Ovi -
we cover every issue
newsletterNewsletter
subscribeSubscribe
contactContact
searchSearch
Oxterweb  
Ovi Bookshop - Free Ebook
Join Ovi in Facebook
Ovi Language
Ovi on Facebook
Stop violence against women
Javier Velasco - Digital Artist
Stop human trafficking
 
BBC News :   - 
iBite :   - 
GermanGreekEnglishSpanishFinnishFrenchItalianPortugueseSwedish
Edward Said on Cultural Imperialism 1/2 Edward Said on Cultural Imperialism 1/2
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2007-09-24 09:34:02
Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author
DeliciousRedditFacebookDigg! StumbleUpon
Edward Said, even four years after his untimely death, remains today a powerful, well-reasoned voice of the voiceless, and a courageous critic of cultural imperialism. His mind was like that of Leonardo: where others saw an abyss between East and West, he saw a bridge that needed to be constructed. His serene fair critique of cultures is very much needed as we weather the latest fierce storm in the Transatlantic dialogue.

While writing a Ph.D. dissertation on Vico at Yale University, some thirty three years ago, a book appeared which attracted my attention. But it was not its author, still relatively obscure at the time, rather it was its title which urged me to buy Beginnings by Edward Said. To my mind, that title echoed immediately Vico’s notion of “origins.” And in fact, as expected, Said not only acknowledges Vico as the book’s inspiration and methodology, but dedicates a whole section to him. It turned out to be a kind of epiphany for me, in the same way that Ignazio Silone had previously been, not so much for what the book revealed about the problematic in the New Science that I was then grappling with (i.e., that of transcendence and immanence in Vico’s notion of Providence), but for what it said on the crucial role of the intellectual vis-à-vis the culture he lives and works in.

One of the most pregnant passages in that book is this: The writer’s life, his career, and his text, form a system of relationships whose configuration "in real human time" becomes progressively stronger (i.e., more distinct, more individualized and exacerbated). In fact, these relationships gradually become the writer’s all-encompassing subject (p. 227).

Here was a writer who did not see his role as that of the neutral “objective” scholar but as that of the engaged “worldly” critic who refuses to separate his work from his life’s experience. In doing so, Said was able to speak truth to power, rather than merely analyze power. In effect he becomes the well reasoned voice of the voiceless, within the tradition of “the conspiracy of hope” initiated by Ignazio Silone (see his Pane e vino, Fontamara, or Il seme sotto la neve). He therefore succeeds in making his life work relevant to the general public, especially the culturally powerless. Later on in his The World, The Text, and the Critic Said would assert that not only individuals, but text too are worldly in as much as “they have a way of existing that even in the most rarefied form are always enmeshed in circumstances, time, place, and society” (p. 35).

And indeed, even if Said is no longer with us in body, his powerful voice is still heard via his texts. He was born in Palestinian Jerusalem, studied there and in Cairo, then moved to the United States. He acquired a “Western” education (Princeton B.A., Harvard Ph.D.), becoming the Old Dominion professor of Humanities at Columbia in 1963. As a displaced Arab and an American citizen studying European literature in America, he became the voice of the voiceless and the dislocated and in as much as he understood well both East and West, he was eminently qualified to bridge those two disparate cultures. This concept of bridging of cultures is vitally important, at a time when the transatlantic dialogue and relationship can best be characterized as one of mutual suspicion, misperceptions and near political disasters.

In one of his essays critiquing modern education, Said mentions that there was a passage on Leonardo Da Vinci by the French poet Paul Valéry which haunted him. In it Valéry describes the mind of Leonardo; its beauty and power and elegance and then says that Leonardo could only think of a bridge whenever he thought of the abyss. Metaphorically speaking, an abyss is the equivalent of what is presented to us as immutable, definitive, impossible to journey on. No matter how deep and problematic the scene that presented itself, Leonardo’s beautiful mind always had the capacity to think of some alternative, some way of solving the problem, some gift for not passively accepting what was given, any hopeless scene could be imagined and envisioned in a different more hopeful, way.

Then Said went on to say that he believes that education at its best should train students not so much in methods and skills but in the ability to see things differently and try ways of constructing bridges across the abyss. For Said knowledge is more than the amassing of information. He quotes Jean Paul Sartre who once said about a friend who had studied at a prestigious scientific college (Ecole Polytechnique): “my friend is really incredibly brilliant. He knows everything. But that is all he knows.” Echoes of Pascal’s “the heart has reasons that reason knows not?

PART ONE
PART TWO (Coming soon)


   
Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author

Comments(1)
Get it off your chest
Name:
Comment:
 (comments policy)

Jack2007-09-25 22:58:14
Well put. As a former educator for a public school, then Head Start trainer for teachers, I believe that we are more facilitators than educators. We assist instead of insist. The children actually education themselves.

There are three kinds of teachers [& by application, parents]. The Drill Seargant (my way or the Highway!), the Helicopter Rescuer [no, stop, let me show you how to do it], and then best of all, the Consultant, [well, I don't know how you will do it, but just do your best, if you need help, just ask. I can only tell you what I think or what I did once in this same situation]


© Copyright CHAMELEON PROJECT Tmi 2005-2008  -  Sitemap  -  Add to favourites  -  Link to Ovi
Privacy Policy  -  Contact  -  RSS Feeds  -  Search  -  Submissions  -  Subscribe  -  About Ovi