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Orientalisms Effect on Art and History - Essay Example

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Criticized contemporary Arabic society for "all it's political failures, its human rights abuses, its stunning military incompetencies, its decreasing production, [and] the fact that alone of all modern peoples, we have receded in democratic and technological and scientific development." (McLemee 2003)
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Orientalisms Effect on Art and History
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In 1948, while Said was a grade school student (a private English school in Cairo) the state of Israel was created and 80% of the Palestinian population was left without a home, including Said's family. A privileged child, Said had little interest in the conflict. His family left and he did not return to Palestine until as an adult in 1990.
After being expelled from Victoria College in Cairo for poor behavior he was sent to the United States, with citizenship in the US, and finished high school at a private boarding school in New England. He went to Princeton University to study English literature and history. His graduate studies were at Harvard. In 1992 he achieved University Professor at Columbia, their most prestigious position.
The Suez Crisis made an impact on him as an Arab-Palestinian but he did not get involved. But the Israeli victory over the Arab forces in 1967 and the Israeli occupation of the last remaining Palestinian territories forced Said to take a political stance for the liberation of Palestine. In 1968 he wrote his first article about the Palestinian cause: The Arab Portrayed (Dexheimer 2002).
While visiting his family in Beirut in '71, he got entrenched in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine as a part of a community of academics and writers who were involved in various colonial and postcolonial struggles. He translated the speeches of Yassir Arafat into English for the Western press, still not getting politically involved. But in 1977, he was elected to the exiled Palestinian National Congress.

It was at this time that Said, as an academic in the field of comparative literature, began writing on contemporary Arab literature about figures such as Naguib Mahfouz, Elias Khouri, and the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (McLemee 2003).

In 1975-1976 Said became a fellow at Stanford University and wrote Orientalism (1978), the book that made him famous. In the next three years he published Covering Islam (1981) and The Question of Palestine (1979), which, in conjunction with Orientalism, has been called his trilogy. This critique of Oriental Studies questioned everything about this subject that had been a scholarly pursuit at most of the well-known European universities for centuries.

Said used his fame of the 1980-90's to further the cause of Palestine and advocate for human rights. In the 1980's Said lobbied the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to re-think the strategy of armed struggle for liberation and urged Palestinians and Arabs to understand the importance of mutual respect and co-existence with Israelis. He advocated a two-state solution. A temperate voice, he made many friends within Israel. This occurred despite his unsympathetic stance toward Israel (Wikipedia 2006).

Said became a personal target of other conservative Jewish and Christian Zionists. Attacks on Said suggest an "orientalism" on the part of the right-wing Zionists. As an articulate Arab intellectual, Said was viewed as a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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