Freud and the Non-European


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The American sages who announce periodically that history has ended, that civilisations are about to clash, or that Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus believe sincerely in American predominance as a force for good. Of course, a Nepalese academic proclaiming the end of history from his office in downtown Kathmandu would immediately appear ill-informed in the way that an American pundit from an allegedly prestigious think-tank in Washington DC never does.

Political, economic and cultural power manage not only to hide ignorance and insularity but also to exalt them into government policy and, eventually, into "facts on the ground".

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In many ways, we live with the consequences of what a handful of provincial British experts made of the world in the 19th century, when the British empire was even more unassailable than the United States appears today. In his history of India a place he never visited , the utilitarian James Mill saw the country as perennially fought over by the two barbaric religious communities of Hindus and Muslims and sunk in a darkness that the British East India Company - Mill's later employer - was well placed to dispel with the help of utilitarian methods.

There were no Indians then of comparable influence to point out that Mill did not much know what he was talking about. And so Mill's view that Hindus and Muslims formed two mutually antagonistic nations became institutionalised in colonial policies of divide and rule.

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This view was then played out in the bloody partition of India, and it presently informs the identities of the nation-states of India and Pakistan. A similar sort of clumsy ethnic engineering has long gone on in the Middle East; it is not unreasonable to fear that the new state of Palestine, whenever it comes about, will, with Israel, repeat the disastrous recent history of India and Pakistan. In recent years, Said has qualified severely his support for a separate Palestinian state - a move that seems in line with his suspicion of the ethnic, racial, religious and national identities produced by modern imperialism.

As Said sees it, nation-states based on exclusive ethnic and religious identities suppress an older historical reality, where cultures and civilisations were interdependent, flowing into and out of each other - a cosmopolitan vision he wishes to affirm as he speaks of Freud and claims to find in him an "unresolved sense of identity". He wonders whether such uneasy ambivalence as Freud's, rather than divisive histories, could serve as the basis of a bi-national state for the Jewish and Palestinian peoples.

Sadly, such hopes are rarely heard outside the seminar room or lecture hall. The kind of moral and intellectual subtlety Said calls for is quickly trampled upon as nations are made and remade.

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But if it doesn't shape momentous events, it does help record them more scrupulously. Said's influence grows most fruitfully if slowly on fellow academics and writers, who can no longer hope to explain the contemporary world by putting the adjective "ancient" before the noun "hatred"; they have to work towards a better sense of the ever-changing historical conditions under which identities appear so eternal.

This is the task that Andrew Wheatcroft attempts with admirable energy in Infidels: The Conflict between Christendom and Islam This vast subject usually invites grand, if intellectually languid, overviews.

They begin with an account of the Arab tribes spilling out from the Arabian peninsula and into the Byzantine empire. You get a bit about the romance of Moorish Spain and some exotic tales from the Crusades. There might be something about how the Arabs once helped preserve in the libraries of Baghdad - the city whose own past now lies plundered - the works of Greek literature which Europe had lost during its long Christian torpor, and which then made possible the Renaissance.

But regret usually comes to tinge the description of the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in On the other hand, the rise of the west in the last two centuries is charted reverently. And if the author wishes to be up to date, he ends with speculations about why the Muslim world not only failed to embrace, but instead grew to hate the modern world - a hatred ancient? Wheatcroft does the history-as-spectacle bits. He starts with a tremendous account of the battle of Lepanto in , but then he forgoes the chronology.

He wants to tell us why certain events were remembered better than others; he wishes to find out how we know what we know about the past.

Freud and the Non-European - Edward William Said, Edward W. Said, Jacqueline Rose - Google книги

As he puts it while discussing Ottoman rule in the Balkans: "What actually happened and what was written at the time diverged sharply. He claims that the west has used these "weapons" more effectively than its rivals and victims. To conclude: Said's Freud and the Non-European attempts to challenge the dominant nationalist historiographies that construe the illegal Israeli occupation as a linear narrative. Said's is a humanist and philosophical standpoint that acknowledges the right to existence for contending — or to use his phrase — contrapuntal histories, that celebrates the existence of plural perspectives.

And this consciousness of contrapuntality enables Said to envision the possibility of a bi-national state; a state which will be premised upon democratic principles and equal rights; and which will ensure the sovereignty of both the Palestinians and Israelites, and the environment of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence.

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