This link will take you to a page that talks about the career of Edward Said, allah yarhamhu, a post-colonial thinker who by now is synonymous with the world “orientalism.” Dr. Said passed away ten years ago today, leaving us with the legacy of post-colonial criticisms. His book Orientalism highlights how Western people’s perception of the Orient has been shaped by the long tradition of Orientalist works in the East, particularly in the Middle East. What the West knows about the Orient, Dr. Said argues in that book, is what the Orientalists have produce. From this seminal work, many other works follow, each focusing on an aspect of culture or cultural artifacts in which peoples of the Orient are represented wrongly thanks to the stereotypes that have been ingrained in our consciousness. From the top of my head, I can recall Dr. Jack Shaheen’s work Reel Bad Arabs that I blogged about only last week. I also remember Dr. Mohja Kahf’s work Western Representations of Muslim Women as critical works that pick up on the seeds scattered all over Orientalism.
Remembering the passing of Edward Said gives me a funny feeling, actually. It’s been a while now since the last time I “adored” a person as a person. As a college student, I was so into the persons of John Lennon, James Joyce, Bob Marley or Kurt Cobain. In many cases, I loved the person so much without really knowing why I had to love that person to begin with. I was so amazed by John Lennon who left the Beatles while as a band they were at the peak and still had more peaks to reach. I thought John Lennon must have been an exceptional individual to have the courage to do that. I read his very short documentary and felt like I knew him like nobody else could. I did not, however, know all of his songs–there was even a moment when I felt disturbed by the arrangement of one of his songs in the album that anthologizes his best works. I kind of forgot that what I should have cherished from John Lennon is his views as they were reflected in his songs. How is this related to Edward Said?
Back to our talk about the passing of Edward Said, I just realized that all this time I have mostly seen Edward Said not as a person with flesh and blood and that unfortunate cancer. What I mean is, when I read Edward Said, I don’t feel like I am studying under the tutelage of a person; instead, “Edward Said” for me is almost like an abstract concept that–because of its nature as a concept–can ceaselessly communicate with me. (Ah, I remember Medgar Evers who once said: “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.) I forgot that I should also consider that this abstract concept was delivered by a person who, to begin with, wrote what he wrote due to his personal experience as an exile. So, let us take this opportunity today to commemorate Edward Said as a person who have passed away leaving us his invaluable legacy of human respect, seeing a people as a conglomeration of human individuals each with their own feeling and concerns, seeing persons based on their individual merits.