Chapter 3: Orientalism Now
On les apercevait tenant leurs idoles entre leurs bras comme de grands enfants paralytiques.
Gustave Flaubert, La Tentation de Saint Antoine
The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea-something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
I- Latent and Manifest Orientalism
In Chapter One, I tried to indicate the scope of thought and action covered by the word Orientalism, using as privileged types the British and French experiences of and with the Near Orient, Islam, and the Arabs. In those experiences I discerned an intimate, perhaps even the most intimate, and rich relationship between Occident and Orient. Those experiences were part of a much wider European or Western relationship with the Orient, but what seems to have influenced Orientalism most was a fairly constant sense of confrontation felt by Westerners dealing with the East. The boundary notion of East and West, the varying degrees of projected inferiority and strength, the range of work done, the kinds of characteristic features ascribed to the Orient: all these testify to a willed imaginative and geographic division made between East and West, and lived through during many centuries. In Chapter Two my focus narrowed a good deal. I was interested in the earliest phases of what I call modern Orientalism, which began during the latter part of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth. Since I did not intend my study to become a narrative chronicle of the development of Oriental studies in the modern West, I proposed instead an account of the rise, development, and institutions of Orientalism as they were formed against a background of intellectual, cultural, and political history until about 1870 or 1880. Although my interest in Orientalism there included a decently ample variety of scholars and imaginative writers, I cannot claim by any means to have presented more than a portrait of the typical structures (and their ideological tendencies) constituting the field, its associations with other fields, and the work of some of its most influential scholars. My principal operating assumptions were-and continue to be-that fields of learning, as much as the works of even the most eccentric artist, are constrained and acted upon by society, by cultural traditions, by worldly circumstance, and by stabilizing influences like schools, libraries, and governments; moreover, that both learned and imaginative writing are never free, but are limited in their imagery, assumptions, and intentions; and finally, that the advances made by a "science" like Orientalism in its academic form are less objectively true than we often like to think. In short, my study hitherto has tried to describe theeconomy that makes Orientalism a coherent subject matter, even while allowing that as an idea, concept, or image the wordOrient has a considerable and interesting cultural resonance in the West.
I realize that such assumptions are not without their controversial side. Most of us assume in a general way that learning and scholarship move forward; they get better, we feel, as time passes and as more information is accumulated, methods are refined, and later generations of scholars improve upon earlier ones. In addition, we entertain a mythology of creation, in which it is believed that artistic genius, an original talent, or a powerful intellect can leap beyond the confines of its own time and place in order to put before the world a new work. It would be pointless to deny that such ideas as these carry some truth. Nevertheless the possibilities for work present in the culture to a great and original mind are never unlimited, just as it is also true that a great talent has a very healthy respect for what others have done before it and for what the field already contains. The work of predecessors, the institutional life of a scholarly field, the collective nature of any learned enterprise: these, to say nothing of economic and social circumstances, tend to diminish the effects of the individual scholar's production. A field like Orientalism has a cumulative and corporate identity, one that is particularly strong given its associations with traditional learning (the classics, the Bible, philology), public institutions (governments, trading companies, geographical societies, universities), and generically determined writing (travel books, books of exploration, fantasy, exotic description). The result for Orientalism has been a sort of consensus: certain things, certain types of statement, certain types of work have seemed for the Orientalist correct. He has built his work and research upon them, and they in turn have pressed hard upon new writers and scholars. Orientalism can thus be regarded as a manner of regularized (or Orientalized) writing, vision, and study, dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient. The Orient is taught, researched, administered, and pronounced upon in certain discrete ways.
The Orient that appears in Orientalism, then, is a system of representations framed by a whole set of forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later, Western empire. If this definition of Orientalism seems more political than not, that is simply because I think Orientalism was itself a product of certain political forces and activities. Orientalism is a school of interpretation whose material happens to be the Orient, its civilizations, peoples, and localities. Its objective discoveries-the work of innumerable devoted scholars who edited texts and translated them, codified grammars, wrote dictionaries, reconstructed dead epochs, produced positivistically verifiable learning-are and always have been conditioned by the fact that its truths, like any truths delivered by language, are embodied in language, and what is the truth of language, Nietzsche once said, but
a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms -in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are.1
Perhaps such a view as Nietzsche's will strike us as too nihilistic, but at least it will draw attention to the fact that so far as it existed in the West's awareness, the Orient was a word which later accrued to it a wide field of meanings, associations, and connotations, and that these did not necessarily refer to the real Orient but to the field surrounding the word.
Thus Orientalism is not only a positive doctrine about the Orient that exists at any one time in the West; it is also an influential academic tradition (when one refers to an academic specialist who is called an Orientalist), as well as an area of concern defined by travelers, commercial enterprises, governments, military expeditions, readers of novels and accounts of exotic adventure, natural historians, and pilgrims to whom the Orient is a specific kind of knowledge about specific places, peoples, and civilizations. For the Orient idioms became frequent, and these idioms took firm hold in European discourse. Beneath the idioms there was a layer of doctrine about the Orient; this doctrine was fashioned out of the experiences of many Europeans, all of them converging upon such essential aspects of the Orient as the Oriental character, Oriental despotism, Oriental sensuality, and the like. For any European during the nineteenth century-and I think one can say this almost without qualification-Orientalism was such a system of truths, truths in Nietzsche's sense of the word. It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric. Some of the immediate sting will be taken out of these labels if we recall additionally that human societies, at least the more advanced cultures, have rarely offered the individual anything but imperialism, racism, and ethnocentrism for dealing with "other" cultures. So Orientalism aided and was aided by general cultural pressures that tended to make more rigid the sense of difference between the European and Asiatic parts of the world. My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient's difference with its weakness.
This proposition was introduced early in Chapter One, and nearly everything in the pages that followed was intended in part as a corroboration of it. The very presence of a "field" such as Orientalism, with no corresponding equivalent in the Orient itself, suggests the relative strength of Orient and Occident. A vast number of pages on the Orient exist, and they of course signify a degree and quantity of interaction with the Orient that are quite formidable; but the crucial index of Western strength is that there is no possibility of comparing the movement of Westerners eastwards (since the end of the eighteenth century) with the movement of Easterners westwards. Leaving aside the fact that Western armies, consular corps, merchants, and scientific and archaeological expeditions were always going East, the number of travelers from the Islamic East to Europe between 1800 and 1900 is minuscule when compared with the number in the other direction.2 Moreover, the Eastern travelers in the West were there to learn from and to gape at an advanced culture; the purposes of the Western travelers in the Orient were, as we have seen, of quite a different order. In addition, it has been estimated that around 60,000 books dealing with the Near Orient were written between 1800 and 1950; there is no remotely comparable figure for Oriental books about the West. As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will to truth, and knowledge. The Orient existed for the West, or so it seemed to countless Orientalists, whose attitude to what they worked on was either paternalistic or candidly condescending-unless, of course, they were antiquarians, in which case the "classical" Orient was a credit tothem and not to the lamentable modern Orient. And then, beefing up the Western scholars' work, there were numerous agencies and institutions with no parallels in Oriental society.
Such an imbalance between East and West is obviously a function of changing historical patterns. During its political and military heyday from the eighth century to the sixteenth, Islam dominated both East and West. Then the center of power shifted westwards, and now in the late twentieth century it seems to be directing itself back towards the East again. My account of nineteenth-century Orientalism in Chapter Two stopped at a particularly charged period in the latter part of the century, when the often dilatory, abstract, and projective aspects of Orientalism were about to take on a new sense of worldly mission in the service of formal colonialism. It is this project and this moment that I want now to describe, especially since it will furnish us with some important background for the twentieth-century crises of Orientalism and the resurgence of political and cultural strength in the East.
On several occasions I have alluded to the connections between Orientalism as a body of ideas, beliefs, cliches, or learning about the East, and other schools of thought at large in the culture. Now one of the important developments in nineteenth-century Orientalism was the distillation of essential ideas about the Orient-its sensuality, its tendency to despotism, its aberrant mentality, its habits of inaccuracy, its backwardness-into a separate and unchallenged coherence; thus for a writer to use the word Oriental was a reference for the reader sufficient to identify a specific body of information about the Orient. This information seemed to be morally neutral and objectively valid; it seemed to have an epistemological status equal to that of historical chronology or geographical location. In its most basic form, then, Oriental material could not really be violated by anyone's discoveries, nor did it seem ever to be revaluated completely. Instead, the work of various nineteenth-century scholars and of imaginative writers made this essential body of knowledge more clear, more detailed, more substantial-and more distinct from "Occidentalism." Yet Orientalist ideas could enter into alliance with general philosophical theories (such as those about the history of mankind and civilization) and diffuse world-hypotheses, as philosophers sometimes call them; and in many ways the professional contributors to Oriental knowledge were anxious to couch their formulations and ideas, their scholarly work, their considered contemporary observations, in language and terminology whose cultural validity derived from other sciences and systems of thought.
The distinction I am making is really between an almost unconscious (and certainly an untouchable) positivity, which I shall calllatent Orientalism, and the various stated views about Oriental society, languages, literatures, history, sociology, and so forth, which I shall callmanifest Orientalism. Whatever change occurs in knowledge of the Orient is found almost exclusively in manifest Orientalism; the unanimity, stability, and durability of latent Orientalism are more or less constant. In the nineteenth-century writers I analyzed in Chapter Two, the differences in their ideas about the Orient can be characterized as exclusively manifest differences, differences in form and personal style, rarely in basic content. Every one of them kept intact the separateness of the Orient, its eccentricity, its backwardness, its silent indifference, its feminine penetrability, its supine malleability; this is why every writer on the Orient, from Renan to Marx (ideologically speaking), or from the most rigorous scholars (Lane and Sacy) to the most powerful imaginations (Flaubert and Nerval), saw the Orient as a locale requiring Western attention, reconstruction, even redemption. The Orient existed as a place isolated from the mainstream of European progress in the sciences, arts, and commerce. Thus whatever good or bad values were imputed to the Orient appeared to be functions of some highly specialized Western interest in the Orient. This was the situation from about the 1870s on through the early part of the twentieth century-but let me give some examples that illustrate what I mean.
Theses of Oriental backwardness, degeneracy, and inequality with the West most easily associated themselves early in the nineteenth century with ideas about the biological bases of racial inequality. Thus the racial classifications found in Cuvier'sLe Regne animal, Gobineau's Essaisur l'inégalité des races humaines, and Robert Knox'sThe Dark Races of Man found a willing partner in latent Orientalism. To these ideas was added second-order Darwinism, which seemed to accentuate the "scientific" validity of the division of races into advanced and backward, or EuropeanAryan and Oriental-African. Thus the whole question of imperialism, as it was debated in the late nineteenth century by pro-imperialists and anti-imperialists alike, carried forward the binary typology of advanced and backward (or subject) races, cultures, and societies. John Westlake'sChapters on the Principles of International Law (1894) argues, for example, that regions of the earth designated as "uncivilized" (a word carrying the freight of Orientalist assumptions, among others) ought to be annexed or occupied by advanced powers. Similarly, the ideas of such writers as Carl Peters, Leopold de Saussure, and Charles Temple draw on the advanced/backward binarism3 so centrally advocated in latenineteenth-century Orientalism.
Along with all other peoples variously designated as backward, degenerate, uncivilized, and retarded, the Orientals were viewed in a framework constructed out of biological determinism and moral-political admonishment. The Oriental was linked thus to elements in Western society (delinquents, the insane, women, the poor) having in common an identity best described as lamentably alien. Orientals were rarely seen or looked at; they were seen through, analyzed not as citizens, or even people, but as problems to be solved or confined or-as the colonial powers openly coveted their territory-taken over. The point is that the very designation of something as Oriental involved an already pronounced evaluative judgment, and in the case of the peoples inhabiting the decayed Ottoman Empire, an implicit program of action. Since the Oriental was a member of a subject race, he had to be subjected: it was that simple. The locus classicus for such judgment and action is to be found in Gustave Le Bon'sLes Lois psychologiques de l'évolution des peuples (1894).
But there were other uses for latent Orientalism. If that group of ideas allowed one to separate Orientals from advanced, civilizing powers, and if the "classical" Orient served to justify both the Orientalist and his disregard of modern Orientals, latent Orientalism also encouraged a peculiarly (not to say invidiously) male conception of the world. I have already referred to this in passing during my discussion of Renan. The Oriental male was considered in isolation from the total community in which he lived and which many Orientalists, following Lane, have viewed with something resembling contempt and fear. Orientalism itself, furthermore, was an exclusively male province; like so many professional guilds during the modern period, it viewed itself and its subject matter with sexist blinders. This is especially evident in the writing of travelers and novelists: women are usually the creatures of a male power-fantasy. They express unlimited sensuality, they are more or less stupid, and above all they are willing. Flaubert's Kuchuk Hanem is the prototype of such caricatures, which were common enough in pornographic novels (e.g., Pierre Louys'sAphrodite) whose novelty draws on the Orient for their interest. Moreover the male conception of the world, in its effect upon the practicing Orientalist, tends to be static, frozen, fixed eternally. The very possibility of development, transformation, human movementin the deepest sense of the word-is denied the Orient and the Oriental. As a known and ultimately an immobilized or unproductive quality, they come to be identified with a bad sort of eternality: hence, when the Orient is being approved, such phrases as "the wisdom of the East."
Transferred from an implicit social evaluation to a grandly cultural one, this static male Orientalism took on a variety of forms in the late nineteenth century, especially when Islam was being discussed. General cultural historians as respected as Leopold von Ranke and Jacob Burckhardt assailed Islam as if they were dealing not so much with an anthropomorphic abstraction as with a religiopolitical culture about which deep generalizations were possible and warranted: in hisWeltgeschichte (1881-1888) Ranke spoke of Islam as defeated by the Germanic-Romanic peoples, and in his "Historische Fragmente" (unpublished notes, 1893) Burckhardt spoke of Islam as wretched, bare, and trivial.4 Such intellectual operations were carried out with considerably more flair and enthusiasm by Oswald Spengler, whose ideas about a Magian personality (typified by the Muslim Oriental) infuseDer Untergang des Abendlandes (1918-1922) and the "morphology" of cultures it advocates.
What these widely diffused notions of the Orient depended on was the almost total absence in contemporary Western culture of the Orient as a genuinely felt and experienced force. For a number of evident reasons the Orient was always in the position both of outsider and of incorporated weak partner for the West. To the extent that Western scholars were aware of contemporary Orientals or Oriental movements of thought and culture, these were perceived either as silent shadows to be animated by the Orientalist, brought into reality by him, or as a kind of cultural and intellectual proletariat useful for the Orientalist's grander interpretative activity, necessary for his performance as superior judge, learned man, powerful cultural will. I mean to say that in discussions of the Orient, the Orient is all absence, whereas one feels the Orientalist and what he says as presence; yet we must not forget that the Orientalist's presence is enabled by the Orient's effective absence.
This fact of substitution and displacement, as we must call it, clearly places on the Orientalist himself a certain pressure to reduce the Orient in his work, even after he has devoted a good deal of time to elucidating and exposing it. How else can one explain major scholarly production of the type we associate with Julius Wellhausen and Theodor Noldeke and, overriding it, those bare, sweeping statements that almost totally denigrate their chosen subject matter? Thus Noldeke could declare in 1887 that the sum total of his work as an Orientalist was to confirm his "low opinion" of the Eastern peoples.5 And like Carl Becker, Ndldeke was a philhellenist, who showed his love of Greece curiously by displaying a positive dislike of the Orient, which after all was what he studied as a scholar.
A very valuable and intelligent study of Orientalism-Jacques Waardenburg'sL'Islam dans le miroir de l'Occident -- examines five important experts as makers of an image of Islam. Waardenburg's mirror-image metaphor for late nineteenth- and earlytwentieth-century Orientalism is apt. In the work of each of his eminent Orientalists there is a highly tendentious-in four cases out of the five, even hostile-vision of Islam, as if each man saw Islam as a reflection of his own chosen weakness. Each scholar was profoundly learned, and the style of his contribution was unique. The five Orientalists among them exemplify what was best and strongest in the tradition during the period roughly from the 1880s to the interwar years. Yet Ignaz Goldziher's appreciation of Islam's tolerance towards other religions was undercut by his dislike of Mohammed's anthropomorphisms and Islam's too-exterior theology and jurisprudence; Duncan Black Macdonald's interest in Islamic piety and orthodoxy was vitiated by his perception of what he considered Islam's heretical Christianity; Carl Becker's understanding of Islamic civilization made him see it as a sadly undeveloped one; C. Snouck Hurgronje's highly refined studies of Islamic mysticism (which he considered the essential part of Islam) led him to a harsh judgment of its crippling limitations; and Louis Massignon's extraordinary identification with Muslim theology, mystical passion, and poetic art kept him curiously unforgiving to Islam for what he regarded as its unregenerate revolt against the idea of incarnation. The manifest differences in their methods emerge as less important than their Orientalist consensus on Islam: latent inferiority.6
Waardenburg's study has the additional virtue of showing how these five scholars shared a common intellectual and methodological tradition whose unity was truly international. Ever since the first Orientalist congress in 1873, scholars in the field have known each other's work and felt each other's presence very directly. What Waardenburg does not stress enough is that most of the latenineteenth-century Orientalists were bound to each other politically as well. Snouck Hurgronje went directly from his studies of Islam to being an adviser to the Dutch government on handling its Muslim Indonesian colonies; Macdonald and Massignon were widely sought after as experts on Islamic matters by colonial administrators from North Africa to Pakistan; and, as Waardenburg says (all too briefly) at one point, all five scholars shaped a coherent vision of Islam that had a wide influence on government circles throughout the Western world.7 What we must add to Waardenburg's observation is that these scholars were completing, bringing to an ultimate concrete refinement, the tendency since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to treat the Orient not only as a vague literary problem but-according to Masson-Oursel-as "un ferme propos d'assimiler adéquatement la valeur des langues pour pénétrer les moeurs et les pensées, pour forcer même des secrets de l'histoire."8
I spoke earlier of incorporation and assimilation of the Orient, as these activities were practiced by writers as different from each other as Dante and d'Herbelot. Clearly there is a difference between those efforts and what, by the end of the nineteenth century, had become a truly formidable European cultural, political, and material enterprise. The nineteenth-century colonial "scramble for Africa" was by no means limited to Africa, of course. Neither was the penetration of the Orient entirely a sudden, dramatic afterthought following years of scholarly study of Asia. What we must reckon with is a long and slow process of appropriation by which Europe, or the European awareness of the Orient, transformed itself from being textual and contemplative into being administrative, economic, and even military. The fundamental change was a spatial and geographical one, or rather it was a change in the quality of geographical and spatial apprehension so far as the Orient was concerned. The centuries-old designation of geographical space to the east of Europe as "Oriental" was partly political, partly doctrinal, and partly imaginative; it implied no necessary connection between actual experience of the Orient and knowledge of what is Oriental, and certainly Dante and d'Herbelot made no claims about their Oriental ideas except that they were corroborated by a longlearned (and not existential) tradition. But when Lane, Renan, Burton, and the many hundreds of nineteenth-century European travelers and scholars discuss the Orient, we can immediately note a far more intimate and even proprietary attitude towards the Orient and things Oriental. In the classical and often temporally remote form in which it was reconstructed by the Orientalist, in the precisely actual form in which the modern Orient was lived in, studied, or imagined, thegeographical space of the Orient was penetrated, worked over, taken hold of. The cumulative effect of decades of so sovereign a Western handling turned the Orient from alien into colonial space. What was important in the latter nineteenth century was notwhether the West had penetrated and possessed the Orient, but ratherhow the British and French felt that they had done it.
The British writer on the Orient, and even more so the British colonial administrator, was dealing with territory about which there could be no doubt that English power was truly in the ascendant, even if the natives were on the face of it attracted to France and French modes of thought. So far as the actual space of the Orient was concerned, however, England was really there, France was not, except as a flighty temptress of the Oriental yokels. There is no better indication of this qualitative difference in spatial attitudes than to look at what Lord Cromer had to say on the subject, one that was especially dear to his heart:
The reasons why French civilisation presents a special degree of attraction to Asiatics and Levantines are plain. It is, as a matter of fact, more attractive than the civilisations of England and Germany, and, moreover,it is more easy of imitation. Compare the undemonstrative, shy Englishman, with his social exclusiveness and insular habits, with the vivacious and cosmopolitan Frenchman, who does not know what the word shyness means, and who in ten minutes is apparently on terms of intimate friendship with any casual acquaintance he may chance to make. The semi-educated Oriental does not recognise that the former has, at all events, the merit of sincerity, whilst the latter is often merely acting a part. He looks coldly on the Englishman, and rushes into the arms of the Frenchman.
The sexual innuendoes develop more or less naturally thereafter. The Frenchman is all smiles, wit, grace, and fashion; the Englishman is plodding, industrious, Baconian, precise. Cromer's case is of course based on British solidity as opposed to a French seductiveness without any real presence in Egyptian reality.
Can it be any matter for surprise [Cromer continues] that the Egyptian, with his light intellectual ballast, fails to see that some fallacy often lies at the bottom of the Frenchman's reasoning, or that he prefers the rather superficial brilliancy of the Frenchman to the plodding, unattractive industry of the Englishman or the Germ? Look, again, at the theoretical perfection of French administrative systems, at their elaborate detail, and at the provision which is apparently made to meet every possible contingency which may arise. Compare these features with the Englishman's practical systems, which lay down rules as to a few main points, and leave a mass of detail to individual discretion. The halfeducated Egyptian naturally prefers the Frenchman's system, for it is to all outward appearance more perfect and more easy of application. He fails, moreover, to see that the Englishman desires to elaborate a system which will suit the facts with which he has to deal, whereas the main objection to applying French administrative procedures to Egypt is that the facts have but too often to conform to the ready-made system.
Since there is a real British presence in Egypt, and since that presence -according to Cromer-is there not so much to train the Egyptian's mind as to "form his character," it follows therefore that the ephemeral attractions of the French are those of a pretty damsel with "somewhat artificial charms," whereas those of the British belong to "a sober, elderly matron of perhaps somewhat greater moral worth, but of less pleasing outward appearance."9
Underlying Cromer's contrast between the solid British nanny and the French coquette is the sheer privilege of British emplacement in the Orient. "The facts with which he [the Englishman] has to deal" are altogether more complex and interesting, by virtue of their psion by England, than anything the mercurial French could point to. Two years after the publication of hisModern Egypt (1908), Cromer expatiated philosophically in Ancient analModern Imperialism. Compared -wit# Roman imperialism, with its frankly assimilationist, exploitative, and repressive policies, British imperialism seemed to Cromer to be preferable, if somewhat more wishywashy. On certain points, however, the British were clear enough, even if "after a rather dim, slipshod, but characteristically Anglo Saxon fashion," their Empire seemed undecided between "one of two bases-an extensive military occupation or the principle of nationality [for subject races]." But this indecision was academic finally, for in practice Cromer and Britain itself had opted against "the principle of nationality." And then there; were other things to be noted. One point was that the Empire was not going to be given up. Another was that intermarriage between natives and English men and women was undesirable. Third and most important, I think-Cromer conceived of British imperial presence in the Eastern colonies as having had a lasting, not to say cataclysmic, effect on the minds and societies of the East. His metaphor for expressing this effect is almost theological, so powerful in Cromer's mind was the idea of Western penetration of Oriental expanses. "The country," he says, "over which the breath of the West, heavily charged with scientific thought, has once passed, and has, in passing, left an enduring mark, can never be the same as it was before."10
In such respects as these, nonetheless, Cromer's was far from an original intelligence.What he saw and how he expressed it were common currency among his colleagues both in the imperial Establishment and in the intellectual community. This consensus is notably true in the case of Cromer's viceregal colleagues, Curzon, Swettenham, and Lugard. Lord Curzon in particular always spoke the imperial lingua franca, and more obtrusively even than Cromer he delineated the relationship between Britain and the Orient in terms of possession, in terms of a large geographical space wholly owned by an efficient colonial master. For him, he said on one occasion, the Empire was not an "object of ambition" but "first and foremost, a great historical and political and sociological fact." In 1909 he reminded delegates to the Imperial Press Conference meeting at Oxford that "we train here and we send out to you your governors and administrators and judges, your teachers and preachers and lawyers." And this almost pedagogical view of empire had, for Curzon, a specific setting in Asia, which as he once put it, made "one pause and think."
