The Culture and Politics of Palestinian Exile
The first of a historic collaboration and the lead interview in the book The Pen and the Sword. Edward Said discusses the interconnectedness of culture and politics. He references the work of Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s national poet and the couplet asking, “Where should we go after the last frontiers, where should the birds fly after the last sky.” He says, “Exactly. That’s the sense of knowing that we seem to be at the last frontier and last sky, that there is nothing after this—we are doomed to perdition—and yet we ask the question, ‘Where do we go from here?’ We want to see another doctor.” The struggle is not over.
Interview by David Barsamian.
Recorded at Columbia University.
Edward Said, an internationally renowned Columbia University professor, practically invented the field of post-colonial studies. His great works Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism have been translated into many languages and are widely used in colleges and universities. The New York Times called him, “one of the most influential literary and cultural critics in the world.” As one of the few advocates for Palestinian rights in the U.S., he was the target of vilification, death threats and vandalism. The Economist said he “repudiated terrorism in all its forms and was a passionate, eloquent and persistent advocate for justice for the dispossessed Palestinians.” He was a trenchant critic not just of Israeli policies, but also of Arafat, the corrupt coterie around him and the despotic Arab regimes. He wrote: “While I have always advocated resistance to Zionist occupation, I have never argued for anything but peaceful coexistence between us and the Jews of Israel once Israel’s military repression and dispossession of Palestinians has stopped.” He felt strongly that intellectuals had a special responsibility to speak out against injustice, challenge power, confront hegemonic thinking, and provide alternatives. His friend Noam Chomsky said of him, “Said was one of the most remarkable and influential intellectuals of the last half-century. Much of his immense effort and talent was dedicated to overcoming the insularity, prejudice, self-righteousness, and apologetics that are among the pathologies of power and defending the rights of the victims.” His memoir Out of Place won the New Yorker Book of the Year Award. His two books of interviews with David Barsamian are The Pen & the Sword and Culture & Resistance. Edward Said died in New York in 2003.