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Orientalism, Edward Said, the Works

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Abdullah bin Mubarak, Arfatzafar, sharjan8643
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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 7th May 2015 08:12
The Opening Statement

The world today is firmly in western grip.
The west till some time ago was Christian though at the moment she has moved towards the so called liberal democracy at ideological level but her old attitude towards Islam and Muslims has remained the same.

That attitude is of crusades.
Dislike, disdain, resentment, snobbery bordering on inhumanity.
Academically this attitude is embodied in a trend called orientalism.

The scholar, a Christian himself from Palestine, who debunked it most decisively was Edward Said.
Though our own Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Shibli Nomani had taken very effective steps already more than half a century before Said.

In this thread I want to analyse his works in particular but orientalism in general.

But I cordially invite each brother and sister to be a part of this process.
To understand our environment is mandatory on us.
Only then we can react to it in an effective manner.
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#2 [Permalink] Posted on 7th May 2015 08:25
Justus Reid Weiner

At an intellectual Edward Said was a giant.
But he committed the cardinal mistake of opening his mouth about his motherland - Palestine.
By doing so he treaded on Zionist toes.
This is a mistake that hardly any intellectual has committed and came out unscathed.
But Edward Said was made of a different mould.

Here is an article written in hatred of Said.

The title speaks for itself: Enough Said: The False Scholarship of Edward Said
here is a particularly pungent statement from that article.
Said’s cynical modus operandi was to stop short, where possible, of telling an outright lie while deliberately leaving a false impression.

This is sheer calumni. Best left to die a natural death.
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#3 [Permalink] Posted on 3rd September 2015 09:34

An Introduction to Edward Said’s Orientalism, Haroon Khalid

Author: Edward W. Said

Publisher: Vintage

Year: 1994


Orientalism by Edward Said is a cononical text of cultural studies in which he has challenged the concept of orientalism or the difference between east and west, as he puts it. He says that with the start of European colonization the Europeans came in contact with the lesser developed countries of the east. They found their civilization and culture very exotic, and established the science of orientalism, which was the study of the orientals or the people from these exotic civilization.

Edward Said argues that the Europeans divided the world into two parts; the east and the west or the occident and the orient or the civilized and the uncivilized. This was totally an artificial boundary; and it was laid on the basis of the concept of them and us or theirs and ours. The Europeans used orientalism to define themselves. Some particular attributes were associated with the orientals, and whatever the orientals weren’t the occidents were. The Europeans defined themselves as the superior race compared to the orientals; and they justified their colonization by this concept. They said that it was their duty towards the world to civilize the uncivilized world. The main problem, however, arose when the Europeans started generalizing the attributes they associated with orientals, and started portraying these artificial characteristics associated with orientals in their western world through their scientific reports, literary work, and other media sources. What happened was that it created a certain image about the orientals in the European mind and in doing that infused a bias in the European attitude towards the orientals. This prejudice was also found in the orientalists (scientist studying the orientals); and all their scientific research and reports were under the influence of this. The generalized attributes associated with the orientals can be seen even today, for example, the Arabs are defined as uncivilized people; and Islam is seen as religion of the terrorist.

Here is a brief summary of the book, followed by a critique by Malcolm Kerr.

Chapter 1: The Scope of Orientalism

In this chapter, Edward Said explains how the science of orientalism developed and how the orientals started considering the orientals as non-human beings. The orientals divided the world in to two parts by using the concept of ours and theirs. An imaginary geographical line was drawn between what was ours and what was theirs. The orients were regarded as uncivilized people; and the westerns said that since they were the refined race it was their duty to civilize these people and in order to achieve their goal, they had to colonize and rule the orients. They said that the orients themselves were incapable of running their own government. The Europeans also thought that they had the right to represent the orientals in the west all by themselves. In doing so, they shaped the orientals the way they perceived them or in other words they were orientalizing the orients. Various teams have been sent to the east where the orientalits silently observed the orientals by living with them; and every thing the orientals said and did was recorded irrespective of its context, and projected to the civilized world of the west. This resulted in the generalization. Whatever was seen by the orientals was associated with the oriental culture, no matter if it is the irrational action of an individual.

The most important use of orientalism to the Europeans was that they defined themselves by defining the orientals. For example, qualities such as lazy, irrational, uncivilized, crudeness were related to the orientals, and automatically the Europeans became active, rational, civilized, sophisticated. Thus, in order to achieve this goal, it was very necessary for the orientalists to generalize the culture of the orients.

Another feature of orientalism was that the culture of the orientals was explained to the European audience by linking them to the western culture, for example, Islam was made into Mohammadism because Mohammad was the founder of this religion and since religion of Christ was called Christianity; thus Islam should be called Mohammadism. The point to be noted here is that no Muslim was aware of this terminology and this was a completely western created term, and to which the Muslims had no say at all.

Chapter 2: Orientalist Structures and Restructures

In this chapter, Edward Said points the slight change in the attitude of the Europeans towards the orientals. The orientals were really publicized in the European world especially through their literary work. Oriental land and behaviour was highly romanticized by the European poets and writers and then presented to the western world. The orientalists had made a stage strictly for the European viewers, and the orients were presented to them with the colour of the orientalist or other writers perception. In fact, the orient lands were so highly romanticized that western literary writers found it necessary to offer pilgrimage to these exotic lands of pure sun light and clean oceans in order to experience peace of mind, and inspiration for their writing. The east was now perceived by the orientalist as a place of pure human culture with no necessary evil in the society. Actually it was this purity of the orientals that made them inferior to the clever, witty, diplomatic, far-sighted European; thus it was their right to rule and study such an innocent race. The Europeans said that these people were too naive to deal with the cruel world, and that they needed the European fatherly role to assist them.

Another justification the Europeans gave to their colonization was that they were meant to rule the orientals since they have developed sooner than the orientals as a nation, which shows that they were biologically superior, and secondly it were the Europeans who discovered the orients not the orients who discovered the Europeans. Darwin’s theories were put forward to justify their superiority, biologically by the Europeans.

In this chapter, Edward Said also explains how the two most renowned orientalists of the 19th century, namely Silvestre de Sacy and Ernest Renan worked and gave orienatlism a new dimension. In fact, Edward Said compliments the contribution made by Sacy in the field. He says that Sacy organized the whole thing by arranging the information in such a way that it was also useful for the future orientalist. And secondly, the prejudice that was inherited by every orientalist was considerably low in him. On the other hand, Renan who took advantage of Sacy’s work was as biased as any previous orientalist. He believed that the science of orientalism and the science of philology have a very important relation; and after Renan this idea was given a lot attention and many future orientalists worked of in its line.

Chapter 3 : Orientalism Now

This chapter starts off by telling us that how the geography of the world was shaped by the colonization of the Europeans. There was a quest for geographical knowledge which formed the bases of orientalism.

The author then talks about the changing circumstances of the world politics and changing approach to orientalism in the 20th century. The main difference was that where the earlier orientalists were more of silent observers the new orientalists took a part in the every day life of the orients. The earlier orientalists did not interact a lot with the orients, whereas the new orients lived with them as if they were one of them. This wasn’t out of appreciation of their lifestyle but was to know more about the orients in order to rule them properly. Lawrence of Arabia was one of such orienatlists.

Then Edward Said goes on to talk about two other scholars Massignon and Gibb. Though Massignon was a bit liberal with orientalists and often tried to protect their rights, there was still inherited biased found in him for the orientals, which can be seen in his work. With the changing world situation especially after World War 1, orientalism took a more liberal stance towards most of its subjects; but Islamic orientalism did not enjoy this status. There were constant attacks to show Islam as a weak religion, and a mixture of many religions and thoughts. Gibb was the most famous Islamic orientalist of this time.

After World War 1 the centre of orientalism moved from Europe to USA. One important transformation that took place during this time was instances of relating it to philology and it was related to social science now. All the orientalists studied the orientals to assist their government to come up with policies for dealing with the orient countries. With the end of World War 2, all the Europeans colonies were lost; and it was believed that there were no more orientals and occidents, but this was surely not the case. Western prejudice towards eastern countries was still very explicit, and often they managed to generalize most of the eastern countries because of it. For example Arabs were often represented as cruel and violent people. Japanese were always associated with karate where as the Muslims were always considered to be terrorists. Thus, this goes on to show that even with increasing globalization and awareness, such bias was found in the people of the developed countries.

Edward Said concludes his book by saying that he is not saying that the orientalists should not make generalization, or they should include the orient perspective too, but creating a boundary at the first place is something which should not be done.

