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Edward W. Said

Über Orientalismus - Kultur der Einfühlung

"1978 erschien das Hauptwerk von Edward W. Said, "Orientalismus". Darin untersucht der US-amerikanische Intellektuelle palästinensischer Herkunft die Versuche des Westens, durch eine Rekonstruktion des "Orients" die eigenen kolonialen und neokolonialen Unternehmungen zu rechtfertigen. Heute, 25 Jahre später, besteht er noch entschiedener auf seinem Grundgedanken: Wer andere Kulturen wirklich verstehen will, muss zuallererst lernen, jeden Überlegenheitsanspruch abzulegen. Für Said ist die Verteidigung des Humanismus notwendiger denn je, um nicht den viel beschworenen "Kampf der Kulturen", sondern den gleichberechtigten Dialog der Kulturen zu führen und an die Stelle der Dämonisierung des "Anderen" die Einfühlung in das Fremde treten zu lassen."

Quelle: Le Monde diplomatique, dt. Ausgabe,  Nr. 7155 v. 12.9.2003, S. 1, 12-13, 73 (Dokumentation). 


Orientalism Now

Latent and Manifest Orientalism

"In Chapter One, I tried to indicate the scope of thought and action covered by the word Orientalism, using as privileged types the British and French experiences of and with the Near Orient, Islam, and the Arabs. In those experiences I discerned and intimate, perhaps even the most intimate, and rich relationship between Occident and Orient. Those experiences were part of a much wider European or Western relationship with the Orient, but what seems to have influenced Orientalism most was a fairly constant sense of confrontation felt by Westerners dealing with the East. The boundary notion of East and West, the varying degrees of projected inferiority and strength, the range of work done, the kinds of characteristic features ascribed to The Orient: all these testify to a willed imaginative and geographic division made between East and West, and lived through during many centuries. In Chapter Two my focus narrowed a good deal. I was interested in the earliest phases of what I call modern Orientalism, which began during the latter part of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth. Since I did not intend my study to become a narrative chronicle of the development of Oriental studies in the modern West, I proposed instead an account of the rise, development, and institutions of Orientalism as they were formed against a background of intellectual, cultural, and political history until about 1870 or 1880. Although my interest in Orientalism there included a decently ample variety of scholars and imaginative writers, I cannot claim by any means to have presented more than a portrait of the typical structures (and their ideological tendencies) constituting the field, its associations with other fields, and the work of some of its most influential scholars. My principal operating assumptions were - and continue to be - that fields of learning, as much as the works of even the most eccentric artist, are constrained and acted upon by society, by cultural traditions, by worldly circumstance, and by stabilizing influences like schools, libraries, and governments; moreover, that both learned and imaginative writing are never free, but are limited in their imagery, assumptions, and intentions; and finally, that the advances made by a "science" like Orientalism in its academic form are less objectively true than we often like to think. In short, my study hitherto has tried to describe the economy that makes Orientalism a coherent subject matter, even while allowing that as an idea, concept, or image the word Orient has a considerable and interesting cultural resonance in the West.

I realize that such assumptions are not without their controversial side. Most of us assume in a general way that learning and scholarship move forward; they get better, we feel, as time passes and as more information is accumulated, methods are refined, and later generations of scholars improve upon earlier ones. In addition, we entertain a mythology of creation, in which it is believed that artistic genius, an original talent, or a powerful intellect can leap beyond the confines of its own time and place in order to put before the world a new work. It would be pointless to deny that such ideas as these carry some truth. Nevertheless the possibilities for work present in the culture to a great and original mind are never unlimited, just as it is also true that a great talent has a very healthy respect for what others have done before it and for what the field already contains. The work of predecessors, the institutional life of a scholarly field, the collective nature of any learned enterprise: these, to say nothing of economic and social circumstances, tend to diminish the effects of the individual scholar's production. A field like Orientalism has a cumulative and corporate identity, one that is particularly strong given its associations with traditional learning (the classics, the Bible, philology), public institutions (governments, trading companies, geographical societies, universities), and generically determined writing (travel books, books of exploration, fantasy, exotic description). The result for Orientalism has been a sort of consensus: certain things, certain types of statement, certain types of work have seemed for the Orientalist correct. He has built his work and research upon them, and they in turn have pressed hard upon new writers and scholars. Orientalism can thus be regarded as a manner of regularized (or Orientalized) writing, vision, and study, dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient. The Orient is taught, researched, administered, and pronounced upon in certain discrete ways.

The Orient that appears in Orientalism, then, is a system of representations framed by a whole set of forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later, Western empire. If this definition of Orientalism seems more political than not, that is simply because I think Orientalism was itself a product of certain political forces and activities. Orientalism is a school of interpretation whose material happens to be the Orient, its civilizations, peoples, and localities. Its objective discoveries - the work of innumerable devoted scholars who edited texts and translated them, codified grammars, wrote dictionaries, reconstructed dead epochs, produced positivistically verifiable learning - are and always have been conditioned by the fact that its truth, like any truths delivered by language, are embodied in language, and what is the truth of language, Nietzsche once said, but

a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms - in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people. truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are.

Perhaps such a view as Nietzsche's will strike us too nihilistic, but at least it will draw attention to the fact that so far as it existed in the West's awareness, the Orient was a word which later accrued to it a wide field of meanings, associations, and connotations, and that these did not necessarily refer to the real Orient but to the field surrounding the word (...)"

(ebd., Chapter 3: Orientalism Now, I. Latent and Manifest Orientalism, S. 201-203)

A powerful European ideological creation ...

In this highly acclaimed work, Edward Said surveys the history and nature of Western attitudes towards the East, considering Orientalism as a powerful European ideological creation - a way for writers, philosophers and colonial administrators to deal with the 'otherness' of Eastern culture, customs and beliefs. He traces this view through the writings of Homer, Nerval and Flaubert, Disraeli and Kipling, whose imaginative depictions have greatly contributed to the West's romantic and exotic picture of the Orient. Drawing on his own experience asan Arab Palestinian living in the West, Said examines how these ideas can be a reflection of european imperialism and racism.

In his new preface, Said examines the effect of continuing Western imperialism after recent events in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Penguin Classics


Edward W. Said (1935 - 2003), ein bekannter Literaturtheoretiker und -kritiker, war Professor für vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft an der Columbia Universität (USA), zuletzt erschienen: "Am falschen Ort. Autobiographie", 2000, und "Das Ende des Friedensprozesses. Oslo und danach", 2002, beide Berlin (Berlin Verlag).

" VOR neun Jahren habe ich zu meinem Buch "Orientalismus"(1) ein neues Nachwort verfasst. Darin bin ich nicht nur auf die vielen Diskussionen eingegangen, die das Buch seit seinem Erscheinen 1978 angestoßen hat, sondern ich habe auch darauf hingewiesen, dass meine Überlegungen zu den Wahrnehmungs- und Darstellungsweisen "des Orients" immer öfter missverstanden worden sind. Dass mich dies heute eher ironisch als ärgerlich stimmt, betrachte ich als ein Zeichen meines fortgeschrittenen Alters. Der Tod von Eqbal Ahmad und von Ibrahim Abu-Lughod(2)- zweien meiner wichtigsten intellektuellen, politischen und persönlichen Mentoren - hat bei mir Trauer und das Gefühl von Verlust und Resignation ausgelöst, aber auch den hartnäckigen Willen, weiterzumachen (...)"

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