Critiques of Late Edward W. Said

In the name of God the munificent and merciful

Critiques of Late Edward W. Said

Answering to the two following questions by review of David Kopf, ‘Hermeneutics versus History’

Journal of Asia studies, 39, 3, 1980, pp. 495-506,


1.      What are the main point of strength and the main shortcoming of Said’s Orientalism according to Kopf?


Mr David Kopf (Professor of History at the University of Minnesota) believes that the resource that late Mr Said use in his comparative study is not sufficient sources. And most part of Said’s Orientalism doesn’t have scholarship characteristic. It is like the book that makes colonials force monstrous typical and speaks and stress on painful side of Dominated and cruel Dominator. And polarised in two camps “Westernizer and nativist” and spread hate but it is compulsory when you want to solve problem in such society you have to choose to use of force or freely they change. He considers Said’s theory is not fit in case of India as well as China and Japan and they freely accept to reconstruct their culture and history and Said’s overgeneralizing from a limited area (Middle East) of study to other like India is not sufficient. Said should see orientalism as reality, ideology, movement and set of social institutions not an idea. Mr Kopf say that Said’s Orientalism and others books like this are a trying to solve their identity crises and he rises this question that the world without Orientalism how can make a “common enterprise of promoting human community”

But Mr Kopf accepts that No one would deny Said's argument that Orientalism was politically motivated and was an outgrowth of the British colonialist experience. And as Mr Said also said before, he acknowledge that Orientalist are related to colonialism powers

Mr Kopf remarks that Said never explored, in the context of inter-civilizational encounter between the Europeans and the Asian intelligentsia


2.     How did Orientalism ironically help the process of Renaissance in India?  

Mr Kopf indicates that the West wants to build “the house of India's Future, strong and secure and beautiful” so it is inevitable to change a lot in it, to have strong foundation it is maybe accept by them freely or by force and as Toynbee says, it is inevitable for deep change. He believes that, although some Indian intellectuals had some critique about colonials, but their “reform movement adopted humanistic ideas and ideals from the West to revitalize their own society and culture” he rely on that even though Indian intellectuals in some context of battle against colonials, had same consideration as Said have, but in normal situation they take suitable position toward colonials and they change their side to right way. He says that establishing “Asiatic Society of Bengal” is one of the main actions by colonials that accelerate Indian renascence. Asiatic Society whit the presidency of William jones established by general Hasting’s vision of acculturated service elite played a major role in reshaping the self-image of later civil servants by making them increasingly conscious of their professional and civic responsibilities. He believe that Indian cultural renaissance has referred to, among other things, Bengal's contribution to a modernized India, the earliest modernization of a vernacular language and literature, the emergence of a historical consciousness, the search for a new identity in the modern world, and the reconstruction of Hindu tradition to suit modern needs. Renaissance has also been identified with social reform and religious reformation, cultural and political nationalism, asceticism and the spirit of capitalism, and with such intellectual currents as rationalism, scientism, and secularism.

 But the question is how could India achieve any lasting benefits from a foreign ruler who deprived it of political and economic autonomy? Mr Kopf as answer to this question found that Indian national awakening would have been unthinkable without the British colonial experience. The Bengal Renaissance emerged from the encounter with representatives of the dominant British elite and the social process of renaissance constitutes a new sense of identity among representatives of an exploited ethnic group, religious community, culture, or sex; and that the new awareness emerges as a Salvationist ideology among the intellectuals of the penalized group, who act as brokers or intermediaries to representatives of the dominant or colonialist power.

Renaissance idea starts when the few Indian educated become aware of their disadvantage in the context of Western dominance or of the dominance of whites or invent ideological blueprints to revitalize their communities, and form associations and institutions to rid their cultures of abuses and shortcomings.

If successful, renaissances provide new sociocultural relationships, institutions, and values which are in harmony with the requirements and functions of modernism. Because renaissances are transformations of existing cultural patterns, particular traditions become modernized rather than Westernized. This process has been greatly misunderstood by observers who mistakenly equate modernization with Westernization.

So the Indian intellectuals accept to be modernised and so some of them like Rammohun Roy appear an advocate of English language, education, and philosophy and starts to rethink the Vedanta and Hindu philosophical tradition. British Orientalism gave birth to the Bengal Renaissance because it helped Indians to find an indigenous identity in the modern world. This was obviously not the intent of colonialists like Hastings, or like Wellesley, who founded the College of Fort William in 18oo. Their purpose was to convert an expatriate class of Company officials in to an Indianite, linguistically competent service elite who would be increasingly effective in their professional and public responsibilities.

So without Orientalist cultural policy, we would not have had the significant assistances to the fields of Indian philology, archaeology, and history. The Vedas were the scriptures of the Aryans, and that the Upanishads preceded the Vedanta were the discoveries of the British Orientalists. The knowledge that Buddha was once a human being as well as Shankara, that the Mauryas ruled a vast empire, and that classical civilization reached its peak under the Guptas were also significant endeavours of Orientalist scholarship. The work of integrating a vast collection of myths, beliefs, rituals, and laws into a coherent religion, and of shaping an amorphous heritage into a rational faith known now as "Hinduism" were endeavours initiated by Orientalists.

Mr Kopf refers to Nirad Chaudhuri's comment on pre- Orientalist Hinduism that In the eighteenth century, on the eve of the establishment of British rule, the Hindus had no recollection of their real past, nor any idea of the true character of the classical Sanskrit civilization. Their Hinduism was a broken-up and simplified version of the Hinduism of ancient India. They contributed to the formation of a new Indian middle class and assisted in the professionalization of the Bengali academics. They started schools, systematized languages, brought printing and publishing to India, and encouraged the proliferation of books, journals, newspapers, and other media of communication. Their output was urban and secular. They built the first modern scientific laboratories in India and taught European medicine. They were neither static classicist nor averse to the idea of progress; and they both historicized the Indian past and stimulated a consciousness of history in the Indian intellectual.

Macaulayism had the immediate impact of splitting the loyalties of the Hindu intelligentsia into two opposite camps. Calcutta intellectuals, who for decades had responded sympathetically to the culture of the European (as they were themselves bolstered by Indian ideas), now faced new assumptions: that patterns of reform.

So as you see Mr Kopf believes that Hindus as majority of Indian, at the starting of colonialism and before of colonialized India, don’t aware of their riches civilisation, and they became aware of their wealthy culture and religion that became simplified and spread during the time, and when orientalist start to study there they became awaken. The process of awakening and enlightening starts when colonials decide to establish an academic course for their official in Indian East Company territory.  College of Fort William in 18oo is one of them that established by British colonial in Kolkata India that some Indian scholar inter in it and they jointly with British Orientalist study about Indian culture and religion and as the outcome of this studies come out the Indian became aware of their riches culture and they start to identifying himself and this identification help them to find himself and starting course of escape from domination of British authority.


Answering to the following question by Read the first four pages of Michael Richardson, ‘Enough Said’,

Anthropology Today, 6, 4, August 1990,


Why does the lack of reciprocity between subject and object make Said’s argument against Orientalism problematic?

Mr Michael Richardson believe that anthropological image of orient is absent in late Said’s account. He says that when object (orient) does not have existence and it made by subjects thoughts so it is not the things to question if one of them are absent. The relation between subject and object is the same and they need to each other to existence, so if object is not available this two side relation will be challenge.


The other thing is that the Orient should show himself not reject himself as Said did. 


+ نوشته شده در جمعه دهم آذر ۱۳۹۱ ساعت 0:29 شماره پست: 211

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