Essay: Edward W. Said Interview

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  • Subject area(s): English Language
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  • Published on: 6th June 2012
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Edward W. Said Interview

In the interview, Edward Said's 1978 book Orientalism, was described as very important and influential work of literature in the last 20th century quarter .Orientalism revolutionized the study of Middle East and helped to create and shape entire new fields of study like postcolonial theory as well as influenced disciplines like English history political studies and cultural studies. The book is translated to many languages and many universities wanted to start teaching it. In addition it is one of the most controversial books that provide a strong disagreement. Orientalism tries to answer the question 'why when we think about Middle East, we have preconceived notion of what kind of people live there, what do they believe and how do they act? Even thought we have never been there or met anyone from there!
The Video consists of many sections entitled: The Repertory of Orientalism, Orientalism and Empire, American Orientalism, Orientalism Today: The Demonization of Islam in the News and Popular Culture, Orientalism in Action: The Media and the Oklahoma City Bombing and Orientalism and the Palestinian Question.
More generally Orientalism asks questions like: how do we come to understand people who are stranger and look different to us by the virtue of color of skin?. The central argument of Orientalism, Said says, is that the Europe and USA look at the Middle East with lens that distort the reality of those places and those people. Said used Orientalism as a frame to understand the unfamiliar and strange to make the people of Middle East appear differently. Professor said contribution to how we understand the general process of what is called the stereotype. The aim of this interview is to explain these issues.
At the begging, Said answers the question about what prompted his interest in the Orientalism, he told two reasons. One, he says, is the Arab and Israeli war in 1973, when there were discussions and mages in the media and press that showed the Arabs as cowardly and can't fight because they are not modern, but everybody was surprised that they fought and cross the canal! Second reason, he says, has to do with the long history of disparity between his experience being an Arab, and the representations of that we see in works of great artists and novelists, which drove him to write a history.
In the part of " the repertory of Orientalism" Said gives actual examples of Orientalism wherein places like India, Egypt or Syria for are full of sensual woman who are ready for men abuse, monsters mysterious places and love secrets'all of that, he says, aren't real in the Orient, but they are simply narratives consistent with themselves. Such narratives, he stresses, widened to descriptions by expert and were showed as object knowledge. According to Said, these reflections made by great artists and novelists like Gerard de Nerval and Edward Lane conveyed that the Orientals are the same that the Orient doesn't develop and it is outside of history, placid, timeless and eternal. He says that all this is opposed by the facts of history and had merely to do with the creation of an ideal other for Europeans.
In the 'Orientalism in action: the media and Oklahoma bomb' Said tells different kinds of Orientalism and states that difference consists in difference between relationships with what is called "Orient". He classifies Britain and France Orientalism as European and the US as American Orientalism which means two main kinds of Orientalism.

For Said, the American Orientalism is generally derived from concepts and is politicized by the alliance with Israel. Said claims that everything we see is colored politically the Arabs and Israel clash. Then, Said talks about his book 'Covering Islam'. He argues that the media all the time gives negative impressions. He points out to the film of 'Jihad in America' and condemns the prevailing 'irresponsible journalism'. For example, Said refers that "a video where the people see a conversation in Arabic will mean that they are talking about the destroying America, but, if they understood the language, they will know that it doesn't relate to America. He views this as a kind of demonization of Islam; they see Islam as synonymous and coupled with terror. He views all these as a creation of the commercial and political benefits of America. Due to the lack of objective reporting, there is only the words of American government, repeating that there is no human side of the Arabic world.

The new American Orientalism video talks about a diversity of issues. The film presents clips from films, conferences, news and cartoon to confirm its point, all of which makes this the video very viewable.
In addition, Said said that in films Arabs are all the time criminals and extremists and the dead Muslim corpses are enormous in number. He states that the films shows that Islam requires to be stamped out and the language Islam knows is violence. Said's answer to terrorism in this video appear to be fair; he says, "Terrorists are everywhere". He argues that the Arabs have allowed their misrepresentations. The Arab countries according to him don't have an information strategy to give a different picture about the Arab countries for the west.

Then, Said tells personal experiences, as when the Oklahoma bombing happened, the media asked to speak to him, to know if he understands the mentality of the bombing that was thought of Middle Eastern source without roots and discovered afterward to be of Christian fundamentalist source. Said always inform us that 'Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are both Muslim countries but very different and Morocco and Algeria are so different.' He recognizes a racist line of orientalists approach, in The Sunday Times London headline for the Diana-Dodi Fayed affair Said said: ''the match was made in Mecca" His examples were specific and serve the case fine. Said informs us that these are the results of Orientalism and persevere because of approach and identifies it as "a regulated systems of making knowledge in certain constraint where certain rule has to be observed."
Moreover, Said informs us that Grimace's Prison Notebook contains ideas that appeal to him. And Grimace's ideas those histories leave in us perpetuity of traces. There is still a task of understanding left: to comprehend history in the terms of others. Said tells that it is his task.

Even though being firmly edited with music that underlines the video texts, the Video didn't contain critique of Orientalism. Therefore, it needs to be viewed as an introductory video, which helps student to understand the theory of Orientalism. The Video did not inform us why many people stopped reading Said's Orientalism, viewing of his works as recurring and boring. Furthermore, Said's theory has in reality outcome from conspiracy theory. Orientalism stills an attractive theory that doesn't in fact create problems of questions or research.

The theory of Orientalism tells us that mainly all the statements that were stated about the other were racist and offensive; that the intention here was power, the power to rule and control the other. Yet a cautious look at history shows that these statements have continued in European travelers and those travelers and visitors had no purpose to demonstrate. This is easy to be proven, in the story of India, at least.

Finally, this video is one of most influential interviews I have seen ever. Edward Said was a clever man with realistic views of the Middle East and other issues. This interview is very important for students and searchers because of the strong arguments it provide .The west in general has a tendency to downplay the values of Middle East people. In this interview, and in his writings, Said fights bravely to change that. He wants to change U.S. and Europe foreign policies that have always favored Israel. I think this video is rich with discussions and worth to be watched and analyzed.

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