I sometimes like to picture to myself this great Imperial fabric as a huge structure like some Tennysonian "Palace of Art," of which the foundations are in this country, where they have been laid and must be maintained by British hands, but of which the Colonies are the pillars, and high above all floats the vastness of an Asiatic dome.11
With such a Tennysonian Palace of Art in mind, Curzon and Cromer were enthusiastic members together of a departmental committee formed in 1909 to press for the creation of a school of Oriental studies. Aside from remarking wistfully that had he known the vernacular he would have been helped during his "famine tours" in India, Curzon argued for Oriental studies as part of the British responsibility to the Orient.On September 27, 1909, he told the House of Lords that
our familiarity, not merely with the languages of the people of the East but with their customs, their feelings, their traditions, their history and religion, our capacity to understand what may be called the genius of the East, is the sole basis upon which we are likely to be able to maintain in the future the position we have won, and no step that can be taken to strengthen that position can be considered undeserving of the attention of His Majesty's Government or of a debate in the House of Lords.
At a Mansion House conference on the subject five years later, Curzon finally dotted the i's. Oriental studies were no intellectual luxury; they were, he said,
a great Imperial obligation.In my view the creation of a school [of Oriental studies-later to become the London University School of Oriental and African Studies] like this in London is part of the necessary furniture of Empire. Those of us who, in one way or another, have spent a number of years in the East, who regard that as the happiest portion of our lives, and who think that the work that we did there, be it great or small, was the highest responsibility that can be placed upon the shoulders of Englishmen, feel that there is a gap in our national equipment which ought emphatically to be filled, and that those in the City of London who, by financial support or by any other form of active and practical assistance, take their part in filling that gap, will be rendering a patriotic duty to the Empire and promoting the cause and goodwill among mankind.12
To a very great extent Curzon's ideas about Oriental studies derive logically from a good century of British utilitarian administration of and philosophy about the Eastern colons. The influence of Bentham and the Mills on British rule in the Orient (and India particularly) was considerable, and was effective is doing away with too much regulation and innovation; instead, as Eric stokes has convincingly shown, utilitarianism combined with the legacies of liberalism and evangelicalism as philosophies of British rule in the East stressed the rational importance of a strong executive armed with various legal and penal codes, a system of doctrines on such matters as frontiers and land rents, and everywhere an irreducible supervisory imperial authority.13 The cornerstone of the whole system was a constantly refined knowledge of the Orient, so that as traditional societies hastened forward and became modern commercial societies, there would be no loss of paternal British control, and no loss of revenue either. However, when Curzon referred somewhat inelegantly to Oriental studies as "the necessary furniture of Empire," he was putting into a static image the transactions by which Englishmen and natives conducted their business and kept their places. From the days of Sir William Jones the Orient had been both what Britain ruled and what Britain knew about it: the coincidence between geography, knowledge, and power, with Britain always in the master's place, was complete. To have said, as Curzon once did, that "the East is a University in which the scholar never takes his degree" was another way of saying that the East required one's presence there more or less forever.14
But then there were the other European powers, France and Russia among them, that made the British presence always a (perhaps marginally) threatened one. Curzon was certainly aware that all the major Western powers felt towards the world as Britain did. The transformation of geography from "dull and pedantic"Curzon's phrase for what had now dropped out of geography as an academic subject-into "the most cosmopolitan of all sciences" argued exactly that new Western and widespread predilection. Not for nothing did Curzon in 1912 tell the Geographical Society, of which he was president, that an absolute revolution has occurred, not merely in the manner and methods of teaching geography, but in the estimation in which it is held by public opinion. Nowadays we regard geographical knowledge as an essential part of knowledge in general. By the aid of geography, and in no other way, do was understand the action of great natural forces, the distribution of population, the growth of commerce, the expansion of frontiers, tape development of States, the splendid achievements of less air in its various manifestations.
We recognize geography as the handmaid of history … Geography, too, is a sister science to economies and politics; and to any of us who have attempted to study geography it is known that the moment you diverge from the geographical field you find yourself crossing the frontiers of geology, zoology, ethnology, chemistry, physics, and almost all the kindred sciences. Therefore we are justified in saying that geography is one of the first and foremost of the sciences: that it is part of the equipment that is necessary for a proper conception of citizenship, and is an indispensable adjunct to the production of a public man.15
Geography was essentially the material underpinning for knowledge about the Orient. All the latent and unchanging characteristics of the Orient stood upon, were rooted in, its geography. Thus on the one hand the geographical Orient nourished its inhabitants, guaranteed their characteristics, and defined their specificity; on the other hand, the geographical Orient solicited the West's attention, even as-by one of those paradoxes revealed so frequently by organized knowledge-East was East and West was West. The cosmopolitanism of geography was, in Curzon's mind, its universal importance to the whole of the West, whose relationship to the rest of the world was one of frank covetousness. Yet geographical appetite could also take on the moral neutrality of an epistemological impulse to find out, to settle upon, to uncover-as when inHeart of Darkness Marlow confesses to having a passion for maps.
I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, When I grow up I will go there.16
Seventy years or so before Marlow said this, it did not trouble Lamartine that what on a map was a blank space was inhabited by natives; nor, theoretically, had there been any reservation in the mind of Emer de Vattel, the Swiss-Prussian authority on international law, when in 1758 he invited European states to take possession of territory inhabited only by mere wandering tribes.17 The important thing was to dignify simple conquest with an idea, to turn the appetite for more geographical space into a theory about the special relationship between geography on the one hand and civilized or uncivilized peoples on the other. But to these rationalizations there was also a distinctively French contribution.
By the end of the nineteenth century, political and intellectual circumstances coincided sufficiently in France to make geography, and geographical speculation (in both senses of that word), an attractive national pastime. The general climate of opinion in Europe was propitious; certainly the successes of British imperialism spoke loudly enough for themselves. However, Britain always seemed to France and to French thinkers on the subject to block even a relatively successful French imperial role in the Orient. Before the Franco-Prussian War there was a good deal of wishful political thinking about the Orient, and it was not confined to poets and novelists. Here, for instance, is Saint-Marc Girardin writing in theRevue des Deux Mondes on March 15,1862:
La France a beaucoup a faire en Orient, parce que l'Orient attend beaucoup d'elle. 11 lui demande meme plus qu'elle ne peut faire; il lui remettrait volontiers le soin entier de son avenir, ce qui serait pour la France et pour I'Orient un grand danger: pour la France, parce que, disposee a prendre en mains la cause des populations souffrantes, elle se charge le plus souvent de plus d'obligations qu'elle n'en pent remplir; pour I'Orient parce que tout peuple qui attend sa destinee de l'etranger n'a jamais qu'une condition precaire et qu'il n'y a de salut pour les nations que celui qu'elles se font ellesmemes.18
Of such views as this Disraeli would doubtless have said, as he often did, that France had only "sentimental interests" in Syria (which is the "Orient" of which Girardin was writing). The fiction of "populations souffrantes" had of course been used by Napoleon when he appealed to the Egyptians on their behalf against the Turks and for Islam. During the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties the suffering populations of the Orient were limited to the Christian minorities in Syria. And there was no record of "I'Orient" appealing to France for its salvation. It would have been altogether more truthful to say that Britain stood in France's way in the Orient, for even if France genuinely felt a sense of obligation to the Orient (and there were some Frenchmen who did), there was very little France could do to get between Britain and the huge land mast it commanded from India to the Mediterranean.
Among the most remarkable consequences of the War of 1870 in France were a tremendous efflorescence of geographical societies and a powerfully renewed demand for territorial acquisition. At the end of 1871 the Societe de geographie de Paris declared itself no longer confined to "scientific speculation." It urged the citizenry not to "forget that our former preponderance was contested from the day we ceased to compete ...in the conquests of civilization over barbarism." Guillaume Depping, a leader of what has come to be called the geographical movement, asserted in 1881 that during the 1870 war "it was the schoolmaster who triumphed," meaning that the real triumphs were those of Prussian scientific geography over French strategic sloppiness. The governments Journal ofciel sponsored issue after issue centered on the virtues (and profits) of geographical exploration and colonial adventure; a citizen could learn in one issue from de Lesseps of "the opportunities in Africa" and from Garnier of "the exploration of the Blue River." Scientific geography soon gave way to "commercial geography," as the connection between national pride in scientific and civilizational achievement and the fairly .rudimentary profit motive was urged, to be channeled into support for colonial acquisition. In the words of one enthusiast, "The geographical societies are formed to break the fatal charm that holds us enchained to our shores." In aid of this liberating quest all sorts of schemes were spun out, including the enlisting of Jules Verne--whose "unbelievable success," as it was called, ostensibly displayed the scientific mind at a very high peak of ratiocination-to head "a round-the-world campaign of scientific exploration," and a plan for creating a vast new sea just south of the North African coast, as well as a project for "binding" Algeria to Senegal by railroad-"a ribbon of steel," as the projectors called it.19
Much of the expansionist fervor in France during the last third of the nineteenth century was generated out of an explicit wish to compensate for the Prussian victory in 1870-1871 and, no less important, the desire to match British imperial achievements. So powerful was the latter desire, and out of so long a tradition of Anglo-French rivalry in the Orient did it derive, that France seemed literally haunted by Britain, anxious in all things connected with the Orient to catch up with and emulate the British. When in the late 1870s, the Societe academique indo-chinoise reformulated its goals, it found it important to "bring Indochina into the domain of Orientalism." Why?In order to turn Cochin China into a "French India." The absence of substantial colonial holdings was blamed by military men for that combination of military and commercial weakness in the war with Prussia, to say nothing of long-standing and pronounced colonial inferiority compared with Britain.
The "power of expansion of the Western races," argued a leading geographer, La Ronciere Le Noury, "its superior causes, its elements, its influences on human destinies, will be a beautiful study for future historians." Yet only if the white races indulged their taste for voyaging-a mark of their intellectual supremacy-could colonial expansion occur.20
From such theses as this came the commonly held view of the Orient as a geographical space to be cultivated, harvested, and guarded. The images of agricultural care for and those of frank sexual attention to the Orient proliferated accordingly. Here is a typical effusion by Gabriel Charmes, writing in 1880:
On that day when we shall be no longer in the Orient, and when other great European powers will be there, all will be at an end for our commerce in the Mediterranean, for our future in Asia, for the traffic of our southern ports.One of the most fruitful sources of our national wealth will be dried up. (Emphasis added)
Another thinker, Leroy-Beaulieu, elaborated this philosophy still further:
A society colonizes, when itself having reached a high degree of maturity and of strength, it procreates, it protects, it places in good conditions of development, and it brings to virility a new society to which it has given birth. Colonization is one of the most complex and delicate phenomena of social physiology.
This equation of self-reproduction with colonization led LeroyBeaulieu to the somewhat sinister idea that whatever is lively in a modern society is "magnified by this pouring out of its exuberant activity on the outside." Therefore, he said,
Colonization is the expansive force of a people; it is its power of reproduction;it is its enlargement and its multiplication through space; it is the subjection of the universe or a vast part of it to that people's language, customs, ideas, and laws.21
The point here is that the space of weaker or underdeveloped regions like the Orient was viewed as something inviting French interest, penetration, insemination-in short, colonization. Geographical conceptions, literally and figuratively, did away with the discrete entities held in by borders and frontiers. No less than entrepreneurial visionaries like de Lesseps, whose plan was to liberate the Orient and the Occident from their geographical bonds,
French scholars, administrators, geographers, and commercial agents poured out their exuberant activity onto the fairly supine, feminine Orient. There were the geographical societies, whose number and membership outdid those of all Europe by a factor of two; there were such powerful organizations as the Comite de l'Asie francaise and the Comite d'Orient; there were the learned societies, chief among them the Societe asiatique, with its organization and membership firmly embedded in the universities, the institutes, and the government. Each in its own way made French interests in the Orient more real, more substantial. Almost an entire century of what now seemed passive study of the Orient had had to end, as France faced up to its transnational responsibilities during the last two decades of the nineteenth century.
In the only part of the Orient where British and French interests literally overlapped, the territory of the now hopelessly ill Ottoman Empire, the two antagonists managed their conflict with an almost perfect and characteristic consistency. Britain was in Egypt and Mesopotamia; through a series of quasi-fictional treaties with local (and powerless) chiefs it controlled the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Suez Canal, as well as most of the intervening land mass between the Mediterranean and India. France, on the other hand, seemed fated to hover over the Orient, descending once in a while to carry out schemes that repeated de Lesseps's success with the canal; for the most part these schemes were railroad projects, such as the one planned across more or less British territory, the Syrian-Mesopotamian line. In addition France saw itself as the protector of Christian minorities---Maronites, Chaldeans, Nestorians. Yet together, Britain and France were agreed in principle on the necessity, when the time came, for the partition of Asiatic Turkey. Both before and during World War I secret diplomacy was bent on carving up the Near Orient first into spheres of influence, then into mandated (or occupied) territories. In France, much of the expansionist sentiment formed during the heyday of the geographical movement focused itself on plans to partition Asiatic Turkey, so much so that in Paris in 1914 "a spectacular press campaign was launched" to this end.22 In England numerous committees were empowered to study and recommend policy on the best ways of dividing up the Orient. Out of such commissions as the Bunsen Committee would come the joint Anglo-French teams of which the most famous was the one headed by Mark Sykes and Georges Picot. Equitable division of geographical space was the rule of these plans, which were deliberate attempts also at calming Anglo-French rivalry. For, as -Sykes put it in a memorandum,
it was clear ...that an Arab rising was sooner or later to take place, and that the French and ourselves ought to be on better terms if the rising was not to be a curse instead of a blessing...23
The animosities remained. And to them was added the irritant provided by the Wilsonian program for national self-determination, which, as Sykes himself was to note, seemed to invalidate the whole skeleton of colonial and partitionary schemes arrived at jointly between the Powers. It would be out of place here to discuss the entire labyrinthine and deeply controversial history of the Near Orient in the early twentieth century, as its fate was being decided between the Powers, the native dynasties, the various nationalist parties and movements, the Zionists. What matters more immediately is the peculiar epistemological framework through which the Orient was seen, and out of which the Powers acted. For despite their differences, the British and the French saw the Orient as a geographical-and cultural, political, demographical, sociological, and historical-entity over whose destiny they believed themselves to have traditional entitlement. The Orient to them was no sudden discovery, no mere historical accident, but an area to the east of Europe whose principal worth was uniformly defined in terms of Europe, more particularly in terms specifically claiming for Europe-European science, scholarship, understanding, and administration-the credit for having made the Orient what it was now. And this had been the achievement-inadvertent or not is beside the point-of modern Orientalism.
There were two principal methods by which Orientalism delivered the Orient to the West in the early twentieth century. One was by means of the disseminative capacities of modern learning, its diffusive apparatus in the learned professions, the universities, the professional societies, the explorational and geographical organizations,the publishing industry. All these, as we have seen, built upon the prestigious authority of the pioneering scholars, travelers, and poets, whose cumulative vision had shaped a quintessential Orient; the doctrinal-or doxological - manifestation of such an Orient is what I have been calling here latent Orientalism. So far as anyone wishing to make a statement of any consequence about the Orient was concerned, latent Orientalism supplied him with an enunciative capacity that could be used, or rather mobilized, and turned into sensible discourse for the concrete occasion at hand. Thus when Balfour spoke about the Oriental to the House of Commons in 1910, he must surely have had in mind those enunciative capacities in the current and acceptably rational language of his time, by which something called an "Oriental" could be named and talked about without danger of too much obscurity. But like all enunciative capacities and the discourses they enable, latent Orientalism was profoundly conservative-dedicated, that is, to its self-preservation. Transmitted from one generation to another, it was a part of the culture, as much a language about a part of reality as geometry or physics. Orientalism staked its existence, not upon its openness, its receptivity to the Orient, but rather on its internal, repetitious consistency about its constitutive will-to-power over the Orient. In such a way Orientalism was able to survive revolutions, world wars, and the literal dismemberment of empires.
The second method by which Orientalism delivered the Orient to the West was the result of an important convergence. For decades the Orientalists had spoken about the Orient, they had translated texts, they had explained civilizations, religions, dynasties, cultures, mentalities-as academic objects, screened off from Europe by virtue of their inimitable foreignness. The Orientalist was an expert, like Renan or Lane, whose job in society was to interpret the Orient for his compatriots. The relation between Orientalist and Orient was essentially hermeneutical: standing before a distant, barely intelligible civilization or cultural monument, the Orientalist scholar reduced the obscurity by translating, sympathetically portraying, inwardly grasping the hard-to-reach object. Yet the Orientalist remained outside the Orient, which, however much it was made to appear intelligible, remained beyond the Occident. This cultural, temporal, and geographical distance was expressed in metaphors of depth, secrecy, and sexual promise: phrases like "the veils of an Eastern bride" or "the inscrutable Orient" passed into the common language.
Yet the distance between Orient and Occident was, almost paradoxically, in the process of being reduced throughout the nineteenth century. As the commercial, political, and other existential encounters between East and West increased (in ways we have been discussing all along), a tension developed between the dogmas of latent Orientalism, with its support in studies of the "classical" Orient, and the descriptions of a present, modern, manifest Orient articulated by travelers, pilgrims, statesmen, and the like. At some moment impossible to determine precisely, the tension caused a convergence of the two types of Orientalism. Probably-and this is only a speculation-the convergence occurred when Orientalists, beginning with Sacy, undertook to advise governments on what the modern Orient was all about. Here the role of the specially trained and equipped expert took on an added dimension: the Orientalist could be regarded as the special agent of Western power as it attempted policy vis-a-vis the Orient. Every learned (and not so learned) European traveler in the Orient felt himself to be a representative Westerner who had gotten beneath the films of obscurity. This is obviously true of Burton, Lane, Doughty, Flaubert, and the other major figures I have been discussing.
The discoveries of Westerners about the manifest and modern Orient acquired a pressing urgency as Western territorial acquisition in the Orient increased. Thus what the scholarly Orientalist defined as the "essential" Orient was sometimes contradicted, but in many cases was confirmed, when the Orient became an actual administrative obligation. Certainly Cromer's theories about the Oriental-theories acquired from the traditional Orientalist archive -were vindicated plentifully as he ruled millions of Orientals in actual fact. This was no less true of the French experience in Syria, North Africa, and elsewhere in the French colonies, such as they were. But at no time did the convergence between latent Orientalist doctrine and manifest Orientalist experience occur more dramatically than when, as a result of World War I, Asiatic Turkey was being surveyed by Britain and France for its dismemberment. There, laid out on an operating table for surgery, was the Sick Man of Europe, revealed in all his weakness, characteristics, and topographical outline.
The Orientalist, with his special knowledge, played an inestimably important part in this surgery. Already there had been intimations of his crucial role as a kind of secret agentinside the Orient when the British scholar Edward Henry Palmer was sent to the Sinai in 1882 to gauge anti-British sentiment and its possible enlistment on behalf of the Arabi revolt. Palmer was killed in the process, but he was only the most unsuccessful of the many who performed similar services for the Empire, now a serious and exacting business entrusted in part to the regional "expert." Not for nothing was another Orientalist, D. G. Hogarth, author of the famous account of the exploration of Arabia aptly titledThe Penetration of Arabia (1904), 24 made the head of the Arab Bureau in Cairo during World War I. And neither was it by accident that men and women like Gertrude Bell, T. E. Lawrence, and St. John Philby, Oriental experts all, posted to the Orient as agents of empire, friends of the Orient, formulators of policy alternatives because of their intimate and expert knowledge of the Orient and of Orientals. They formed a "band"-as Lawrence called it oncebound together by contradictory notions and personal similarities: great individuality, sympathy and intuitive identification with the Orient, a jealously preserved sense of personal mission in the Orient, cultivated eccentricity, a final disapproval of the Orient. For them all the Orient was their direct, peculiar experience of it. In them Orientalism and an effective praxis for handling the Orient received their final European form, before the Empire disappeared and passed its legacy to other candidates for the role of dominant power.
Such individualists as these were not academics. We shall soon see that they were the beneficiaries of the academic study of the Orient, without in any sense belonging to the official and professional company of Orientalist scholars. Their role, however, was not to scant academic Orientalism, nor to subvert it, but rather to make it effective. In their genealogy were people like Lane and Burton, as much for their encyclopedic autodidacticism as for the accurate, the quasi-scholarly knowledge of the Orient they had obviously deployed when dealing with or writing about Orientals. For the curricular study of the Orient they substituted a sort of elaboration of latent Orientalism, which was easily available to them in the imperial culture of their epoch. Their scholarly frame of reference, such as it was, was fashioned by people like William Muir, Anthony Bevan, D. S. Margoliouth, Charles Lyall, E. G. Browne, R. A. Nicholson, Guy Le Strange, E. D. Ross, and Thomas Arnold, who also followed directly in the line of descent from Lane. Their imaginative perspectives were provided principally by their illustrious contemporary Rudyard Kipling, who had sung so memorably of holding "dominion over palm and pine."