Malcolm Kerr’s review on Orientalism

Malcolm Kerr did his specialization in International Relations and specialized in the Middle East from Princeton University. He worked on his PhD thesis with Gibb, and spent two years with him in Cambridge University.1 Malcolm’s review on Orientalism can be concluded by his following remarks, “This book reminds me of the television program “Athletes in Action,” in which professional football players compete in swimming, and so forth. Edward Said, a literary critic loaded with talent, has certainly made a splash, but with this sort of effort he is not going to win any major race. This is a great pity, for it is a book that in principle needed to be written, and for which the author possessed rich material. In the end, however, the effort misfired. The book contains many excellent sections and scores many telling points, but it is spoiled by overzealous prosecutorial argument in which Professor Said, in his eagerness to spin too large a web, leaps at conclusions and tries to throw everything but the kitchen sink into a preconceived frame of analysis. In charging the entire tradition of European and American Oriental studies with the sins of reductionism and caricature, he commits precisely the same error”2. He further goes on to say “The list of victims of Said’s passion is a long one, too long to examine in detail. Some of them deserve it: he has justly taken the measure of Ernest Renan. Some others are probably not worth it. One wonders why he is so ready to lump nineteenth-century travellers with professional philologists; why he found it necessary to twist the empathy of Sylvain Levi for colonized peoples into an alleged racism (pp. 248-250), or to dismiss the brilliance of Richard Burton as being overshadowed by a mentality of Western domination of the east (p. 197); why he condemns Massignon for his heterodoxy, and Gibb for his orthodoxy; or why he did not distinguish between Bernard Lewis’s recent polemics on modern politics and his much more important corpus of scholarship on the history of Islamic society and culture. For those who knew Gustave von Grunebaum and were aware of his scholarly genius and his deep attraction to Islamic culture in all its ramifications, Said’s exercise in character assassination (pp. 296-298) can only cause deep dismay. Suffice it to say that von Grunebaum’s view of Islamic culture as “antihumanist” was a serious proposition, and in fact not an unsympathetic one, denounced but not rebutted by Said, who seems not to recognize the difference between an antihumanist culture and an inhumane one. He might have done well to note that Abdallah Laroui, whose penetrating criticism of von Grunebaum’s work he invokes, earned thereby an invitation from von Grunebaum to teach at UCLA”3.

1. Ann Z Kerr, A Biography of Malcolm Hopper Kerr, Middle East Study Association of North America, June 2000, Journal on-line. Available from Accessed October 3rd 2004.

2. Malcolm Kerr, vol. 12, Edward Said, Orientalism reviewed by Malcolm Kerr, “International study of middle eastern studies. (December 1980), 544-547. Journal on-line. Available from Accessed October 3rd 2004.

3. Ibid
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#4 [Permalink] Posted on 7th September 2015 07:10
Half Way Milestone

I have finished the first round of half of the original book.
It is time to record the halfway observations.
Here these are.

This journey has been the most excruciating one in my intellectual voyage.
I can only guess. Here is my guess.
This life is a test, an examination.
Sometimes Allah (SWT) tests by endowing blessings.
Sometimes He tests by inflicting trials upon us.
The later test is more difficult.
In fact people will hardly come to us asking for help when they are being tried using blessings.
We only cry when we are tried and tested by difficulties.

In the trial of beloved Prophet (SAW) the troubles came from near and dear ones - the Quraish, his own extended family.
For us today the trials are coming from those who are physically close to us.
The west is close to us and it is the west that is the biggest trial for us.
This trial is the biggest trial of Islam after beloved Prophet (SAW).

The western trial is at a myriad levels. All of them oppressive and robust and wide ranging.
There is trial at social level.
Our own children and women are drunkenly falling for wetsren way of life.
The trial is cultural.
Islam has no inherent culture of its own.
Hence you can adopt any culture as long as it is not against the tenets of Islam.
Our family is today falling for that culture that can not ve accommodated in the fold of Islam.
The wetsren attack is economic.
Whole of the world economy is in western control in spite of the fact that enormous amount of money belongs to Muslims.
Our own money is being used against us.
The western attack is commercial.
All of commerce is in their control.
Even our commerce is keptive to western control.
There is hardly any industry that we can say is in our control.
In any way western industries dominate the industrial scene.
The world finance is under Jewish control. We are absolutely helpless.
The world business is again under Jewish and western control.
We are the slaves.
Our military power is miserable in face of Jewish/US/NATO military might.

We are being tried in a comprehensive manner by our neighbour - the west.

At the intellectual level no one has spelt it out better than Edward Said in the Orientalism.

This book is about skewed western view of Islam and Muslims.

Western view is no better for Hindus but Said does not focus on that though many times that too finds a mention.

Said focuses on British and French attitude though to a small or large extent many other western countries have similar attitudes.
Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, German.

Said's own field is comparative literature and philology.
He has put that expertize to astounding use to make a case that west looks at Islam and Muslims in self-consistent but cut-off from reality view and controls the orient.

What is corresponsing dynamics?
That is what the book is about.
In this enterprize one might be very polemic, rhetorical, macro oriented and leave all the details.
Another possible folly could be that one inulges in a very atomistic description and losing the overall perspective.
Losing the trees amongst the woods or the woods amongst the trees.
How did he got over these two real and dangerous dual limitations?
His solution was to use personal circumstances.
The problem looks impossible but that is not so - there may be a number of solutions to overcome above problem and he chose his own circumstances to overcome it.

And then the miracle happened.
Many reviewers wrote very positive words about the thesis.
Someone said that his case is not persuasive but decisive.

Were there negative reviews too?
By and large no.
And if there were then these were all very facile - basically these people simply could not penetrate the robust analysis.
No point in talking about them.
But there was a critique who did have the temerity to take on Said.
It was Bernard Lewis.
Said describes that episode in the 1995 afterword to the book.

Then there was the strange accusation against the book - the the book is anti-west.
What was that again?
Yes, some people accused him of writing an anti-west book.
This is curious.
But now that we know this sentiment we have to take it into consideration.
Basically the west has lost the argument and she is now accusing us of hating them.
We have to take that into account and take usual precautions.
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#5 [Permalink] Posted on 7th September 2015 08:24

This book, Orientalism by Edward W. said, uses some jargon of social sciences that might not be familiar to everybody. In this post I shall collect the uncommon words and their definitions for the benefit of those who are curious about the importance of this book and its thesis. You might have to come to it again and again for I intend to keep editing this post.


dɪˈdaktɪk,dʌɪ-/ adjective

intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive.

"a didactic novel that set out to expose social injustice"

synonyms: instructive, instructional, educational, educative, informative, informational, doctrinal, preceptive, teaching, pedagogic, academic, scholastic, tuitional;

More : edifying, improving, enlightening, illuminating, heuristic;
pedantic, moralistic, homiletic;

"the inmates preferred social rather than didactic activities"

in the manner of a teacher, particularly so as to appear patronizing.
"his tone ranged from didactic to backslapping"

Origin : mid 17th century: from Greek didaktikos, from didaskein ‘teach’.

1. (Education) intended to instruct, esp excessively
2. (Education) morally instructive; improving
3. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) (of works of art or literature) containing a political or moral message to which aesthetic considerations are subordinated

Didactics is a theory of teaching, and in a wider sense, a theory and practical application of teaching and learning. In demarcation from "Mathetics" (the science of learning), didactics refers only to the science of teaching.
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#6 [Permalink] Posted on 7th September 2015 08:39
Q: Why is this title Orientalism not so common in media?
A: In Muslim scholars this is very common.
In western scholars it is not common anymore because the perfidy behind this word has been exposed by now. Hence it has become a pejorative word. When the orientalists realized that their bluff has been called they took time to digest it. Some immediately started calling their academic expertise as Area Studies. As such Orietalism as a branch of learning should be very legitimate but in reality even that was not the case. It all happened to be motivated. So orientalism as an ideology to dominate the orient was problematic from day one but even as an academic study it was never free from the ulterior design.

Coming back to the use of the term. Sir Syed refuted one branch of it - casting aspersions on the personality of beloved prrophet (SAW).

Then Allama Shibli Nomani demolished some more of it when he explained the reality of Islam for all including the west.

Shibli's student Syed Sulaiman Nadvi (RA) took on from there.
Former had already established an institution for Islamic learning - Dar-ul-Musannifeen in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India. In 1982 onwards they issues eight volumes on the same topic.

That the western scholars do not talk about this today is due to the fact that orientalism sends out an extremely unflattering picture of the west at the intellectual level.
This bursting of the bubble is devastating.
Suppose a western scholar says that let us forget the past and carry on with the business of analysing and solving the world problems today even then one can ask the question: But why did you indulge in orientalism in the first place? West has so much to answer that it would rather not talk about it. hence silence, mum, is the word in this respect.
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#7 [Permalink] Posted on 7th September 2015 08:40
End Result of Orientalism

The end result of orientalism is the stereotyping of Islam, Muslims, Arabs.
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#8 [Permalink] Posted on 11th September 2015 08:15
What is Orientalism About?

The most difficult to navigate problems that Muslims face today have to do with their engagement with the west - Europe, America, Australia. It is true that all of the problems of Muslims are not due to west the ones that do have something to do with the west are back breaking. For example till west is on our back we are not likely to stand on our feet and have our own stable governing system. But I digress.

Do you want to understand the problem we have with the west in the historical context?
That is what the concept of Orientalism is about.
Edward Said has done the requisite academic work to understand that using philology - analysis of written language record.
His case is not merely convincing but conclusive - as a reviewr said.

His analysis is so profound that some critics simply accused him of being anti-west. This was a sort of surrender.
He has debunked the paradigm where the west used knowledge as power against Islam and west - successfully.
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#9 [Permalink] Posted on 12th September 2015 09:17
I do not miss USA

From an early time in my life I had decided, foolishly, to not get my education from west.
The nationalism silliness.

Lately I have been questioning that decision.
When you start with western education you have the head start - starting at equal level.
Starting at equal level in a world that ruthlessly compares you with the west.

