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Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

16. Edward W. Said  

Rahul Rao

This chapter studies the major intellectual contributions of Edward Said, many of which laid the foundations for what would become the field of postcolonial studies. It begins by exploring Said’s views on how knowledge and power structure relations between Western imperial powers and non-Western states and societies, through critical readings of Orientalism (1978) and Culture and Imperialism (1993), respectively. The chapter then looks at Said’s writings and activism as a spokesperson for Palestinian self-determination. It also examines Said’s views on what it means to be a public intellectual. While Said’s ideas have become so influential, the apparent familiarity of his ideas has allowed a forgetting of the nuance and complexity with which they were originally articulated. By offering a close re-reading of Said’s best-known texts, the chapter encourages a more careful appreciation of the ideas that were central to his political thinking.