The difference between Britain and France in such matters was perfectly consistent with the history of each nation in the Orient: the British were there; the French lamented the loss of India and the intervening territories. By the end of the century, Syria had become the main focus of French activity, but even there it was a matter of common consensus that the French could not match the British either in quality of personnel or in degree of political influence. The Anglo-French competition over the Ottoman spoils was felt even on the field of battle in the Hejaz, in Syria, in Mesopotamia-but in all these places, as astute men like Edmond Bremond noted, the French Orientalists and local experts were outclassed in brilliance and tactical maneuvering by their British counterparts.25 Except for an occasional genius like Louis Massignon, there were no French Lawrences or Sykeses or Bells. But there were determined imperialists like Etienne Flandin and Franklin-Bouillon. Lecturing to the Paris Alliance francaise in 1913, the Comte de Cressaty, a vociferous imperialist, proclaimed Syria as France's own Orient, the site of French political, moral, and economic interests-interests, he added, that had to be defended during this "age des envahissants imperialistes"; and yet Cressaty noted that even with French commercial and industrial firms in the Orient, with by far the largest number of native students enrolled in French schools, France was invariably being pushed around in the Orient, threatened not only by Britain but by Austria, Germany, and Russia. If France was to continue to prevent "le retour de l'Islam," it had better take hold of the Orient: this was an argument proposed by Cressaty and seconded by Senator Paul Doumer.26 These views were repeated on numerous occasions, and indeed France did well by itself in North Africa and in Syria after World War I, but the special, concrete management of emerging Oriental populations and theoretically independent territories with which the British always credited themselves was something the French felt had eluded them. Ultimately, perhaps, the difference one always feels between modern British and modern French Orientalism is a stylistic one; the import of the generalizations about Orient and Orientals, the sense of distinction preserved between Orient and Occident, the desirability of Occidental dominance over the Orient-all these are the same in both traditions. For of the many elements making up what we customarily call "expertise," style, which is the result of specific worldly circumstances being molded by tradition, institutions, will, and intelligence into formal articulation, is one of the most manifest. It is to this determinant, to this perceptible and modernized refinement in early-twentieth-century Orientalism in Britain and France,that we must now turn.
II- Style, Expertise, Vision: Orientalism's Worldliness
As he appears in several poems, in novels like Kim, and in too many catchphrases to be an ironic fiction, Kipling's White Man, as an idea, a persona, a style of being, seems to have served many Britishers while they were abroad. The actual color of their skin set them off dramatically and reassuringly from the sea of natives, but for the Britisher who circulated amongst Indians, Africans, or Arabs there was also the certain knowledge that he belonged to, and could draw upon the empirical and spiritual reserves of, a long tradition of executive responsibility towards the colored races. It was of this tradition, its glories and difficulties,that Kipling wrote when he celebrated the "road" taken by White Men in the colonies:
Now, this is the road that the White Men tread
When they go to clean a land
Iron underfoot and the vine overhead
And the deep on either hand.
We have trod that road-and a wet and windy road-
Our chosen star for guide.
Oh, well for the world when the
White Men tread
Their highway side by side!27
"Cleaning a land" is best done by White Men in delicate concert with each other, an allusion to the present dangers of European rivalry in the colonies; for failing in the attempt to coordinate policy, Kipling's White Men are quite prepared to go to war: "Freedom for ourselves and freedom for our sons/And, failing freedom, War." Behind the White Man's mask of amiable leadership there is always the express willingness to use force, to kill and be killed. What dignifies his mission is some sense of intellectual dedication; he is a White Man, but not for mere profit, since his "chosen star" presumably sits far above earthly gain. Certainly many White Men often wondered what it was they fought for on that "wet and windy road," and certainly a great number of them must have been puzzled as to how the color of their skins gave them superior ontological status plus great power over much of the inhabited world.
Yet in the end, being a White Man, for Kipling and for those whose perceptions and rhetoric he influenced, was a selfconfirming business. One became a White Man because one was a White Man; more important, "drinking that cup," living that unalterable destiny in "the White Man's day," left one little time for idle speculation on origins, causes, historical logic.
Being a White Man was therefore an idea and a reality. It involved a reasoned position towards both the white and the nonwhite worlds.It meant-in the colonies--speaking in a certain way, behaving according to a code of regulations, and even feeling certain things and not others. It meant specific judgments, evaluations, gestures. It was a form of authority before which nonwhites, and even whites themselves, were expected to bend. In the institutional forms it took (colonial governments, consular corps, commercial establishments) it was an agency for the expression, diffusion, and implementation of policy towards the world, and within this agency, although a certain personal latitude was allowed, the impersonal communal idea of being a White Man ruled. Being a White Man, in short, was a very concrete manner of being-in-the-world, a way of taking hold of reality, language, and thought. It made a specific style possible.
Kipling himself could not merely have happened; the same is true of his White Man. Such ideas and their authors emerge out of complex historical and cultural circumstances, at least two of which have much in common with the history of Orientalism in the nineteenth century. One of them is the culturally sanctioned habit of deploying large generalizations by which reality is divided into various collectives: languages, races, types, colors, mentalities, each category being not so much a neutral designation as an evaluative interpretation. Underlying these categories is the rigidly binomial opposition of "ours" and "theirs," with the former always encroaching upon the latter (even to the point of making "theirs" exclusively a function of "ours"). This opposition was reinforced not only by anthropology, linguistics, and history but also, of course, by the Darwinian theses on survival and natural selection, and-no less decisive-by the rhetoric of high cultural humanism. What gave writers like Renan and Arnold the right to generalities about race was the official character of their formed cultural literacy. "Our" values were (let us say) liberal, humane, correct; they were supported by the tradition of belles-lettres, informed scholarship, rational inquiry; as Europeans (and white men) "we" shared in them every time their virtues were extolled. Nevertheless, the human partnerships formed by reiterated cultural values excluded as much as they included. For every idea about "our" art spoken for by Arnold, Ruskin, Mill, Newman, Carlyle, Renan, Gobineau, or Comte, another link in the chain binding "us" together was formed while another outsider was banished. Even if this is always the result of such rhetoric, wherever and whenever it occurs, we must remember that for nineteenth-century Europe an imposing edifice of learning and culture was built, so to speak, in the face of actual outsiders (the colonies, the poor, the delinquent), whose role in the culture was to give definition to whatthey were constitutionally unsuited for.28
The other circumstance common to the creation of the White Man and Orientalism is the "field" commanded by each, as well as the sense that such a field entails peculiar modes, even rituals, of behavior, learning, and possession. Only an Occidental could speak of Orientals, for example, just as it was the White Man who could designate and name the coloreds, or nonwhites. Every statement made by Orientalists or White Men (who were usually interchangeable) conveyed a sense of the irreducible distance separating white from colored, or Occidental from Oriental; moreover, behind each statement there resonated the tradition of experience, learning, and education that kept the Oriental-colored to his position ofobject studied by the Occidental-white, instead of vice versa. Where one was in. a position of power-as Cromer was, for example-the Oriental belonged to the system of rule whose principle was simply to make sure that no Oriental was ever allowed to be independent and rule himself. The premise there was that since the Orientals were ignorant of self-government, they had better be kept that way for their own good.
Since the White Man, like the Orientalist, lived very close to the line of tension keeping the coloreds at bay, he felt it incumbent on him readily to define and redefine the domain he surveyed. Passages of narrative description regularly alternate with passages of rearticulated definition and judgment that disrupt the narrative; this is a characteristic style of the writing produced by Oriental experts who operated using Kipling's White Man as a mask. Here is T. E. Lawrence, writing to V. W. Richards in 1918:
…the Arab appealed to my imagination. It is the old, old civilisation, which has refined itself clear of household gods, and half the trappings which ours hastens to assume. The gospel of bareness in materials is a good one, and it involves apparently a sort of moral bareness too. They think for the moment, and endeavour to slip through life without turning corners or climbing hills. In part it is a mental and moral fatigue, a race trained out, and to avoid difficulties they have to jettison so much that we think honorable and grave: and yet without in any way sharing their point of view, I think I can understand it enough to look at myself and other foreigners from their direction, and without condemning it. I know I am a stranger to them, and always will be; but I cannot believe them worse, any more than I could change to their ways.29
A similar perspective, however different the subject under discussion may seem to be, is found in these remarks by Gertrude Bell:
How many thousand years this state of things has lasted [namely, that Arabs live in "a state of war"], those who shall read the earliest records of the inner desert will tell us, for it goes back to the first of them, but in all the centuries the Arab has bought no wisdom from experience. He is never safe, and yet he behaves as though security were his daily bread.30
To which, as a gloss, we should add her further observation, this time about life in Damascus:
I begin to see dimly what the civilisation of a great Eastern city means, how they live, what they think; and I have got on to terms with them. I believe the fact of my being English is a great help.... We have gone up in the world since five years ago. The difference is very marked. I think it is due to the success of our government in Egypt to a great extent.... The defeat of Russia stands for a great deal, and my impression is that the vigorous policy of Lord Curzon in the Persian Gulf and on the India frontier stands for a great deal more. No one who does not know the East can realise how it all hangs together. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that if the English mission had been turned back from the gates of Kabul, the English tourist would be frowned upon in the streets of Damascus.31
In such statements as these, we note immediately that "the Arab" or "Arabs" have an aura of apartness, definiteness, and collective self-consistency such as to wipe out any traces of individual Arabs with narratable life histories. What appealed to Lawrence's imagination was the clarity of the Arab, both as an image and as a supposed philosophy (or attitude) towards life: in both cases what Lawrence fastens on is the Arab as if seen from the cleansing perspective of one not an Arab, and one for whom such unselfconscious primitive simplicity as the Arab possesses is something defined by the observer, in this case the White Man. Yet Arab refinement, which in its essentials corresponds to Yeats's visions of Byzantium where
Flames that no faggot feeds, flint nor steel has lit,
Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
Where blood-begotten spirits come
And all complexities of fury leave.32
is associated with Arab perdurability, as if the Arab had not been subject to the ordinary processes of history. Paradoxically, the Arab seems to Lawrence to have exhausted himself in his very temporal persistence. The enormous age of Arab civilization has thus served to refine the Arab down to his quintessential attributes, and to tire him out morally in the process. What we are left with is Bell's Arab: centuries of experience and no wisdom. As a collective entity, then, the Arab accumulates no existential or even semantical thickness. He remains the same, except for the exhausting refinements mentioned by Lawrence, from one end to the other of "the records of the inner desert." We are to assume that if an Arab feels joy, if he is sad at the death of his child or parent, if he has a sense of the injustices of political tyranny, then those experiences are necessarily subordinate to the sheer, unadorned, and persistent fact of being an Arab.
The primitiveness of such a state exists simultaneously on at least two levels: one,in the definition, which is reductive; and two (according to Lawrence and Bell),in reality. This absolute coincidence was itself no simple coincidence. For one, it could only have been made from the outside by virtue of a vocabulary and epistemological instruments designed both to get to the heart of things and to avoid the distractions of accident, circumstance, or experience. For another, the coincidence was a fact uniquely the result of method, tradition, and politics all working together. Each in a sense obliterated the distinctions between thetype--the Oriental, the Semite, the Arab, the Orient -and ordinary human reality, Yeats's "uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor," in which all human beings live. The scholarly investigator took a type marked "Oriental" for the same thing as any individual Oriental he might encounter. Years of tradition had encrusted discourse about such matters as the Semitic or Oriental spirit with some legitimacy. And political good sense taught, in Bell's marvelous phrase, that in the East "it all hangs together." Primitiveness therefore inhered in the Orient, was the Orient, an idea to which anyone dealing with or writing about the Orient had to return, as if to a touchstone outlasting time or experience.
There is an excellent way of understanding all this as it applied to the white agents, experts, and advisers for the Orient. What mattered to Lawrence and Bell was that their references to Arabs or Orientals belonged to a recognizable, and authoritative, convention of formulation, one that was able to subordinate detail to it. But from where, more particularly, did "the Arab," "the Semite," or "the Oriental" come?
We have remarked how, during the nineteenth century in such writers as Renan, Lane, Flaubert, Caussin de Perceval, Marx, and Lamartine, a generalization about "the Orient" drew its power from the presumed representativeness of everything Oriental; each particle of the Orient told of its Orientalness, so much so that the attribute of being Oriental overrode any countervailing instance.An Oriental man was first an Oriental and only second a man. Such radical typing was naturally reinforced by sciences (or discourses, as I prefer to call them) that took a backward and downward direction towards the species category, which was supposed also to be an ontogenetic explanation for every member of the species. Thus within broad, semipopular designations such as "Oriental" there were some more scientifically valid distinctions being made; most of these were based principally on language types - e.g., Semitic, Dravidic, Hamitic-but they were quickly able to acquire anthropological, psychological, biological, and cultural evidence in their support. Renan's "Semitic," as an instance, was a linguistic generalization which in Renan's hands could add to itself all sorts of parallel ideas from anatomy, history, anthropology, and even geology. "Semitic" could then be employed not only as a simple description or designation; it could be applied to any complex of historical and political events in order to pare them down to a nucleus both antecedent to and inherent in them. "Semitic," therefore, was a transtemporal, transindividual category, purporting to predict every discrete act of "Semitic" behavior on the basis of some pre-existing "Semitic" essence, and aiming as well to interpret all aspects of human life and activity in terms of some common "Semitic" element.
The peculiar hold on late-nineteenth-century liberal European culture of such relatively punitive ideas will seem mysterious unless it is remembered that the appeal of sciences like linguistics, anthropology, and biology was that they were empirical, and by no means speculative or idealistic. Renan's Semitic, like Bopp's Indo-European, was a constructed object, it is true, but it was considered logical and inevitable as a protoform, given the scientifically apprehendable and empirically analyzable data of specific Semitic languages. Thus, in trying to formulate a prototypical and primitive linguistic type (as well as a cultural, psychological, and historical one), there was also an "attempt to define a primary human potential,33 out of which completely specific instances of behavior uniformly derived. Now this attempt would have been impossible had it not also been believed-in classical empiricist terms-that mind and body were interdependent realities, both determined originally by a given set of geographical, biological, and quasihistorical conditions.34 From this set, which was not available to the native for discovery or introspection, there was no subsequent escape. The antiquarian bias of Orientalists was supported by these empiricist ideas. In all their studies of "classical" Islam, Buddhism, or Zoroastrianism they felt themselves, as George Eliot's Dr. Casaubon confesses, to be acting "like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes."35
Were these theses about linguistic, civilizational, and finally racial characteristics merely one side of an academic debate amongst European scientists and scholars, we might dismiss them as furnishing material for an unimportant closet drama. The point is, however, that both the terms of the debate and the debate itself had 'very wide circulation; in late-nineteenth-century culture, as Lionel Trilling has said, "racial theory, stimulated by a rising nationalism and a spreading imperialism, supported by an incomplete and mal-assimilated science, was almost undisputed." Race theory, ideas about primitive origins and primitive classifications, modern decadence, the progress of civilization, the destiny of the white (or Aryan) races, the need for colonial territories-all these were elements in the peculiar amalgam of science, politics, and culture whose drift, almost without exception, was always to raise Europe or a European race to dominion over non-European portions of mankind. There was general agreement too that, according to a strangely transformed variety of Darwinism sanctioned by Darwin himself, the modern Orientals were degraded remnants of a former greatness; the ancient, or "classical," civilizations of the Orient were perceivable through the disorders of present decadence, but only (a) because a white specialist, with highly refined scientific techniques could do the sifting and reconstructing, and (b) because a vocabulary of sweeping generalities (the Semites, the Aryans, the Orientals) referred not to a set of fictions but rather to a whole array of seemingly objective and agreed-upon distinctions. Thus a remark about what Orientals were and were not capable of was supported by biological "truths" such as those spelled out in P. Charles Michel's "A Biological View of Our Foreign Policy" (1896), in Thomas Henry Huxley'sThe Struggle for Existence in Human Society (1888), Benjamin Kidd's SocialEvolution (1894), John B. Crozier'sHistory of Intellectual Development on the Lines of Modern Evolution (1897-1901), and Charles Harvey'sThe Biology of British Politics (1904)37 . It was assumed that if languages were as distinct from each other as the linguists said they were, then too the language users-their minds, cultures, potentials, and even their bodies-were different in similar ways. And these distinctions had the force of ontological, empirical truth behind them, together with the convincing demonstration of such truth in studies of origins, development, character, and destiny.
The point to be emphasized is that this truth about the distinctive differences between races, civilizations, and languages was (or pretended to be) radical and ineradicable. It went to the bottom of things, it asserted that there was no escape from origins and the types these origins enabled; it set the real boundaries between human beings, on which races, nations, and civilizations were constructed; it ford vision away from common, as well as plural, human realities like joy, suffering, political organization, forcing attention instead in the downward and backward direction of immutable origins. A scientist could no more escape such origins in his research than an Oriental could escape "the Semites" or "the Arabs" or "the Indians" from which his present reality---debased, colonized, backward--excluded him, except for the white researcher's didactic presentation.
The profession of specialized research conferred unique privileges. We recall that Lane could appear to be an Oriental and yet retain his scholarly detachment. The Orientals he studied became in facthis Orientals, for he saw them not only as actual people but as monumentalized objects in his account of them. This double perspective encouraged a sort of structured irony. On the one hand, there was a collection of people living in the present; on the other hand, these people-as the subject of study--became "the Egyptians," "the Muslims," or "the Orientals." Only the scholar could see, and manipulate, the discrepancy between the two levels. The tendency of the former was always towards greater variety, yet this variety was always being restrained, compressed downwards and backwards to the radical terminal of the generality. Every modern, native instance of behavior became an effusion to be sent back to the original terminal, which was strengthened in the process. This kind of "dispatching" was precisely thediscipline of Orientalism.
Lane's ability to deal with the Egyptians as present beings and as validations ofsui generis labels was a function both of Orientalist discipline and of generally held views about the Near Oriental Muslim or Semite. In no people more than in the Oriental Semites was it possible to see the present and the origin together. The Jews and the Muslims, as subjects of Orientalist study, were readily understandable in view of their primitive origins: this was (and to a certain extent still is) the cornerstone of morn Orientalism. Renan had called the Semites an instance of arrested development, and functionally speaking this came to mean that for the Orientalist no modern Semite, however much he may have believed himself to be morn, could ever outdistance the organizing claims on him of his origins. This functional rule worked on the temporal and spatial levels together. No Semite advanced in time beyond the development of a "classical" period; no Semite could ever shake loose the pastoral, desert environment of his tent and tribe. Every manifestation of actual "Semitic" life could be, and ought to be, referred back to the primitive explanatory category of "the Semitic."
The executive power of such a system of reference, by which each discrete instance of real behavior could be reduced down and back to a small number of explanatory "original" categories, was considerable by the end of the nineteenth century. In Orientalism it was the equivalent of bureaucracy in public administration. The department was more useful than the individual file, and certainly the human being was significant principally as the occasion for a file. We must imagine the Orientalist at work in the role of a clerk putting together a very wide assortment of files in a large cabinet marked "the Semites." Aided by recent discoveries in comparative and primitive anthropology, a scholar like William Robertson Smith could group together the inhabitants of the Near Orient and write on their kinship and marriage customs, on the form and content of their religious practice. The power of Smith's work is its plainly radical demythologizing of the Semites. The nominal barriers presented to the world by Islam or Judaism are swept aside; Smith uses Semitic philology, mythology, and Orientalist scholarship "to construct.. a hypothetical picture of the development of the social systems, consistent with all the Arabian facts." If this picture succeeds in revealing the antecedent, and still influential, roots of monotheism in totemism or animal worship, then the scholar has been successful. And this, Smith says, despite the fact that "our Mohammedan sources draw a veil, as far as they can, over all details of the old heathenism."
Smith's work on the Semites covered such areas as theology, literature, and history; it was done with a full awareness of work done by Orientalists (see, for instance, Smith's savage attack in 1887 on Renan'sHistoire du peuple d'Israël), and more important, was intended as an aid to the understanding of the modern Semites. For Smith, I think, was a crucial link in the intellectual chain connecting the White-Man-as-expert to the modern Orient. None of the encapsulated wisdom delivered as Oriental expertise by Lawrence, Hogarth, Bell, and the others would have been possible without Smith. And even Smith the antiquarian scholar would not have had half the authority without his additional and direct experience of "the Arabian facts." It was the combination in Smith of the "grasp" of primitive categories with the ability to see general truths behind the empirical vagaries of contemporary Oriental behavior that .gave weight to his writing. Moreover, it was this special combination that adumbrated the style of expertise upon which Lawrence, Bell, and Philby built their reputation.
Like Burton and Charles Doughty before him, Smith voyaged in the Hejaz, between 1880 and 1881. Arabia has been an especially privileged place for the Orientalist, not only because Muslims treat Islam as Arabia's genius loci, but also because the Hejaz appears historically as barren and retarded as it is geographically; the Arabian desert is thus considered to be a locale about which one can make statements regarding the past in exactly the same form (and with the same content) that one makes them regarding the present. In the Hejaz you can speak about Muslims, modern Islam, and primitive Islam without bothering to make distinctions. To this vocabulary devoid of historical grounding, Smith was able to bring the cachet of additional authority provided by his Semitic studies.
What we hear in his comments is the standpoint of a scholar commanding all the antecedents for Islam, the Arabs, and Arabia. Hence:
It is characteristic of Mohammedanism that all national feeling assumes a religious aspect, inasmuch as the whole polity and social forms of a Moslem country are clothed in a religious dress. But it would be a mistake to suppose that genuine religious feeling is at the bottom of everything that justifies itself by taking a religious shape. The prejudices of the Arab have their roots in a conservatism which lies deeper than his belief in Islam. It is, indeed, a great fault of the religion of the Prophet that it lends itself so easily to the prejudices of the race among whom it was first promulgated, and that it has taken under its protection so many barbarous and obsolete ideas, which even Mohammed must have seen to have no religious worth, but which he carried over into his system in order to facilitate the propagation of his reformed doctrines. Yet many of the prejudices which seem to us most distinctively Mohammedan have no basis in the Koran.39
The "us" in the last sentence of this amazing piece of logic defines the White Man's vantage point explicitly. This allows "us" to say in the first sentence that all political and social life are "clothed" in religious dress (Islam can thus be characterized as totalitarian), then to say in the second that religion is only a cover used by Muslims (in other words, all Muslims are hypocrites essentially). In the third sentence, the claim is made that Islam-even while laying hold upon the Arab's faith-has not really reformed the Arab's basic pre-Islamic conservatism.Nor is this all. For if Islam was successful as a religion it was because it fecklessly allowed these "authentic" Arab prejudices to creep in; for such a tactic (now we see that it was a tactic on Islam's behalf) we must blame Mohammed, who was after all a ruthless crypto-Jesuit. But all this is more or less wiped out in the last sentence, when Smith assures "us" that everything he has said about Islam is invalid, since the quintessential aspects of Islam known to the West are not "Mohammedan" after all.
The principles of identity and noncontradiction clearly do not bind the Orientalist. What overrides them is Orientalist expertise, which is based on an irrefutable collective verity entirely within the Orientalist's philosophical and rhetorical grasp. Smith is able without the slightest trepidation to speak about "the jejune, practical and...constitutionally irreligious habit of the Arabic mind," Islam as a system of "organized hypocrisy," the impossibility of "feeling any respect for Moslem devotion, in which formalism and vain repetition are reduced to a system." His attacks on Islam are not relativist, for it is clear to him that Europe's and Christianity's superiority is actual, not imagined. At bottom, Smith's vision of the world is binary, as is evident in such passages as the following:
The Arabian traveller is quite different from ourselves. The labour of moving from place to place is a mere nuisance to him, he has no enjoyment in effort [as "we" do], and grumbles at hunger or fatigue with all his might [as "we" do not]. You will never persuade the Oriental that, when you get off your camel, you can have any other wish than immediately to squat on a rug and take your rest(isterih), smoking and drinking. Moreover the Arab is little impressed by scenery [but "we" are].40
"We" are this, "they" are that. Which Arab, which Islam, when, how, according to what tests: these appear to be distinctions irrelevant to Smith's scrutiny of and experience in the Hejaz. The crucial point is that everything one can know or learn about "Semites" and "Orientals" receives immediate corroboration, not merely in the archives, but directly on the ground.
