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Raymond Williams’s lectern at Cambridge University (Said, 1983:

238-239). Therefore, in the case of Said, it is just as important to

ask whether any of the “original power or rebelliousness” of

Foucault’s theory had subsided by the time it crossed the Atlantic

and found its way into the pages of


(Said, 2001: 436).

Or, to put it bluntly, was something lost in translation?

To tackle this question, I will turn to James Clifford and

Robert J. C. Young, who provide what is perhaps the most

trenchant critique of Said’s book. Any defense of



its weight must confront the objections of these two scholars whose

own work (much like Said’s) is committed to providing a voice for

the indigenous and subaltern.

According to Clifford,


transforms what was once

an “old-fashioned scholarly discipline” into “a synecdoche for a

much more complex and ramified totality” that Said labels as a

“discourse” (1988: 257). For Foucault, the idea of discourse refers

to a “group of statements” belonging to “a single system of

formation” (Foucault, 1972: 197) that “governs their division, the

degree to which they depend upon one another, the way in which

they interlock or exclude one another, the transformation that they

undergo, and the play of their location, arrangement, and

replacement” (34).


As a “strongly bounded area of social

knowledge,” it is responsible for producing “a system of statements

within which the world can be known” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, &

Tiffin, 1998: 83). Rather than “reality” being “simply ‘there’ to be


For Foucault, discourse has at least three possible meanings. It can “sometimes”

refer to the “general domain of all statements,” whether they be written or spoken.

It can also be defined as “an individualizable group of statements” in relation to a

particular field or discipline such as medicine, science or law. Thirdly, it can refer

to “a regulated practice that accounts for a certain number of statements”

(Foucault, 1972: 80). For Said and others, it is the third definition that is most

pertinent since it is “less interested in actual utterances/texts that are produced

than in the rules and structures which produce particular utterances and texts” in

the first place (Mills, 1997: 7).