Edward W. Said led a life influenced much influenced by colonialism and post-colonialism. His expertise on the subject also stems, besides his first-hand experience in British schools, from his analysis of the works of Balzac, Baudelaire and Lautréamont. Said built his own opinion about colonialism and post-colonialism by his long study of this subject and combined it in his main work called “Orientalism”.
In “Orientalism” he redefines the term ‘orientalism’ as the prejudice against Arabo-islamic peoples from a Eurocentric point of view. This false attitude towards eastern culture comes from the falsely romanticized images of Asia. He condemns the act of seeing Arabo-islamic peoples as only two types of peoples: terrorists and Oil-suppliers. He also condemns the ruling Arab-elites who have take over the orientalists romanticized representation of Arabic culture and who try to shape these countries accordingly.
Edward W. Said’s name alone is a testimony of colonization (even though it was his father who named him). His name consists of an English and an Arab part. ‘Edward’ comes from the English king, whereas ‘Wadie’ reflects his Arab roots. This is also shown in Said’s memoir ‘Out of Place’, when he lets go of the delusion of being English and succumbs to his Arab nature; he develops unforeseen powers and bests his classmates in a contest of swimming and a wrestling match; where he at first seemed to be losing but then gave in to his Arab-self. When he acts as this other personality he doesn’t feel out of place either, hence colonialism has not had a positive effect on him. Colonialism’s influence on Said, and hence his negative view of it, is also expressed by the way he constantly feels out of place in the colonists school system, with guards patrolling the premises, and generally feels out of place for the rest of his life even after the colonists have left again. Colonialism and post-colonialism has had an immense impact on Said at a very young age and has therefore shaped his entire being.
Despite the harsh colonial oppressors Said became an accomplished writer and critique. His quotations reflect upon his past: “Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.” – Edward W. Said. His distinct negative view of colonialism and post-colonialism and hence partially of western culture, stems from his theory of a “binary social relationship” wherein western culture misrepresents the “oriental world” as inferior and irrational and portrays their own culture as superior, rational and civil.
Edward Said sees it as a shame that western and eastern cultures have grown to be so hostile to each other, different in forms, ideas, images and imaginings. He sees history as something created by man, meaning it can also be forgotten and rewritten. It should be rewritten to ensure and promote a peaceful diversity of cultures, a world where differences are not shunned but welcomed and celebrated.