Out of such a coercive framework, by which a modern "colored" man is chained irrevocably to the general truths formulated about his prototypical linguistic, anthropological, and doctrinal forebears by a white European scholar, the work of the great twentiethcentury Oriental experts in England and France derived. To this framework these experts also brought their private mythology and obsessions, which in writers like Doughty and Lawrence have been studied with considerable energy. Each-Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Doughty, Lawrence, Bell, Hogarth, Philby, Sykes, Storrs---believed his vision of things Oriental was individual, self-created out of some intensely personal encounter with the Orient, Islam, or the Arabs; each expressed general contempt for official knowledge held about the East. "The sun made me an Arab," Doughty wrote in Arabia Deserta, "but never warped me to Orientalism." Yet in the final analysis they all (except Blunt) expressed the traditional Western hostility to and fear of the Orient. Their views refined and gave a personal twist to the academic style of modern Orientalism, with its repertoire of grand generalizations, tendentious "science" from which there was no appeal, reductive formulae. (Doughty again, on the same page as his sneer at Orientalism: "The Semites are like to a man sitting in a cloaca to the eyes, and whose brows touch heaven.") They acted, they promised, they recommended public policy on the basis of such generalizations; and, by a remarkable irony, they acquired the identity of White Orientals in their natal cultures-even as, in the instances of Doughty, Lawrence, Hogarth, and Bell, their professional involvement with the East (like Smith's) did not prevent them from despising it thoroughly. The main issue for them was preserving the Orient and Islam under the control of the White Man.
A new dialectic emerges out of this project. What is required of the Oriental expert is no longer simply"understanding": now the Orient must be made to perform, its power must be enlisted on the side of "our" values, civilization, interests, goals. Knowledge of the Orient is directly translated into activity, and the results give rise to new currents of thought and action in the Orient. But these in turn will require from the White Man a new assertion of control, this time not as the author of a scholarly work on the Orient but as the maker of contemporary history, of the Orient as urgent actuality (which, because he began it, only the expert can understand adequately). The Orientalist has now become a figure of Oriental history, indistinguishable from it, its shaper, its characteristic sign for the West. Here is the dialectic in brief:
Some Englishmen, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that a rebellion of Arabs against Turks would enable England, while fighting Germany, simultaneously to defeat her ally Turkey. Their knowledge of the nature and power and country of the Arabic-speaking peoples made them think that the issue of such a rebellion would be happy: and indicated its character and method. So they allowed it to begin, having obtained formal assurances of help for it from the British Government. Yet none the less the rebellion of the Sherif of Mecca came to most as a surprise, and found the Allies unready. It aroused mixed feelings and made strong friends and enemies, amid whose clashing jealousies its affairs began to miscarry.42
This is Lawrence's own synopsis of chapter 1 of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The "knowledge" of "some Englishmen" authors a movement in the Orient whose "affairs" create a mixed progeny; the ambiguities, the half-imagined, tragicomic results of this new, revived Orient become the subject of expert writing, a new form of Orientalist discourse that presents a vision of the contemporary Orient, not as narrative, but as all complexity, problematics, betrayed hope-with the White Orientalist author as its prophetic, articulate definition.
The defeat of narrative by vision-which is true even in so patently storylike a work asThe Seven Pillars -is something we have already encountered in Lane'sModern Egyptians . A conflict between a holistic view of the Orient (description, monumental record) and a narrative of events in the Orient is a conflict on several levels, involving several different issues. As the conflict is frequently renewed in the discourse of Orientalism, it is worthwhile analyzing it here briefly. The Orientalist surveys the Orient from above, with the aim of getting hold of the whole sprawling panorama before him-culture, religion, mind, history, society. To do this he must see every detail through the device of a set of reductive categories (the Semites, the Muslim mind, the Orient, and so forth). Since these categories are primarily schematic and efficient ones, and since it is more or less assumed that no Oriental can know himself the way an Orientalist can, any vision of the Orient ultimately comes to rely for its coherence and force on the person, institution, or discourse whose property it is. Any comprehensive vision is fundamentally conservative, and we have noted how in the history of ideas about the Near Orient in the West these ideas have maintained themselves regardless of any evidence disputing them. (Indeed, we can argue that these ideas produce evidence that proves their validity.)
The Orientalist is principally a kind of agent of such comprehensive visions; Lane is a typical instance of the way an individual believes himself to have subordinated his ideas, or even what he sees, to the exigencies of some "scientific" view of the whole phenomenon known collectively as the Orient, or the Oriental nation. A vision therefore is static, just as the scientific categories informing late-nineteenth-century Orientalism are static: there is no recourse beyond "the Semites" or "the Oriental mind"; these are final terminals holding every variety of Oriental behavior within a general view of the whole field. As a discipline, as a profession, as specialized language or discourse, Orientalism is staked upon the permanence of the whole Orient, for without "the Orient" there can be no consistent, intelligible, and articulated knowledge called "Orientalism." Thus the Orient belongs to Orientalism, just as it is assumed that there is pertinent information belonging to (or about) the Orient.
Against this static system of"synchronic essentialism"43 I have called vision because it presumes that the whole Orient can be seen panoptically, there is a constant pressure. The source of pressure is narrative, in that if any Oriental detail can be shown to move, or to develop, diachrony is introduced into the system. What seemed stable-and the Orient is synonymous with stability and unchanging eternality-now appears unstable. Instability suggests that history, with its disruptive detail, its currents of change, its tendency towards growth, decline, or dramatic movement, is possible in the Orient and for the Orient. History and the narrative by which history is represented argue that vision is insufficient, that "the Orient" as an unconditional ontological category does an injustice to the potential of reality for change.
Moreover, narrative is the specific form taken by written history to counter the permanence of vision. Lane sensed the dangers of narrative when he refused to give linear shape to himself and to his information, preferring instead the monumental form of encyclopedic or lexicographical vision. Narrative asserts the power of men to be born, develop, and die, the tendency of institutions and actualities to change, the likelihood that modernity and contemporaneity will finally overtake "classical" civilizations; above all, it asserts that the domination of reality by vision is no more than a will to power, a will to truth and interpretation, and not an objective condition of history. Narrative, in short, introduces an opposing point of view, perspective, consciousness to the unitary web of vision; it violates the serene Apollonian fictions asserted by vision.
When as a result of World War I the Orient was made to enter history, it was the Orientalist-as-agent who did the work. Hannah Arendt has made the brilliant observation that the counterpart of the bureaucracy is the imperial agent,44 which is to say that if the collective academic endeavor called Orientalism was a bureaucratic institution based on a certain conservative vision of the Orient, then the servants of such a vision in the Orient were imperial agents like T. E. Lawrence. In his work we can see most clearly the conflict between narrative history and vision, as-in his words--the "new Imperialism" attempted "an active tide of imposing responsibility on the local peoples [of the Orient]."45 The competition between the European Powers now caused them to prod the Orient into active life, to press the Orient into service, to turn the Orient from unchanging "Oriental" passivity into militant modern life. It would be important, nevertheless, never to let the Orient go its own way or get out of hand, the canonical view being that Orientals had no tradition of freedom.
The great drama of Lawrence's work is that it symbolizes the struggle, first, to stimulate the Orient (lifeless, timeless, forceless) into movement; second, to impose upon that movement an essentially Western shape; third, to contain the new and aroused Orient in a personal vision, whose retrospective mode includes a powerful sense of failure and betrayal.
I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty millions of Semites the foundation on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts All the subject provinces of the Empire to me were not worth one dead English boy. If I have restored to the East some self-respect, a goal, ideals: if I have made the standard rule of white over red more exigent, I have fitted those peoples in a degree for the new commonwealth in which the dominant races will forget their brute achievements, and white and red and yellow and brown and black will stand up together without side-glances in the service of the world.46
None of this, whether as intention, as an actual undertaking, or as a failed project, would have been remotely possible without the White Orientalist perspective at the outset:
The Jew in the Metropole at Brighton, the miser, the worshipper of Adonis, the lecher in the stews of Damascus were alike signs of the Semitic capacity for enjoyment, and expressions of the same nerve which gave us at the other pole the self-denial of the Essenes, or the early Christians, or the first Khalifas, finding the ways to heaven fairest for the poor in spirit. The Semite hovered between lust and self-denial.
Lawrence is backed in such statements by a respectable tradition stretching like a lighthouse beam through the whole nineteenth century; at its light-emanating center, of course, is "the Orient," and that is powerful enough to light up both the gross and the refined topographies within its range. The Jew, the worshipper of Adonis, the Damascene lecher, are signs not so much of humanity, let us say, as of a semiotic field called Semitic and built into coherence by the Semitic branch of Orientalism. Inside this fold, certain things were possible:
Arabs could be swung on an idea as on a cord; for the unpledged allegiance of their minds made them obedient servants. None of them would escape the bond till success had come, and with it responsibility and duty and engagement. Then the idea was gone and the work ended-in ruins. Without a creed they could be taken to the four corners of the world (but not to heaven) by being shown the riches of the earth and the pleasures of it; but if on the road ...they met the prophet of an idea, who had no where to lay his head and who depended for his food on charity or birds, then they would all leave their wealth for his inspiration They were as unstable as water, and like water would perhaps finally prevail. Since the dawn of life, in successive waves they had been dashing themselves against the coasts of flesh. Each wave was broken One such wave (and not the least) I raised and rolled before the breath of an idea, till it reached its crest, and toppled over and fell at Damascus. The wash of that wave, thrown back by the resistance of vested things, will provide the matter of the following wave, when in fullness of time the sea shall be raised once more.
"Could," "would," and "if' are Lawrence's way inserting himself in the field, as it were. Thus the possibility is prepared for the last sentence, in which as manipulator of the Arabs Lawrence puts himself at their head. Like Conrad's Kurtz, Lawrence has cut himself loose from the earth so as to become identified with a new reality in order-he says later-that he might be responsible for "hustling into form ...the new Asia which time was inexorably bringing upon us."47
The Arab Revolt acquires meaning only as Lawrence designs meaning for it; his meaning imparted thus to Asia was a triumph, "a mood of enlargement ...in that we felt that we had assumed another's pain or experience, his personality." The Orientalist has become now the representative Oriental, unlike earlier participant observers such as Lane, for whom the Orient was something kept carefully at bay. But there is an unresolvable conflict in Lawrence between the White Man and the Oriental, and although he does not explicitly say so, this conflict essentially restages in his mind the historical conflict between East and West. Conscious of his power over the Orient, conscious also of his duplicity, unconscious of any thing in the Orient that would suggest to him that history, after all, is history and that even without him the Arabs would finally attend to their quarrel with the Turks, Lawrence reduces the entire narrative of the revolt (its momentary successes and its bitter failure) to his vision of himself as an unresolved, "standing civil war":
Yet in reality we had borne the vicarious for our own sakes, or at least because it was pointed for our benefit: and could escape from this knowledge only by a make-belief in sense as well as in motive....
There seemed no straight walking for us leaders in this crooked lane of conduct, ring within ring of unknown, shamefaced motives cancelling or double-charging their precedents.48
To this intimate sense of defeat Lawrence was later to add a theory about "the old men" who stole the triumph from him. In any event, what matters to Lawrence is that as a white expert, the legatee of years of academic and popular wisdom about the Orient, he is able to subordinate his style of being to theirs, thereafter to assume the role of Oriental prophet giving shape to a movement in "the new Asia." And when, for whatever reason, the movement fails (it is taken over by others, its aims are betrayed, its dream of independence invalidated), itis Lawrence's disappointment that counts. So far from being a mere man lost in the great rush of confusing events, Lawrence equates himself fully with the struggle of the new Asia to be born.
Whereas Aeschylus had represented Asia mourning its losses, and Nerval had espressed his disappointment in the Orient for not being more glamorous than he had wanted, Lawrencebecomes both the mourning continent and a subjective consciousness expressing an almost cosmic disenchantment. In the end Lawrence- and thanks not only to Lowell Thomas and Robert Graves-and Lawrence's vision became the very symbol of Oriental trouble: Lawrence, in short, had assumed responsibility for the Orient by interspersing his knowing experience between the reader and history. Indeed what Lawrence presents to the reader is an unmediated expert power-the power to be, for a brief time, the Orient. All the events putatively ascribed to the historical Arab Revolt are reduced finally to Lawrence's experiences on its behalf.
In such a case, therefore, style is not only the power to symbolize such enonnous generalities as Asia, the Orient, or the Arabs; it is also a form of displacement and incorporation by which one voice becomes a whole history, and-for the white Westerner, as reader or writer-the only kind of Orient it is possible to know. Just as Renan had mapped the field of possibility open to the Semites in culture, thought, and language, so too Lawrence charts the space (and indeed, appropriates that space) and time of modern Asia.
The effect of this style is that it brings Asia tantalizingly close to the West, but only for a brief moment. We are left at the end with a sense of the pathetic distance still separating "us" from an Orient destined to bear its foreignness as a mark of its permanent estrangement from the West. This is the disappointing conclusion corroborated (contemporaneously) by the ending of E. M. Forster'sA Passage to India, where Aziz and Fielding attempt, and fail at, reconciliation:
"Why can't we be friends now?" said the other, holding him affectionately. "It's what I want. It's what you want."
But the horses didn't want it-they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, "No, not yet," and the sky said, "No, not there."49
This style, this compact definition, is what the Orient will always come up against.
Despite its pessimism, there is a positive political message behind its phrases. The gulf between East and West can be modulated, as Cromer and Balfour knew well, by superior Western knowledge and power. Lawrence's vision is complemented in France by Maurice Barres'sUne Enquête aux pays du Levant, the record of a journey through the Near Orient in 1914. Like so many works before it, theEnquête is a work of recapitulation whose author not only searches out sources and origins of Western culture in the Orient but also redoes Nerval, Flaubert, and Lamartine in their voyages to the Orient. For Barrès, however, there is an additional political dimension to his journey: he seeks proof, and conclusive evidence, for a constructive French role in the East. Yet the difference between French and British expertise remains: the former manages an actual conjunction of peoples and territory, whereas the latter deals with a realm of spiritual possibility. For Barres the French presence is best seen in French schools where, as he says of a school in Alexandria; "It is ravishing to see those little Oriental girls welcoming and so wonderfully reproducing the fantaisie and the melody [in their spoken French] of the lle-de France." If France does not actually have any colonies there, she is not entirely without possessions:
There is, there in the Orient, a feeling about France which is so religious and strong that it is capable of absorbing and reconciling all our most diverse aspirations. In the Orient we represent spirituality, justice, and the category of the ideal. England is powerful there; Germany is all-powerful; but we possess Oriental souls.
Arguing vociferously with Jaures, this celebrated European doctor proposes to vaccinate Asia against its own illnesses, to occidentalize the Orientals, to bring them into salubrious contact with France. Yet even in these projects Barres's vision preserves the very distinction between East and West he claims to be mitigating.
How will we be able to form for ourselves an intellectual elite with which we can work, made out of Orientals who would not be deracinated, who would continue to evolve according to their own norms, who would remain penetrated by family traditions, and who would thus form a link between us and the mass of natives? How will we create relationships with a view towards preparing the way for agreements and treaties which would be the desirable form taken by our political future [in the Orient]? All these things are finally all about soliciting in these strange peoples the taste for maintaining contact with our intelligence,even though this taste may in fact come out of their own sense of their national destiny. 50
The emphasis in the last sentence is Barres's own. Since unlike Lawrence and Hogarth (whose book TheWandering Scholar is the wholly informative and unromantic record of two trips to the Levant in 1896 and 191051 ) he writes of a world of distant probabilities; he is more prepared to imagine the Orient as going its own way. Yet the bond (or leash) between East and West that he advocates is designed to permit a constant variety of intellectual pressure going from West to East.Barrens sees things, not in terms of waves, battles, spiritual adventures, but in terms of the cultivation of intellectual imperialism, as ineradicable as it, is subtle. The British vision, exemplified by Lawrence, is of the mainstream Orient, of peoples, political organizations, and movements guided and held in check by the White Man's expert tutelage; the Orient is "our" Orient, "our" people, "our" dominions. Discriminations between elites and the masses are less likely to be made by the British than by the French, whose perceptions and policy were always based on minorities and on the insidious pressures of spiritual community between France and its colonial children.
The British agent-Orientalist Lawrence, Bell, Philby, Storrs, Hogarth -during and after World War I took over both the rule of expert-adventurer-eccentric (created in the nineteenth century by Lane, Burton, Hester Stanhope) and the role of colonial authority, whose position is in a central place next to the indigenous ruler: Lawrence with the Hashimites, Philby with the house of Saud, are the two best-known instances. British Oriental expertise fashioned itself around consensus and orthodoxy and sovereign authority; French Oriental expertise between the wars concerned itself with heterodoxy, spiritual ties, eccentrics. It is no accident, then, that the two major scholarly careers of this period, one British, one French, were H. A. R. Gibb's and Louis Massignon's, one whose interest was defined by the notion of Sunna (or orthodoxy) in Islam, the other whose focus was on the quasi-Christlike, theosophical Sufi figure, Mansur al-Hallaj. I shall return to these two major Orientalists a little later.
If I have concentrated so much on imperial agents and policymakers instead of scholars in this section, it was to accentuate the major shift in Orientalism, knowledge about the Orient, intercourse with it, from an academic to aninstrumental attitude. What accompanies the shift is a change in the attitude as well of the individual Orientalist, who need no longer see himself-as Lane, Sacy, Renan, Caussin, Muller, and others did-as belonging to a sort of guild community with its own internal traditions and rituals. Now the Orientalist has become the representative man of his Western culture, a man who compresses within his own work a major duality of which that work (regardless of its specific form) is the symbolic expression: Occidental consciousness, knowledge, science taking hold of the furthest Oriental reaches as well as the most minute Oriental particulars. Formally the Orientalist sees himself as accomplishing the union of Orient and Occident, but mainly by reasserting the technological, political, and cultural supremacy of the West. History, in such a union, is radically attentuated if not banished. Viewed as a current of development, as a narrative strand, or as a dynamic force unfolding systematically and materially in time and space, human history-of the East or the West -is subordinated to an essentialist, idealist conception of Occident and Orient. Because he feels himself to be standing at the very rim of the East-West divide, the Orientalist not only speaks in vast generalities; he also seeks to convert each aspect of Oriental or Occidental life into an unmediated sign of one or the other geographical half.
The interchange in the Orientalist's writing between his expert self and his testimonial, beholding self as Western representative is pre-eminently worked out in visual terms. Here is a typical passage (quoted by Gibb) from Duncan Macdonald's classic workThe Religious Attitude and Life in Islam (1909):
The Arabs show themselves not as especially easy of belief, but as hard-headed, materialistic, questioning, doubting, scoffing at their own superstitions and usages, fond of tests of the supernatural-and all this in a curiously light-minded, almost childish fashion.52
The governing verb isshow, which here gives us to understand that the Arabs display themselves (willingly or unwillingly) to and for expert scrutiny. The number of attributes ascribed to them, by its crowded set of sheer appositions, causes "the Arabs" to acquire a sort of existential weightlessness; thereby, "the Arabs" are made to rejoin the very broad designation, common to modern anthropological thought, of "the childish primitive." What Macdonald also implies is that for such descriptions there is a peculiarly privileged position occupied by the Western Orientalist, whose representative function is precisely to show what needs to be seen. All specific history is capable of being seen thus at the apex, or the sensitive frontier, of Orient and Occident together. The complex dynamics of human life-what I have been calling history as narrativebecomes either irrelevant or trivial in comparison with the circular vision by which the details of Oriental life serve merely to reassert the Orientalness of the subject and the Westernness of the observer.
If such a vision in some ways recalls Dante's, we should by no means fail to notice what an enormous difference there is between this Orient and Dante's. Evidence here is meant to be (and probably is considered) scientific; its pedigree, genealogically speaking, is European intellectual and human science during the nineteenth century. Moreover, the Orient is no simple marvel, or an enemy, or a branch of exotica; it is a political actuality of great and significant moment. Like Lawrence, Macdonald cannot really detach his representative characteristics as a Westerner from his role as a scholar. Thus his vision of Islam, as much as Lawrence's of the Arabs, implicatesdefinition of the object with theidentity of the person defining. All Arab Orientals must be accommodated to a vision of an Oriental type as constructed by the Western scholar, as well as to a specific encounter with the Orient in which the Westerner regrasps the Orient's essence as a consequence of his intimate estrangement from it. For Lawrence as for Forster, this latter sensation produces the despondency as well of personal failure; for such scholars as Macdonald, it strengthens the Orientalist discourse itself.
And it puts that discourse abroad in the world of culture, politics, and actuality. In the period between the wars, as we can easily judge from, say, Malraux's novels, the relations between East and West assumed a currency that was both widespread and anxious. The signs of Oriental claims for political independence were everywhere; certainly in the dismembered Ottoman Empire they were encouraged by the Allies and, as is perfectly evident in the whole Arab Revolt and its aftermath, quickly became problematic. The Orient now appeared to constitute a challenge, not just to the West in general, but to the West's spirit, knowledge, and imperium. After a good century of constant intervention in (and study of) the Orient, the West's role in an East itself responding to the crises of modernity seemed considerably more delicate. There was the issue of outright occupation; there was the issue of the mandated territories; there was the issue of European competition in the Orient; there was the issue of dealing with native elites, native popular movements, and native demands for self-government and independence; there was the issue of civilizational contacts between Orient and Occident. Such issues forced reconsideration of Western knowledge of the Orient. No less a personage than Sylvain Levi, president of the Société asiatique between 1928 and 1935, professor of Sanskrit at the Collège de France, reflected seriously in 1925 on the urgency of the East-West problem:
Our duty is to understand Oriental civilization. The humanistic problem, which consists, on an intellectual level, in making a sympathetic and intelligent effort to understand foreign civilizations in both their past and their future forms, is specifically posed for us Frenchmen [although similar sentiments could have been expressed by an Englishman: the problem was a European one] in a practical way with regard to our great Asiatic colonies....
These peoples are the inheritors of a long tradition of history, of art, and of religion, the sense of which they have not entirely lost and which they are probably anxious to prolong. We have assumed the responsibility of intervening in their development, sometimes without consulting them, sometimes in answer to their request.... We claim, rightly or wrongly, to represent a superior civilization, and because of the right given us by virtue of this superiority, which we regularly affirm with such assurance as makes it seem incontestable to the natives, we have called in question all their native traditions ....
In a general way, then, wherever the European has intervened, the native has perceived himself with a sort of general despair which was really poignant since he felt that the sum of his wellbeing, in the moral sphere more than in sheer material terms, instead of increasing had in fact diminished. All of which has made the foundation of his social life seem to be flimsy and to crumble under him, and the golden pillars on which he had thought to rebuild his life now seem no more than tinseled cardboard.
