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Edward Saïd’s Comrades and Rivals

Your favorite critic has plenty of frenemies.


Frantz Fanon

Frantz is a real port in a storm. We just agree on so much—and that's really rare for someone as contrary as me. Want an example? Well, we both believe that Western culture has generated all sorts condescending images of "the Other" to justify colonizing them. The end result of that nasty habit is that the colonizer exploits people and resources, and the colonized have ended up with some severe psychological trauma and whole slew of other nasty problems to boot.

And Frantz should know—he lived under brutal French rule in Algeria. Ugh, I cry every time I read that passage from his book Black Skin, White Masks where he talks about making himself into an object who feels less than human, inferior, kicked to the curb. Dude—been there.

Michel Foucault

I don't want to say that I brought the work of this French theorist to the United States, but I brought the work of this French theorist to the United States. I've written heaps of essays about the guy, and am all about his idea that knowledge = power—especially when it comes to European views of the Arab world. His political theories really influenced Orientalism, so I've got him to thank for that. Unfortunately, though, we've had a bit of a falling out, because it turns out this guy's kind of a Debbie Downer. To me, it just seems like he believes that we're all poisoned by orientalism, and can never shake its nasty grasp. I take a more proactive approach: we've got to fight the power.

Antonio Gramsci

Once you accept that we theorists are odd birds, you'll see how we can fall in love over ideas like "hegemony." This Italian theorist's concept of hegemony (imperial dominance and all of the oppressive nonsense that goes with it) gives me hope because, unlike Foucault's depressing discourse—which refuses the possibility of resistance—Gramsci believes that we can rebel against oppressive governments. Lovin' the positive attitude.

Academic Lefties

So many of these folks love me, I don't even know where to start. Let's face it: I'm a freaking hero in Europe and America. Not to toot my own horn, but my book Orientalism has become their bible (maybe "founding document" would be a better way of phrasing it—less religiously charged). Sure, my groupies aren't as chic as Derrida's but I definitely have a little critical cult going on.

Claude Lévi-Strauss

Claude's an anthropologist, but he's got cultural criticism cred to boot. Like my connection to these other comrades, the relationship between Claude and me is not like, "Let's go get Jell-O shots together." We aren't, you know, buddies. It's more of an intellectual kinship. When I read this guy, I think, "Cool. I'm not alone in this war against the crushing supremacy of Western culture!" Plus, I love his idea that order is necessary to the human mind's effort to distinguish and differentiate. Preach, Claude.

Christopher Hitchens

Hitch is just not a guy you want on your bad side. This British-American thinker hasn't always had glowing things to say about me, but be did defend me from that hater, Justus Weiner. And he's had my back when people call me simple-minded about the Palestinian cause (although he did say I had a tendency to get victimy. Grrr). Never mind that—you gotta take friends where you can get 'em.


A Lot of Jewish People, Zionists, Israelis, and Pro-Israelis

I'm gonna tell it like it is. I've pissed off a lot of Jewish people in my day because I haven't exactly condemned a few terrorist acts undertaken by Palestinian groups. But allow me to explain. I worked for this organization called the Palestine National Council and this fellow committee member (Abu Abbas) really brought some heat to the group. The claim was that he was part of this gang that hijacked an Italian cruise ship and brutally did away with an American tourist. Now I wasn't a fan of this guy, but I also think that several Israeli leaders are terrorists, too. So there. All I'm sayin' is it's a two-way street.

Nit-Picky Academics

In the interest of fairness, I don't want to give the impression that all academics welcome me with open arms. Some specialists on the Middle East feel that I, well, exaggerate things just a teensy-weensy bit. Some say I oversimplify things and ignore a bunch of scholarship that actually gives a fair shake to the East. Others accuse me of using pretentious jargon to prove my points. To those folks, I say look at Derrida, not me.

Commentary Magazine

This right-leaning publication was founded by the American Jewish Committee, so I'm going to let you guess what the folks at Commentary think of me: That's right. They can't stand me. They're the ones who've dubbed me "Professor of Terror," like I'm a James Bond villain or something. If only.

Justus Reid Weiner

This Israeli scholar makes by blood boil. Positively boil. He had the nerve to do research about my life and accuse me of making up stuff about my childhood; like that I spun some story about growing up during the formation of the Israeli state when I really lived in Cairo. He even had the nerve to question my right to call myself a Palestinian.

Let's get one thing clear: I never said I didn't grow up in Cairo. (He actually checked up on my birth certificate to see what I listed as my address. Obsessed much?) This guy never even talked to me about any of this, preferring to just prance around calling me a liar. What was I supposed to do—not call him a propagandist for right-wing causes? Oops, too late. My beef with Justus has turned into a real "I know you are, but what am I?" situation.

Bernard Lewis

It's probably sufficient to say that this guy's identifies as a "British-American historian [and] scholar in Oriental Studies" (source). I mean, who calls it "Oriental Studies" in this day and age? That's just embarrassing.

I busted his chops in Orientalism, calling him an "Establishment Orientalist" (good one, eh?). This guy made me spittin' mad with his schlocky book The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982) in which he defends Western attention toward the East as driven by sheer curiosity. He then disses Muslims for not even bothering to study Western culture as though it's the only thing worth studying. #missingthepoint

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