And today I am listening Najla Said, daughter of Edward Said, giving a memorial lecture on her father.
She was 18 and her father took the family to Palestine - his homeland.
Edward Said was suffering from terminal disease.
Those are the moments that you remember the things that you love most.

And that is the sentiment in her lecture that decided for me my dilemma.
In his death Said taught me a lesson.
I consider myself fortunate that I am in my own country.
I do not have to look for the smell of the earth of homeland.

No I do not miss USA.
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#10 [Permalink] Posted on 12th September 2015 09:28
Personal Pain, Public Pain

I want such a man of heart that the tale of love
I tell him and cry, he tells me and cries

Koi aisa ahl-e-dil ho, ke fasana-e-muhabbat
Jise mein suna ke rowoon, mujhe woh suna ke roye

Edward said was that man of heart who told the story of Palestianian pain.
He was the man who told about the pain of the Arabs and Muslims.
To the west. In the west.

And see how he transferred it to his daughter Najla Said.
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#11 [Permalink] Posted on 3rd November 2015 07:15
Just finished this dissection on my blog An Alig's Armchair.

I shall do the formatting later on Inshaa Allah, please read the original at my blog for the time being.

Answering a Critique of Edward Said

Edward Said, it turned out, was a Palestinian Arab in the US.
It should not have mattered, given the lofty ideals of that country.
But it did.
This would invariably give a feeling of loneliness to any one.
Said too felt it.
And then he talked about it.
But he talked about it in a manner that was robust and hence unassailable.
Clearly the representatives of the cultural hegemony would not appreciate that.
They did not.
Unfortunately for them there was little they could do.

Then there are some who resorted to sheer lying, after a decade of Said's demise.

Here is one such attempt at lying.

My remarks, in the material below, are after the quotations from the original critique.

Enough Said: The False Scholarship of Edward Said

Columbia University’s English Department may seem a surprising place from which to move the world, but this is what Professor Edward Said accomplished. He not only transformed the West’s perception of the Israel-Arab conflict, he also led the way toward a new, post-socialist life for leftism in which the proletariat was replaced by “people of color” as the redeemers of humankind. During the ten years that have passed since his death there have been no signs that his extraordinary influence is diminishing.

Said might be accused of post-colonialism and post-leftism accusation is unfair. His focus was on Islamophobic, orientalist branch of racism and that is it. To introduce extra parameters into the discourse will betray various levels of academic failing on part of the critique.

To complain against undiminished influence of said is plain jealousy. The normal course for a healthy society is to make amends regarding the issues in which it was found to be failing.

To take up issues along the lines that this critique does amounts to lack of courage in regards to a monumental failing of western society, European to begin with and finally American.

According to a 2005 search on the utility “Syllabus finder,” Said’s books were assigned as reading in eight hundred and sixty-eight courses in American colleges and universities (counting only courses whose syllabi were available online). These ranged across literary criticism, politics, anthropology, Middle East studies, and other disciplines including postcolonial studies, a field widely credited with having grown out of Said’s work. More than forty books have been published about him, including even a few critical ones, but mostly adulatory, such as The Cambridge Introduction to Edward Said, published seven years after his death of leukemia in 2003. Georgetown University, UCLA, and other schools offer courses about him. A 2001 review for the Guardian called him “arguably the most influential intellectual of our time.”

One can only thank the critique for bringing this monumental adulation to the fore.

The book that made Edward Said famous was Orientalism, published in 1978 when he was forty-three. Said’s objective was to expose the worm at the core of Western civilization, namely, its inability to define itself except over and against an imagined “other.” That “other” was the Oriental, a figure “to be feared . . . or to be controlled.” Ergo, Said claimed that “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was . . . a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” Elsewhere in the text he made clear that what was true for Europeans held equally for Americans.

True again. And again a nice summary of the effects of Said's scholarship. The things he said will look sweeping in nature but he did assert the same. He was not apologetic about it. That his assertions look incredible and vertiginous is an indication of dual kind - Said's courage and the sheer amount of injustice in the western approach towards the orient.

This echoed a theme of 1960s radicalism that was forged in the movements against Jim Crow and against America’s war in Vietnam, namely that the Caucasian race was the scourge of humanity. Rather than shout this accusation from a soapbox, as others had done, Said delivered it in tones that awed readers with erudition. The names of abstruse contemporary theoreticians and obscure bygone academicians rolled off pages strewn with words that sent readers scurrying to their dictionaries. Never mind that some of these words could not be found in dictionaries (“paradeutic”) or that some were misused (“eschatological” where “scatological” was the intended meaning); never mind that some of the citations were pretentious (“the names of Levi-Strauss, Gramsci, and Michel Foucault drop with a dull thud,” commented historian J. H. Plumb, reviewing the book for the New York Times”)—never mind any of this, the important point that evoked frissons of pleasure and excitement was that here was a “person of color” delivering a withering condemnation of the white man and, so to speak, beating him at his own game of intellectual elegance.

Finally the critique commits to something and says something assertive.
Let us get a few things right. Americans did behave as scourge of Vietnam. There is no doubt about it. In the context of the so called orient said did not examine the scourge angle so there is no point in making that analogy. That orientalism is debilitating, overarching, dominating, intimidating, inimical and so on - that said did talk about and he did so with evidence. It was all academic and for all to see. He assiduously avoided the ground effects of orientalism - the west simply can not take that responsibility. Just for example who would be held responsible for Sikh-Muslim massacres at the time of partition of India?

And pray if Said awed his audience with his erudition and beat the western intelligentsia at their own game should that be held against him?

If references to "abstruse contemporary theoreticians and obscure bygone academicians" is so bothersome then what about leaving the discourse to competent people? Said's fault was that he scrambled the most potent concepts against a formidable discourse and succeeded at it. So far the criticism is the one of a loser.

Then if you do not find a word in one dictionary then you go for another one. Said was a man from philology and anyone approaching him must be prepared to the fact that his inventory of arms will be formidable.

Then only people of bad faith bicker about typos like “eschatological” in place of “scatological".

The complain about Levi-Strauss, Gramsci, and Michel Foucault too is silly. Old and contemporary sociological concepts help academicians to put the things in perspective and Said helped them. If someone can not fathom these concepts then he should engage himself in other pastimes while complaining about them after understanding betrays worse - lack of integrity. The so called orient has been mishandled for so long and when she confronted it was pooh-poohed and now when the confrontation is water tight then this complain about obscurity. One comes only to one unmistakable conclusion - orientalist game is up. Tough rather late but the writing is finally on the wall.

In truth, Said was an unlikely symbol of the wretched of the earth. His father, who called himself William, had emigrated from Jerusalem (a place he hated, according to Edward) to America in 1911, served in World War I, and become a US citizen. Reluctantly yielding to family pressures, he returned to the Middle East in the 1920s and settled in Cairo, where he made his fortune in business and married an Egyptian woman. Edward, their eldest after a first-born had perished in infancy, was told he was named after the Prince of Wales. He and his four sisters were reared in the Protestant church and in relative opulence, with a box at the opera, membership in country clubs, and piano lessons. They were educated at British and American primary and secondary schools in Cairo until Edward was sent to an elite New England prep school at fifteen, then to Princeton. After graduate studies at Harvard, he began to teach literary criticism, rising to the award of an endowed chair at Columbia by the time he was forty and later to the rank of university professor, Columbia’s highest faculty title.

In the 1995 printing of Orientalism Edward Said wrote an Afterword. There he looks irked at those people who thought of Oruientalism as some sort of the Wretched of the Earth analysis as was done by Franz Fanon.

A year after Orientalism sent his personal stock soaring, Said published The Question of Palestine. Fifteen years earlier, the Palestine Liberation Organization had been founded in the effort to consecrate a distinctive Palestinian identity, and the announcement of that identity to the world had mostly taken the form of spectacular acts of terror whose purpose was in large measure to draw attention to Palestinian grievances. Now, Columbia University’s Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature gave the Palestinian cause a dramatically different face.

Someone's freedom fighter is someone else's terrorist. Said argued from Palestinian point of view. Any objective reader can see for herself which view makes more sense. Unfortunately US view can not be taken as objective or unbiased for they in US have been so thoroughly brain washed that any criticism of Israel and its policies towards Palestinian people is either not heard and once you do manage to say your view then you will face the music for the US as well as the Zionist lobby is sure to fluffy teddy bear without eyes as anti-Semitic.

He brought authenticity to this task because of his origins and authority because of his membership in the Palestinian National Council, the nominal governing body of the PLO. Assuring his readers that the PLO had, since its bombings and hijackings in the early 1970s, “avoided and condemned terror,” presenting PLO leader Yasir Arafat as “a much misunderstood and maligned political personality,” and asserting his own belief in a Palestinian state alongside—rather than in place of—Israel, Said argued in behalf of “a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.” This was so compelling as to sweep up New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who wrote: “So logically and eloquently does Professor Said make [his] case, that one momentarily forgets the many countervailing arguments posed by the Israelis.”

This paragraph is both motivated as well as loaded. It would have looked like a summary of status of the issue under consideration but in view of the bias of the critique it serves only one duplicitous purpose - Said is not reliable because he is using his reliability in favour of the cause of Palastine.

