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Edward Said

Orientalism and After
An Interview with
Edward Said
Edward Said is a Professor of English and Comparative
Literature at Columbia University, New York and editor of
Arab Studies Quarterly. Best known academically for his
book Orientatism: Western Conceptions of the Orient
(1978), which was a milestone in the redefinition of the
concerns of literary studies, he is most widely knownfor his
tireless representations on behalfofthe cause of the Palestinian people. His writings span the areas ofliterary criticism,
politics and music. His works include: The Question of
Palestine (1980); Covering Islam (1981); The World, The
Text, and the Critic (1983 ); After the Last Sky: Palestinian
Lives (1986); and Musical Elaborations (1991). His latest
book, Culture and Imperialism, is forthcoming from
lonathan Cape.

RP: Perhaps we could begin by asking you to say
something about your intellectual and political background in the late 1950s and ’60s. How did you identify
yourself politically in relation to the civil rights and
student movements in the USA during the period when
you were a young member of faculty at Columbia?

What from that period of your life was a formative
influence on your later work?

Said: Well, in the 1950s I was a student and by 1957 I had
finished my undergraduate education. I then went back to
the Middle East for a year, basically to play the piano. And
then in ’58 I came back to graduate school, at Harvard, and
Ijust plunged into that. I did really nothing else but study for
five years. My family remained in the Middle East and
moved from Egypt, where they had come after 1948, to
Lebanon. My entire family became refugees in 1948. One
member of my family, in particular, whom I saw in Cairo in
those years, was very active in Arab politics, as a Palestinian. This is the period of Nasserism. He was there because
Nasser was bringing into Egypt a lot of these revolutionary
types from the Arab world. His name was Kamal Nasir, and
although he was a Baathi at the time he was also aN asserite.

Later he became a spokesman for the Palestinian movement
in Amman in the late ’60s. Then he moved to Beirut, after
Black September, and in 1973 he was one of the three
22

leaders assassinated by the Israelis in April of that year – I
had seen him that very night actually. So that was going on.

But I was largely oblivious of it, in the sense that I was
focused on my studies. I got my Ph.D. in 1963 and moved
to New York where I took up a position at Columbia in
English. Then, too, I was pretty focused on that and writing
my first book, on Conrad.

With the emergence of the civil rights movement in the
middle ’60s – and particularly in ’66-’67 – I was very soon
turned off by Martin Luther King, who revealed himself to
be a tremendous Zionist, and who always used to speak very
warmly in support of Israel, particularly in ’67, after the
war. In 1968 the Columbia revolution occurred, but I was
away for that academic year! It was the revolution I missed.

I was like Fabrice del Dongo looking for the Battle of
Waterloo. I was on leave at a research centre in the Middle
West, and I got a telegram from the President of the
University saying, “There’s a faculty meeting on such and
such a day.” So I trekked all the way back to Columbia, and
when I got there, they wouldn’t let me in the meeting,
although I was a member of the faculty, because I didn’t
have an up-to-date ID card. So I stood outside while this
momentous event was taking place.

When I returned to Columbia in the fall of’ 68, I got quite
involved in the anti-Vietnam campus activities. Many of the
students who had been involved in the revolution were
students of mine. But it was the period when the emergence
of the Palestinian movement was also occurring. And for
the first time in my life I got involved in Palestinian politics,
as did some of my family and school friends. A contemporary
of mine from Harvard, for example, gave up his position at
the University of Washington and went to Amman to
become a full-time cadre. He was killed in 1976, during the
Lebanese war, in rather obscure circumstances. He was a
very important figure in the movement, and there is still a
question-mark over who killed him and why. He was the
one who introduced me in 1972 to Jean Genet, who was in
Beirut. He was the man who took Genet around. He’s
referred to in Genet’s last work, Prisoner of Love as Abu
Omar.

Anyway, I went to Amman in 1969 and got involved in
the movement – not to stay there, but as an expatriate. I
began to write about politics for the first time in my life, to
be published in America, and to appear on television and

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

radio. This was all in the aftermath of the ’67 war, which was
the great event of my political life. I was in Amman during
the summer of 1970 right up until the fighting broke out. I
simply had to go back to my teaching. I was there for the
National Council meeting. (I wasn’t a member then. I
became a member in 1977.) That was the first time I ever
saw Arafat, in 1970, in Amman. Then, after Black September,
the movement drifted into Beirut. My mother lived in
Beirut, so I would go to Beirut a great deal. That year I
married a Lebanese woman, and for the next twelve years,
1970 to 1982, I was very involved in Palestinian politics in
Beirut, as an expatriate. I always tried to steer clear of the
inter-party fighting. I was not interested. For a time people
thought I was – as indeed I was, in the early days sympathetic to the Democratic Front. But I was never a
member, and I never got involved in the disputes between
them. Arafat made use of me, in away, because I was in
America. They came to the United Nations in ’74, and I
helped with the speech: I put it into English.

Then, of course, during the Carter Presidency, I was
useful to the movement because some of my classmates
were members of the Administration. They were people I’d
gone to school with. One has to remember that I grew up as
an Establishment figure in America. I went to boarding
school, I went to Princeton, I went to Harvard. They were
things I could draw on, although they were frequently
misinterpreted by the Palestinians – some of them, I mean
– who thought I “represented” America. When my book The
Question of Palestine appeared, for example, the Popular
Front weekly magazine ran a tremendous attack on me
because I was supposed to be a representative of bourgeois
this and that – all that formulaic bullshit. In any event, I was
plunged totally into politics, simultaneously with my academic work, which was going on in parallel. They were
joined, in a certain sense, in the middle 1970s when I wrote
Orientalism. The book married the two things I was most
interested in: literature and culture, on the one hand, and
studies and analyses of power, on the other. From then, it
continued pretty much unbroken until the autumn of 1991,
when I resigned from the National Council.

ORIENTALISM & HUMANISM

RP: Perhaps we could ask you something about the
character of this marriage of concerns in Orientalism.

Orientalism is often read as a kind of counter-history of
the European literary tradition, an exorcising of the
political ghost of high literary humanism. On the other
hand, the literary quality of the texts which are criticised
politically is emphasised and affirmed. This has led
some people to detect an ambivalence towards literary
humanism in the work. After all, this is a tradition which
not only affirms literary values, but has often gone so far
as to identify them with human values. Is there still an
ambivalence in Orientalism towards literary humanism?

