our understanding of the animating forces of all relations of power and domination.
From the Publisher:Twenty-five years after its first publication, Edward Said’s groundbreaking critique of the West’s historical, cultural, and political perceptions of the East has become a modern classic. In this wide-ranging, intellectually vigorous study, Said traces the origins of “orientalism” to the centuries-long period during which Europe dominated the Middle and Near East and, from its position of power, defined “the orient” simply as “other than” the occident. This entrenched view continues to dominate western ideas and, because it does not allow the East to represent itself, prevents true understanding. Essential and still eye-opening, Orientalism remains one of the most important books written about our divided world.
About the Author:Edward W. Said was born in Jerusalem, raised in Jerusalem and Cairo, and educated in the United States, where he attended Princeton (B.A. 1957) and Harvard (M.A. 1960; Ph.D. 1964). In 1963, he began teaching at Columbia University, where he was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature.
He is the author of twenty-two books which have been translated into 35 languages, including Beginnings: Intention and Method (1975); Orientalism (1978); The Question of Palestine (1979); Covering Islam (1980); The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983); After the Last Sky (1986); Musical Elaborations (1991); Culture and Imperialism (1993); Representations of the Intellectual: The Reith Lectures (1994); Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine and the Middle East Peace Process (1996); Entre Guerre et Paix (1997); and Out of Place: A Memoir (1999). Besides his academic work, he wrote a twice-monthly column for Al-Hayat and Al-Ahram; was a regular contributor to newspapers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; and was the music critic for The Nation.
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