This disappointment has been translated into rancor from one end to the other of the Orient, and this rancor is very close now to turning to hate, and hate only waits for the right moment in order to turn into action.
If because of laziness or incomprehension Europe does not make the effort that its interests alone require from it,then the Asiatic drama will approach the crisis point.
It is here that that science which is a form of life and an instrument of policy-that is, wherever our interests are at stake-owes it to itself to penetrate native civilization and life in their intimacy in order to discover their fundamental values and durable characteristics rather than to smother native life with the incoherent threat of European civilizational imports. We must offer ourselves to these civilizations as we do our other products, that is, on the local exchange market. [Emphasis in original]53
Lévi has no difficulty in connecting Orientalism with politics, for the long-or rather, the prolonged-Western intervention in the East cannot be denied either in its consequences for knowledge or in its effect upon the hapless native; together the two add up to what could be a menacing future. For all his expressed humanism, his admirable concern for fellow creatures, Lévi conceives the present juncture in unpleasantly constricted terms. The Oriental is imagined to feel his world threatened by a superior civilization; yet his motives are impelled, not by some positive desire for freedom, political independence, or cultural achievement on their own terms, but instead by rancor or jealous malice. The panacea offered for this potentially ugly turn of affairs is that the Orient be marketed for a Western consumer, be put before him as one among numerous wares beseeching his attention. By a single stroke you will defuse the Orient (by letting it think itself to be an "equal" quantity on the Occidental marketplace of ideas), and you will appease Western fears of an Oriental tidal wave. At bottom, of course, Lévi's principal point-and his most telling confession-is that unless something is done about the Orient, "the Asiatic drama will approach the crisis point."
Asia suffers, yet in its suffering it threatens Europe: the eternal, bristling frontier endures between East and West, almost unchanged since classical antiquity. What Lévi says as the most august of modern Orientalists is echoed with less subtlety by cultural humanists. Item: in 1925 the French periodical LesCahiers du mois conducted a survey among notable intellectual figures; the writers canvassed included Orientalists (Lévi, Émile Senart) as well as literary men like André Gide, Paul Valéry, and Edmond Jaloux. The questions dealt with relations between Orient and Occident in a timely, not to say brazenly provocative, way, and this already indicates something about the cultural ambience of the period. We will immediately recognize how ideas of the sort promulgated in Orientalist scholarship have now reached the level of accepted truth. One question asks whether Orient and Occident are mutually impenetrable (the idea was Maeterlinck's) or not; another asks whether or not Oriental influence represented "un peril grave"Henri Massis's words-to French thought; a third asks about those values in Occidental culture to which its superiority over the Orient can be ascribed. Valéry's response seems to me worth quoting from, so forthright are the lines of its argument and so time-honored, at least in the early twentieth century:
From the cultural point of view, I do not think that we have much to fear now from the Oriental influence. It is not unknown to us. We owe to the Orient all the beginnings of our arts and of a great deal of our knowledge. We can very well welcome what now comes out of the Orient, if something new is coming out of there -which I very much doubt. This doubt is precisely our guarantee and our European weapon.
Besides, the real question in such matters is to digest. But that has always been, just as precisely, the great specialty of the European mind through the ages. Our role is therefore to maintain this power of choice, of universal comprehension, of the transformation of everything into our own substance, powers which have made us what we are. The Greeks and the Romans showed us how to deal with the monsters of Asia, how to treat them by analysis, how to extract from them their quintessence The Mediterranean basin seems to me to be like a closed vessel where the essences of the vast Orient have always come in order to be condensed. [Emphasis and ellipses in original]54
If European culture generally has digested the Orient, certainly Valéry was aware that one specific agency for doing the job has been Orientalism. In the world of Wilsonian principles of national self determination, Valéry relies confidently on analyzing the Orient's threat away. "The power of choice" is mainly for Europe first to acknowledge the Orient as the origin of European science, then to treat it as a superseded origin. Thus, in another context, Balfour could regard the native inhabitants of Palestine as having priority on the land, but nowhere near the subsequent authority to keep it; the mere wishes of 700,000 Arabs, he said, were of no moment compared to the destiny of an essentially European colonial Movement.55
Asia represented, then, the unpleasant likelihood of a sudden eruption that would destroy "our" world; as John Buchan put it in 1922:
The earth is seething with incoherent power and unorganized intelligence. Have you ever reflected on the case of China? There you have millions of quick brains stiffed in trumpery crafts. They have no direction, no driving power, so the sum of their efforts is futile, and the world laughs at China.56
But if China organized itself (as it would), it would be no laughing matter. Europe's effort therefore was to maintain itself as what Valery called "une machine puissante,"57 absorbing what it could from outside Europe, converting everything to its use, intellectually and materially, keeping the Orient selectively organized (or disorganized). Yet this could be done only through clarity of vision and analysis. Unless the Orient was seen for what it was, its power -military, material, spiritual-would sooner or later overwhelm Europe. The great colonial empires, great systems of systematic repression, existed to fend off the feared eventuality. Colonial subjects, as George Orwell saw them in Marrakech in 1939, must not be seen except as a kind of continental emanation, African, Asian, Oriental:
When you walk through a town like this-two hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom at least twenty thousand own literally nothing except the rags they stand up in-when you see how the people live, and still more, how easily they die, it is always difficult to believe that you are walking among human beings. All colonial empires are in reality founded upon that fact. The people have brown faces-besides they have so many of them! Are they really the same flesh as yourself? Do they even have names? Or are they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff, about as individual as bees or coral insects? They arise out of the earth, they sweat and starve for a few years, and then they sink back into the nameless mounds of the graveyard and nobody notices that they are gone. And even the graves themselves soon fade back into the soil.58
Aside from the picturesque characters offered European readers in the exotic fiction of minor writers (Pierre Loti, Marmaduke Pickthall, and the like), the non-European known to Europeans is precisely what Orwell says about him. He is either a figure of fun, or an atom in a vast collectivity designated in ordinary or cultivated discourse as an undifferentiated type called Oriental, African, yellow, brown, or Muslim. To such abstractions Orientalism had contributed its power of generalization, converting instances of a civilization into ideal bearers of its values, ideas, and positions, which in turn the Orientalists had found in "the Orient" and transformed into common cultural currency.
If we reflect that Raymond Schwab brought out his brilliant biography of Anquetil-Duperron in 1934-and began those studies which were to put Orientalism in its proper cultural context-we must also remark that what he did was in stark contrast to his fellow artists and intellectuals, for whom Orient and Occident were still the secondhand abstractions they were for Valery. Not that Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Arthur Waley, Fenollosa, Paul Claudel (in hisConnaissance de l’est), Victor Ségalen, and others were ignoring "the wisdom of the East," as Max Willer had called it a few generations earlier. Rather the culture viewed the Orient, and Islam in particular, with the mistrust with which, its learned attitude to the Orient had always been freighted. A suitable instance of this contemporary attitude at its most explicit is to be found in a series of lectures given at the University of Chicago in 1924 on "The Occident and the Orient" by Valentine Chirol, a well-known European newspaperman of great experience in the East; his purpose was to make clear to educated Americans that the Orient was not as far off as perhaps they believed. His line is a simple one: that Orient and Occident are irreducibly opposed to each other, and that the Orient-in particular "Mohammedanism"--is one of "the great world-forces" responsible for "the deepest lines of cleavage" in the world.59 Chirol's sweeping generalizations are, I think, adequately represented by the titles of his six lectures: "Their Ancient Battleground"; "The Passing of the Ottoman Empire, the Peculiar Case of Egypt"; "The Great British Experiment in Egypt"; "Protectorates and Mandates"; "The New Factor of Bolshevism"; and "Some General Conclusions."
To such relatively popular accounts of the Orient as Chirol's, we can add a testimonial by Élie Faure, who in his ruminations draws, like Chirol, on history, cultural expertise, and the familiar contrast between White Occidentalism and colored Orientalism. While delivering himself of paradoxes like "le carnage permanent de l'indifférence orientale" (for, unlike "us," "they" have no conception of peace), Faure goes on to show that the Orientals' bodies are lazy, that the Orient has no conception of history, of the nation, or ofpatrie, that the Orient is essentially mystical-and so on. Faure argues that unless the Oriental learns to be rational, to develop techniques of knowledge and positivity, there can be norapprochement between East and West.60 A far more subtle and learned account of the East-West dilemma can be found in Fernand Baldensperger's essay "Où s'affrontent I'Orient et l'Occident intellectuels," but he too speaks of an inherent Oriental disdain for the idea, for mental discipline, for rational interpretation.61
Spoken as they are out of the depths of European culture, by writers who actually believe themselves to be speaking on behalf of that culture, such commonplaces (for they are perfectidées reçues) cannot be explained simply as examples of provincial chauvinism. They are not that, and-as will be evident to anyone who knows anything about Faure's and Baldensperger's other work-are the more paradoxical for not being that. Their background is the transformation of the exacting, professional science of Orientalism, whose function in nineteenth-century culture had been the restoration to Europe of a lost portion of humanity, but which had become in the twentieth century both an instrument of policy and, more important, a code by which Europe could interpret both itself and the Orient to itself. For reasons discussed earlier in this book, modem Orientalism already carried within itself the imprint of the great European fear of Islam, and this was aggravated by the political challenges of theentre-deux-guerres. My point is that the metamorphosis of a relatively innocuous philological subspecialty into a capacity for managing political movements, administering colonies, making nearly apocalyptic statements representing the White Man's difficult civilizing mission-all this is something at work within a purportedly liberal culture, one full of concern for its vaunted norms of catholicity, plurality, and open-mindedness. In fact, what took place was the very opposite of liberal: the hardening of doctrine and meaning, imparted by "science," into "truth." For if such truth reserved for itself the right to judge the Orient as immutably Oriental in the ways I have indicated, then liberality was no more than a form of oppression and mentalistic prejudice.
The extent of such illiberality was not-and is not-often recognized from within the culture, for reasons that this book is trying to explore. It is heartening, nevertheless, that such illiberality has occasionally been challenged. Here is an instance from I. A. Richards's foreword to hisMencius on the Mind (1932); we can quite easily substitute "Oriental" for "Chinese" in what follows.
As to the effects of an increased knowledge of Chinese thought upon the West, it is interesting to notice that a writer so unlikely to be thought either ignorant or careless as M. Etienne Gilson can yet, in the English Preface of hisThe Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, speak of Thomistic Philosophy as "accepting and gathering up the whole of human tradition." This is how we all think, to us the Western world is still the World [or the part of the World that counts]; but an impartial observer would perhaps say that such provincialism is dangerous. And we are not yet so happy in the West that we can be sure that we are not suffering from its effects.62
Richards's argument advances claims for the exercise of what he calls Multiple Definition, a genuine type of pluralism, with the combativeness of systems of definition eliminated. Whether or not we accept his counter to Gilson's provincialism, we can accept the proposition that liberal humanism, of which Orientalism has historically been one department,retards the process of enlarged and enlarging meaning through which true understanding can be attained. What took the place of enlarged meaning in twentieth century Orientalism-that is, within the technical field-is the subject most immediately at hand.
III- Modern Anglo-French Orientalism in Fullest Flower
Because we have become accustomed to think of a contemporary expert on some branch of the Orient, or some aspect of its life, as a specialist in "area studies," we have lost a vivid sense of how, until around World War II, the Orientalist was considered to be a generalist (with a great deal of specific knowledge, of course) who had highly developed skills for making summational statements. By summational statements I mean that in formulating a relatively uncomplicated idea, say, about Arabic grammar or Indian religion, the Orientalist would be understood (and would understand himself) as also making a statement about the Orient as a whole, thereby summing it up. Thus every discrete study of one bit of Oriental material would also confirm in a summary way the profound Orientality of the material. And since it was commonly believed that the whole Orient hung together in some profoundly organic way, it made perfectly good hermeneutical sense for the Orientalist scholar to regard the material evidence he dealt with as ultimately leading to a better understanding of such things as the Oriental character, mind, ethos, or world-spirit.
Most of the first two chapters of this book have made similar arguments about earlier periods in the history of Orientalist thought. The differentiation in its later history that concerns us here, however, is the one between the periods immediately before and after World War I. In both instances, as with the earlier periods, the Orient is Oriental no matter the specific case, and no matter the style or technique used to describe it; the difference between the two periods in question is thereason given by the Orientalist for seeing the essential Orientality of the Orient. A good example of the prewar rationale can be found in the following passage by Snouck Hurgronje, taken from his 1899 review of Eduard Sachau'sMuhammedanisches Recht:
… the law, which in practice had to make ever greater concessions to the use and customs of the people and the arbitrariness of their rulers, nevertheless retained a considerable influence on the intellectual life of the Muslims. Therefore it remains, and still is for us too, an important subject of study, not only for abstract reasons connected with the history of law, civilization and religion, but also for practical purposes. The more intimate the relations of Europe with the Muslim East become, the more Muslim countries fall under European suzerainty, the more important it is for us Europeans to become acquainted with the intellectual life, the religious law, and the conceptual background of Islam.63
Although Hurgronje allows that something so abstract as "Islamic law" did occasionally yield to the pressure of history and society, he is more interested than not in retaining the abstraction for intellectual use because in its broad outline "Islamic law" confirms the disparity between East and West. For Hurgronje the distinction between Orient and Occident was no mere academic or popular cliche: quite the contrary. For him it signified the essential, historical power relationship between the two. Knowledge of the Orient either proves, enhances, or deepens the difference by which European suzerainty (the phrase has a venerable nineteenth-century pedigree) is extended effectively over Asia. To know the Orient as a whole, then, is to know it because it is entrusted to one's keeping, if one is a Westerner.
An almost symmetrical passage to Hurgronje's is to be found in the concluding paragraph of Gibb's article "Literature" inThe Legacy of Islam, published in 1931. After having described the three casual contacts between East and West up till the eighteenth century, Gibb then proceeds to the nineteenth century:
Following on these three moments of casual contact, the German romantics turned again to the East, and for the first time made it their conscious aim to open a way for the real heritage of oriental poetry to enter into the poetry of Europe. The nineteenth century, with its new sense of power and superiority, seemed to clang the gate decisively in the face of their design. Today, on the other hand, there are signs of a change. Oriental literature has begun to be studied again for its own sake, and a new understanding of the East is being gained. As this knowledge spreads and the East recovers its rightful place in the life of humanity, oriental literature may once again perform its historic function, and assist us to liberate ourselves from the narrow and oppressive conceptions which would limit all that is significant in literature, thought, and history to our own segment of the globe.64
Gibb's phrase "for its own sake" is in diametrical opposition to the string of reasons subordinated to Hurgronje's declaration about European suzerainty over the East. What remains, nevertheless, is that seemingly inviolable over all identity of something called "the East" and something else called "the West." Such entities have a use for each other, and it is plainly Gibb's laudable intention to show that the influence on Western of Oriental literature need not be (in its results) what Brunetière had called "a national disgrace." Rather, the East could be confronted as a sort of humanistic challenge to the local confines of Western ethnocentricity.
His earlier solicitation of Goethe's idea ofWelditeratur notwithstanding, Gibb's call for humanistic interinanimation between East and West reflects the changed political and cultural realities of the postwar era. European suzerainty over the Orient had not passed; but it had evolved-in British Egypt-from a more or less placid acceptance by the natives into a more and more contested political issue compounded by fractious native demands for independence. These were the years of constant British trouble with Zaghlul, the Wafd party, and the like.65 Moreover, since 1925 there had been a worldwide economic recession, and this too increased the sense of tension that Gibb's prose reflects. But the specifically cultural message in what he says is the most compelling. Heed the Orient, he seems to be telling his reader, for its use to the Western mind in the struggle to overcome narrowness, oppressive specialization, and limited perspectives.
The ground had shifted considerably from Hurgronje to Gibb, as had the priorities. No longer did it go without much controversy that Europe's domination over the Orient was almost a fact of nature; nor was it assumed that the Orient was in need of Western enlightenment. What mattered during the interwar years was a cultural self-definition that transcended the provincial and the xenophobic. For Gibb, the West has need of the Orient as something to be studied because it releases the spirit from sterile specialization, it eases the affliction of excessive parochial and nationalistic selfcenteredness, it increases one's grasp of the really central issues in the study of culture. If the Orient appears more a partner in this new rising dialectic of cultural self-consciousness, it is, first, because the Orient is more of a challenge now than it was before, and second, because the West is entering a relatively new phase of cultural crisis, caused in part by the diminishment of Western suzerainty over the rest of the world.
Therefore, in the best Orientalist work done during the interwar period represented in the impressive careers of Massignon and Gibb himself-we will find elements in common with the best humanistic scholarship of the period. Thus the summational attitude of which I spoke earlier can be regarded as the Orientalist equivalent of attempts in the purely Western humanities to understand cultureas a whole, antipositivistically, intuitively, sympathetically. Both the Orientalist and the non-Orientalist begin with the sense that Western culture is passing through an important phase, whose main feature is the crisis imposed on it by such threats as barbarism, narrow technical concerns, moral aridity, strident nationalism, and so forth. The idea of using specific texts, for instance, to work from the specific to the general (to understand the whole life of a period and consequently of a culture) is common to those humanists in the West inspired by the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, as well as to towering Orientalist scholars like Massignon and Gibb. The project of revitalizing philology-as it is found in the work of Curtius, Vossler, Auerbach, Spitzer, Gundolf, Hofmannsthal66 -has its counterpart therefore in the invigorations provided to strictly technical Orientalist philology by Massignon's studies of what he called the mystical lexicon, the vocabulary of Islamic devotion, and so on.
But there is another, more interesting conjunction between Orientalism in this phase of its history and the European sciences of man(sciences de l'homme), theGeisteswissenschaften contemporary with it. We must note, first, that non-Orientalist cultural studies were perforce more immediately responsive to the threats to humanistic culture of a self-aggrandizing, amoral technical specialization represented, in part at least, by the rise of fascism in Europe. This response extended the concerns of the interwar period into the period following World War II as well. An eloquent scholarly and personal testimonial to this response can be found in Erich Auerbach's magisterialMimesis, and in his last methodological reflections as a Philolog.67 He tells us thatMimesis was written during his exile in Turkey and was meant to be in large measure an attempt virtuallyto see the development of Western culture at almost the last moment when that culture still had its integrity and civilizational coherence; therefore, he set himself the task of writing a general work based on specific textual analyses in such a way as to lay out the principles of Western literary performance in all their variety, richness, and fertility. The aim was a synthesis of Western culture in which the synthesis itself was matched in importance by the very gesture of doing it, which Auerbach believed was made possible by what he called "late bourgeois humanism."68 The discrete particular was thus converted into a highly mediated symbol of the world -historical process.
No less important for Auerbach-and this fact is of immediate relevance to Orientalism-was the humanistic tradition of involvement in a national culture or literature not one's own. Auerbach's example was Curtius, whose prodigious output testified to his deliberate choice as a German to dedicate himself professionally to the Romance literatures. Not for nothing, then, did Auerbach end his autumnal reflections with a significant quotation from Hugo of St. Victor'sDidascalicon: "The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land."69 The more one is able to leave one's cultural home, the more easily is one able to judge it, and the whole world as well, with the spiritual detachmentand generosity necessary for true vision. The more easily, too, does one assess oneself and alien cultures with the same combination of intimacy and distance.
No less important and methodologically formative a cultural force was the use in the social sciences of "types" both as an analytical device and as a way of seeing familiar things in a new way. The precise history of the "type" as it is to be found in earlytwentieth-century thinkers like Weber, Durkheim, Lukacs, Mannheim, and the other sociologists of knowledge has been examined often enough:70 yet it has not been remarked, I think, that Weber's studies of Protestantism, Judaism, and Buddhism blew him (perhaps unwittingly) into the very territory originally charted and claimed by the Orientalists. There he found encouragement amongst all those nineteenth-century thinkers who believed that there was a sort of ontological difference between Eastern and Western economic (as well as religious) "mentalities." Although he never thoroughly studied Islam, Weber nevertheless influenced the field considerably, mainly because his notions of type were simply an "outside" confirmation of many of the canonical theses held by Orientalists, whose economic ideas never extended beyond asserting the Oriental's fundamental incapacity for trade, commerce, and economic rationality. In the Islamic field those cliches held good for literally hundreds of years-until Maxime Rodinson's important studyIslam and Capitalism appeared in 1966. Still, the notion of a type Oriental, Islamic, Arab, or whatever-endures and is nourished by similar kinds of abstractions or paradigms or types as they emerge out of the modern social sciences.
I have often spoken in this book of the sense of estrangement experienced by Orientalists as they dealt with or lived in a culture so profoundly different from their own. Now one of the striking differences between Orientalism in its Islamic version and all the other humanistic disciplines where Auerbach's notions on the necessity of estrangement have some validity is that Islamic Orientalists never saw their estrangement from Islam either as salutary or as an attitude with implications for the better understanding of their own culture. Rather, their estrangement from Islam simply intensified their feelings of superiority about European culture, even as their antipathy spread to include the entire Orient, of which Islam was considered a degraded (and usually, a virulently dangerous) representative. Such tendencies-it has also been my argument-became built into the very traditions of Orientalist study throughout the nineteenth century, and in time became a standard component of most Orientalist training, handed on from generation to generation. In addition, I think, the likelihood was very great that European scholars would continue to see the Near Orient through the perspective of its Biblical "origins," that is, as a place of unshakably influential religious primacy. Given its special relationship to both Christianity and Judaism, Islam remained forever the Orientalist's idea (or type) of original cultural effrontery, aggravated naturally by the fear that Islamic civilization originally (as well as contemporaneously) continued to stand somehow opposed to the Christian West.
For these reasons, Islamic Orientalism between the wars shared in the general sense of cultural crisis adumbrated by Auerbach and the others I have spoken of briefly, without at the same time developing in the same way as the other human sciences. Because Islamic Orientalism also preserved within it the peculiarly polemical religious attitude it had had from the beginning, it remained fixed in certain methodological tracks, so to speak. Its cultural alienation, for one, needed to be preserved from modern history and socio-political circumstance, as well as from the necessary revisions imposed on any theoretical or historical "type" by new data. For another, the abstractions offered by Orientalism (or rather, the opportunity for making abstractions) in the case of Islamic civilization were considered to have acquired a new validity; since it was assumed that Islam worked the way Orientalists said it did (without reference to actuality, but only to a set of "classical" principles), it was also assumed that modern Islam would be nothing more than a reasserted version of the old, especially since it was also supposed that modernity for Islam was less of a challenge than an insult. (The very large number of assumptions and suppositions in this description, incidentally, are intended to portray the rather eccentric twists and turns necessary for Orientalism to have maintained its peculiar way of seeing human reality.) Finally, if the synthesizing ambition in philology (as conceived by Auerbach or. Curtius) was to lead to an enlargement of the scholar's awareness, of his sense of the brotherhood of man, of the universality of certain principles of human behavior, in Islamic Orientalism synthesis led to a sharpened sense of difference between Orient and Occident as reflected in Islam.