These two books—Orientalism and The Question of Palestine—each of which was followed by various sequels and elaborations, established the twin pillars of Said’s career as the avenging voice of the Palestinians against Israel, and more broadly of the Arabs, Muslims, and other “Orientals” against the West as a whole.

An avenger is a negative avtar for Said. He simply argued the Palestinian cause. To satisfy the blood thirst of the enemies of Palestine he even admitted as being a partisan for Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians.

Palestine atrocity because of Zionists might be some 68 years old but orientalism is about two hundred and fifty years old. Mostly the intellectuals of the society that perpetrated above atrocities knew that their game was long up and hence the disappearance of orientalism at the literary level. But stray supporters, like the present critique, still remain there.

Said rolled American racism and European colonialism into one mélange of white oppression of darker-skinned peoples. He was not the only thinker to have forged this amalgam, but his unique further contribution was to represent “Orientals” as the epitome of the dark-skinned; Muslims as the modal Orientals; Arabs as the essential Muslims; and, finally, Palestinians as the ultimate Arabs. Abracadabra—Israel was transformed from a redemptive refuge from two thousand years of persecution to the very embodiment of white supremacy.

This is excessive perfidy, subterfuge and deception.

What Said did was to extract the pure academic content from the history of colonialism, that irrefutable core of the western attitudes towards the orientals. After that the west has no escape from their responsibilities in creation and maintenance of orientalism including its extension in the form of racism in US and their support for Israeli policies.

There was one final step in this progression: Edward Said as the emblematic Palestinian. From the time he came into the public eye, Said presented himself as an “exile” who had been born and raised in Jerusalem until forced from there at age twelve by the Jews. A sympathetic writer in the Guardian put it: “His evocation of his own experience of exile has led many of his readers in the west to see him as the embodiment of the Palestinian tragedy.” Indeed, he wrote and narrated a 1998 BBC documentary, In Search of Palestine, which presented his personal story as a microcosm of this ongoing Nakba (or catastrophe, as Palestinians call the birth of Israel).

This is ad hominem.

The exile said referred to is the feeling of loneliness in US for a coloured person, specifically an Arab, even if a Christian. It was very noble of him to take up the Palestinian cause and make unity with their cause. To accuse him of opportunism is at best a wrong representation of the reality.

But in September 1999, Commentary published an investigative article by Justus Reid Weiner presenting evidence that Said had largely falsified his background. A trove of documents showed that until he moved to the United States to attend prep school in 1951, Said had resided his entire life in Cairo, not Palestine. A few months later, Said published his autobiography, which confirmed this charge without acknowledging or making any attempt to explain the earlier contrary claims that he had made in discussing his background.

In reaction to the exposé, Said and several of his supporters unleashed a ferocious assault on Weiner. Said sneered that “because he is relatively unknown, Weiner tries to make a name for himself by attacking a better known person’s reputation.” And eleven ideological soul mates of Said’s, styling themselves “The Arab-Jewish Peace Group,” co-signed a letter to the editor that likened Weiner’s article to “deny[ing] the Holocaust.”

Much of the debate between Weiner and Said revolved around the house in which Said was born and that viewers of his BBC documentary were given to understand was the home where he had grown up. Weiner showed from tax and land registry documents that the house never belonged to Said’s father but rather to his aunt. In his rebuttal, Said had written somewhat implausibly: “The family house was indeed a family house in the Arab sense,” meaning that in the eyes of the extended family it belonged to them all even if the official records showed it to be the property only of Edward’s aunt and her offspring.

These are three paragraphs in an article that are ad hominem in character and discuss a single issue - Weiner's calumny against Said. It is sufficient to say that Christopher Hitchens, no Islamophile, called Weiner's article an act of extraordinary mendacity.

Said’s cynical modus operandi was to stop short, where possible, of telling an outright lie while deliberately leaving a false impression. Even so, he did not always avoid crossing the line or dancing so close to it that whether his words should be labeled a lie or merely a deception amounted to a difference without a distinction. “I have never claimed to have been made a refugee, but rather that my extended family . . . in fact was,” he wrote in response to Weiner. But what was a reader supposed to have inferred from his book, The Pen and the Sword, where he had spoken of his “recollections of . . . the first twelve or thirteen years of my life before I left Palestine?” Or from the article, in the London Review of Books, where he had written: “I was born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there and, after 1948, when my entire family became refugees, in Egypt?”

This is the paragraph that makes the article worthy of refutation and that too not because of its veracity but the nature of sabotage involved in it. To represent reality in a deliberately insinuating manner so as to create a false impression without resorting to outright lies is the forte of orientalist writing. In above paragraph the present critique has tried to slap the same charges on Said that latter tried to establish against the orientalists. What said wrote is there in open and what orientalits wrote is there in public view. The instances present author mentions simply do not prove the case he is trying to make.

It may be that Said, as he claimed, “scrupulously” recounted his life in his autobiography where at last the true facts of his education and residence emerge. But, as his critics continued to ask, does finally telling his story truthfully wipe away twenty years of lying about it? In the end, Said downplayed the matter. In a late interview with the New York Times he said: “I don’t think it’s that important, in any case. . . . I never have represented my case as the issue to be treated. I’ve represented the case of my people.”

At this juncture two issues need attention. The sheer tenacity to continue along the ad hominem lines. Joshua Muravchik who? Either he is terribly disconnected from reality or the current US reality has become so devoid of integrity that their academic reputation has been completely run down. We hope that it is he who is not aware of the fact that he is dragging his own reputation into mud.

Second issue concerns the same issue but at a moral level. To call someone a liar at point blank level is bad manners. Yet lies of the the present critic as well as those of Weiner have to be pointed out point blank for they both have used that as a weapon. Clearly this process can not be elongated ad infinitum. Academic value of both Muravchik and Weiner are nil.

What was important, however, was the light shed on Said’s disingenuous and misleading methods, becasue they also turn out to be the foundation of his scholarly work. The intellectual deceit was especially obvious in his most important book, Orientalism. Its central idea is that Western imperial conquest of Asia and North Africa was entwined with the study and depiction of the native societies, which inevitably entailed misrepresenting and denigrating them.

The critic makes a vitriolic accusation but fails to provide the evidence. The attempt is Goebbelsian.

Said explained: “Knowledge of subject races or Orientals is what makes their management easy and profitable; knowledge gives power, more power requires more knowledge, and so on in an increasingly profitable dialectic of information and control.”

The archetype of those who provided this knowledge was the “Orientalist,” a formal designation for those scholars, most of them Europeans, whose specialties were the languages, culture, history, and sociology of societies of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. However, Said explained that he used the term even more broadly to indicate a “Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

This is true. Said said this. This is also an accurate diagnosis. Knowledge not as a source of freedom but as a source of control over the orient. Readers please beware of a quote within a quote in the next paragraph.

Orientalism, he said, embodied “dogmas” that “exist . . . in their purest form today in studies of the Arabs and Islam.” He identified the four “principal” ones as these:

one is the absolute and systematic difference between the West, which is rational, developed, humane, superior, and the Orient, which is aberrant, undeveloped, inferior. Another dogma is that abstractions about the Orient . . . are always preferable to direct evidence drawn from modern Oriental realities. A third dogma is that the Orient is eternal, uniform, and incapable of defining itself . . . A fourth dogma is that the Orient is at bottom something either to be feared . . . or to be controlled.

This all is there in Said's original book.

Initial reviews of the book, often by specialists, were mixed, but it appeared at a time when “multiculturalism” was becoming the new dogma of the intellectual elites and took on a life of its own, eventually being translated into more than three dozen languages and becoming one of the most influential and widely assigned texts of the latter part of the twentieth century.

The critic leaves out a few points. He has already mentioned the wide spread acceptance of the book as a reading material. This is a tribute to the accuracy of the analysis by said. But the critic doesn't forget to mention mixed nature of reviews. This overplays the mixed part. It really does. The response to the book was of critical acclaim, of silence as well as stupefaction. Critical acclaim because his case was not only compelling but decisive, as one reviewer put it. Silence was because of the stark nature of the conclusion. This was the proverbial bump in the carpet when you keep sweeping the dirt under it, the elephant in the drawing room that Said had put the under spot light. No wonder from silence the book went straight to university syllabus. Finally stupefaction too was a reaction for some of the people who simply could not fathom the import of the book called it anti-west thereby exposing their pathetic limitations in assimilating the Saidian narrative.

Critics pointed out a variety of errors in Orientalism, starting with bloopers that suggested Said’s grasp of Middle Eastern history was shaky. Said claimed that “Britain and France dominated the Eastern Mediterranean from about the end of the seventeenth century on,” whereas for another hundred years it was the Ottomans who ruled that area. He had written that the Muslim conquest of Turkey preceded that of North Africa, but in reality it followed by about four hundred years. And he had referred to British “colonial administrators” of Pakistan whereas Pakistan was formed in the wake of decolonization.

The European colonial push was not a single day affair. The critic himself got to revise the Gulf history. And what is that silly bickering about Pakistan?

More serious still was his lack of scruple in the use of sources.

He admits that he has been toying with trifles.

Anthropologist Daniel Martin Varisco, who actually agreed with Said on many ideological issues, observed in his book Reading Orientalism that “one of Said’s rhetorical means for a polemical end is to partially . . . quote a phrase while judiciously neglecting words that would qualify and at times refute what the phrase alone might imply.”

