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In Memory of Edward Said – The Bulletproof Intellectual


This plenary presentation eulogizes Edward Said and speaks to his courage, passion, and scholarship, while simultaneously acknowledging his discomfort with the problematic category of “great men.” Shohat traces Said’s early scholarship, the vitriolic backlash against his words, and the way his work consolidated what would, a decade later, become the fields of postcolonial studies and cultural studies. Shohat’s presentation then delves into the circulation and reception of his critique of Orientalism as an example of “traveling theory.” In Middle East studies, Said has been criticized as a deficient political scientist or historian or anthropologist, with critics ignoring the central concern of his work: the problem of representation and the necessity of a political critique that is also a cultural critique. In postcolonial studies in Israel, a certain post-Zionist discourse privileged Homi Bhabha’s theories of hybridity, which were translated into Hebrew, over Said’s not-yet-translated and allegedly binaristic notions of coloniality. In the final moments of the presentation, Shohat reflects on her friendship with Edward Said, remembering his courage in the face of consistent attacks and his willingness to inhabit the ever-uncomfortable space of the worldly yet “out-of-place” intellectual.

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