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’s Discourse


talked about . . . it is through discourse itself that the world itself is

brought into being” (Clifford, 1988: 257).

In Clifford’s view,


“concerns the status of all

forms of thought and representation for dealing with the alien”

(1988: 261). Although he credits Said with making “a pioneering

attempt to use Foucault systematically in an extended cultural

analysis” (264), he nonetheless faults him for not providing a

sensible alternative to Orientalism nor for that matter “any

developed theory of culture” (263). As a result, Said’s critique of

the West and its misrepresentation of the other tends to be

“incestuously self-referential” and relies on the Western discourse

of humanism for its insights and conclusions (Clifford, 1988: 272).

“The West,” then, “becomes a play of projections, doublings,

idealizations, and rejections of a complex, shifting otherness” while

“the Orient” takes on “the role of origin or alter ego” (272). Based

on Clifford’s reading, not only is Said’s appropriation of Foucault

misguided, but his “oppositional critique of Orientalism” (259) is

prone to becoming a version of its other, Occidentalism.


White Mythologies: Writing History and the West


Robert J. C. Young takes issue with Said’s stubborn adherence to

the “values of humanism” including “the notion of the ‘human

spirit’” (1990: 170). Young declares that Said’s humanism runs

afoul as soon as he applies Foucault’s ideas to his critique of

Orientalism as an institution, ideology, and profession.




Although Said’s use of the term “humanism” tends to be idiosyncratic at times, I

will put forth the following working definition: Humanism is a Western

philosophy or mode of thought associated with the rise of modernity, which posits

the individual as “the focus of all knowledge and understanding about the world.”

This style of thinking was clearly a reaction to the pre-Renaissance notion of a

Theocentric world. Many poststructuralists like Foucault, however, “rejected

humanism as being theoretically unsound, because subjectivity was to be seen as a

site upon which various social forces worked, rather than the location of an

autonomous being, and because the idea of ‘the human’ itself was a historically

bounded category” (Ashcroft & Ahluwalia, 1999: 25). See also Said in which he

discusses humanism as “a useable praxis for intellectuals and academics who want

to know what they are doing, what they are committed to as scholars, and who