Said was just accused of falsification by misrepresentation. Let us see whether this one holds water.

He offered as an example of this duplicitous method Said’s use of two quotes from the writings of Sania Hamady, an Arab-American who wrote critically of Arabs. The quotes put her in a bad light, but both times, says Varisco, they were taken from passages where Hamady is merely summarizing someone else’s view, not giving her own. In the same vein, John Rodenbeck, a professor of comparative literature at the American University of Cairo, found that Said’s “persistent misconstruction and misquotation of [the nineteenth century Orientalist Edward] Lane’s words are so clearly willful that they suggest . . . bad faith.”

Did Hamady overcome colonial bias? Apparently someone called Rodenbeck proved that lane, a prototypical orientalist, was not an orientalist! Orientalism consists of layers upon layers of inaccurate representation and biased views. Said opened all these layers. The poor guinea pigs simply got caught in the whirlwind of that deconstruction. Basically when a western is praising the orient people like present critic as well as the people he quotes in above paragraph would like us to believe that at face value. The reality, most of the time, is that the western is simply posing a facade of fairness and his real agenda is to peddle his own magnanimity. Said ruthlessly exposed this duplicity. That Varisco, Rodenbeck present critic should be calling said duplicitous is pathetic at best. Their slip is showing.

Said’s misleading use of quotes shows the problem with his work in microcosm. On a broad view, Said fundamentally misrepresented his subject.

Said took care of micro details and he presented the broadband conclusions too.
To label former misleading and latter a misrepresentation is monumental claim. Can he back it with evidence?

In challenging Said’s first alleged “dogma” of Orientalism, which ascribes all virtue to the West and its opposite to the Orient, Varisco says that Said is describing “a stereotype that at the time of his writing would have been similarly rejected by the vast majority of those [Said] lumps together as Orientalists.” And the British writer Robert Irwin, whose book Dangerous Knowledge offers a thorough history of Orientalism and also a rebuttal of Said, notes that, historically, “there has been a marked tendency for Orientalists to be anti-imperialists, as their enthusiasm for Arab or Persian or Turkish culture often went hand in hand with a dislike of seeing those people defeated and dominated by the Italians, Russians, British, or French.” (Like Varisco, Irwin makes clear that he is no opponent of Said’s political position, but is offended by his travesty of scholarship.)
This is but a small instance of a large methodological problem that invalidates Said’s work entirely, namely, his selectivity with evidence. Said made clear that his indictment was aimed not at this or that individual but at “Orientalists” per se, which, as we have seen, was a category in which he included all Westerners who said anything about the Orient. Thus, he wrote, “all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact of empire.” And: “No one writing, thinking, or acting on the Orient could do so without taking account of the limitations on thought and action imposed by Orientalism.”
Why did Said choose to paint with such a broad brush? Because he knew that if he had asserted merely that some Westerners wrote pejoratively or condescendingly or misleadingly about the East while others did not, his argument would have lost much of its provocation. It would have demanded clarification about the relative numbers or influence of the two groups, about variations within the groups, about reciprocal attitudes among Easterners toward the West. Above all, it would have drawn the inevitable retort: so what? Was it news that some individuals favored their own societies over others?
The only way Said could make his generalized indictment seem plausible was to select whatever examples fit it and leave out the rest. When challenged on his omissions, Said replied with hauteur that he was under no obligation to include “every Orientalist who ever lived.” But of course the real issue was whether the ones he included made a representative sample (and whether he presented them faithfully).

The most logical thing to do in this case would be to do a better sampling than said and draw counter conclusion. This is a game that has been already won by Said. How many scholars or worth, might and mettle can take us a task of such gigantic proportions? None. Said might not have been the best academician of his generation but he certainly was one of the best. Any any good academician will weigh his options - is the effort worth it? A bad academician, like the present critic, would not be up to the task while a good one will not have it on his mind - the game was up in 1978. The best conclusion an academician can hope for is that some orientalists were good enough to be not patronizing. This is is not a very attractive proposition as a reward. This is an insignificant footnote. What is worse that one is not likely to come across such a species for orientalism belongs to those times when the west was having a ball at the expense of the orient and people thinking impartially about the orient is possible only in most wild imagination. Yet let the present critic take up this unpromising task.

These methodological failings were mostly lost in the dazzle. What made the book electrifying was that Said had found a new way to condemn the West for its most grievous sins: racism and the subjugation of others.

What methodological problems? Well said himself mentioned the methodological problems. Should one use micro-analysis and lose track of overall contours informing the field? Or use the overall conclusions and a polemic devoid of supporting microscopic evidence? He hit upon the brilliant solution - use personal circumstances to navigate through a few centuries and do a sampling of both. Thus he uses geography and he uses history and he uses culture and he uses particular orientalists and extracts a discourse that, though ugly, is intricately woven and self-supporting and detrimental to the subject - the orient. people finding methodological problems perhaps are hoping that readers will accept their thesis without reading the original book.

This danger can not be overlooked. The book Orientalism is a painful reading because of the sheer pugnacity of the construct, excruciating tenacity, diabolical perseverance and obnoxious gay abandon of the discourse.

With great originality, Said even extended the indictment through the millennia, a depiction that drew a protest from Sadiq al-Azm, a Syrian philosopher of Marxist bent (and one of that country’s most admired dissidents). Wrote Azm:

Said . . . trac[es] the origins of Orientalism all the way back to Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, and Dante. In other words, Orientalism is not really a thoroughly modern phenomenon, but is the natural product of an ancient and almost irresistible European bent of mind to misrepresent other . . . cultures . . . in favor of Occidental self-affirmation, domination, and ascendency.

We can again summarize the accusation : Said did not leave any scope even in the past to hide face and absolve the west of responsibility for what they did to the orient. That the west has a long standing fear and hence antagonism should be taken an argument against the orientalist attitude and not against the postman - in this case Said.

Azm may have thought this wrong, but it was heady stuff. If we are talking about a mentality that is continuous before and after Christ then we are talking less about European culture, which is in large measure defined by Christianity, than about the European race. Thus did Orientalism fit the temper of a time when it was widely asserted that all white people were inherently bigoted, and “encounter groups” met at campuses and workplaces so that whites could discover and confront their inner racist. And nowhere was the evidence of this white evil laid out in greater depth and seeming sophistication than in Said’s pages.

The problem with any narrative that begins at pathetic foundations, as this critique does, is that it can only get worse. Above paragraph is a nonconsequential insertion of text hoping that may be some reader will find some point in this that can be used against Said. To begin with this is pathetic. At the end it is dishonest. A dubious improvement if it was one.

In this atmosphere, wrote the New York Times in its obituary for Said, “Orientalism established Dr. Said as a figure of enormous influence in American and European universities, a hero to many, especially younger faculty and graduate students on the left for whom that book became an intellectual credo and the founding document of what came to be called postcolonial studies.”

Yet another cribbing. No one accused Said for being a leftist. Indeed he made a very non-leftist claim by identifying a very serious lapse on part of Karl Marx. If the left still took to it as a credo then it a tribute to Said's erudition and courage and honesty of the leftists. That someone should be holding it against said or his thesis is at best a betrayal of integrity.

It was not only American leftists who seized on the book. The Guardian, in its own obituary, observed that:

Orientalism appeared at an opportune time, enabling upwardly mobile academics from non-western countries (many of whom came from families who had benefited from colonialism) to take advantage of the mood of political correctness it helped to engender by associating themselves with “narratives of oppression,” creating successful careers out of transmitting, interpreting and debating representations of the non-western “other.”

This is yet another disingenuous complain. Upwardly mobile non-western academics had already made their mark, in spite of colonialism. A residual orientalist taint is a blot on this article.

Orientalism, added the Guardian, “is credited with helping to change the direction of several disciplines,” a thought echoed by supporters and detractors alike. Admiringly, Stuart Schaar, a professor emeritus of Middle East history at Brooklyn College, wrote that “the academic community has been transformed and the field of literary criticism has been revolutionized as a result of his legacy.”

Clearly this is pure praise for Said's work. Somehow we are supposed to conclude something negative about him from these type of quotations. everytime he goes it becomes worse.

Without ever relinquishing his claim to personify a “glamour-garlanded ideal of ‘outsiderdom,’” as one disillusioned reviewer of a series of lectures Said delivered in London put it, Said and his disciples took power in academia, as reflected in the astonishing number of courses that assigned his books and the frequency with which they were cited. Varisco observed that “a generation of students across disciplines has grown up with limited challenges to the polemical charge by Said that scholars who study the Middle East and Islam still do so institutionally through an interpretive sieve that divides a superior West from an inferior East.” The new Saidian orthodoxy became so utterly dominant in the Middle East Studies Association, and so unfriendly to dissenting voices, that in 2007 Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami took the lead in forming an alternative professional organization, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa.

A 1978 book is being termed as Saidian orthodoxy. The American phase of orientalism, the neo-colonial era, is just coming to its end . This can not be the era of Saidian orthodoxy. That American academia accepted Said's proposition leads to only two conclusions - the decisiveness and conclusive nature of his thesis. The rest is bickering and crying over spilled milk.