Said: Yes. The heroes of the book, insofar as there are
heroes (I can’t think if there are any heroines, particularly),

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

the heroes are basically the novelists. People like Flaubert,
like Nerval, some of whom were poets as well. There is an
ambivalence, however. As Orwell said about Salvador
Dali, it’s possible to be a disgusting human being and a great
draftsman, which Salvador Dali was. So you could be an
imperialist and an orientalist, and also a great writer. That’s
really what I’m interested in, the co-existence of these two
things. What does one do in the face of that? My own
profession has been pretty consistent. The tradition has
been to separate them completely, and to say, ‘Well, we’re
not going to talk about this, we’re just going to talk about
that.’ More and more I’m perceived as having become shrill
about talking about them together.

RP: Isn’t the mainstream position rather to suppress the
politics in the name of the human side?

Said: Exactly.

RP: It’s not really a separation …

Said: … no, it’s not separating all the time …

RP: … an overriding, perhaps …

Said: … overriding. Yes. But it is aform of separating, in
the sense that you won’t talk about this, because that’s much
more important. I mean, even Raymond Williams, for
example – Raymond Williams, as you know, I revere and
loved, he was a great man – has this long chapter in Culture
and Society on Carlyle. How can you read Carlyle the way
he did? Even if it was 1950 or whenever. Carlyle wrote The
Nigger Question in the 1840s, and it was an appalling piece
of racist horror. If you look through his work it’s everywhere.

The same is true of Ruskin. For all that he was a great
influence on people like Gandhi and Tolstoy, Ruskin was a
profound imperialist. He really thought that England should
colonise the world – and actually said so! So it’s not a
question of looking for it. It’s there. You just have to read
it. So you’re right. The overriding of one discourse by
another is what it’s all been about. And I’m interested not
only in the way the two co-exist, but the way in which you
can read the works with these concerns in mind and, by a
process of what I call contrapuntal reading, transform the
works into the enabling conditions of a decolonising critique.

This is what I try to do more explicitly in my new book,
Culture and Imperialism. It becomes possible, for instance,
to read MansfieldParkfrom the point of view of the Antigua
plantation of the Bertrams, instead of reading it from the
point of view of Mansfield Park. And we can see in that
reading the origins not only of the slave revolt in Santo
Domingo, but the whole tradition of Caribbean writing that
comes out of it: the work of C.L.R. J ames and Lamming and
Eric Williams. At this point, in my opinion, Mansfield Park
becomes an even more interesting novel, even greater for
containing within itself this possibility of reaccommodating
it to something else, to another kind of reading, to a different
interest. It becomes part of another trajectory, which is not
that of the English novel. It becomes part of the Caribbean
thing.

23

RP: Yet Mansfield Park remains the novel to read. In
other words, you stick with the canonical works.

Said: Yes, of course, because I’m culturally very conservative. There are good books, and there are less good books.

RP: But there could be several reasons for that. One
could say that these books are the books in which certain
historical experiences are most significantly sedimented,
and put forward a purely strategic defence of them:

these are the books which constitute the canon in this
culture, and so this is the place we’re going to start to
unravel it. But you want to say something rather stronger
than that it’s a strategic starting place?

Said: Yes. Mansfield Park, while not my favourite Austen
novel, is a remarkable piece of work in its own right. That’s
where the stakes are highest, in the argument from quality.

Because Austen was profoundly implicated in her own
society, or a segment of it, it enabled her to see – by virtue
of that very limited vision – the necessity of an empire. In
my opinion, in an uncompromising way. And that is consistent; despite the fact that J ane Austen has been reclaimed
by feminists. The feminism of Fanny Price in Mansfield
Park is totally untroubled by the slavery and by the sugar
plantation. I think one has to note that.

RP: But is the quality of the book intrinsically connected
to the possibility of its contrapuntal reading?

Said: I think so, but it would obviously require more than
just asserting it to prove this sort of thing. One doesn’t have
time to do everything. Take Heart of Darkness as another
example. Heart of Darkness, whatever you think about it
politically, is the novel about Africa. Many African novelists, including Chinua Achebe, who attacked it so, felt the
need to engage with it. Not because it’s a racist text, but
because it is the most formidable work of the imagination by
a European about Africa. It has that quality. It’s strategically central because it has that quality. The same is true of
The Tempest. And what one should add at this moment is the
word ‘pleasure’. It’s not just strategy, it’s not just quality,
but it is a work in which one can take aesthetic pleasure.

Perhaps for some of those reasons, but also because it’s a
wonderful book to read. I don’t by any means put down or
denigrate or minimise the role of the enjoyment of the work.

One of the arguments I make in my new book about such
works as Kim – why they’re so important by the end of the
nineteenth century – is that Kim, the character, is an instrument for Kipling being able to enjoy being in India. Nevertheless, you can’t remove from that the imperial quality:

that he’s there in the service of the British Empire. In the
end, he becomes a loyal servant in the great game. But up
until that point the major quality, I think, of Kim for Kipling
is enjoyment – a certain kind of imperial pleasure.

RP: The imperial pleasure is to be able to move across
boundaries. So isn’t it a pleasure that’s intrinsically
politically implicated?

24

Said: True, but other people can also move across boundaries. You’d be surprised. What is interesting is that Kipling
is enjoying the pleasures ofthe Empire in such a way that he
is completely blind to what is taking place at the time:

namely, the emergence of an Indian national movement. He
is blind to this other factor, this other element, forming,
emerging, and ultimately overcoming the Empire.

RP: One could say that the subtleties of the text are
precisely where it’s not blind to the emergence of the
national movement.

Said: There are two places in the novel where Kipling talks
about changes in India; most of the time he represents a
changeless India. One of them is the episode with the old
soldier about the Great Mutiny. And he represents it as a
temporary madness that came over the Indians. So he saw
it, he transformed it into something else, and off he went. He
saw it, but he didn’t take note of it – as what it was. The
second place is later on, when one of the women, the widow
of Shamlegh, says that we don’t want these new English
people who are coming. (It’s a reference to the educated
young colonial hands, like Forster’ s Ronnie Heaslop, twenty
five years later.) We prefer the old style. There is a sense in
which, according to Kipling, the Indians prefer traditional
orientalists, like Colonel Creighton. So he registers a sense
of what the Indians may want, but he doesn’t linger over it,
and he transmutes it into something else, and off he goes. I
don’t think there are any other subtleties there, of that sort,
that openly refer to the political situation.

RP: It sounds like an opposite example to M gnsfield Park.