What I am describing, then, is something that will characterize Islamic Orientalism until the present day: its retrogressive position when compared with the other human sciences (and even with the other branches of Orientalism), its general methodological and ideological backwardness, and its comparative insularity from developments both in the other humanities and in the real world of historical, economic, social, and political circumstances.71 Some awareness of this lag in Islamic (or Semitic) Orientalism was already present towards the end of the nineteenth century, perhaps because it was beginning to be apparent to some observers how very little either Semitic or Islamic Orientalism had shaken itself loose from the religious background from which it originally derived. The first Orientalist congress was organized and held in Paris in 1873, and almost from the outset it was evident to other scholars that the Semiticists and Islamicists were in intellectual arrears, generally speaking. Writing a survey of all the congresses that had been held between 1873 and 1897, the English scholar R. N. Cust had this to say about the Semitic-Islamic subfield:
Such meetings [as those held in the ancient-Semitic field], indeed, advance Oriental learning.
The same cannot be said with regard to the modern-Semitic section; it was crowded, but the subjects discussed were of the smallest literary interest, such as would occupy the minds of the dilettanti scholars of the old school, not the great class of "indicatores" of the nineteenth century. I am forced to go back to Pliny to find a word. There was an absence from this section both of the modern philological and archeological spirit, and the report reads more like that of a congress of University tutors of the last century met to discuss the reading of a passage in a Greek play, or the accentuation of a vowel, before the dawn of Comparative Philology had swept away the cobwebs of the Scholiasts. Was it worth while to discuss whether Mahomet could hold a pen or write?72
To some extent the polemical antiquarianism that Cust described was a scholarly version of European anti-Semitism. Even the designation "modern-Semitic," which was meant to include both Muslims and Jews (and which had its origin in the so-called ancient-Semitic field pioneered by Renan), carried its racist banner with what was doubtless meant to be a decent ostentation. A little later in his report Cust comments on how in the same meeting " `the Aryan' supplied much material for reflection." Clearly "the Aryan" is a counterabstraction to "the Semite," but for some of the reasons I listed earlier, such atavistic labels were felt to be especially pertinent to Semites-with what expensive moral and human consequences for the human community as a whole, the history of the twentieth century amply demonstrates. Yet what has not been sufficiently stressed in histories of modern anti-Semitism has been the legitimation of such atavistic designations by Orientalism, and more important for my purposes here, the way this academic and intellectual legitimation has persisted right through the modern age in discussions of Islam, the Arabs, or the Near Orient. For whereas it is no longer possible to write learned (or even popular) disquisitions on either "the Negro mind" or "the Jewish personality," it is perfectly possible to engage in such research as "the Islamic mind," or "the Arab character"-but of this subject more later.
Thus, in order properly to understand the intellectual genealogy of interwar Islamic Orientalism-as it is most interestingly and satisfyingly seen (no irony intended) in the careers of Massignon and Gibb-we must be able to understand the differences between the Orientalist's summational attitude towards his material and the kind of attitude to which it bears a strong cultural resemblance, that in the work of philologists such as Auerbach and Curtius. The intellectual crisis in Islamic Orientalism was another aspect of the spiritual crisis of "late bourgeois humanism"; in its form and style, however, Islamic Orientalism viewed the problems of mankind as separable into the categories called "Oriental" or "Occidental." It was believed, then, that for the Oriental, liberation, self-expression, and self-enlargement were not the issues that they were for the Occidental. Instead, the Islamic Orientalist expressed his ideas about Islam in such a way as to emphasize his, as well as putatively the Muslim's,resistance to change, to mutual comprehension between East and West, to the development of men and women out of archaic, primitive classical institutions and into modernity. Indeed, so fierce was this sense of resistance to change, and so universal were the powers ascribed to it, that in reading the Orientalists one understands that the apocalypse to be feared was not the destruction of Western civilization but rather the destruction of the barriers that kept East and West from each other. When Gibb opposed nationalism in the modern Islamic states, he did so because he felt that nationalism would corrode the inner structures keeping Islam Oriental; the net result of secular nationalism would be to make the Orient no different from the West. Yet it is a tribute to Gibb's extraordinarily sympathetic powers of identification with an alien religion that he put his disapproval in such a way as to seem to bespeaking for the Islamic orthodox community. How much such pleading was a reversion to the old Orientalist habit of speaking for the natives and how much it was a sincere attempt at speaking in Islam's best interests is a question whose answer lies somewhere between the two alternatives.
No scholar or thinker, of course, is a perfect representative of some ideal type or school in which, by virtue of national origin or the accidents of history, he participates. Yet in so relatively insulated and specialized a tradition as Orientalism, I think there is in each scholar some awareness, partly conscious and partly nonconscious, of national tradition, if not of national ideology. This is particularly true in Orientalism, additionally so because of the direct political involvement of European nations in the affairs of one or another Oriental country: the case of Snouck Hurgronje, to cite a non-British and non-French instance where the scholar's sense of national identity is simple and clear, comes to mind immediately.73 Yet even after making all the proper qualifications about the difference between an individual and a type (or between an individual and a tradition), it is nevertheless striking to note the extent to which Gibb and Massignonwere representative types. Perhaps it would be better to say that Gibb and Massignon fulfilled all the expectations created for them by their national traditions, by the politics of their nations, by the internal history of their national "schools" of Orientalism.
Sylvain Levi put the distinction between the two schools trenchantly:
The political interest that ties England to India holds British work to a sustained contact with concrete realities, and maintains the cohesion between representations of the past and the spectacle of the present.
Nourished by classical traditions, France seeks out the human mind as it manifests itself in India in the same way that it is interested in China.74
It would be too easy to say that this polarity results, on the one hand, in work that is sober, efficient, concrete, and on the other, in work that is universalistic, speculative, brilliant. Yet the polarity serves to illuminate two long and extremely distinguished careers that between them dominated French and Anglo-American Islamic Orientalism until the 1960s; if the domination makes any sense at all, it is because each scholar derived from and worked in a self-conscious tradition whose constraints (or limits, intellectually and politically speaking) can be described as Lévi describes them above.
Gibb was born in Egypt, Massignon in France. Both were to become deeply religious men, students not so much of society as of the religious life in society. Both were also profoundly worldly; one of their greatest achievements was putting traditional scholarship to use in the modem political world.Yet the range of their work the texture of it, almost-is vastly different, even allowing for the obvious disparities in their schooling and religious education. In his lifelong devotion, to the work of al-Hallaj-- "whose traces," Gibb said in his obituary notice for Massignon in 1962, he "never ceased to seek out in later Islamic literature and devotion"-Massignon's almost unrestricted range of research would lead him virtually everywhere, finding evidence for "l'esprit humaine a travers l'espace et le temps." In anoeuvre that took "in every aspect and region of contemporary Muslim life and thought," Massignon's presence in Orientalism was a constant challenge to his colleagues. Certainly Gibb for one admired-but finally drew back from-the way Massignon pursued themes that in some way linked the spiritual life of Muslims and Catholics [and enabled him to find] a congenial element in the veneration of Fatima, and consequently a special field of interest in the study of Shi'ite thought in many of its manifestations, or again in the community of Abrahamanic origins and such themes as the Seven Sleepers. His writings on these subjects have acquired from the qualities that he brought to them a permanent significance in Islamic studies. But just because of these qualities they are composed, as it were, in two registers. One was at the ordinary level of objective scholarship, seeking to elucidate the nature of the given phenomenon by a masterly use of established tools of academic research. The other was at a level on which objective data and understanding were absorbed and transformed by an individual intuition of spiritual dimensions. It was not always easy to draw a dividing line between the former and the transfiguration that resulted from the outpouring of the riches of his own personality.
There is a hint here that Catholics are more likely to be drawn to a study of "the veneration of Fatima" than Protestants, but there is no mistaking Gibb's suspicion of anyone who blurred the distinction between "objective" scholarship and one based on (even an elaborate) "individual intuition of spiritual dimensions." Gibb was right, however, in the next paragraph of the obituary to acknowledge Massignon's "fertility" of mind in such diverse fields as "the symbolism of Muslim art, the structure of Muslim logic, the intricacies of medieval finance, and the organization of artisan corporations"; and he was right also, immediately after, to characterize Massignon's early interest in the Semitic languages as giving rise to "elliptic studies that to the uninitiate almost rivalled the mysteries of the ancient Hermetica." Nevertheless, Gibb ends on a generous note, remarking that
for us, the lesson which by his example he impressed upon the Orientalists of his generation was that even classical Orientalism is no longer adequate without some degree of committedness to the vital forces that have given meaning and value to the diverse aspects of Eastern cultures.75
That, of course, was Massignon's greatest contribution, and it is true that in contemporary French Islamology (as it is sometimes called) there has grown up a tradition of identifying with "the vital forces" informing "Eastern culture"; one need only mention the extraordinary achievements of scholars like Jacques Berque, Maxime Rodinson, Yves Lacoste, Roger Arnaldez-all of them differing widely among themselves in approach and intention-to be struck with the seminal example of Massignon, whose intellectual impress upon them all is unmistakable.
Yet in choosing to focus his comments almost anecdotally upon Massignon's various strengths and weaknesses, Gibb misses the obvious things about Massignon, things that make him so different from Gibb and yet, when taken as a whole, make him the mature symbol of so crucial a development within French Orientalism. One is Massignon's personal background, which quite beautifully illustrates the simple truth of Lévi's description of French Orientalism. The very idea of "un esprit humain" was something more or less foreign to the intellectual and religious background out of which Gibb, like so many modern British Orientalists, developed: in Massignon's case the notion of "esprit," as an aesthetic as well as religious, moral, and historical reality, was something he seemed to have been nourished upon from childhood. His family was friendly with such people as Huysmans, and in nearly everything he wrote Massignon's early education in the intellectual ambience as well as the ideas of late Symbolisme is evident, even to the particular brand of Catholicism (and Sufi mysticism) in which he was interested. There is no austerity in Massignon's work, which is formulated in one of the great French styles of the century. His ideas about human experience draw plentifully upon thinkers and artists contemporary with him, and it is the very wide cultural range of his style itself that puts him in a different category altogether from Gibb's. His early ideas come out of the period of so-called aesthetic decadence, but they are also indebted to people like Bergson, Durkheim, and Mauss. His first contact with Orientalism came through Renan, whose lectures he heard as a young man; he was also a student of Sylvain Levi, and came to include among his friends such figures as Paul Claudel, Gabriel Bounoure, Jacques and Raissa Maritain, and Charles de Foucauld. Later he was able to absorb work done in such relatively recent fields as urban sociology, structural linguistics, psychoanalysis, contemporary anthropology, and the New History. His essays, to say nothing of the monumental study of al-Hallaj, draw effortlessly on the entire corpus of Islamic literature; his mystifying erudition and almost familiar personality sometimes make him appear to be a scholar invented by Jorge Luis Borges. He was very sensitive to "Oriental" themes in European literature; this was one of Gibb's interests, too, but unlike Gibb, Massignon was attracted primarily neither to European writers who "understood" the Orient nor to European texts that were independent artistic corroborations of what later Orientalist scholars would reveal (e.g., Gibb's interest in Scott as a source for the study of Saladin). Massignon's "Orient" was completely consonant with the world of the Seven Sleepers or of the Abrahamanic prayers (which are the two themes singled out by Gibb as distinctive marks of Massignon's unorthodox view of Islam): offbeat, slightly peculiar, wholly responsive to the dazzling interpretative gifts which Massignon brought to it (and which in a sense made it up as a subject). If Gibb liked Scott's Saladin, then Massignon's symmetrical predilection was for Nerval, as suicide, poète maudit, psychological oddity. This is not to say that Massignon was essentially a student of the past; on the contrary, he was a major presence in Islamic-French relations, in politics as well as culture. He was obviously a passionate man who believed that the world of Islam could be penetrated, not by scholarship exclusively, but by devotion to all of its activities, not the least of which was the world of Eastern Christianity subsumed within Islam, one of whose subgroups, the Badaliya Sodality, was warmly encouraged by Massignon.
Massignon's considerable literary gifts sometimes give his scholarly work an appearance of capricious, overly cosmopolitan, and often private speculation. This appearance is misleading, and in fact is rarely adequate as a description of his writing. What he wished deliberately to avoid was what he called "l'analyse analytique et statique de l'orientalisme,"76 a sort of inert piling up, on a supposed Islamic text or problem, of sources, origins, proofs, demonstrations, and the like. Everywhere his attempt is to include as much of the context of a text or problem as possible, to animate it, to surprise his reader, almost, with the glancing insights available to anyone who, like Massignon, is willing to cross disciplinary and traditional boundaries in order to penetrate to the human heart of any text. No modern Orientalist-and certainly not Gibb, his closest peer in achievement and influence-could refer so easily (and accurately) in an essay to a host of Islamic mystics and to Jung, Heisenberg, Mallarme, and Kierkegaard; and certainly very few Orientalists had that range together with the concrete political experience of which he was able to speak in his 1952 essay "L'Occident devant l'Orient: Primauté d'une solution culturelle."77 And yet his intellectual world was a clearly defined one. It had a definite structure, intact from the beginning to the end of his career, and it was laced up, despite its almost unparalleled richness of scope and reference, in a set of basically unchanging ideas. Let us briefly describe the structure and list the ideas in a summary fashion.
Massignon took as his starting point the existence of the three Abrahamanic religions, of which Islam is the religion of Ishmael, the monotheism of a people excluded from the divine promise made to Isaac. Islam is therefore a religion of resistance (to God the Father, to Christ the Incarnation), which yet keeps within it the sadness that began in Hagar's tears. Arabic as a result is the very language of tears, just as the whole notion ofjihad in Islam (which Massignon explicitly says is the epic form in Islam that Renan could not see or understand) has an important intellectual dimension whose mission is war against Christianity and Judaism as exterior enemies, and against heresy as an interior enemy. Yet within Islam, Massignon believed he was able to discern a type of countercurrent, which it became his chief intellectual mission to study, embodied in mysticism, a road towards divine grace. The principal feature of mysticism was of course its subjective character, whose nonrational and even inexplicable tendencies were towards the singular, the individual, the momentary experience of participation in the Divine. All of Massignon's extraordinary work on mysticism was thus an attempt to describe the itinerary of souls out of the limiting consensus imposed on them by the orthodox Islamic community, or Sunna. An Iranian mystic was more intrepid than an Arab one, partly because he was Aryan (the old nineteenth-century labels "Aryan" and "Semitic" have a compelling urgency for Massignon, as does also the legitimacy of Schlegel's binary opposition between the two language families") and partly because he was a man seeking the Perfect; the Arab mystic, in Massignon's view, inclined towards what Waardenburg calls a testimonial monism. The exemplary figure for Massignon was al-Hallaj, who sought liberation for himself outside the orthodox community by asking for, and finally getting, the very crucifixion refused by Islam as a whole; Mohammed, according to Massignon, had deliberately rejected the opportunity offered him to bridge the gap separating him from God. Al-Hallaj's achievement was therefore to have achieved a mystical union with God against the grain of Islam.
The rest of the orthodox community lives in a condition of what Massignon calls "soif ontologique"-ontological thirst. God presents himself to man as a kind of absence, a refusal to be present, yet the devout Muslim's consciousness of his submission to God's will (Islam) gives rise to a jealous sense of God's transcendence and an intolerance of idolatry of any sort. The seat of these ideas, according to Massignon, is the "circumcised heart," which while it is in the grip of its testimonial Muslim fervor can, as is the case with mystics like al-Hallaj, also be inflamed with a divine passion or love of God. In either case, God's transcendental unity(tawhid) is something to be achieved and understood over and over by the devout Muslim, either through testifying to it or through mystic love of God: and this, Massignon wrote in a complex essay, defines the "intention" of Islam." Clearly Massignon's sympathies lay with the mystic vocation in Islam, as much for its closeness to his own temperament as a devout Catholic as for its disrupting influence within the orthodox body of beliefs. Massignon's image of Islam is of a religion ceaselessly implicated in its refusals, its latecoming (with reference to the other Abrahamanic creeds), its comparatively barren sense of worldly reality, its massive structures of defense against "psychic commotions" of the sort practiced by al-Hallaj and other Sufi mystics, its loneliness as the only remaining "Oriental" religion of the three great monotheisms.80
But so obviously stern a view of Islam, with its "invariants simples"81 (especially for so luxuriant a thought as Massignon's), entailed no deep hostility towards it on his part. In reading Massignon one is struck by his repeated insistence on the need for complex reading-injunctions whose absolute sincerity it is impossible to doubt. He wrote in 1951 that his kind of Orientalism was "ni une manie d'exotisme, ni un reniement de l'Europe, mais une wise au niveau entre nos méthodes de recherches et les traditions vécues d'antiques civilisations."82 Put into practice in the reading of an Arabic or Islamic text, this kind of Orientalism produced interpretations of an almost overwhelming intelligence; one would be foolish not to respect the sheer genius and novelty of Massignon's mind. Yet what must catch our attention in his definition of his Orientalism are two phrases: "nos méthodes de recherches" and "les traditions vécues d'antiques civilisations." Massignon saw what he did as the synthesis of two roughly opposed quantities, yet it is the peculiar asymmetry between them that troubles one, and not merely the fact of the opposition between Europe and Orient. Massignon's implication is that the essence of the difference between East and West is between modernity and ancient tradition.And indeed in his writings on political and contemporary problems, which is where one can see most immediately the limitations of Massignon's method, the East-West opposition turns up in a most peculiar way.
At its best, Massignon's vision of the East-West encounter assigned great responsibility to the West for its invasion of the East, its colonialism, its relentless attacks on Islam. Massignon was a tireless fighter on behalf of Muslim civilization and, as his numerous essays and letters after 1948 testify, in support of Palestinian refugees, in the defense of Arab Muslim and Christian rights in Palestine against Zionism, against what, with reference to something said by Abba Eban, he scathingly called Israeli "bourgeois colonialism.83 Yet the framework in which Massignon's vision was held also assigned the Islamic Orient to an essentially ancient time and the West to modernity. Like Robertson Smith, Massignon considered the Oriental to be not a modern man but a Semite; this reductive category had a powerful grip on his thought. When, for example, in 1960 he and Jacques Berque, his colleague at the College de France, published their dialogue on "the Arabs" inEsprit, a good deal of the time was spent in arguing whether the best way to look at the problems of the contemporary Arabs was simply to say, in the main instance; that the Arab-Israeli conflict was really aSemitic problem. Berque tried to demur gently, and to nudge Massignon towards the possibility that like the rest of the world the Arabs had undergone what he called an "anthropological variation": Massignon refused the notion out of hand.84 His repeated efforts to understand and report on the Palestine conflict, for all their profound humanism, never really got past the quarrel between Isaac and Ishmael or, so far as his quarrel with Israel was concerned, the tension between Judaism and Christianity. When Arab cities and villages were captured by the Zionists, it was Massignon's religious sensibilities that were offended.
Europe, and France in particular, were seen ascontemporary realities. Partly because of his initial political encounter with the British during the First World War, Massignon retained a pronounced dislike of England and English policy; Lawrence and his type represented a too-complex policy which he, Massignon, opposed in his dealings with Faisal. "Je cherchais avec Faysal ...à pénétrer dans le sens même de sa tradition à lui." The British seemed to represent "expansion" in the Orient, amoral economic policy, and an outdated philosophy of political influence.85 The Frenchman was a more modern man, who was obliged to get from the Orient what he had lost in spirituality, traditional values, and the like. Massignon's investment in this view came, I think, by way of the entire nineteenth-century tradition of the Orient as therapeutic for the West, a tradition whose earliest adumbration is to be found in Quinet. In Massignon, it was joined to a sense of Christian compassion:
So far as Orientals are concerned, we ought to have recourse to this science of compassion, to this "participation"- even in the construction of their language and of their mental structure, in which indeed we must participate: because ultimately this science bears witness either to verities that are ours too, or else to verities that we have lost and must regain. Finally, because in a profound sense everything that exists is good in some way, and those poor colonized people do not exist only for our purposes but in and for themselves [en soil].86
Nevertheless the Oriental,en soi, was incapable of appreciating or understanding himself. Partly because of what Europe had done to him, he had lost his religion and hisphilosophie; Muslims had "un vide immense" within them; they were close to anarchy and suicide. It became France's obligation, then, to associate itself with the Muslims' desire to defend their traditional culture, the rule of their dynastic life, and the patrimony of believers.87
No scholar, not even a Massignon, can resist the pressures on him of his nation or of the scholarly tradition in which he works. In a great deal of what he said of the Orient and its relationship with the Occident, Massignon seemed to refine and yet to repeat the ideas of other French Orientalists. We must allow, however, that the refinements, the personal style, the individual genius, may finally supersede the political restraints operating impersonally through tradition and through the national ambience. Even so, in Massignon's case we must also recognize that in one direction his ideas about the Orient remained thoroughly traditional and Orientalist, their personality and remarkable eccentricity notwithstanding. According to him, the Islamic Orient was spiritual, Semitic, tribalistic, radically monotheistic, yin-Aryan: the adjectives resemble a catalogue of late-nineteenth-century anthropological descriptions. The relatively earthbound experiences of war, colonialism, imperialism, economic oppression, love, death, and cultural exchange seem always in Massignon's eyes to be filtered through metaphysical, ultimately dehumanized lenses: they are Semitic, European, Oriental, Occidental, Aryan, and so on. The categories structured his world and gave what he said a kind of deep senseto him, at least. In the other direction, among the individual and immensely detailed ideas of the scholarly world, Massignon maneuvered himself into a special position. He reconstructed and defended Islam against Europe on the one hand and against its own orthodoxy on the other. This intervention-for it was that-into the Orient as animator and champion symbolized his own acceptance of the Orient's difference, as well as his efforts to change it into what he wanted. Both together, the will to knowledge over the Orient and on its behalf in Massignon are very strong. His al-Hallaj represents that will perfectly. The disproportionate importance accorded al-Hallaj by Massignon signifies first, the scholar's decision to promote one figure above his sustaining culture, and second, the fact that al-Hallaj had come to represent a constant challenge, even an irritant, to the Western Christian for whom belief was not (and perhaps could not be) the extreme self-sacrifice it was for the Sufi. In either case, Massignon's al-Hallaj was intended literally to embody, to incarnate, values essentially outlawed by the main doctrinal system of Islam, a system that Massignon himself described mainly in order to circumvent it with al-Hallaj.
Nevertheless we need not say immediately of Massignon's work that it was perverse, or that its greatest weakness was that it misrepresented Islam as an "average" or "common" Muslim might adhere to the faith. A distinguished Muslim scholar has argued precisely for this last position, although his argument did not name Massignon as an offender.88 Much as one may be inclined to agree with such theses-since, as this book has tried to demonstrate, Islam has been fundamentally misrepresented in the West-the real issue is whether indeed ire can be a true representation of anything, or whether any and all representations, because they are representations, are embedded first in the language and then in the culture, institutions, and political ambience of the representer. If the latter alternative is the correct one (as I believe it is), then we must be prepared to accept the fact that a representation is eo ipso implicated, intertwined, embedded, interwoven with a great many other things besides the "truth," which is itself a representation. What this must lead us to methodologically is to view representations (or misrepresentations-the distinction is at best a matter of degree) as inhabiting a common field of play defined for than, not by some inherent common subject matter alone, but by some common history, tradition, universe of discourse. Within this field, which no single scholar can create but which each, scholar receives and in which he then finds a place for himself, the individual researcher makes his contribution. Such contributions, even for the exceptional genius, are strategies of redisposing material within the field; even the scholar who unearths a oncelost manuscript produces the "found" text in a context already prepared for it, for that is the real meaning offinding a new text. Thus each individual contribution first causes changes within the field and then promotes a new stability, in the way that on a surface covered with twenty compasses the introduction of a twenty-first will cause all the others to quiver, then to settle into a new accommodating configuration.
