The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Edward Said
1935- 2003
"Not everyone is afraid, and not every voice can be silenced...If the way seems difficult, it cannot be abandoned. When any of us is stopped, ten others can take his or her place. That is the genuine hallmark of our struggle, and neither censorship nor base complicity with it can prevent its success." - Edward Said 5-9-01
Liam O Ruairc • 27 September 2003

The Blanket was saddened by the untimely death of Professor Edward Said (1935-2003) last week. For years, Edward Said was courageously struggling against leukemia. When asked by The Blanket in May 2002 whether he would agree to an interview, Said replied in an email "Alas I can't now since I am in intensive treatment for my advancing leukemia and accordingly have had to cut out all interviews and such like. Please forgive me." Edward Said was a leading academic, public intellectual and political activist. His influence can be attested by the fact that both the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and the Irish Republican Socialist Movement sent statements to express their sympathy. Said was an original thinker with considerable erudition, and thought with both eloquence and style.

In terms of academic contributions, Said is likely to be remembered for his path-breaking book "Orientalism" (1978). In this work as well as in his subsequent book "Culture and Imperialism" (1993), Said examined how Western discourse on the Orient was intrinsically related to colonialism and domination, establishing the genealogy of this orientalist discourse from Aeschylus to Dante, Marx and Bernard Lewis. The book belongs to that tradition of works denouncing the complicity of intellectuals and official culture with dominant ideologies and power. Said's achievement is to have brought the question of cultural imperialism at the very center of theoretical debates within Western academia. Its novelty was mainly methodological, Said was able to adapt the work of Michel Foucault to the context of colonial and postcolonial societies. Said was at his best when writing about the literary field and in terms of textual approach. However, there are many theoretical difficulties, ambivalences and political confusions in Said's work. In his book "In Theory" (1992), Ajiz Ahmad criticized Said for coming close to the conclusion that there is something of an original ontological flaw in the European psyche and that Europeans are ontologically incapable of producing any true knowledge about the Orient.

Though it was not his main field of interest, Edward Said wrote on Ireland, Yeats in particular. He contributed along with Frederic Jameson and Terry Eagleton to a Field day pamphlet entitled "Ireland: Nationalism, Colonialism, Literature" (1990). One of his last contributions was his afterword to "Ireland and Postcolonial Theory" (2003). Edward Said recognized the importance and respected the figure of James Connolly.

Edward Said fought all his life for the rights of the Palestinian people. His seminal essay "Zionism from the standpoint of its victims" is probably the best of those he wrote on Palestine. Many of us of Ireland have been inspired by his incisive critique of the "Peace Process" in the Middle East and the politics of what used to be a national liberation organization. In 2000 in the London Review of Books he wrote:

"Has the rhetoric of 'peace' been in essence a gigantic fraud? Some of the answers to these questions lie buried in reams of documents signed by the two parties, unread except by the small handful of people who negotiated them. Others are simply ignored by the media and the governments whose job, it now appears, was to press on with disastrous information, investment and enforcement policies, regardless of the horrors taking place on the ground.

A few people, myself included, have tried to chronicle what has been going on, from the initial Palestinian surrender at Oslo until the present, but in comparison with the mainstream media and governments, not to mention the status reports and recommendations circulated by huge funding agencies like the World Bank, the European Union and many private foundations who have played along with the deception, our voices have had a negligible effect except, sadly, as prophecy."

The principled stance of Edward Said may have had a negligible effect on the institutions of the powerful and the wealthy and their apparatus of deception, but to us, it is an inspiration.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

28 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Edward Said, 1935-2003
Liam O Ruairc


Civil Rights Anniversary
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Nothing But Contempt for the Court of the Rich
Anthony McIntyre


Ireland and Post Colonial Theory
Liam O Ruairc


2 Statements on the death of Edward Said


The Letters Page has been updated.


26 September 2003


Over the Hills and Far Away
Anthony McIntyre


Glory O Glory O
Kathleen O Halloran


Beware the Trap Door
Eamon Sweeney


Massacre at the Monbar
Anthony McIntyre


The Night de Valera Replied to Churchill
Mick Hall


Junk Science? The Courts, the Media and the MMR Vaccine
John Harrington


Conscience or Complicity
Mary La Rosa




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