There you were saying there’s a place in the text from
which you can reread the text, but here there isn’t
another place.

Said: No, there is another place. There is a national
movement. For example (it’s an important detail), this old
soldier who was in the English Army, whom Kim and the
Llama visit, is described by Kipling as revered in his village.

Now, to my way of thinking, given my own background,
somebody like that who collaborated is very likely not to be
revered. He’s likely to be an outcast. So one focuses on that.

RP: Orientalism drew upon a Foucauldian perspective,
but that was framed by a Gramscian theory of hegemony.

Are there not great differences and tensions between
these respective theorisations of power?

~
I

Said: Very much so.

RP: Have you continued to maintain that dual perspective?

Said: No. I won’t say I abandoned Foucault, but I’d say I’d
gotten what there was to be gotten out of Foucault by about
the time Discipline and Punish appeared, in the mid-1970s.

The discovery I made about Foucault, about which I wrote
in a small essay called ‘Foucault and the Imagination of
Power’, was that, despite the fact that he seemed to be a

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

theorist of power, obviously, and kept referring to resistance, he was really the scribe of power. He was really
writing about the victory of power. I found very little in his
work, especially after the second half of Discipline and
Punish, to help in resisting the kinds of administrative and
disciplinary pressures that he described so well in the first
part. So I completely lost interest in his work. The later stuff
on the subject I just found very weak and, to my way of
thinking, uninteresting.

I was one of the first in America to teach Gramsci, but
there are problems in teaching and talking about Gramsci.

First of all, the English translation of the Prison Notebooks
was based on a corrupt text, and conveyed a very false
impression. Even when I was working on Orientalism I
discovered mistakes in it. Secondly, and perhaps more
importantly, since it’s now possible to read a very good text
– the Gerratana four-volume critical edition of the Prison
Notebooks with a huge apparatus – Gramsci was an inveterate note-writer. He never wrote a consistent piece, except
the Southern Question, which I make great use of in my new
book. It’s very hard to derive from Gramsci’ s work a
consistent political and philosophical position. There’s a bit
of this, a bit of that – mostly, I think, in the tradition of Vico
and Leopardi, a kind of Italian cosmopolitan pessimism;
along with his tremendous involvement in the Italian working-class movement. But beyond that, methodologically
it’s very difficult to ‘use’ him.

RP: The concept of hegemony is of use, perhaps …

Said: Yes, it has a kind of gross fascination, a gross
applicability, which I still make use of. But as to exactly
what it means … ? Its most interesting quality is the idea of
mutual siege. Hegemony and what is required to mount a
counter-hegemonic movement. But that can’t be done
theoretically; it has to be part of a large political movement,
what he called an ensemble. That I find tremendously
useful. But beyond that it’s difficult to make instrumental
use of him.

RP: In left political culture, there have been at least two
quite different uses of Gramsci. One based on a cultural
Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

reading of him, the other on what one might call the
Turin Gramsci, which is about organic intellectuals,
working-class organisations, etc. Are you drawing on
both of these?

Said: I think one has to. For example, in the Southern
Question, he draws attention to the role of somebody called
Gobetti, who was a kind of northern intellectual who
became a southern activist. What that’s all about is overcoming political and geographical divisions between states,
between actualities. What Gramsci was doing was improvising in a highly particularised local situation (Italian
politics in the early 1920s) in order to puttogether a counterhegemonic movement of some sort. That’s what interests
me most about him. In my opinion, the central thing about
Gramsci’s thought, which hasn’t really be focused on
enough, is that it’s basically geographical. He thinks in
terms of territories, in terms of locales, which is tremendously important to me. Maybe I got it from Gramsci. I was
struck by the difference between Gramsci, with his focus on
geography, and Lukacs’ s focus on temporality, where the
Hegelian tradition is so strong. The materialist tradition, the
pessimistic materialist tradition in Italy, is all about place.

It’s tremendously undogmatic, tremendously unabstract.

You can always find applications to the Italian situation.

Most of the theoretical stuff that one reads in left periodicals
today – and for the last ten years, maybe more – is so vague,
so out of touch with any political movement of any consequence.

RP: The way you’re talking about Gramsci here seems
to be in tension with the kind of things you were saying
earlier in relation to Austen, about the qualities of the
humanist literary tradition.

Said: Why? Gramsci was a literary humanist. His training
was in philology and he was passionately interested in
Italian and other forms of literature. He read omnivorously.

I think there’s been a mistake of putting in opposition the
humanistic and the political, or radical, or whatever. There’s
a much longer tradition of the two feeding off each other. If
you look at Thompson’s The Making of the English
Working Class, for example, running throughout are example after example of people like Blake, of poets and
writers, of the radical movements’ use of Shakespeare. I
don’t think there’s this necessary opposition, which goes
back, in my opinion, to some phony or factitious Althusserian
opposition. It ‘s possible to imagine a literary humanism that
is not mandarin, disembodied, or scornful of politics. One
can see it actually very much involved in politics. There’s
a whole tradition of Caribbean writing which, as C.L.R.

James says, never had any other background. We’re not
talking about Africa, we’re talking about the Caribbean it’s a transported population. This is its background: precisely
these Western humanistic – and political – ideas. So it
doesn’t trouble me, what you call this tension.

RP: Foucault and Gramsci provided you with alternative theoretical approaches to literary objects that go
beyond certain methodologically narrow stances to25

wards the text. They make different kinds of theoretical
bridge between texts and their contexts, readings and
practices, etc. However, when you come to reject the
Foucauldian position because of its problematic, allpervasive view of power, and you say that Gramsci is to
be read only tactically – he doesn’t give you a theoretical
framework – this seems to open up something of a
methodological vacuum. Do you worry about this? Or
do you think that other people are worrying too much
about having the right theoretical framework?

Said: Yes, I think so. Theory has become a substitute. From
my perspective, theory is really not interesting as a subject
in and of itself – to write endlessly refined accounts of some
theory or other. (I make exceptions. Adomo strikes me as
interesting for his own sake, for reasons that none of the
books on Adorno have ever touched, namely because of his
grounding in music. That’s what’s great about Adomo. Not
so much what he has to say about administered society, or
the conquest of nature.) But what’s happened, in the years
since I wrote Beginnings in the early ’70s, is that theory has
become a subject in and of itself. It has become an academic
pursuit of its own. And I am totally impatient with it. Why?