The representations of Orientalism in European culture amount to what we can call a discursive consistency, one that has not only history but material (and institutional) presence to show for itself. As I said in connection with Renan, such a consistency was a form of cultural praxis, a system of opportunities for making statements about the Orient. My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence-in which I do not for a moment believe-but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting. In other words, representations have purposes, they are effective much of the time they accomplish one or many tasks. Representations are formations, or as Roland Barthes has said of all the operations of language, they are deformations.The Orient as, a representation in Europe is formed-or deformed-out of a more and more specific sensitivity towards a geographical region called "the East." Specialists in this region do their work on it, so to speak, because in time their profession as Orientalists requires that they present their society with images of the Orient, knowledge about it, insight into it. And to a very large extent the Orientalist provides his own society with representations of the Orient (a) that bear his distinctive imprint, (b) that illustrate his conception of what the Orient can or ought to be, (c) that consciously contest someone else's view of the Orient, (d) that provide Orientalist discourse with what, at that moment, it seems most in need of, and (e) that respond to certain cultural, professional, national, political, and economic requirements of the epoch. It will be evident that even though it will never be absent, the role of positive knowledge is far from absolute. Rather, "knowledge"--never raw, unmediated, or simply objective-is what the five attributes of Orientalist representation listed abovedistribute, and redistribute.
Seen in such a way, Massignon is less a mythologized "genius" than he is a kind of system for producing certain kinds of statements, disseminated into the large mass of discursive formations that together make up the archive, or cultural material, of his time. I do not think that we dehumanize Massignon if we recognize this, nor do we reduce him to being subject to vulgar determinism. On the contrary, we will see in a sense how a very human being had, and was able to acquire more of, a cultural and productive capacity that had an institutional, or extrahuman, dimension to it: and this surely is what the finite human being must aspire to if he is not to be content with his merely mortal presence in time and space. When Massignon said "nous sommes tous des Smites" he was indicating the range of his ideas over his society, showing the extent to which his ideas about the Orient could transcend the local anecdotal circumstances of a Frenchman and of French society. The category of Semite drew its nourishment out of Massignon's Orientalism, but its force derived from its tendency to extend out of the confines of the discipline, out into a broader history and anthropology, where it seemed to have a certain validity and power.89
On one level at least, Massignon's formulations and his representations of the Orient did have a direct influence, if not an unquestioned validity: among the guild of professional Orientalists. As I said above, Gibb's recognition of Massignon's achievement constitutes an awareness that as an alternative to Gibb's own work (by implication, that is), Massignon was to be dealt with. I am of course imputing things to Gibb's obituary that are there only as traces, not as actual statements, but they are obviously important if we look now at Gibb's own career as a foil for Massignon's. Albert Hourani's memorial essay on Gibb for the British Academy (to which I have referred several times) admirably summarizes the man's career, his leading ideas, and the importance of his work: with Hourani's assessment, in its broad lines, I have no disagreement. Yet something is missing from it, although this lack is partly made up for in a lesser piece on Gibb, William Polk's "Sir Hamilton Gibb Between Orientalism and History."90 Hourani tends to view Gibb as the product of personal encounters, personal influences, and the like; whereas Polk, who is far less subtle in his general understanding of Gibb than Hourani, sees Gibb as the culmination of a specific academic tradition, what-to use an expression that does not occur in Polk's prose-we can call an academic-research consensus or paradigm.
Borrowed in this rather gross fashion from Thomas Kuhn, the idea has a worthwhile relevance to Gibb, who as Hourani reminds us was in many ways a profoundly institutional figure. Everything that Gibb said or did, from his early career at London to the middle years at Oxford to his influential years as director of Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, bears the unmistakable stamp of a mind operating with great ease inside established institutions. Massignon was irremediably the outsider, Gibb the insider. Both men, in any case, achieved the very pinnacle of prestige and influence in French and Anglo-American Orientalism, respectively The Orient for Gibb was not a place one encountered directly; it was something one read about, studied, wrote about within the confines of learned societies, the university, the scholarly conference. Like Massignon, Gibb boasted of friendships with Muslims, but they seemed-like Lane's-to have been useful friendships, not determining ones. Consequently Gibb is a dynastic figure within the academic framework of British (and later of American) Orientalism, a scholar whose work quite consciously demonstrated the national tendencies of an academic tradition, set inside universities, governments, and research foundations.
One index of this is that in his mature years Gibb was often to be met with speaking and writing for policy-determining organizations. In 1951, for instance, he contributed an essay to a book significantly entitledThe Near East and the Great Powers, in which he tried to explain the need for an expansion in Anglo-American programs of Oriental studies:
...the whole situation of the Western countries in regard to the countries of Asia and Africa has changed. We can no longer rely on that factor of prestige which seemed to play a large part in prewar thinking, neither can we any longer expect the peoples of Asia and Africa or of Eastern Europe to come to us and learn from us, while we sit back. We have to learn about them so that we can learn to work with them in a relationship that is closer to terms of mutuality.91
The terms of this new relationship were spelled out later in "Area Studies Reconsidered." Oriental studies were to be thought of not so much as scholarly activities but as instruments of national policy towards the newly independent, and possibly intractable, nations of the postcolonial world. Armed with a refocused awareness of his importance to the Atlantic commonwealth, the Orientalist was to be the guide of policymakers, of businessmen, of a fresh generation of scholars.
What counted most in Gibb's later vision was not the Orientalist's positive work as a scholar (for example, the kind of scholar Gibb had been in his youth when he studied the Muslim invasions of Central Asia) but its adaptability for use in the public world. Hourani puts this well:
...it became clear to him [Gibb] that modern governments and elites were acting in ignorance or rejection of their own traditions of social life and morality, and that their failures sprang from this. Henceforth his main efforts were given to the elucidation, by careful study of the past, of the specific nature of Muslim society and the beliefs and culture which lay at the heart of it. Even this problem he tended to see at first mainly in political terms.92
Yet no such later vision could have been possible without a fairly rigorous amount of preparation in Gibb's earlier work, and it is there that we must first seek to understand his ideas. Among Gibb's earliest influences was Duncan Macdonald, from whose work Gibb clearly derived the concept that Islam was a coherent system of life, a system made coherent not so much by the people who led that life as by virtue of some body of doctrine, method of religious practice, idea of order, in which all the Muslim people participated. Between the people and "Islam" there was obviously a dynamic encounter of sorts, yet what mattered to the Western student was the supervening power of Islam to make intelligible the experiences of the Islamic people, not the other way around.
For Macdonald and subsequently for Gibb, the epistemological and methodological difficulties of "Islam" as an object (about which large, extremely general statements could be made) are never tackled. Macdonald for his part believed that in Islam one could perceive aspects of a still more portentous abstraction, the Oriental mentality. The entire opening chapter of his most influential book (whose importance for Gibb cannot be minimized), The ReligiousAttitude and Life in Islam, is an anthology of unarguable declaratives about the Eastern or Oriental mind. He begins by saying that "it is plain, I think,and admitted that the conception of the Unseen is much more immediate and real to the Oriental than to the western peoples." The "large modifying elements which seem, from time to time, almost to upset the general law" do not upset it, nor do they upset the other equally sweeping and general laws governing the Oriental mind. "The essential difference in the Oriental mind is not credulity as to unseen things, but inability to construct a system as to seen things." Another aspect of this difficulty-which Gibb was later to blame for the absence of form in Arabic literature and for the Muslim's essentially atomistic view of reality-is "that the difference in the Oriental is not essentially religiosity, but the lack of the sense of law. For him, there is no immovable order of nature." If such a "fact" seems not to account for the extraordinary achievements of Islamic science, upon which a great deal in modern Western science is based, then Macdonald remains silent. He continues his catalogue: "It is evident that anything is possible to the Oriental. The supernatural is so near that it may touch him at any moment." That an occasion-namely, the historical and geographical birth of monotheism in the Orient-should in Macdonald's argument become an entire theory off difference between East and West signifies the degree of intensity to which "Orientalism" has committed Macdonald. Here is his summary:
Inability, then, to see life steadily, and see it whole, to understand that a theory of life must cover all the facts, and liability to be stampeded by a single idea and blinded to everything else-therein, I believe, is the difference between the East and the West.93
None of this, of course, is particularly new. From Schlegel to Renan, from Robertson Smith to T. E. Lawrence, these ideas get repeated and re-repeated. They represent a decision about the Orient, not by any means a fact of nature. Anyone who, like Macdonald and Gibb, consciously entered a profession called Orientalism did so on the basis of a decision made: that the Orient was the Orient, that it was different, and so forth. The elaborations, refinements, consequent articulations of the field therefore sustain and prolong the decision to confine the Orient. There is no perceivable irony in Macdonald's (or Gibb's) views about Oriental liability to be stampeded by a single idea; neither man seems able to recognize the extent of Orientalism's liability to be stampeded by the single idea of Oriental difference. And neither man is concerned by such wholesale designations as "Islam" or "the Orient" being used as proper nouns, with adjectives attached and verbs streaming forth, as if they referred to persons and not to Platonic ideas.
It is no accident, therefore, that Gibb's master theme, in almost everything he wrote about Islam and the Arabs, was the tension between "Islam" as a transcendent, compelling Oriental fact and the realities of everyday human experience. His investment as a scholar and as a devout Christian was in "Islam," not so much in the (to him) relatively trivial complications introduced into Islam by nationalism, class struggle, the individualizing experiences of love, anger, or human work. Nowhere is the impoverishing character of this investment more evident than inWhither Islam?, a volume edited and contributed to, in the title essay, by Gibb in 1932. (It also includes an impressive article on North African Islam by Massignon.) Gibb's task as he saw it was to assess Islam, its present situation, its possible future course. In such a task the individual and manifestly different regions of the Islamic world were to be, not refutations of Islam's unity, but examples of it. Gibb himself proposed an introductory definition of Islam; then, in the concluding essay, he sought 'to pronounce on its actuality and its real future. Like Macdonald, Gibb seems entirely comfortable with the idea of a monolithic East, whose existential circumstances cannot easily be reduced to race or racial theory; in resolutely denying the value of racial generalization Gibb rises above what had been most reprehensible in preceding generations of Orientalists. Gibb has a correspondingly generous and sympathetic view of Islam's universalism and tolerance in letting diverse ethnic and religious communities coexist peacefully and democratically within its imperium. There is a note of grim prophecy in Gibb's singling out the Zionists and the Maronite Christians, alone amongst ethnic communities in the Islamic world, for their inability to accept coexistence.94
But the heart of Gibb's argument is that Islam, perhaps because it finally represents the Oriental's exclusive concern not with nature but with the Unseen, has an ultimate precedence and domination over all life in the Islamic Orient. For Gibb Islam is Islamic orthodoxy, is also the community of believers is life, unity, intelligibility, values. It is law and order too, the unsavory disruptions of jihadists and communist agitators notwithstanding. In page after page of Gibb's prose inWhither Islam?, we learn that the new commercial banks in Egypt and Syria are facts of Islam or an Islamic initiative; schools and an increasing literacy rate are Islamic facts, too, as are journalism, Westernization, and intellectual societies. At no point does Gibb speak of European colonialism when he discusses the rise of nationalism and its "toxins." That the history of modern Islam might be more intelligible for its resistance, political and nonpolitical, to colonialism, never occurs to Gibb, just as it seems to him finally irrelevant to note whether the "Islamic" governments he discusses are republican, feudal, or monarchical.
"Islam" for Gibb is a sort of superstructure imperiled both by politics (nationalism, communist agitation, Westernization) and by dangerous Muslim attempts to tamper with its intellectual sovereignty. In the passage that follows, note how the wordreligion and its cognates are made to color the tone of Gibb's prose, so much so that we feel a decorous annoyance at the mundane pressures directed at "Islam":
Islam, as a religion, has lost little of its force, but Islam as the arbiter of social life [in the modern world] is being dethroned; alongside it, or above it, new forces exert an authority which is sometimes in contradiction to its traditions and its social prescriptions, but nevertheless forces its way in their teeth. To put the position in its simplest terms, what has happened is this. Until recently, the ordinary Muslim citizen and cultivator had no political interests or functions, and no literature of easy access except religious literature, had no festivals and no communal life except in connection with religion, saw little or nothing of the outside world except through religious glasses.To him, in consequence, religion meant everything. Now, however, more in all the advanced countries, his interests have expanded and his activities are no longer bounded by religion. He has political questions thrust on his notice; he reads, or has read to him, a mass of articles on subjects of all kinds which have nothing to do with religion, and in which the religious point of view may not be discussed at all and the verdict held to lie with some quite different principles [Emphasis added] 95
Admittedly, the picture is a little difficult to see, since unlike any other religionIslam is or means everything. As a description of a human phenomenon the hyperbole is, I think, unique to Orientalism.Life itself-politics, literature, energy, activity, growth -is an intrusion upon this (to a Westerner) unimaginable Oriental totality. Yet as "a complement and counterbalance to European civilisation" Islam in its modern form is nevertheless a useful object: this is the core of Gibb's proposition about modern Islam. For "in the broadest aspect of history, what is now happening between Europe and Islam is the reintegration of western civilization, artificially sundered at the Renaissance and now reasserting its unity with overwhelming force.96
Unlike Massignon, who made no effort to conceal his metaphysical speculations, Gibb delivered such observations as this as if they were objective knowledge (a category he found wanting in Massignon). Yet by almost any standards most of Gibb's general works on Islamare metaphysical, not only because he uses abstractions like "Islam" as if they have a clear and distinct meaning but also because it is simply never clear where in concrete time and space Gibb's "Islam" is taking place. If on the one hand, following Macdonald, he puts Islam definitively outside the West, on the other hand, in much of his work, he is to be found "reintegrating" it with the West. In 1955 he made this inside-outside question a bit clearer: the West took from Islam only those nonscientific elements that it had originally derived from the West, whereas in borrowing much from Islamic science, the West was merely following the law making "natural science and technology ...indefinitely transmissible."97 The net result is to make Islam in "art, aesthetics, philosophy and religious thought" a second-order phenomenon (since those came from the West), and so far as science and technology are concerned, a mere conduit for elements that are not suigeneris Islamic.
Any clarity about what Islam is in Gibb's thought ought to be foundwithin these metaphysical constraints, and indeed his two important works of the forties,Modern Trends in Islam andMohammedanism: An Historical Survey, flesh out matters considerably. In both books Gibb is at great pains to discuss the present crisis in Islam, opposing its inherent, essential being to modern attempts at modifying it. I have already mentioned Gibb's hostility to modernizing currents in Islam and his stubborn commitment to Islamic orthodoxy. Now it is time to mention Gibb's preference for the wordMohammedanism overIslam (since he says that Islam is really based upon an idea of apostolic succession culminating in Mohammed) and his assertion that the Islamic master science is law, which early on replaced theology. The curious thing about these statements is that they are assertions made about Islam, not on the basis of evidence internal to Islam, but rather on the basis of a logic deliberately outside Islam. No Muslim would call himself a Mohammedan, nor so far as is known would he necessarily feel the importance of law over theology. But what Gibb does is to situate himself as a scholar within contradictions he himself discerns, at that point in "Islam" where "there is a certain unexpressed dislocation between the formal outward process and the inner realities.”98
The Orientalist, then, sees his task as expressing the dislocation and consequently speaking the truth about Islam, which by definition-since its contradictions inhibit its powers of self-discernment -it cannot express. Most of Gibb's general statements about Islam supply concepts to Islam that the religion or culture, again by his definition, is incapable of grasping: "Oriental philosophy had never appreciated the fundamental idea of justice in Greek philosophy." As for Oriental societies, "in contrast to most western societies, [they] have generally devoted [themselves] to building stable social organizations [more than] to constructing ideal systems of philosophical thought." The principal internal weakness of Islam is the "breaking of association between the religious orders and the Muslim upper and middle classes." But Gibb is also aware that Islam has never remained isolated from the rest of the world and therefore must stand in a series of external dislocations, insufficiencies, and disjunctions between itself and the world. Thus he says that modern Islam is the result of a classical religion coming into disynchronous contact with Romantic Western ideas. In reaction to this assault, Islam developed a school of modernists whose ideas everywhere reveal hopelessness, ideas unsuited to the modern world: Mahdism, nationalism, a revived caliphate. Yet the conservative reaction to modernism is no less unsuited to modernity, for it has produced a kind of stubborn Luddism. Well then, we ask, what is Islam finally, if it cannot conquer its internal dislocations nor deal satisfactorily with its external surroundings? The answer can be sought in the following central passage fromModern Trends:
Islam is a living and vital religion, appealing to the hearts, minds, and consciences of tens and hundreds of millions, setting them a standard by which to live honest, sober, and god-fearing lives. It is not Islam that is petrified, but its orthodox formulations, its systematic theology, its social apologetic. It is here that the dislocation lies, that the dissatisfaction is felt among a large proportion of its most educated and intelligent adherents, and that the danger for the future is most evident. No religion can ultimately resist disintegration if there is a perpetual gulf between its demands upon the will and its appeal to the intellect of its followers.
That for the vast majority of Muslims the problem of dislocation has not yet arisen justifies the ulema in refusing to be rushed into the hasty measures which the modernists prescribe; but the spread of modernism is a warning that re-formulation cannot be indefinitely shelved.
In trying to determine the origins and causes of this petrifaction of the formulas of Islam, we may possibly also find a clue to the answer to the question which the modernists are asking, but have so far failed to resolve the question, that is, of the way in which the fundamental principles of Islam may be re-formulated without affecting their essential elements.100
The last part of this passage is familiar enough: it suggests the now traditional Orientalist ability to reconstruct and reformulate the Orient, given the Orient's inability to do so for itself. In part, then, Gibb's Islam existsahead of Islam as it is practiced, studied, or preached in the Orient. Yet this prospective Islam is no mere Orientalist fiction, spun out of his ideas: it is based on an "Islam" that-since it cannot truly exist-appeals to a whole community of believers. The reason that "Islam" can exist in some more or less future Orientalist formulation of it is that in the Orient Islam is usurped and traduced by the language of its clergy, whose claim is upon the community's mind. So long as it is silent in its appeal, Islam is safe; the moment the reforming clergy takes on its (legitimate) role of reformulating Islam in order for it to be able to enter modernity, the trouble starts. And that trouble, of course, is dislocation.
Dislocation in Gibb's work identifies something far more significant than a putative intellectual difficulty within Islam. It identifies, I think, the very privilege, the very ground on which the Orientalist places himself so as to write about, legislate for, and reformulate Islam. Far from being a chance discernment of Gibb's, dislocation is the epistemological passageway into his subject, and subsequently, the observation platform from which in all his writing, and in every one of the influential positions he filled, he could survey Islam. Between the silent appeal of Islam to a monolithic community of orthodox believers and a whole merely verbal articulation of Islam by misled corps of political activists, desperate clerks, and opportunistic reformers: there Gibb stood, wrote, reformulated. His writing said either what Islam could not say or what its clerics would not say. What Gibb wrote was in one sense temporally ahead of Islam, in that he allowed that at some point in the future Islam would be able to say what it could not say now. In another important sense, however, Gibb's writings on Islam predated the religion as a coherent body of "living" beliefs, since his writing was able to get hold of "Islam" as a silent appeal made to Muslimsbefore their faith became a matter for worldly argument, practice, or debate.
The contradiction in Gibb's work-for it is a contradiction to speak of "Islam" as neither what its clerical adherents in fact say it is nor what, if they could, its lay followers would say about itis muted somewhat by the metaphysical attitude governing his work, and indeed governing the whole history of modern Orientalism which he inherited, through mentors like Macdonald. The Orient and Islam have a kind of extrareal, phenomenologically reduced status that puts them out of reach of everyone except the Western expert. From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the Orient could not do was to represent itself. Evidence of the Orient was credible only after it had passed through and been made firm by the refining fire of the Orientalist's work. Gibb'soeuvre purports to be Islam (or Mohammedanism) bothas it is andas it might be. Metaphysically-and only metaphysically-essence and potential are made one. Only a metaphysical attitude could produce such famous Gibb essays as "The Structure of Religious Thought in Islam" or "An Interpretation of Islamic History" without being troubled by the distinction made between objective and subjective knowledge in Gibb's criticism of Massignon.101 The statements about "Islam" are made with a confidence and a serenity that are truly Olympian. There is no dislocation, no felt discontinuity between Gibb's page and the phenomenon it describes, for each, according to Gibb himself, is ultimately reducible to the other. As such, "Islam" and Gibb's description of it have a calm, discursive plainness whose common element is the English scholar's orderly page.
I attach a great deal of significance to the appearance of and to the intended model for the Orientalist's page as a printed object. I have spoken in this book about d'Herbelot's alphabetic encyclopedia, the gigantic leaves of theDescription de l'Égypte, Renan's laboratory-museum notebook, the ellipses and short episodes of Lane'sModern Egyptians, Sacy's anthological excerpts, and so forth. These pages are signs of some Orient, and of some Orientalist,presented to the reader. There is an order to these pages by which the reader apprehends not only the "Orient" but also the Orientalist, as interpreter, exhibitor, personality, mediator, representative (and representing) expert. In a remarkable way Gibb and Massignon produced pages that recapitulate the history of Orientalist writing in the West as that history has been embodied in a varied generic and topographical style, reduced finally to a scholarly, monographic uniformity. The Oriental specimen; the Oriental excess; the Oriental lexicographic unit; the Oriental series; the Oriental exemplum: all these have been subordinated in Gibb and Massignon to the linear prose authority of discursive analysis, presented in essay, short article,scholarly book. In their time, from the end of World War I till the early sixties, three principal forms of Orientalist writing were radically transformed: the encyclopedia, the anthology, the personal record. Their authority was redistributed or dispersed or dissipated: to a committee of experts(The Encyclopedia of Islam, The Cambridge History of Islam); to a lower order of service (elementary instruction in language, which would prepare one not for diplomacy, as was the case with Sacy'sChrestomathie, but for the study of sociology, economics, or history), to the realm of sensational revelation (having more to do with personalities or governments-Lawrence is the obvious example-than with knowledge). Gibb, with his quietly heedless but profoundly sequential prose; Massignon, with the flair of an artist for whom no reference is too extravagant so long as it is governed by an eccentric interpretative gift: the two scholars took the essentiallyecumenical authority of European Orientalism as far as it could go. After them, the new reality-the new specialized style was, broadly speaking, Anglo-American, and more narrowly speaking, it was American Social Scientese. In it, the old Orientalism was broken into many parts; yet all of them still served the traditional Orientalist dogmas.
