Haus der Kulturen der Welt

In her introduction, Adania Shibli traces the journeys of Said’s ideas across both place and time, and introduces the varied interpretations presented here by contributors from a wide range of academic and artistic disciplines. Fawwaz Traboulsi then outlines Edward Said’s intellectual development—from Orientalism (1978) to On Late Style (2006)—the latter of which reveals his identification with “lateness” as an inharmonious and unresolved contradiction. Boris Buden ponders Said’s theses stemming from “Speaking Truth to Power” (1993), and the role of intellectuals within this process. Samia Mehrez proposes a personal reading of Said’s paper, “On the University” (2005), which sketches his vision for a liberal education. The chapter also includes Edward Said’s last interview where he reflects on his intellectual position(s) and discusses how his personal life informed his work.

In Culture and Imperialism (1994), Edward Said argues that classical imperialism has continued to exert considerable cultural influence in the present. The contribution by Prabhat Patnaik offers new insight into this issue in the context of India, coinciding with the emergence of new political, social, and economic conditions. Meltem Ahıska and Johannes S. Ismaiel-Wendt, on the other hand, highlight contemporary shifts in Said’s foundational discussions of Orientalism, and also Occidentalism in places like Turkey and Germany. Alongside these insights, this chapter presents an interview with Edward Said talking about the context in which Orientalism (1978) was conceived, and how its main themes relate to contemporary attempts to understand the “Orient.”

Al-muthanna is an Arabic term that refers to a relationship that develops freely and naturally between two parties. As such, al-muthanna-like relations extend beyond the binary, oppositional logic that has come to dominate the understanding of social relations and interactions and instead resonate with Said’s call to “think the bridge,” rather than the “abyss,” between cultures and civilizations; a call that Akeel Bilgrami explores in his contribution. Abdelfattah Kilito, however, traces the al-muthanna paradigm in Said’s life: between two languages—Arabic and English—and two places—East and West. Audio and musical contributions by Trinh T. Minh-ha and Burnt Friedman & Saam Schlamminger are similarly inspired by this state of being “in between,” materialized in the figures of the émigré and the traveler who suspend the claim of customary routines and routes. An excerpt from a conversation between Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim similarly reflects and epitomizes the al-muthanna model.

Contributions here, coming from the fields of theater, visual arts, and academia, examine how cultures and peoples in Syria, Palestine, South Africa, Algeria, and Cuba have resisted colonialism past and present, be it external or internal. Among the issues the contributors Mohammad al-Attar, Mahmood Mamdani, Michael Wood, and Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme address are the methods by which colonized peoples shed the distorted perceptions and representations of the self as shaped by the colonizer. Furthermore, they consider novel forms of resistance to imperialism, and alternatives to present political systems. Such attempts range from reflecting on knowledge-production practices to the creation of radical new imaginaries. Edward Said addresses the question of “lost causes” in one of his essays, part of which is presented here.

Said’s body of work continues to hold significance in academia. Nevertheless, many of his ideas discussed initially inside academia have since journeyed outside these institutions, to new places and fields of practice. With Ahl al-Kahf, Said’s words appear accordingly as graffiti on the walls of Tunisian streets-in-revolt, and are also transposed to Berlin. Bernd M. Scherer reflects on how a cultural institution like the Haus der Kulturen der Welt stands for ideas expressed by Said, but also echoes some of the issues problematized by him. The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music―Birzeit University locates in Said a force which attended to the field of music and musical practice in occupied Palestine, whereas for Feridun Zaimoğlu, Said’s writings emerge as an inspiration for a literary imagination. Edward Said, however, in a later essay, extended his reflection on the question of place beyond actual territories, to virtual spaces.

The departure from conventional modes of thinking allows for major shifts in human thought and practice. Therefore, in order to resist certain “universalistic” concepts associated with Western imperial powers, Said calls for a particular sort of nomadic and anti-narrative energy. Such energy is manifest in Joe Sacco’s contribution: an excerpt from his comic book Palestine (2001) depicting Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation, for which Edward Said wrote the Introduction, an extract of which is also included here. Similar concerns with linguistic and cultural dislocation, exile, and the representation of the “Other” are uncovered by James Quandt in Jean-Luc Godard’s film trilogy. Adania Shibli’s contribution, relying on the very energy of anti-narrative, questions the binary categories of power and weakness. W. J. T. Mitchell reveals yet other anti-narrative forms when he investigates representations of madness in the visual arts.