Bernard Lewis is still with us. He was engaged by Said personally and everybody can read those exchanges. It left Lewis badly exposed. He is the person infamous for coining the phrase clash of civilizations made more infamous by late Samuel P. Huntington. Late Fouad Ajami though valiantly took on Huntington but his overall disposition was of a self-hating oriental. less said about such people better it is.

Said was fond of invoking the mantra of “speaking truth to power.” This was an easy boast for someone who opted to live in America, or for that matter to live anywhere, and make a career of denouncing the West and Israel. But while a daring Promethean in the West, Said was more careful closer to native ground. Habib Malik, a historian at the Lebanese American University and a cousin of Said’s, recalls hearing him deliver a talk at the American University of Beirut: “On one occasion he blasted Saddam Hussein and a number of other Arab dictators but stopped short of mentioning [then Syrian dictator] Hafez Assad for obvious reasons: the Syrian mukhabarat [secret police] in Beirut would have picked him up right after the lecture!”

The reviewer has injected Israel for the first time in the narrative. Said was a master craftsman. His analysis of the issue was so dispassionate that this introduction of Israel merely bolsters the pathetic nature of this article. (Yet he goes on and on.) If US boasts of freedom of speech then how does it become a vice to use it, especially if the user, like said, is an Arab? Then should said have spoken against Asad and got arrested? That is a diabolical device to get rid of a person who had shown mirror to the west.

Said’s career, the deviousness and posturing and ineffable vanity of it, would have been mostly an academic matter if he had not been so successful in redefining Arabs and Muslims as the moral equivalent of blacks and in casting Israel as the racist white oppressor.

There is racism and there is colonialism, yes both exist as of now. No two ways about any of them.

Four years after the UN General Assembly had declared Zionism to be a form of racism, Said gave this same idea a highbrow reiteration. Israel did not give Arabs the same right of immigration as Jews, he said mockingly, because they are “‘less developed.’”

Yes Israel is an oppressor. Was all this an attempt to absolve Israel of her crimes?

By this time following has become clear, if it it was still not so for some people. The west had an unfair control of the orient and moreover it did not admit it. Every assertion to that effect could be refuted by the entrenched western academia. Said's Orientalism changed all that. yet there are people like the present critic who would not give up on old ways - most due to lack of understanding.

Decades after Orientalism was published, Said explained that Israel had been its covert target all along:

I don’t think I would have written that book had I not been politically associated with a struggle. The struggle of Arab and Palestinian nationalism is very important to that book. Orientalism is not meant to be an abstract account of some historical formation but rather a part of the liberation from such stereotypes and such domination of my own people, whether they are Arabs, Muslims, or Palestinians.

Again a remark in bad faith. Said's only crime is that he successfully intellectually defended his people. That every single of those people are still physically still abused should be taken as an argument against the case that present critic is trying to make with no success whatsoever.

Said had not acknowledged such an agenda in the pages of Orientalism or at the time of its publication, although this ideological subtext could be discerned in his ferocity toward Bernard Lewis, who, observed Irwin, “was not really attacked by Said for being a bad scholar (which he is not), but for being a supporter of Zionism (which he is).”

This reviewer does not understand the book Orientalism. My apologies for the repetition. In that book said very explicitly mentions personal circumstances being behind the writing of as well as formation of the thesis.

It was also implicit in the identity of those Said exempted from his generalization about Westerners.

If he is exempting some people then he must not be accused of stereotyping.

In the concluding pages of Orientalism, he allowed that a very few “decolonializing” voices could be heard in the West, and in a footnote he offered just two American examples, Noam Chomsky and MERIP, the Middle East Research and Information Project. Chomsky of course is not a Middle East expert or someone who writes often on the Middle East, but he had already carved out a place for himself as the leading Jewish voice of vituperation against Israel.

Noam Chomsky does speak about these issues.

MERIP, a New Left group formed to cheer Palestinian guerrillas and other Arab revolutionaries, was so single-minded in its devotion to this cause that it praised the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics for causing “a boost in morale among Palestinians” and “halt[ing]” moves “for a ‘settlement’ between Israel and the Arab regimes.”

Criticizing Israel is a taboo in US and hence the world intelligentsia. What said did is no disentangle the subject matter from this construct. the western perfidy, among other things, consists in asserting that so what even if you are talking sense you after all is anti-Zionist. Hence discredited. Unfortunately for them the nuanced analysis in the Orientalism took away that pleasure by sheer dispassionate separation of orientalist paradigm from the, today, 68 years old problem of a homeland for Palestine people.

Although Said’s assault on the Jewish state was thus initially camouflaged, it was devastatingly effective, as his stance on Arab/Israel questions came to dominate Middle East studies. The UCLA historian of the Middle East Nikki Keddie, whose sympathetic work on revolutionary Iran had won Said’s praise in his book Covering Islam, commented:

There has been a tendency in the Middle East field to adopt the word “Orientalism” as a generalized swear-word essentially referring to people who take the “wrong” position on the Arab-Israeli dispute or to people who are judged too “conservative.” It has nothing to do with whether they are good or not good in their disciplines.

This is certainly a surprising assertion by Nikki Keddie. But was said himself guilty of that? An academician of that stature will not assert such an absurd claim.

His reputation made by the success of Orientalism, Said devoted much of the rest of his career to more direct advocacy of the Arab/Muslim/Palestinian cause, starting with the publication of The Question of Palestine in 1979, by which time he was already a member of the PLO’s top official body, the Palestinian National Council.

What said accomplished in the Orientalism is a life time achievement. That he went on about doing something more than writing a mighty book is tribute to his energies as well as commitment. That Said used his reputation in favour of his people is again a complain lacking in integrity. Why should a person not use his abilities for a just cause?

The book was a full-throated polemic. The Jews were the aggressors; and the Palestinians their victims—on all counts and with little nuance.

This is plain silly argument. Israeli persecution of Palestinian people is stark reality and gross injustice. Polemics is not only the first possible reaction but the only rhetoric option in such a case.

Even on the matter of terrorism, Said asserted, “There is nothing in Palestinian history, absolutely nothing at all to rival the record of Zionist terror.”

Another truism from a person who not only knows his issue but happens to be a man who is intimately connected with it. his involvement is personal.

Said proclaimed himself “horrified” by the terrorist acts that “Palestinian men and women . . . were driven to do.” But all blame ultimately rested with Israel, which had “literally produced, manufactured . . . the ‘terrorist.’”

If the truth be told the terrorist label does not look so easy to slap on Palestinian people any more. They are fighting for their very legitimate rights.

The reviewer by now has jumped from Orientalism to the so called terrorism. Anyone who is concerned with Said's work on former might feel like disconnecting now. i shall continue along with the reviewer hoping that at the end of this laboured review I shall be done with him once and for all.

He wrote, with what even a New York Times reviewer called “stunning disingenuousness,” that “at least since the early seventies, the PLO had avoided and condemned terror.” These words appeared just one year after the organization’s bloodiest attack on Israeli civilians, the March 1978 “coastal road massacre,” in which thirty-eight civilians, thirteen of them children, were randomly gunned down, with scores of others injured—and not by any “renegade” faction but by the PLO’s mainstream group, Fatah. (Said himself was already a member of the PLO’s governing body when this “action” was carried out.)

The insinuation is that said himself was responsible for some terrorist acts. If there was even a remote iota of truth in that Said would have been terminated by the Mossad in the US itself - so near complete is the Zionist control on that society. In the beginning the reviewer was miserable and now he has become vicious. Strange level of current US academics.

Said worked hard to solidify the myth that for years Arafat had tried to make peace and been rebuffed: “On occasion after occasion the PLO stated its willingness to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza,” citing resolutions of the Palestinian National Council in 1974 and 1977. This was true, but these resolutions did not convey, as Said went on disingenuously to claim, “an implicit recognition of Israel.” Rather, they envisioned a strategy in which Palestinians would form a government in the West Bank and Gaza, in the event that international diplomacy afforded them this opportunity, not as a step toward peace but with the declared intent of using this territory as a base to fight on to “liberate” the rest of Palestine, i.e., Israel proper. As the PNC’s 1974 resolution stated: “The PLO will struggle against any plan for the establishment of a Palestinian entity the price of which is recognition [of Israel], conciliation, secure borders, and renunciation of the national rights of our people, its right to return, and self-determination on its national soil.”

The reviewer is disingenuous. What Palestian people were opposing was a Palestine with Zionist occupation. In what way is that different from status quo?

In 1988, a decade after Said’s book appeared, the PLO did renounce terror and imply its willingness to acquiesce in Israel’s existence, albeit equivocally. These two pivotal concessions were clearly avowed only in the 1993 Oslo Accords. When Arafat finally took this indispensable step toward peace, one might have expected Said, who had been claiming that this had happened avant la lettre, to praise him. Instead, Said denounced his hero. Arafat, he complained, had “sold his people into enslavement,” and he called Oslo—in which Israel and the PLO recognized each other and pledged to hammer out a two-state settlement—an “instrument of Palestinian surrender.” Back in Arafat’s terrorist days, Said had seen him as “a man of genius” and said that “his people . . . loved him.” (Indeed, “Arafat and the Palestinian will . . . were in a sense interchangeable,” he once gushed.) But signing this agreement with Israel had, at a stroke, transformed Arafat, in Said’s eyes, into “a strutting dictator.” Arafat and his circle had become a bunch of “losers and has-beens” who “should step aside.”
Said himself adopted a new position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Arafat did not live to see the final solution therefore it is meaningless to go over these details.

