discourse. Surely, anyone who reads
alongside any of
the Orientalist texts in question would be able to tell the difference.
Young’s argument is almost tantamount to saying that a reader
would not be able to tell the ideological difference between, say, a
novel like Rudyard Kipling’s
(1901) and E. M. Forster’s
Passage to India
(1924), since both are set during the time of the
British Raj and are part of the same vaguely-defined tradition
known as the British novel.
Although Young is quite correct to point out the hypocrisy of
Western humanism as a philosophical tradition, including its links
to slavery and colonialism, many of its basic tenets or principles are
still accepted (and refined) by intellectuals both in and outside the
West. A good illustration of this tension can be found in the work
of Frantz Fanon, one of humanism’s harshest critics, who called for
not its abandonment but rather its fullest or, dare I say, universal
application. In fact, in the closing pages of
The Wretched of the
, Fanon, arguing for the creation of a “new humanism,”
declares, “Let us endeavor to invent a man in full, something which
Europe has been incapable of achieving” (2004: 236).
The other key point that Young raises concerns Orientalism’s
status as a “real” phenomenon. According to Young, Said fails to
make a proper distinction between a real and fake Orient, which
leads to some confusion over what Orientalism may or may not be.
The problem with Young’s assertion is its binary or Manichean
logic. Such critics overlook the fact that while the Orient may be
as a body of knowledge in the service of
has had real consequences on the imperial policies of
Western nations (including Britain, France and the United States)
throughout the Near and Far East. Of course, the same could be
said for other imaginary concepts like “nation” and “race” in terms
of the real and metaphysical violence that have been inflicted on
others in their name.