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
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).