No longer did he envision a two-state solution, as he had professed to do back when the idea was theoretical, since the main Palestinian organization (on whose board he sat) was not prepared to suffer the existence of Israel in any shape or form. Now, however, he sought instead “to devise a means where the two peoples can live together in one nation as equals.”
This was not a proposal to be taken seriously. In Israel, large numbers of Arabs did live freely but not in complete equality, a fact over which Said often protested. In the Arab states, many Jews had once lived but nearly all had been expelled. In other words, Said’s new formula was nothing more than a fancy way of opposing the only genuine possibility of peace.
This bitter ender’s position was, of course, phrased in terms chosen to sound idealistic. In that sense it was characteristic of Said’s oeuvre and of the movement of which he was such a critical part.

It is clear that the Zionist paradigm has not fooled the Palestianian people. What is worse that the world is waking upto the unjust reality - the miserable condition to which the Palestinians have been reduced under Zionist occupation. Zionism was not a viable idea from day one and now its dangers in reality have become clear to the whole world. If Palestinians have not yet got their homeland then it is a clear indication that the colonial creators of Israel remain successful in their design till today.

Leftism is the stance of those who aspire to make the world a better place, according to their own view, through political action. For roughly a century its modal idea was Marxism, which identified the proletariat as the engine of redemption, a choice that resonated with the age-old Christian belief that the meek shall inherit the earth. As the twentieth century wore on, however, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela displaced Joe Hill, Mother Bloor, and Henry Wallace as objects of veneration. People of color and strugglers against colonial oppression stirred the hearts of idealists more than leaders of strikes and fighters for a fair day’s pay. Once, Zionism had tapped into that older leftism, seeing itself as a workers’ movement. But instead in the latter twentieth century—and in considerable part thanks to the impact of Edward Said—it became redefined as a movement of white people competing for land with people of color. This transformation meant that from then on the left would be aligned overwhelmingly and ardently against Israel.

Blah, blah, blah.

Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and a frequent contributor to World Affairs, is completing a book on the anti-Israel lobby, from which this article is adapted.

Unfortunately Zionism still lives on.
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#12 [Permalink] Posted on 6th April 2016 04:48
I have seriously started thinking of putting my idea on this issue in book form. Brothers and sisters are requested to render all help that they can manage to muster in this task.
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#13 [Permalink] Posted on 28th March 2017 08:49

The 100 best nonfiction books

No 8 – Orientalism by Edward Said (1978)

Robert McCrum

Monday 21 March 2016 05.44 GMT Last modified on Monday 6 February 2017 14.28 GMT

Next to the suicide bombings, the air strikes, and the beheadings, a closely argued 300-page monograph devoted to a radical post-colonial thesis might seem to suggest a modest literary intervention. Yet in the ongoing, brutal clash of Islam and the west, Edward Said’s analysis remains the book to which no combatant can be indifferent.

Orientalism is a profoundly influential and controversial study of the way in which, for at least 2,000 years, ever since the wars between the ancient Greeks and the Persians, the west has fought with, and largely dominated, the east through a persuasive colonial version of its culture and politics. Said’s masterpiece has been topical ever since its publication shortly before the 1979 Iranian revolution. Today, in an even more unstable world, it must be ranked high on any list of key texts related to the contemporary sociopolitical crises of the 21st century.

Said, a highly sophisticated and brilliant public intellectual, drew on his experience as an Arab-Palestinian living in the west to examine the way in which, from cu lture to religion, the west imperialised the ancient and complex societies of north Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He would argue that the Gulf wars, and the catastrophe of Iraq, are a direct consequence of a fateful and crude ideology rooted deeply in the western mind.

He would argue that the Gulf wars, and Iraq, are a direct consequence of a crude ideology rooted deeply in the west

Any summary of Said’s immensely subtle analysis of western attitudes and conduct towards the east risks becoming a travesty. However, in simplified terms, Orientalism examines the history of how the west, especially the empires of Britain and France, created a thought process to deal with the “otherness” of eastern society, customs and beliefs. As Said himself puts it, “I study orientalism as a dynamic exchange between individual authors and the large political concerns shaped by the three great empires (British, French, American), in whose intellectual and imaginative territory the writing was produced.”

The authors in question include Homer and the Greek playwrights such as Aeschylus who first characterised the Persians of “the east” in their dramas as exotic and inscrutable, stereotypes that Said shows subsequently to permeate the works of writers such as Flaubert, the young Disraeli, and Kipling, whose accounts of “the east” fed the west’s fascination with the orient. Said further sharpened the political edge of this narrative by showing how such ideas could be seen as a direct reflection of European racism and imperialism.

After the publication of Orientalism set off a firestorm of criticism from every angle of the east-west divide, Said declared, in a retrospective essay, that “the orient-versus-occident opposition was both misleading and highly undesirable; the less it was given credit for actually describing anything more than a fascinating history of interpretations and contesting interests, the better”.

These were vain hopes. In the nearly 40 years since Orientalism first appeared, the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam have continued to fuel enormous change, struggle, controversy and, most recently, warfare. Said, a pugnacious advocate for an independent state of Palestine became drawn into some visceral arguments in a way that helped politicise a book whose scholarly first intent had been to use, in Said’s words, a “humanistic critique to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of thought-stopping fury that so imprison us”.

Said always longed for elegance and sophistication in argument. “I have called what I try to do ‘humanism’,” he wrote, a word that might surprise those who found him consistently combative and unforgiving in argument. But he was unrepentant. “By humanism I mean first of all attempting to dissolve Blake’s mind-forged manacles so as to be able to use one’s mind historically and rationally for the purposes of reflective understanding and genuine disclosure. Moreover, humanism is sustained by a sense of community with other interpreters and other societies and periods: strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an isolated humanist.” Perhaps it was Said’s tragedy that he should practise his craft as a great literary critic in an age which has had no patience with the subtleties of language, and no serious appetite for the nuances of a complicated idea. During Said’s professional life, almost every aspect of his study became reduced to slogans and violent posturing.
My friend Edward
Christopher Hitchens
Read more

Indeed, just before Said died in 2003, he noted with dismay the continuing impact of “orientalist” ideology on the west: “Bookstores in the US,” he wrote, “are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, Islam exposed, the Arab threat and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange oriental people...”

As the US and the western powers continue to grapple with the crisis of Islam in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Libya, while desperately appeasing the oil-rich princes of Arabia, Orientalism will remain the text to which the Foreign Office and the State Department will have to return to replenish their search for mutual understanding in the conflict between east and west.

Said was a vociferous enemy of theories about the “clash of civilisations”... he argued for intellectual progress

Said was always a vociferous enemy of theories about the “clash of civilisations”. With great elegance and clarity, he argued for intellectual progress. “One of the great advances,” he wrote as the Orientalism controversy raged around him, “is the realisation that cultures are hybrid and heterogeneous, and that cultures and civilisations are so interrelated and interdependent as to beggar any simply delineated description of their individuality.” How, he went on, “can one speak of ‘western civilisation’ except as an ideological fiction that gave the western nations their present mixed identities? This is especially true of the United States, which today can only be described as an enormous palimpsest of different races and cultures sharing a problematic history of conquests, exterminations, and of course major cultural and political achievements.”

In words that might provide an epigraph to this series, Italo Calvino once said that a classic is a book that has “never finished what it wants to say”. Orientalism is such a book.
A Signature Sentence

“No former ‘oriental’ will be comforted by the thought that having been an oriental himself he is likely – too likely – to study new ‘orientals’ – or ‘occidentals’ of his own making. If the knowledge of orientalism has any meaning, it is in being a reminder of the seductive degradation of knowledge, of any knowledge, anywhere, at anytime.”

Source : The Guardian
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#14 [Permalink] Posted on 17th November 2017 14:41
Pankaj Mishra's book : From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia

My Facebook Post

"From the Ruins of Empire" is the history of Asiatic intellectuals or rather history of intellectual's reaction to western imperialism. Mishra deliberately chose three lesser known intellects(Al afghani, Qichao, Tagore) from history(Although they are popular in their country of origin, not equal popular in the wider world like Gandhi)and narrate the history of their region through their biography".

Above is the beginning comment by Nathik on Amazon about Pankaj Mishra's book : From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia

The reviewer is amongst Top 500 Reviewers of Amazon and the book has verified purchase.

And then I have to believe that Afghani and Tagore are lesser known intellectuals.