Because what has been neglected in the process is the
historical study of texts, which to me is much more interesting. Firstly, because there are many more opportunities
for genuine discovery; and secondly, because political and
cultural issues can be made much clearer in terms of
comparable issues in our own time. The question of oppression, of racial oppression, the question of war, the
question of human rights – all these issues ought to belong
together with the study of literary and other forms of texts;
as opposed to the massive, intervening, institutionalised
presence of theoretical discussion.

ORIENTALISM & FEMINISM

RP: Sticking with Orientalism, one critic, Jane Miller, in
The Seductions of Theory, has pointed to the way in
which you use all those terms with feminine associations
in the discussion of Orientalism, and they are critical
terms. Feminism does have a very ambiguous presence
in the book here.

Said: Yes, it does. There’s no question about it. What I was
doing in Orientalism, twenty years ago when I was writing
it, was pointing out two things: the extraordinary degree to
which the Orient had become feminised by male writers in
Europe; and the way in which the women’s movement in the
West was hand in glove with the imperialist movement. It
was not a deterrent. It’s only very recently – I would say in
the last four or five years – that the questions of race and
gender have been joined, in a historical and theoretical way
– as opposed to just gender. That’s an ongoing discussion,
which at the time of Orientalism I didn’t feel to be a part of
the subject that I was dealing with. I think Miller is absolutely right, but it’s very interesting that those critiques of
Orientalism which are now being made were not made
then! What is the role of feminism in the orientalism of a
field like music or anthropology, for example? It’s very
26

complicated, very troubling, and it’s only just come up: I
would say in the last three or four years, in discussions at the
American Anthropological Association, and various other
places. The engagement’s only just begun.

RP: Recent feminist scholarship directly related to
Orientalism has supported either a cultural nationalist
position or a women’s rights position. What do you
make of these kinds of arguments?

Said: For me, they’ve become very interesting recently, in
the last year. Just looking at the Middle East, there’s been
a sudden efflorescence of quite complex and interesting
work on, for example, women’s role in Islam and Islamic
society. A new book by Leila Ahmad, which was published
by Yale three or four months ago, has not yet received a
single review in the USA. Nobody wants to touch it, it’s too
complicated, quite a troubling view of the whole question.

A mass of material is now coming out. In the past we had
Nawal al-Saadawi and a few others. But very little. Then of
course there are the anthologies – Let Women Speak, I slamic Women Speaking – and the translation of women’s
texts from the part of the world I know best – the Islamic and
Arab world. However, most important of all for me are not
these theoretical questions, but the emergence here and
there of a serious, politically effective, women’s movement.

That’s what it’s all about in the end. There is a movement
and there is a literature now in the Middle East itself as part
of the general struggle against the status quo – which is
appalling – in places like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia,
Lebanon, and, from my point of view, especially in Palestine. The role of women in the Intifada is extraordinarily
avant garde. So the situation is changing. It’s very-different
from what it was ten years ago, certainly twenty years ago.

And for me it’s mainly interesting because of the oppositional
quality of the women’s movement, asserting a set of rights
for women essentially denied them by authorities who
purport to use the arguments of the Sharia, the Quran …

RP: Do you feel that you’ve taken on board these kinds
of discussion in your new book?

Said: Well, I was very interested. But the literature is still
small. You get into another problem: what is the relationship between the women’s movement and nationalism? In
the early days of the national movement in places like
Indonesia, India, Egypt, where there were pioneering
women’s movements, these were basically nationalist
movements. They were thought of as part of the general
struggle against the white man. I had a striking illustration
of the difference between that and the present movement
when last year I went to South Africa. I was invited by the
University of Cape Town to give a lecture called .The
Academic Freedom Lecture. Because of the boycott, I had
to be cleared by the ANC, which I was, and I gave a seminar
at the ANC headquarters and at various other places. In
Johannesburg, the first talk I gave was at an Islamic centre
in Linasia, which is an Asian township, mostly Muslim. I
gave a talk about Palestine, which is what they wanted to
hear about. Then I was told, ‘We’ve listened to you, now

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

~
I

you listen to us.’ Which I thought was a fabulous notion,
since usually visitors give a lecture and leave. So I heard
somebody who spoke about schooling, about legal changes,
violence, prison conditions, etc. There was a woman who
stood up, whose name I’ll never forget, Rohanna Adams: a
Muslim name and a Christian last name – fantastic. She was
the only one not to use the Bismilrahimrahmanulrahim,
which is the statement of faith which Muslims use, and
which in South Africa and throughout the Islamic world is
sometimes a revolutionary, sometimes a reactionary, thing
to say. In the former case, you’re saying, ‘Islam is my guide
against you, the oppressors, apartheid,’ etc. In places like
Saudi Arabia it means loyalty to the king. In Algeria it was
used against the French: Islam as a political force. She was
the only one not to do that. It was her way of not getting
sucked into the struggle against apartheid again. She said,
‘all right, we’re struggling against apartheid, but there’s still
the problem of women. You haven’t addressed it, any of
you.’ (Pointing to them all, accusingly.) ‘You try to put us
to one side,’ and indeed they did. They had the hall arranged
so that the women were on one side and the men on the other
– talking against apartheid. She said that we have to deal
with this.

So, it’s a completely different type of women’s movement where there’s a veering off from nationalism. There’s
a general discovery – and the women’s movement is one of
the places where this discovery has occurred – that nationalism has become the catch-all for the oppression by the
new class of minorities: women, religious and ethnic groups,

and so on and so forth. The great virtue of the women’s
movement in the Occupied Territory in Palestine is not only
against the Israelis, but against the so-called Islamic Arab
oppression of women. But it’s only beginning now to do
that. It’s changing.

AFTER ORIENTALISM
RP: Our final question about Orientalism concerns your
relation to some of the work that it provoked, which goes
under the heading of ‘colonial discourse theory’. People
often identify Orientalism as the founding text of a new
theoretical genre. But that genre is then frequently
articulated in terms of poststructuralist theory, which is
quite different in many ways from the theoretical assumptions and practices of your book.

Said: Absolutely.

RP: It is also associated, at times, with a political tendency
with which, rather surprisingly, you have occasionally
been associated by your critics: ‘orientalism in reverse’,
or a simple inversion of the hierarchical relationship
between the West and its other. What these two things
have in common is a fixation on the binary opposition
between the West and its ‘other’, and a tendency to
homogenise both categories, thereby losing any kind of
historical or geo-political specificity: in the first case, by
refusing to go beyond the pure negativity of the
deconstructive stance; in the latter ~ by politically lumping
together all kinds of very different colonial relations.

