Undreamt by Tyrants and Orthodoxies:
Edward Said, Orientalism, and the Politics of Cyberspace (Abstract)
Presented at the conference ‘Other Voices, Other Cultures:
Rereading Orientalism’, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, 12 ~
14 August, 2004; forthcoming in Reorienting Orientalism, edited
by Chandreyee Niyogi (New Delhi: Sage, 2006).
We are today abetted by the enormously encouraging democratic
field of cyberspace, open to all users in ways undreamt of by earlier
generations of either tyrants or of orthodoxies.
Edward Said, Orientalism
25 Years Later: Worldly Humanism Versus the Empire Builders, www.amin.org,
6 August 2003
Edward Said’s last published discussion of Orientalism,
a re-reading of his 1978 study twenty-five years on, a critique of the
contemporary Orientalist orthodoxies of the United States, and a vigorous
defence of humanism, appeared first on the bilingual web site of the Arabic
Media Internet Network, AMIN, on 6 August 2003. The following
day the work appeared under the title Preface
to Orientalism at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram
Weekly On-line. Three weeks later, on 28 August 2003, the Penguin
Modern Classics twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Orientalism appeared
in Britain, with the earlier-published AMIN and Al-Ahram
essay as its New Preface.
One account of this subject would address the politics of
absence that pertains in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first
century. The purpose of this paper, however, is to address instead Said’s
response to such a politics, his turn in the last years of his life to
‘the enormously encouraging democratic field of cyberspace’.
The paper will demonstrate that Said’s late work written for on-line
publication is instrumentally related both to his understanding of Orientalist
discourse and to his theories of resistance to it, and that this body
of work, 140 essays written in the last five and a half years of his life,
yet to be sifted through by scholars bound to the discourse of commercial
publication, in important ways extends Said’s critique of Orientalism
and his understanding of the post-colonial condition.
The theoretical frame will be Said’s often-quoted
and much-misunderstood 1978 introduction to Orientalism. But
for that text and the earlier-written but later published The World,
the Text, and the Critic, the texts under discussion have yet to
appear in conventional print publication. Attendees [at the conference
presentation version of the paper] will be provided on CD-ROM an annotated
bibliography of Said’s work written for on-line publication from
January 1998 to September 2003, with hyperlinks to the primary texts,
registered under a Creative
Commons license that allows non-commercial reproduction and distribution.