Edward W. Said's Orientalism

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

Drawing upon the methods of feminist criticism of the 1970s, Said's Orientalism did much to create the field of postcolonial studies by teaching us to "read for the gap," placing texts in broad political contexts. Despite its obviously valid points about weaknesses of Euro-American thought, its appeal for Western intellectuals, and its liberating effect on intellectuals from former countries that were colonized, this seminal book has some major flaws:

Even if all these charges were true (and I believe they are), Said's Orientalism remains a major work. Why do you think this is the case? How is the book larger than the local conditions in which it was produced? Why do the book's strengths, rather than its weaknesses, appear far more important to a scholar working in, say, Morocco, Singapore, or India?

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Last Modified: 18 March, 2002