What is your view of these developments?

Said: Where I think Orientalism was useful was in those
works that looked at the cultural component of forms of
domination as giving rise to Africanist, Indianist, Japanesist,
etc. types of discourses; as having, in a very narrow sense,
played an important constitutive role in talking about those
places. You could no longer look at, say, descriptions by
nineteenth century explorers of Africa as if they were just
seeing what they saw. There was the notion of a collaborative
enterprise having to do with the domination of a region.

Orientalism gave rise to studies of that sort, which I think
were salutary. However, it also gave rise to a bad thing,
which I didn’t intend, and which I thought I had dealt with,
but obviously didn’t: the problem of homogenisation. For
example, in the Arab world I’m read by many people as a
champion of Islam, which is complete nonsense. I wasn’t
trying to defend Islam. I was simply talking about a very
specific form of activity: representation. The problem then
becomes (as some have suggested): you didn’t say what the
true Orient really was. So what I try to do in my new book
(which I didn’t do in the other one) is to talk not only about
imperialism, but also decolonisation, and the movements
that emerged from the Third World – all kinds of opposition
and resistance.

There is a focus on what I view as the opposition within
the nationalist movements – nationalism versus liberation.

There’s nationalism which leads to the national bourgeoisie’ separatist, statist, national security: the problem of the

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

27

pathology of the Third-World state. But there’s always the
opportunity for the alternative, what I call liberation. ‘There’s
room for all at the rendez-vous of victory’ (C.L.R. James
quoting Cesaire) – is a very important phrase for me. It’s
impossible to talk about the sides of the opposition between
oriental and occidental separately. I talk about what I call
overlapping areas of experience. The whole point is that
imperialism was not of one side only, but of two sides, and
the two are always involved in each other. That’s where the
contrapuntal method comes in. Instead of looking at it as a
melody on top and just a lot of silly accompaniment down
here, or silence, it’s really like a polyphonic work. In order
to understand it, you have to have this concept of overlapping
territories – interdependent histories, I call them. That’s the
only way to talk about them, in order to be able to talk about
liberation, decolonisation, and the integrative view, rather
than the separatist one. I’m totally against separatism.

As for Orientalism in reverse, there’s a literature on this
throughout the Islamic world – ‘Occidentosis’: all the evils
in the world come from the West. It’s a well-known genre
that I find on the whole extremely tiresome and boring. And
I’ve separated myself from it and from what I call nativism.

I’ll give you a perfect example of it. In 19620r ’63, Soyinka,
an advanced intellectual, publishes a withering critique of
the great nativist concept of negritude. He attacks Sengor,
saying that Sengor’s idea is really a way of giving in to the
concept of the inferior black man. It’s the other half of the
dialectical opposition. Excellent. In 1991, in his own
magazine, Transition, which has been re-established in
America with Skip Gates, he writes a tremendous attack on
the African political scientist Ali Mazrui, who is a Muslim
from Kenya. The essence of the attack on Ali Mazrui is that
he is not a pure African. He’s an Islamicised and Arabized
African. So the integrative liberationist African, twenty
years later, in Nigeria, has become a nativist, attacking a
man for not being black enough! – the man who had
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attacked negritude. Those reversals are part of the political
situation.

The same thing operates in the Salman Rushdie case. In
the Islamic world I’ve been vociferous in attacking the
banning of the book. It’s the result, firstly, of the absence of
any secular theory of any consequence that is capable of
mobilising people, that is understandable by the people who
are laying their lives on the line; and secondly, of the
absence of organisation. There is no effective secular organisation, anywhere, in the fields in which we work,
except the state. I mean secular political organisation.

That’s part of the failure which I lament so much. So there
is this tremendous thing about authenticity and ethnic
particularity. The politics of identity is the problem: the
failure to take account of, and accept, the migratory quality
of experience; that everybody is a migrant or an exile. In
England, for example, the people who have been most
vociferous against the Satanic Verses are migrants who
want to assert their authenticity in an environment which
has been basically hostile to them. Rather than saying, ‘our
experience is very much like that of the Palestinians, very
much like that of the Bangladeshis’; instead of seeing it as
something beyond the binary oppositional thing, ‘us versus
them’ , and therefore being able to see it in different terms,
there’s this obsession about returning to yourself: only in
the community, and the purer form of the community, is my
salvation – which is, I think, a form of perdition. It’s the end
of the best things about our civilisation, and it’s something
that I completely oppose. The marginalisation, the
ghettoisation, the reification of the Arab, through orientalism
and other processes, cannot be answered by simple assertions of ethnic particularity, or glories of Arabic, or returning
to Islam and all the rest of it. The only way to do it is to get
engaged, and to plunge right into the heart of the heart, as it
were. That’s the only answer; not these retreats.

INTELLECTUALS & THEIR CONSTITUENCIES
RP: The idea of secularity plays an important role in
your work, particularly as a way of defining intellectual
practice. Do you think the term ‘secular intellectual’

bears enough critical force in the current situation? It
seems an almost nineteenth-century category, insofar as
it sets up the oppositional role of the intellectual solely in
terms of a division between the theological and the
secular. Secularity seems to define a space, an intellectual space which is oppositional to those who won’t
allow you to occupy it, but inside the secular space many
different oppositional positions would seem to be possible.

Is there a specific oppositional content here beyond the
secularity?

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28

Said: As you said, it goes back to the secular versus the
religious. That’s clear. And the space is the space of history
as opposed to the space of the sacred or the divine. The
second point I take from Gramsci. He wrote a letter, I think
it was in 1921, where he says that the great achievement of
his generation, partly acting under the aegis of Croce, was
that they were involved in the conquest of civil society,
Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

taking it away from mythological ideas of one sort or
another: he called it the secular conquest of civil society.

What interested me was that he also makes the point that the
conquest is never over. You keep having to reappropriate as
much as possible, which is otherwise going to be taken
back. It’s a constant re-excavation of public space. Beyond
this, we have to describe functions of the secular intellectual. (I don’t want to get into the whole question of general
versus special, which is, I think, a phony set of categories
invented by Foucault. I reject that.)
Instead, I prefer various functions, of which one, for
example, is bibliographical: where the role of the secular
intellectual, in opposition, is in relation to approved sources
and documentation. The role of the secular intellectual is to
provide alternatives: alternative sources, alternative readings, alternative presentation of evidence. Then there is
what I call an epistemological function: the rethinking of,
let’s say, the whole opposition of ‘us’ versus the Islamic
world, or ‘us’ and Japan. What does ‘us’ mean in this
context? What does ‘Islam’ mean in this context? I think
only intellectuals can fulfill these functions, in opposition,
that is to say, in contravention of the approved idee rer;ue,
whatever that happens to be. Then I see a moral function, a
dramatic function: the performance in particular places of a
type of intellectual operation that can dramatise oppositions,
present the alternative voice, and so on. So it’s by no means
an open category. It encompasses a plurality of particular
things and activities.

