Edward Said's Untidiness

Victor Li


Criticizing the ideological certainty promoted by such formulations as Samuel Huntington's "the clash of civilizations," Edward Said has stated his preference for the irresolution of "untidiness" over the satisfactions of "totalization." But isn't such a view at odds with Said's best known book, Orientalism? How can Said be sensitive to "the untidiness of the moment" yet produce a work that provides a powerful description of the consistency and coherence of Orientalist discourse? This essay argues that what critics see as Said's performative contradiction is in fact an enabling paradox anticipated in Friedrich Schlegel's pithy statement: "It is equally fatal to the mind to have system and to have none. It will simply have to combine the two."


Edward Said

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