Publishers Collection of Reviewers Comments ( From Amazon)

Meticulous scholarship ... History, as Mishra insists, has been glossed and distorted by the conqueror ... [This] passionate account of the relentless subjugation of Asian empires by European, especially British, imperialism, is provocative, shaming and convincing (Michael Binyon The Times)

One can only be thankful for writers like Mishra. From The Ruins Of Empire is erudite, provocative, inspiring and unremittingly complex; a model kind of non-fiction for our disordered days ... May well be seen in years to come as a defining volume of its kind (Stuart Kelly Scotsman)

Deeply researched and arrestingly original ... this penetrating and disquieting book should be on the reading list of anybody who wants to understand where we are today (John Gray Independent)

From the Ruins of Empire gives eloquent voice to [the] curious, complex intellectual odysseys ... of some of Asia's most educated, thoughtful men (Julia Lovell Guardian)

Fascinating ... a rich and genuinely thought-provoking book (Noel Malcolm Telegraph)

Superb and ground-breaking. Not just a brilliant history of Asia, but a vital history for Asians (Mohsin Hamid)

Lively ... engaging ... From the Ruins of Empire retains the power to instruct and even to shock. It provides us with an exciting glimpse of the vast and still largely unexplored terrain of anti-colonial thought that shaped so much of the post-western world in which we now live (Mark Mazower Financial Times)

Brilliant ... Mishra reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world's population - from Turkey to China. These are the amazing stories of the grandfathers of today's angry Asians. Excellent (Orhan Pamuk)

Jolts our historical imagination ... a book of vast and wondrous learning and delightful and surprising associations that will give a new meaning to liberation geography (Hamid Dabashi (Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, New York))

After Edward Said's masterpiece Orientalism, From the Ruins of Empire offers another bracing view of the history of the modern world. Pankaj Mishra [is] a brilliant author of wide learning ... skillful and captivating narration (Wang Hui (Professor of Chinese Intellectual History, Tsinghua University, Beijing))

Pankaj Mishra has produced a riveting account that makes new and illuminating connections. He follows the intellectual trail of this contested history with both intelligence and moral clarity. In the end we realise that what we are holding in our hands is not only a deeply entertaining and deeply humane book, but a balance sheet of the nature and mentality of colonisation (Hisham Matar)

Highly readable and illuminating ... Mishra's analysis of Muslim reactions is particularly topical (David Goodall Tablet)

Enormously ambitious but thoroughly readable, this book is essential reading for everyone who is interested in the processes of change that have led to the emergence of today's Asia (Amitav Ghosh Wall Street Journal)

Sophisticated ... not so much polemic as cri de coeur, motivated by Mishra's keen sense of the world, East and West, hurtling towards its own destruction (Tehelka, New Delhi)

Outstanding ... Mishra wears his scholarship lightly and weaves together the many strands of history into a gripping narrative ... The insights afforded by this book are too many to be enumerated ... Mishra performs a signal service to the future - by making us read the past in a fresh light (The Hindu, New Delhi)

[Full of] complexity and nuance (Mail Today)

Subtle, erudite and entertaining (Financial Express)

Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who criss-crossed Europe and Asia (Free Press Journal)

A vital, nuanced argument ... prodigious (Mint)
About the Author

Pankaj Mishra is the author of Butter Chicken in Ludiana, The Romantics, An End to Suffering and Temptations of the West. He writes principally for the Guardian, The New York Times, London Review of Books and New York Review of Books. He lives in London, Shimla and New York.


The Complete Nathik Review

"From the Ruins of Empire" is the history of Asiatic intellectuals or rather history of intellectual's reaction to western imperialism. Mishra deliberately chose three lesser known intellects(Al afghani, Qichao, Tagore) from history(Although they are popular in their country of origin, not equal popular in the wider world like Gandhi)and narrate the history of their region through their biography.

It appears the target audience are people who have eurocentric approach to history or people who share Niall Feguson's point of view on impact of imperialism. So people with non-eurocentric view might find it soporific and dull at places(Probably because asiatic people are well imbued with the horrific nature of imperialism). Pankaj Mishra usually writes insightful essay and presents good argument. However, I found this particular book rather semi-dull.

In Orhan Pamuk's word, this book is how 80% of the world population remember history. That is the best way to describe this book.


Other Reviews

A legible book of political history

By Naveed Qazion

The book intrigues due to its non conformism which the author conveys honestly in his analysis of contemporary Asian political history. "Brilliant..shows modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world's population," Orhan Pamuk said about the book.

Pankaj Mishra has mentioned numerous names of intellectuals and places in the book. But the book explicitly mentions the contributions of Persian born Jamal ud Din Afghani, Chinese leader Liang Qichao and Indian patriot and poet, Rabindranath Tagore.

The author mentions views of Battle of Tsushima as 'one of the greatest phenomenon world had ever seen' which was fought mainly between Japan and Russia, to control the mainland of Korea and Manchuria.

The defeat of Russia in the war made Japan in the 1890's, as one of the world's greatest powers, which brought new legacies and ideals into existence and provoked the leaderships in the west. It had also engrained the spirit of respect among Chinese and Indian patriots who now looked upon Japan as a guardian of traditionalism from the east.

Jamal- al Afghani as a historical character has remained very important for Mishra. Called a free mason in Egypt, and a 'father of revolution' in Iran, the author conceptualises his beliefs as being 'neither a traditionalist nor a westerniser, and a figure revered both by Sunnis and Shiites. Al-Afghani remained a strong believer on intellectual ferment being the key for Islam's current reformism.

Expounding Muslims of sub continent as biggest losers due to Britain's imperial ambitions, the author believes lack of unity in the community and distrust was the main reason of partition in the subcontinent.

Pankaj Mishra ascertains Ottoman empire under military control of Mamluk soldiers behind Islam's glory years. About Turkey, Mishra has also extensively written about youth reforms in Ottoman history, citing Young Turks of 1860's being passionate for reform for the dire state of pluralism for their country, ravaged by socio-religious disputes, while the author also mentions the political times in Egypt when it was in urgency for a revolution based on their identity and high civilisation after the invasion by Napoleon in 1798.

Ideals and belief systems are so geo-political according to Mishra, who has tried to differentiate culture, races and ideologies based on The West and The East. As Gandhi had predicted in 1905, ' the people of the east will finally wake up to their lethargy.' It had come as a truthful prophecy, as Mishra writes, ' by 1950 with India and China already sovereign states, Europe would be reduced to a peripheral presence in Asia, shored up only by the newest western power, the United States constituted by military bases, economic pressures and political coups.'

The perils of over zealous traditionalism, mainly Confucianism in China, had to be reinvented in order for emancipation, according to Mishra. These notions were written by Liang, inspired by many ideologues, and were received with acclaim in the Chinese public.

The Japanese too were inspired by many western ideas, since the Meiji Restoration. Words like 'democracy', 'revolution', 'capitalism' and 'communism' came to China through Japanese. Mao Zedong read about French revolution avidly to learn about the Chinese degradation from the west, while on the other hand, Liang invoked social darwinism and believed that Marxism was the solution for disorder in China and the crises in the west

Magazines like New Youth had given the Chinese a new voice. Therefore, as a learner one thinks that political motivations and accommodation of thoughts and beliefs had become very important for pan Asianism against Western imperialism.

For Mishra, Rabindranath Tagore was the man behind the cultural reshaping of India and was one of the 'clearest observers and strongest critics of Indian Europeanisation.' Like many Asian intellectuals, he had felt happy on the victory of Japan over Russia and saw no reason why only European type of civilisation should be the only goal for the man, and had fervently praised the eastern civilisation, thus even inviting rebuke from many.

All revolutions demand tenacity and Pankaj Mishra has successfully obtained his objective by writing this legible book of political history.

He sums the dilemma of history and its interpretation with precision: "It took much private and public tumult, and great physical and intellectual journeys, to bring these thinkers to the point where they could make sense of themselves and their environments, and then the knowledge they achieved after so much toil was often full of pain and did not offer hope. They often seem to change their minds and contradict themselves," Mishra claims.

By vishal rathodon

Just going through the first 2 chapters is an eye opener!. a wealth of info in so concise manner, written with so much meticulate research and precision and thought that i would suggest this to be included in the class text book for class xth's a must for every student/non student as it describes the period which has till date defined the modern india much relative to current times...just when indian markets are once again flodded with european and american goods/products...i would have been missing the important part of history had i not read pankaj mishra's fantastic essays in this book.


Do read this book, it gives a very different perspective than we have been used to reading on Indian History, which tends to be favouring the British, or singing paeans for some leaders without seeming real. I have become a fan of Pankaj after reading this book. It really gives very good insights, and is very engaging book. It tries to show how people have evolved, how cultures are made and broken and how greed and power really shape our world. Fascinating read.

Painstakingly researched, beautifully written
By Amazon Customer

Painstakingly researched anthology of history of colonial Asia. Mr. Mishra cuts across times and spaces to present a vivid narrative of the events of past century. It takes reader on a fantastic journey with focus on forgotten personalities. A must read to understand the roots of current social, political and economical condition of Asian countries.

By Amazon Customer

Pankaj Mishra is undoubtedly one of the finest political commentators alongside Ramchandra Guha and Mukul Kesavan. He brings to bear his deep understanding of contemporary politics through his gifted literary craft. It is a must read for students of contemporary history and politcs.

Well researched and written
By Balakrishnanon

To understand the present situation Asia we have to understand history of colonisation this book gives clear analysis of the Asian country's history of colonisation.

Nice Read

By Rahulon

Novel Ideas explained in the book, gives a south asian perspective to colonization. Just a bit vocab heavy book.
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#15 [Permalink] Posted on 18th November 2017 08:06
Let Allah SWT reward you immensely brother. I really enjoyed reading first few posts and very curious to read further. Let Allah SWT bless your knowledge and bring the best out of it for this ummah. Ameen
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