Beyond Edward Said

An Outlook on Postcolonialism and Middle Eastern Studies

Govand Khalid Azeez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

At the forefront of critically examining the effects of colonization on the Middle East is Edward Said’s magnum opus, Orientalism (1978). In the broadest theoretical sense, Said’s work through deconstructing colonial discourses of power-knowledge, presented an epistemologico-methodological equation expressed most lucidly by Aimé Césaire, colonization=thingification. Said, arguing against that archaic historicized discourse, Orientalism, was simply postulating that colonialism and its systems of knowledges signified the colonized, in Anouar Abdel-Malek’s words, as customary, passive, non-participating and non-autonomous. Nearly four decades later, Said’s contribution has become tamed and domesticated to an extent that most heterodoxic critical endeavours in the field have become clichéd premeditated anti-Orientalist tirades. At best, these critiques are stuck at analysing the impact of power at the macro-level, polemically regurgitating jargons like “hegemony”, “misrepresentation” and “Otherness”. At worst, they have become dogmatic or ethnocentric, closing space for scholarly debate through insipid cultural relativism, pathological religiosity or pernicious Occidentalism. I argue there is a need to go beyond that old postcolonial epistemological equation through examining the follow on effects of thingification on the thingified subject’s Weltanschauung, cultural practices and more importantly, subjectivity. I aim to undertake this critical endeavour through theorizing what I call Counter-Revolutionary Discourse (CRD). This discourse is an historicized, Eurocentric-Orientalist implicit programme of action and an analytical tool, which functions as a cognitive schema and a grammar of action that assists the colonial apparatus in surveillance, gauging, ranking and subjectifying Middle Eastern subjectivity and resistance according to imperial exigencies. Through tracking the matrix of Western statements, ideas and practices, I demonstrate that imperial enthusiasts in encountering Middle Eastern revolutions, from the Mahdi, Urabi, Zaghloul, Mossadegh, the PLO and the PKK to the ‘Arab Spring’, draw on a number of Counter-Revolutionary Discourse systems of thoughts, which I argue are responsible for re-interpellating Oriental subjectivity and resistance. In the process, I put forward a new post-Saidian equation that not only transcends that tried and tested scholarly narrative, but a formula much better suited for tracing the infinite and insidious effects of neocolonial power that aims to negate the negating act: Colonization=thingification + re-interpellation of subjectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-727
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Epistemology
Volume30
Issue number5-6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

Keywords

  • Epistemology
  • Islam
  • Middle Eastern studies
  • Orientalism
  • Postcolonialism

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