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Postcolonial Theory and Literature

Edward W. Said

Edward W. Said was born in Jerusalem in 1935 and raised in Jerusalem and Cairo. Said earned his B.A. from Princeton University in 1957, and his M.A. (1960) and Ph.D. (1964) from Harvard University.

Said began teaching at Columbia University in 1963, where he rose to be University Professor of English and Comparative Literature. He was the author of twenty-two books, translated into thirty-five languages; they include Beginnings: Intention and Method (1975); Orientalism (1978); The Question of Palestine (1979); Covering Islam (1981); The World, The Text, and the Critic (1983); After the Last Sky (1986); Musical Elaborations (1991); Culture and Imperialism (1993); Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures (1994); Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process (1996); Out of Place: A Memoir (1999); The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After (2000); Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (2001); Power, Politics, and Culture (2001); Parallels and Paradoxes (2002); and Freud and the Non-European (2003). Humanism and Democratic Criticism (2004) appeared posthumously.

Said experienced postcoloniality as exile when the state of Israel was established in Palestine in 1948. "Orientalism" created a new way of theorizing the last few centuries, when the imperialist West constructed the colonies as aberrant cultural and political objects, needing the civilizing efforts of the master races. This is postcolonial theory. As a public intellectual, Said spoke indefatigably against Israeli colonialism in occupied Palestine. We might call this postcolonial intellectual practice.

Said wrote a twice-monthly column for London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and the Cairo paper Al-Ahram; he wrote regularly for newspapers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and was the music critic for the magazine The Nation. Said lectured all over the world, protesting the violence in the Middle East, speaking "truth to power." A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Royal Society of Literature, and the American Philosophical Society, Said was a member of the PEN Executive Board until 1998, and President of the Modern Language Association for 1999.

Said received twenty honorary doctorates, from the University of Chicago, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), Haverford College, Bir Zeit University (Palestine), University of Michigan, University of Edinburgh, University of Warwick, University of Exeter, National University of Ireland, University of Paris 7–Denis Diderot, Institute of Social Sciences (The Hague), American University of Beirut, and the University of Aberdeen, among others. In 1998, he was awarded the Sultan Owais Prize for general cultural achievement; in 1999, he received the first Spinoza Prize (Netherlands). Said's memoir Out of Place received the New Yorker Book Award for Non-Fiction (1999), the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction (2000), and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award in Literature. In 2001, Said was awarded the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement; in 2002, he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord. Professor Said died on 23 September 2003.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Positive Number to Propaganda - World War IiPostcolonial Theory and Literature - Edward W. Said, First Wave: Colonial Discourse, Mahasweta Devi, W. E. B. Du Bois