RP: So the secular intellectual is inherently critical and
oppositional? Yours is a more Sartrean position …

Said: Yes, exactly.

RP: … but not so close to Gramsci, where the distinction
between ‘traditional’ and ‘organic’ intellectuals is so
central?

Said: No, I think it is. Part of the problem is that the
categories of organic and traditional intellectuals in Gramsci
are fantastically unclear, and difficult to make clear. The
categories are simply not stable categories. At one time you
could say that Matthew Arnold was an organic intellectual.

When he wrote Culture and Anarchy in 1869, he had an
affiliation with a particular class. But by the end of the
century, he had become a traditional intellectual. People
read his work as a kind of apology for culture, without any
connection to anything except the Church.

RP: But with Gramsci, one has the sense of a particular
audience; that he is addressing a specific audience, an
ideal audience, even.

Said: Yes, all of this has to do with an audience, when I talk
about a dramatic function. The difference is that I feel we all
have different audiences in different constituencies. Just
performing acts of routine solidarity, or mindless loyalty,
strikes me as not interesting, not important. Although there
may be a time for it. The great problem in essentially
administered societies, the Western democracies, is precisely
Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

the drowning out of the critical sense. That has to be
opposed by the secular intellectual and the critical sense
revised for various audiences, various constituencies.

RP: This question of intellectuals and their constituencies has been raised quite acutely in the American
academy in recent years in ways that relate directly to
some of the issues we have discussed regarding the
reception of Orientalism: namely, in the debates about
political correctness and the canon. These are debates
about exclusion, about boundaries, about what is to be
excluded and what included. The position you have
taken in these debates looks like a fairly traditional
liberal humanist one, of opening up the space, including
more texts, but defending canonicity. There are two
questions here. The first is that if the way the state works
culturally is through exclusion (as you suggest), can you
really expect the existing state to open itself up to all
these things? The pure liberal state is a fiction of political theory. The second question derives from a piece you
wrote in the THES where you ask: ‘Who benefits from
levelling attacks on the canon?’ and reply: ‘Certainly
not the disadvantaged person or class, whose history, if
you bother to read it at all, is full of evidence that
popular resistance to injustice has always derived
immense benefits from literature and culture in general,
and very few from invidious distinctions between ruling
class and subservient cultures.’ This is a strong defence
of the oppositional political possibilities of ‘great texts’.

But are such distinctions always invidious?

Said: I’ve never felt the canon to be imposing a set of
restrictions on me. It never occurred to me that in either
reading or teaching the canon I was like a servant at work in
the orchard of some great ruling-class figure who employed
me to do that. I took it as requiring a certain kind of attention,
a certain kind of discipline. Because I didn’t feel that
restriction I felt the whole question of the canon – whether
it was raised by its defenders or its opponents – to be a very
limited one. Secondly, everything I said in that article, and
thereafter, concerned not the role of the canon in the state,
in the context of the state, but in the university. Now, in my
view, the university is one of the last quasi-utopian spaces
in modem society. And if it becomes a place for displacing
one set of categories in order to put in their place another set
of categories, if we’re going to read aggressively one set of
texts that were forbidden in the past and that are now
possible, and we’re going to forbid the texts that we read in
the past in order to read these texts, I’m against the practice.

That’s not the answer. In America, the vogue might be for
Afrocentrism to replace Eurocentrism. In the Islamic world
it is to not read Western texts in order to read Islamic texts.

I don’t have to make that choice. If that’s what it’s all about,
I’m off. I’m ag’in them both. Just as I’m against William
Bennett and Bernard Lewis, and all these who keep telling
us that we should only read Homer and Sophocles, I’m
against the other ones who say, you’ll only read texts by
black people.

The question is: Are there open categories? That’s really
your question. I think there are. But they’re not out there,
29

they’re what you do. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about
somebody saying: ‘OK, Said, you can do anything you
like. ‘ That’s not interesting. What is, is what you do in your
individual practice as a teacher, a writer, an intellectual.

What are the choices you make? Now, if your attitude is
venerative, then that’s stupid. I’m against that. I’ve spent a
lot of time trying to show the limitations of that. If, on the
other hand, your attitude is critical, I think that’s what
education is all about – to instil a critical sense, a kind of
nasty, demanding, questioning attitude to everything that’s
put before you. But that by no means exempts you in the end
from making judgements, from deciding what is good
versus what is better, what is excellent, what is lousy.

Questions of taste are very important. I don’t derive the
same pleasure reading a novel by a great novelist and a
political pamphlet. It’s a different kind of thing. So in the
end it’s not the categories that are open, it’s the possibilities
of political and intellectual work that are relatively open, if
one knows how to take advantage of them.

RP: Can we return to your own position as a Palestinian
working and living in the USA? In the introduction to a
discussion with Salman Rushdie about your book, After
the Last Sky, you talked about the dangers of being a
‘cultural outsider’. Is that how you see yourself, as a
cultural outsider?

Said: Yes, I do, without necessarily feeling alienated, if you
see what I mean. You could be an outsider, and become
more of an outsider, and cultivate your own garden, feel
paranoia, all the rest of it. I’ve never felt that. I’ve felt
discriminated against, but I’ve never felt that my situation
was hopeless; that I couldn’t do something to lessen my
feelings of marginality. I’ve never lacked for opportunities
to speak and write. Sometimes it hasn’t been very good. A
couple of years ago I was under a death threat, when some
group was trying to kill me. I had to change the way I lived.

And it’s been very hard for me constantly to be on the
defensive in a public situation, in the media, or even
socially, in a place like New York, where people look at me
and say, ‘Oh yes, PLO terrorist.’

RP: Has that got worse since the Gulf War?

