Edward Said’s Orientalism: Forty years later

Forty years after the publication of Edward Said’s seminal work, Orientalism lives on in other shapes and forms.


Orientalism was the right book at the right time by the right author, writes Dabashi [Ulf Andersen/Getty Images]
Orientalism was the right book at the right time by the right author, writes Dabashi [Ulf Andersen/Getty Images]

There is a video – tucked away somewhere deep in the attic of the internet – of me 15 years ago, convening an international conference on Edward Said’s book, Orientalism, at Columbia University. Said at that time was still with us. In this video, you can see me briefly introduce him (not that he needed any introduction on our campus) before he takes up the stage to share his very last thoughts on his groundbreaking masterpiece.

There is another video from just a few months ago, in September 2017, in which I was interviewed by a young colleague in Geneva offering my latest thoughts on the significance of Orientalism today. In between these two events I wrote and published my own book Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror (2009).

These three dates – 2003, 2009, and 2017 – are very much typical of the temporal trajectory of critical thinkers of my generation and their enduring debt to Said and his magisterial text that turned an entire discipline of scholarship upside down and enabled a mode of thinking hitherto impossible to fathom in postcolonial thinking around the globe. In Orientalism, Said unleashed our tongue and unsheathed the sword of our critical thinking.

Orientalism hit the right note at the most momentous occasion when the postcolonial world at large most needed it – when the condition of coloniality needed a thematic and theoretical decoupling from the framing of capitalist modernity at large.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.