Said: No, it’s pretty much the same. Just before the Gulf
War, there was a horrific attack published in Commentary
called ‘The Professor of Terror’ – it was completely libellous – which tried to prove that I plotted the murder of
Jewish children and all this sort of thing. It was clearly
reckless, designed to provoke me into starting a libel suit,
which would tie me up for ten years, and prevent me from
doing anything else. So I didn’t even reply. Those things
happen all the time. But you go on, and that’s important. In
the Arab world, I feel alienated for political reasons. I
haven’t been to Jordan or Lebanon in over ten years, for
reasons that are entirely political. Most of these places have
changed beyond recognition. So my own past is irrecoverable, in a funny sort of way. I don’t really belong anywhere,
but I’ve resolved that that’s the way it is. It’s OK. I don’t
mind so much. You don’t have much choice
30

PALESTINE, POLITICS & THE GULF WAR
RP: Is it this sense of alienation from the Arab world
that led you to resign from the National Council?

Said: I began to be dissatisfied with the tendencies of the
Palestinian movement, in particular the PLO, to which I’ve
always been loyal as an overall political authority, several
years ago. During the summer of 1991, I was very involved
in the preparations for the Madrid Conference. I knew a lot
of the people on the West Bank, and since America became
central, it was thought that my input would be useful. I
thought the emphasis in the Arab world, and above all in the
Palestinian movement, on ┬Ěthe United States, which was the
last superpower, was scandalous, a slavish kind of fawning,
almost desperate, cap-in-hand, ‘Help us, we rely on you’,
etc. When the United States has been the enemy of our
people! I thought it was scandalous. It was very confusing
to people, this sudden tilt towards America after the Gulf
War. Because of the stupidities of what the PLO did during
the Gulf War, there was a sudden dropping in the lap of
America and accepting everything that they wanted, openly
saying ‘Only America can rescue us!’ It confused people a
great deal. They suddenly thought, ‘what are we struggling
about?’ What happened after Madrid was that the situation
on the West Bank and Gaza got worse, and it’s getting worse
every day. I was also unhappy with the mafia-like quality of
the PLO, and I thought that Arafat, whom I’ve always been
loyal to – he’s a friend – I thought that his tenure had been
too long. It’s not been good for us. I began my critique in
Arabic about three years ago, in 1989. They don’t know
where they’re going. It’s too in-grown.

RP: Inevitably, perhaps?

Said: Perhaps. But it’s also important for independents,
such as myself, to say openly what the problems are. One
last point I want to make is that, talking about negotiations
over the West Bank and Gaza really didn’t affect me in a
way, because I’m not from the West Bank and Gaza. I’m
from what used to be called West Jerusalem. And there was
no role forecast for those of us who are exiles. Four million
Palestinians (many of them stateless) have no place to go.

There are many hundred thousands in Lebanon, Syria, etc.

They’re not included in these negotiations. It’s just about
residents on the West Bank and Gaza. So it’s their problem.

Fine, they’re doing a great job -let them go on doing it. And
the third reason I stopped, which was very important to me,
is that since I discovered I have an insidious and chronic
blood disease, I decided I would like to visit Palestine. I tried
to go once in 1988 and Shamir refused entry, because I was
a member of the National Council. So the resignation makes
it possible for me to do that. And in fact I’m going the day
after tomorrow. I’m on my way, for the first time in almost
forty-five years.

RP: When you go to the Arab world, do you see this as
some kind of returning home, or is America now your
home?

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

Said: No, I’m totally at home in both places. But I’m
different, in a way. In the American context, I speak as an
American and I can also speak as a Palestinian. But in
neither case do I feel that I belong in a proprietary sense or,
let us say, in an executive sense, to the central power
establishment. I’m in the opposition in both places. And of
course it means quite different things. If you’re in opposition in Palestine, in the Palestinian context, it means that
you support and help shape an emerging national consensus. I played, I thought, a relatively important role in 1988
at the National Council meeting in Algeria where I helped
to draft some of the statements and involved myself in a lot
of the discussions, pushing towards recognition of the
Israelis (UN resolution 242) by two
states, all of that – I was for that, because
it seemed to me logical, because we had
no ally, no strategic ally, and because I
thought it was right. The Soviet representative had absolutely nothing to say.

In fact he was very discouraging. He
didn’t want us to do that. He said ‘lie
low’, etc. But I thought it was important
to do that. So I did all of that. And as I
said, I support the national consensus.

On the other hand, I certainly didn’t
feel it something that I could deny
myself. That if I felt something was
wrong I should say it, and I said it.

For example, I’ve felt for almost
fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years, that
Palestinian policy in the United States
is badly organised. The USA is not like
an Arab country. It’s not even like a
European country. And they’ve taken
no steps to deal with that. The important
thing becomes: how you pursue your
criticism. The venue becomes central. I
would never speak to a Western press
person, because, in that context, it is
interpreted as an attack on the national movement, which I
wouldn’t do. But in the Arabic press, in Arabic, I would do
it. But rarely without having spoken to Arafat first. In
America I’m totally in the opposition. It’s true, in effect,
I’ve become some kind of Mister Palestine to a lot of
commentators. But I have never been on television, orpress,
or any sort of forum in America, without always being on
the defensive, or in the minority.

I was on a big Sunday morning programme once – I think
it was the Brinkley show – and it was one of the key
moments of the Intifada. People were getting killed and
beaten and all the rest, and they actually showed a tape of it.

The first question to me after the tape was: ‘When are the
Palestinians going to stop terrorism?’ But when I give
lectures now, political ones, since the Gulf War, and even
during the Gulf War, I very rarely get hostile questions. It’s
quite extraordinary. Opinion has changed so much. The
standard official Israeli position has simply nothing to
recommend it any more. We’ve gone all the way, we’ve
recognised them. We’ve said we want coexistence, we’re
willing to talk peace. Why then does the occupation conRadical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

tinue? Why does the systematic persecution and oppression
of Palestinians continue? That’s been a tremendous change.

RP: Do you think the Gulf War was the turning point?

Said: No. During the Gulf War, I took a position which was
very much against Saddam, but I was also opposed to
American troops. I’ve always been against Saddam. The
only time I ever went to Kuwait was in 1985 and I had a huge
semi-public fight with a local luminary who was blathering
on about what a great man Saddam was. This was in the
middle of the Iran-Iraq War. And I said, ‘Saddam’s a
murderer and a pig and a tyrant and a fascist, and you’re
criminals, and fools,’ and all the rest of
it. And they said: ‘Ah, we’re giving
them billions’ – and they did, they gave
him fifteen billion dollars. And I told
them that he was going to be the end of
them. During the first weeks after the
Gulf Crisis the same luminary called me
up and abused me over the phone,
because he said people had told him that
I had appeared on English television,
and I hadn’t been strong enough in
defence of Kuwait. And I said, ‘of course
I’ve defended Kuwait. I’ve been opposed
to the occupation, I’ve been opposed to
Saddam, but I won’t take the position
that Saudi Arabia and your morally and
politically bankrupt government and the
Americans should now send troops in
and start a war. There are many moves
that can be made before that.” Two
weeks later, he wrote a column in the
leading Arab, Saudi paper, published in
London, in which he wrote in Arabic:’

‘Why I invited the prominent Arab intellectuals to commit suicide.’ And he
mentioned me. He said, ‘Said should
commit suicide because he’s been a traitor to the Arabs and
to Kuwait.’

During the Gulf War, my position was very different from
the so-called official Palestinian position, such as it was.

Basically, I opposed Iraq, I opposed the depredations of the
Kuwaiti regime, I opposed Saudi policy, and I opposed the
American position. I opposed the war. But I refused to fall
into the position taken by people like Fred Halliday and
Hans-Magnus Enzensberger – that in the war between
imperialism and fascism you back imperialism. I was against
them both. I think that was the honourable and only serious
position to take. It could have been taken by more intellectuals in the West, but to their shame – partly because of antiArabism and anti-Islam, and the sort of things I talk about
in Orientalism – they didn’t. It’s a scandal. It’s a great
block. What has the war accomplished? Saddam is still
there, he’s still killing Kurds, Shiites, he’s killing everybody. And he may even be supported by the Saudis now. At
the same time as they’re supporting his overthrow, they’re
trying to buy him off, as they do everywhere throughout the
Arab world.

31

RP: So your position was to maintain sanctions?

Said: Yes, to maintain UN sanctions, but also to maintain
uniformity and consistency of positions, everywhere, not
just with regard to Palestine. What about Cyprus? There are
any number of UN resolutions on the Turkish invasion and
partition of the country. One of the reasons I was very upset
about the US position during the so-called peace process,
the Madrid phase, was that it said the Palestinians should
strip themselves of their right to representation. No liberation
movement in history has ever done that. They nominate.

They say: We pick the people, and not you, not the enemy.

Secondly, I thought it was a classic mistake, typically
imperial, that the United States should make this its peace
process, with the Soviet Union. You notice – if you look at
the letter of invitation to the Madrid Conference, the United
Nations is specifically cited as excluded. The United States
will oppose any initiative from the United Nations. So
suddenly the United States, which had used the United
Nations in the Gulf War, had banned it from the peace
process! All of these things have to be said.

RP: In a television interview with you and Chomsky,
during or immediately after the war, you talked about
the persistence of orientalist attitudes. At the time, that
explanatory framework seemed to miss the precision of
the West’s economic and military motives. The reference to orientalist discourses appeared almost superfluous in the face of that kind of precision.

Said: Maybe I’m overly sensitive to it, but I don’t think a
war like that could have been fought, paid for by Arabs
against other Arabs with contempt towards the whole
procedure of negotiating, without orientalism. This was not
a war about aggression or anything like that. It was a war
about cheap oil, and only Arabs have cheap oil: that combination has a particular kind of racial tinge to it. Nobody
said – certainly not the Americans – that this is Arab oil for
the Arabs, not just for the Kuwaiti royal family. These states
– Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – are owned by families. There’s
no state in the world that’s designated like Saudi Arabia it’s the House of Saud – they actually own the country. All
of these anomalies were only possible, it seems to me, and
produced contradictory and lying discourses about justice
and aggression and all the rest of it, because they’re Arab.

The United States has never supported human rights in
the Arab world. I made a study of it. Every US position of
importance, whether political or economic or military, in
the Arab world has always been taken against human rights.

They’ve opposed human rights for Palestinians, they’ve
opposed human rights in the Gulf, they’ve opposed human
rights in places like Syria, and so on and so forth. So I think
you can’t not talk about what we might call cultural attitudes. There was a kind of contempt. The other discourse what you call economic and military – is not precise enough
without this component. There was a massive campaign on
the media in the United States: an anti-Arab and racist
campaign, the demonisation of Saddam. In many ways, Iraq
is the cultural centre of the Arab world. You didn’t know
that from the television screen, which just showed those
32

smart bombs going in over Baghdad. Saddam is not Baghdad. And to this day, not a word, not even a word about the
people killed. This could only have been done with Arabs.

RP: Do you think that the American anti-war movement
did enough?

Said: What anti-war movement? Of course not. I don’t
think it would have been hard to do it. I think there was a lot
of popular ambivalence about the war. The left position was
ambiguous. Not enough was made about the human catastrophe visited upon Iraq and the Gulf generally. Not enough
was known about it, you see. A leading article on Foreign
Affairs in December, just as the United States was about to
go to war, began: ‘Saddam is from a brittle country which
has no connection to ideas, books, or culture.’ This is a
description of the country they’re going to war against …

‘camel jockeys’ and’ towel heads’ , whether they’re for us or
against us. The same kind of scorn was heaped on the
Saudis, and they were the’ good Arabs’ in this war. This was
considered to be a war good for Israel, because Iraq was
touted as the country most threatening to Israel. So there
was really very little in the way of protest. To call it a
movement would be wrong. It could have been a movement.

RP: What would it have needed?

Said: It would have needed organisation. Don’t forget, this
is the period after the collapse of socialism, of the left. There
is no left in America, like there is a European left, or a
British left.

RP: The British left was itself very confused.

Said: Well, if you were confused, what about America,
where there is no real left? There are people who are sort of
vaguely left, who are left by virtue of sentiment and
providence – people like Irving Howe, for example, or
Michael Walzer – who are great gurus of the left. Walzer
was for the war. He thought it was a just war. The media was
completely in cahoots with the government. It was one of
the great satanic collaborations between the media and the
government. You couldn’t get on. Radio, however, was
very important during the war, National Public Radio, and
a few of the national networks carried a lot of stuff. But it
doesn’t have the power oftelevision. It was a television war.

RP: In Baudrillard’s terms?

Said: What did he say? Probably not.

RP: Baudrillard said it was a hyper-real non-event.

Said: Good old Baudrillard! For that I think he should be
sent there. With a toothbrush and a can of Evian, or
whatever it is he drinks.

Interviewed by Anne Beezer and Peter Osborne
London, June 1992

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

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