IV- The Latest Phase
Since World War II, and more noticeably after each of the Arab-Israeli wars, the Arab Muslim has become a figure in American popular culture, even as in the academic world, in the policy planner's world, and in the world of business very serious attention is being paid the Arab. This symbolizes a major change in the international configuration of forces. France and Britain no longer occupy center stage in world politics; the American imperium has displaced them. A vast web of interests now links all parts of the former colonial world to the United States, just as a proliferation of academic subspecialties divides (and yet connects) all the former philological and European-based disciplines like Orientalism. The area specialist, as he is now called, lays claims to regional expertise, which is put at the service of government or business or both. The massive, quasimaterial knowledge stored in the annals of modern European Orientalism-as recorded, for example, in Jules Mohl's nineteenth-century logbook of the field-has been dissolved and released into new forms. A wide variety of hybrid representations of the Orient now roam the culture. Japan, Indochina, China, India, Pakistan: their representations have had, and continue to have, wide repercussions, and they have been discussed in many places for obvious reasons. Islam and the Arabs have their own representations, too, and we shall treat them here as they occur in that fragmentary-yet powerfully and ideologically coherent-persistence, a far less frequently discussed one, into which, in the United States, traditional European Orientalism disbursed itself.
1. Popular images and social science representations. Here are a few examples of how the Arab is often represented today. Note how readily "the Arab" seems to accommodate the transformations and reductions-all of a simply tendentious kind-into which he is continually being forced. The costume for Princeton's tenthreunion class in 1967 had been planned before the June War. The motif-for it would be wrong to describe the costume as more than crudely suggestive-was to have been Arab: robes, headgear, sandals. Immediately after the war, when it had become clear that the Arab motif was an embarrassment, a change in the reunion plans was decreed. Wearing the costume as had been originally planned, the class was now to walk in procession, hands above heads in a gesture of abject defeat. This was what the Arab had become. From a faintly outlined stereotype as a camel-riding nomad to an accepted caricature as the embodiment of incompetence and easy defeat: that was all the scope given the Arab.
Yet after the 1973 war the Arab appeared everywhere as something more menacing. Cartoons depicting an Arab sheik standing behind a gasoline pump turned up consistently. These Arabs, however, were clearly "Semitic": their sharply hooked noses, the evil mustachioed leer on their faces, were obvious reminders (to a largely non-Semitic population) that "Semites" were at the bottom of all "our" troubles, which in this case was principally a gasoline shortage. The transference of a popular anti- Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same.
Thus if the Arab occupies space enough for attention, it is as a negative value. He is seen as the disrupter of Israel's and the West's existence, or in another view of the same thing, as a surmountable obstacle to Israel's creation in 1948. Insofar as this Arab has any history, it is part of the history given him (or taken from him: the difference is slight) by the Orientalist tradition, and later, the Zionist tradition. Palestine was seen-by Lamartine and the early Zionists -as an empty desert waiting to burst into bloom; such inhabitants as it had were supposed to be inconsequential nomads possessing no real claim on the land and therefore no cultural or national reality. Thus the Arab is conceived of now as a shadow that dogs the Jew. In that shadow-because Arabs and Jews are Oriental Semites-can be placed whatever traditional, latent mistrust a Westerner feels towards the Oriental. For the Jew of pre-Nazi Europe has bifurcated: what we have now is a Jewish hero, constructed out of a reconstructed cult of the adventurer-pioneer-Orientalist (Burton, Lane, Renan), and his creeping, mysteriously fearsome shadow, the Arab Oriental. Isolated from everything except the past created for him by Orientalist polemic, the Arab is chained to a destiny that fixes him and dooms him to a series of reactions periodically chastised by what Barbara Tuchman gives the theological name "Israel's terrible swift sword."
Aside from his anti-Zionism, the Arab is an oil supplier. This is another negative characteristic, since most accounts of Arab oil equate the oil boycott of 1973-1974 (which principally benefitted Western oil companies and a small ruling Arab elite) with the absence of any Arab moral qualifications for owning such vast oil reserves. Without the usual euphemisms, the question most often being asked is why such people as the Arabs are entitled to keep the developed (free, democratic, moral) world threatened. From such questions comes the frequent suggestion that the Arab oil fields be invaded by the marines.
In the films and television the Arab is associated either with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty. He appears as an oversexed degenerate, capable, it is true, of cleverly devious intrigues, but essentially sadistic, treacherous, low. Slave trader, camel driver, moneychanger, colorful scoundrel: these are some traditional Arab roles in the cinema. The Arab leader (of marauders, pirates, "native" insurgents) can often be seen snarling at the captured Western hero and the blond girl (both of them steeped in whole-someness), "My men are going to kill you, but-they like to amuse themselves before." He leers suggestively as he speaks: this is a current debasement of Valentino's Sheik. In newsreels or newsphotos, the Arab is always shown in large numbers. No individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences. Most of the pictures represent mass rage and misery, or irrational (hence hopelessly eccentric) gestures. Lurking behind all of these images is the menace ofjihad. Consequence: a fear that the Muslims (or Arabs) will take over the world.
Books and articles are regularly published on Islam and the Arabs that represent absolutely no change over the virulent anti-Islamic polemics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. For no other ethnic or religious group is it true that virtually anything can be written or said about it, without challenge or demurral. The 1975 course guide put out by the Columbia College undergraduates said about the Arabic course that every other word in the language had to do with violence, and that the Arab mind as "reflected" in the language was unremittingly bombastic. A recent article by Emmett Tyrrell inHarper's magazine was even more slanderous and racist, arguing that Arabs are basically murderers and that violence and deceit are carried in the Arab genes.102 A survey entitledThe Arabs in American Textbooks reveals the most astonishing misinformation, or rather the most callous representations of an ethnic-religious group. One book asserts that "few people of this [Arab] area even know that there is a better way to live," and then goes on to ask disarmingly, "What links the people of the Middle East together?" The answer, given unhesitatingly, is, "The last link is the Arab's hostility-hatred-toward the Jews and the nation of Israel." Along with such material goes this about Islam, in another book: "The Moslem religion, called Islam, began in the seventh century. It was started by a wealthy businessman of Arabia, called Mohammed. He claimed that he was a prophet. He found followers among other Arabs. He told them that they were picked to rule the world." This bit of knowledge is followed by another, equally accurate: "Shortly after Mohammed's death, his teachings were recorded in a book called the Koran. It became the holy book of Islam."103
These crude ideas are supported, not contradicted, by the academic whose business is the study of the Arab Near East. (It is worth noting incidentally that the Princeton event I referred to above took place in a university that prides itself on its department of Near Eastern Studies founded in 1927, the oldest such department in the country.) Take as an instance the report produced in 1967 by Morroe Berger, a professor of sociology and Near Eastern studies at Princeton, at the behest of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; he was then president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the professional association of scholars concerned with all aspects of the Near East, "primarily since the rise of Islam and from the viewpoint of the social science and humanistic disciplines,"104 and founded in 1967. He called his paper "Middle Eastern and North African Studies: Developments and Needs," and had it published in the second issue of theMESA Bulletin. After surveying the strategic, economic, and political importance of the region to the United States, and after endorsing the various United States government and private foundation projects to support programs in universities-the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (a directly Sputnik-inspired initiative), the establishing of links between the Social Science Research Council and Middle Eastern studies, and so on Berger came to the following conclusions:
The modern Middle East and North Africa is not a center of great cultural achievement, nor is it likely to become one in the near future. The study of the region or its languages, therefore, does not constitute its own reward so far as modern culture is concerned.
...Our region is not a center of great political power nor does it have the potential to become one.... The Middle East (less so North Africa) has been receding in immediate political importance to the U.S. (and even in "headline" or "nuisance" value) relative to Africa, Latin America and the Far East.
...The contemporary Middle East, thus, has only in small degree the kinds of traits that seem to be important in attracting scholarly attention. This does not diminish the validity and intellectual value of studying the area or affect the quality of work scholars do on it. It does, however, put limits, of which we should be aware, on the field's capacity for growth in the numbers who study and teach.105
As a prophecy, of course, this is fairly lamentable; what makes it even more unfortunate is that Berger was commissioned not only because he was an expert on the modern Near East but also-as is clear from the report's conclusion-because he was expected to be in a good position to predict its future, and the future of policy. His failure to see that the Middle East was of great political significance, and potentially of great political power, was no chance aberration of judgment, I think. Both of Berger's main mistakes derive from the first and last paragraphs, whose genealogy is the history of Orientalism as we have been studying it. In what Berger has to say about the absence of great cultural achievement, and in what he concludes about future study-that the Middle East does not attract scholarly attention because of its intrinsic weaknesses we have an almost exact duplication of the canonical Orientalist opinion that the Semites never produced a great culture and that, as Renan frequently said, the Semitic world was too impoverished ever to attract universal attention. Moreover, in making such timehonored judgments and in being totally blind to what is before his eyes-after all, Berger was not writing fifty years ago, but during a period when the United States was already importing about 10 percent of its oil from the Middle East and when its strategic and economic investments in the area were unimaginably huge-Berger was ensuring the centrality of his own position as Orientalist. For what he says, in effect, is that without people such as he the Middle East would be neglected; and that without his mediating, interpretative role the place would not be understood, partly because what little there is to understand is fairly peculiar, and partly because only the Orientalist can interpret the Orient, the Orient being radically incapable of interpreting itself.
The fact that Berger was not so much a classical Orientalist when he wrote (he wasn't and isn't) as he was a professional sociologist does not minimize the extent of his indebtedness to Orientalism and its ideas. Among those ideas is the specially legitimated antipathy towards and downgrading of the material forming the main basis of his study. So strong is this in Berger that it obscures the actualities before his eyes. And more impressively still, it makes it unnecessary for him to ask himself why, if the Middle East "is not a center of great cultural achievement," he should recommend that anyone devote his life, as he has, to the study of its culture. Scholars more than, say, doctors-study what they like and what interests them; only an exaggerated sense of cultural duty drives a scholar to the study of what he does not think well of. Yet it is just such a sense of duty Orientalism has fostered, because for generations the culture at large put the Orientalist at the barricades, where in his professional work he confronted the East-its barbarities, its eccentricities, its unruliness-and held it at bay on behalf of the West.
I mention Berger as an instance of the academic attitude towards the Islamic Orient, as an instance of how a learned perspective can support the caricatures propagated in the popular culture. Yet Berger stands also for the most current transformation overtaking Orientalism: its conversion from a fundamentally philological discipline and a vaguely general apprehension of the Orient into a social science specialty. No longer does an Orientalist try first to master the esoteric languages of the Orient; he begins instead as a trained social scientist and "applies" his science to the Orient, or anywhere else. This is the specifically American contribution to the history of Orientalism, and it can be dated roughly from the period immediately following World War II, when the United States found itself in the position recently vacated by Britain and France. The American experience of the Orient prior to that exceptional moment was limited. Cultural isolatos like Melville were interested in it; cynics like Mark Twain visited and wrote about it; the American Transcendentalists saw affinities between Indian thought and their own; a few theologians and Biblical students studied the Biblical Oriental languages; there were occasional diplomatic and military encounters with Barbary pirates and the like, the odd naval expedition to the Far Orient, and of course the ubiquitous missionary to the Orient. But there was no deeply invested tradition of Orientalism, and consequently in the United States knowledge of the Orient never passed through the refining and reticulating and reconstructing processes, whose beginning was in philological study, that it went through in Europe. Furthermore, the imaginative investment was never made either, perhaps because the American frontier, the one that counted, was the westward one. Immediately after World War II, then, the Orient became, not a broad catholic issue as it had been for centuries in Europe, but an administrative one, a matter for policy. Enter the social scientist and the new expert, on whose somewhat narrower shoulders was to fall the mantle of Orientalism. In their turn, as we shall see, they made such changes in it that it became scarcely recognizable. In any event, the new Orientalist took over the attitudes of cultural hostility and kept them.
One of the striking aspects of the new American social-science attention to the Orient is its singular avoidance of literature. You can read through reams of expert writing on the modern Near East and never encounter a single reference to literature. What seem to matter far more to the regional expert are "facts," of which a literary text is perhaps a disturber. The net effect of this remarkable omission in modern American awareness of the Arab or Islamic Orient is to keep the region and its people conceptually emasculated, reduced to "attitudes," "trends," statistics: in short, dehumanized. Since an Arab poet or novelist-and there are many-writes of his experiences, of his values, of his humanity (however strange that may be), he effectively disrupts the various patterns (images, cliches, abstractions) by which the Orient is represented. A literary text speaks more or less directly of a living reality. Its force is not that it is Arab, or French, or English; its force is in the power and vitality of words that, to mix in Flaubert's metaphor from LaTentation de Saint Antoine, tip the idols out of the Orientalists' arms and make them drop those great paralytic children-which are their ideas of the Orient-that attempt to pass for the Orient.
The absence of literature and the relatively weak position of philology in contemporary American studies of the Near East are illustrations of a new eccentricity in Orientalism, where indeed my use of the word itself is anomalous. For there is very little in what academic experts on the Near East do now that resembles traditional Orientalism of the sort that ended with Gibb and Massignon; the main things that are reproduced are, as I said, a certain cultural hostility and a sense based not so much on philology as on "expertise." Genealogically speaking, modern American Orientalism derives from such things as the army language schools established during and after the war, sudden government and corporate interest in the non-Western world during the postwar period, Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, and a residual missionary attitude towards Orientals who are considered ripe for reform and reeducation. The nonphilological study of esoteric Oriental languages is useful for obvious rudimentary strategic reasons; but it is also useful for giving a cachet of authority, almost a mystique, to the "expert" who appears able to deal with hopelessly obscure material with firsthand skill.
In the social-science order of things, language study is a mere tool for higher aims, certainly not for reading literary texts. In 1958, for example, the Middle East Institute-a quasi-governmental body founded to oversee and sponsor research interest in the Middle East-produced aReport on CurrentResearch. The contribution "Present State of Arabic Studies in the United States" (done, interestingly enough, by a professor of Hebrew) is prefaced by an epigraph announcing that "no longer is knowledge of foreign languages, for instance, the sole province of the scholars in the humanities. It is a working tool of the engineer, the economist, the social scientist, and many other specialists." The whole report stresses the importance of Arabic to oil-company executives, technicians, and military personnel. But the report's main talking point is this trio of sentences: "Russian universities are now producing fluent Arabic speakers. Russia has realized the importance of appealing to men through their minds, by using their own language. The United States need wait no longer in developing its foreign language program."106 Thus Oriental languages are part of some policy objective-as to a certain extent they have always been---or part of a sustained propaganda effort. In both these aims the study of Oriental languages becomes the instrument carrying out Harold Lasswell's theses about propaganda, in which what counts is not what people are or think but what they can be made to be and think.
The propagandist outlook in fact combines respect for individuality with indifference to formal democracy. The respect for individuality arises from the dependence of large scale operations upon the support of the mass and upon experience with the variability of human preferences.... This regard for men in the mass rests upon no democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interests. The modern propagandist, like the modern psychologist, recognizes that men are often poor judges of their own interests, flitting from one alternative to the next without solid reason or clinging timorously to the fragments of some mossy rock of ages. Calculating the prospect of securing a permanent change in habits and values involves much more than the estimation of the preferences of men in general. It means taking account of the tissue of relations in which men are webbed, searching for signs of preference which may reflect no deliberation and directing a program towards a solution which fits in fact.... With respect to those adjustments which do require mass action the task of the propagandist is that of inventing goal symbols which serve the double function of facilitating adoption and adaptation. The symbols must induce acceptance spontaneously It follows that the management ideal is control of a situation not by imposition but by divination.... The propagandist takes it for granted that the world is completely caused but that it is only partly predictable....107
The acquired foreign language is therefore made part of a subtle assault upon populations, just as the study of a foreign region like the Orient is turned into a program for control by divination.
Yet such programs must always have a liberal veneer, and usually this is left to scholars, men of good will, enthusiasts to attend to. The idea encouraged is that in studying Orientals, Muslims, or Arabs "we" can get to know another people, their way of life and thought, and so on. To this end it is always better to let them speak for themselves, to represent themselves (even though underlying this fiction stands Marx's phrase-with which Lasswell is in agreement-for Louis Napoleon: "They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented").But only up to a point, and in a special way. In 1973, during the anxious days of the October Arab-Israeli War, theNew York Times Magazine commissioned two articles, one representing the Israeli and one the Arab side of the conflict. The Israeli side was presented by an Israeli lawyer; the Arab side, by an American former ambassador to an Arab country who had no formal training iii Oriental studies. Lest we jump immediately to the simple conclusion that the Arabs were believed incapable of representing themselves, we would do well to remember that both Arabs and Jews in this instance were Semites (in the broad cultural designation I have been discussing) and that bothwere being made to be represented for a Western audience. It is worthwhile here to remember this passage from Proust, in which the sudden appearance of a Jew into an aristocratic salon is described as follows:
The Rumanians, the Egyptians, the Turks may hate theJews. But in a French drawing-room the differences between those people are not so apparent, and an Israelite making his entry as though he were emerging from the heart of the desert, his body crouching like a hyaena's, his neck thrust obliquely forward, spreading himself in proud "salaams," completely satisfies a certain taste for the oriental[un goŭtpour l'orientalisme]. 108
2. Cultural relations policy. While it is true to say that the United States did not in fact become a world empire until the twentieth century, it is also true that during the nineteenth century the United States was concerned with the Orient in ways that prepared for its later, overtly imperial concern. Leaving aside the campaigns against the Barbary pirates in 1801 and 1815, let us consider the founding of the American Oriental Society in 1842. At its first annual meeting in 1843 its president, John Pickering, made the very clear point that America proposed for itself the study of the Orient in order to follow the example of the imperial European powers. Pickering's message was that the framework of Oriental studies-then as now-was political, not simply scholarly. Note in the following summary how the lines of argument for Orientalism leave little room for doubt as to their intention:
At the first annual meeting of the American Society in 1843, President Pickering began a remarkable sketch of the field it was proposed to cultivate by calling attention to the especially favorable circumstances of the time, the peace that reigned everywhere, the freer access to Oriental countries, and the greater facilities for communication. The earth seemed quiet in the days of Metternich and Louis Philippe. The treaty of Nanking had opened Chinese ports. The screw-propellor had been adopted in oceangoing vessels; Morse had completed his telegraph and he had already suggested the laying of a trans-Atlantic cable. The objects of the Society were to cultivate learning in Asiatic, African, and Polynesian language, and in everything concerning the Orient, to create a taste for Oriental Studies in this country, to publish texts, translations and communications, and to collect a library and cabinet. Most of the work has been done in the Asiatic field, and particularly in Sanskrit and the Semitic languages.109
Metternich, Louis-Philippe, the Treaty of Nanking, the screw propellor: all suggest the imperial constellation facilitating Euro-American penetration of the Orient. This has never stopped. Even the legendary American missionaries to the Near East during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries took their role as set not so much by God as bytheir God,their culture, andtheir destiny.110 The early missionary institutions-printing presses, schools, universities, hospitals, and the like-contributed of course to the area's wellbeing, but in their specifically imperial character and their support by the United States government, these institutions were no different from their French and British counterparts in the Orient. During the First World War, what was to become a major United States policy interest in Zionism and the colonization of Palestine played an estimable role in getting the United States into the war; British discussions prior to and after the Balfour Declaration (November 1917) reflect the seriousness with which the declaration was taken by the United States.111 During and after the Second World War, the escalation in United States interest in the Middle East was remarkable. Cairo, Teheran, and North Africa were important arenas of war, and in that setting, with the exploitation of its oil, strategic, and human resources pioneered by Britain and France, the United States prepared for its new postwar imperial role.
Not the least aspect of this role was "a cultural relations policy," as it was defined by Mortimer Graves in 1950. Part of this policy was, he said, the attempt to acquire "every significant publication in every important Near Eastern language published since 1900," an attempt "which our Congress ought to recognize as a measure of our national security." For what was clearly at stake, Graves argued (to very receptive ears, by the way), was the need for "much better American understanding of the forces which are contending with the American idea for acceptance by the Near East. The principal of these are, of course, communism and Islam."112 Out of such a concern, and as a contemporary adjunct to the more backward-looking American Oriental Society, was born the entire vast apparatus for research on the Middle East. The model, both in its frankly strategic attitude and in its sensitivity to public security and policy (not, as is often postured, to pure scholarship), was the Middle East Institute, founded May 1946 in Washington under the aegis of, if not entirely within or by, the federal government.113 Out of such organizations grew the Middle East Studies Association, the powerful support of the Ford and other foundations, the various federal programs of support to universities, the various federal research projects, research projects carried out by such entities as the Defense Department, the RAND Corporation, and the Hudson Institute, and the consultative and lobbying efforts of banks, oil companies, multinationals, and the like. It is no reduction to say of all this that it retains, in most of its general as well as its detailed functioning, the traditional Orientalist outlook which had been developed in Europe.
The parallel between European and American imperial designs on the Orient (Near and Far) is obvious. What is perhaps less obvious is (a) the extent to which the European tradition of Orientalist scholarship was, if not taken over, then accommodated, normalized, domesticated, and popularized and fed into the postwar efflorescence of Near Eastern studies in the United States; and (b) the extent to which the European tradition has given rise in the United States to a coherent- attitude among most scholars, institutions, styles of discourse, and orientations, despite the contemporary appearance of refinement, as well as the use of (again) highly sophisticated-appearing social-science techniques. I have already discussed Gibb's ideas; it needs to be pointed out, however, that in the middle 1950s he became director of the Harvard Center for Middle East Studies, from which position his ideas and style exerted an important influence. Gibb's presence in the United States was different in what it did for the field from Philip Hitti's presence at Princeton since the late 1920s. The Princeton department produced a large group of important scholars, and its brand of Oriental studies stimulated great scholarly interest in the field. Gibb, on the other hand, was more truly in touch with the public-policy aspect of Orientalism, and far more than Hitti's at Princeton his position at Harvard focused Orientalism on a Cold War area-studies approach.
Gibb's own work, nevertheless, did not overtly employ the language of cultural discourse in the tradition of Renan, Becker, and Massignon. Yet this discourse, its intellectual apparatus, and its dogmas were impressively present, principally (although not exclusively) in the work and institutional authority, at Chicago and then at UCLA, of Gustave von Grunebaum. He came to the United States as part of the intellectual immigration of European scholars fleeing fascism."114 Thereafter he produced a solid Orientalist oeuvre that concentrated on Islam as a holistic culture about which, from beginning to end of his career, he continued to make the same set of essentially reductive, negative generalizations. His style, which bore often chaotic evidence of his Austro-Germanic polymathy, of his absorption of the canonical pseudoscientific prejudices of French, British, and Italian Orientalism, as well as of an almost desperate effort to remain the impartial scholar-observer, was next to unreadable. A typical page of his on the Islamic self-image will jam together half-a-dozen references to Islamic texts drawn from as many periods as possible, references as well to Husserl and the pre-Socratics, references to Lévi-Strauss and various American social scientists. All this, nevertheless, does not obscure von Grunebaum's almost virulent dislike of Islam. He has no difficulty presuming that Islam is a unitary phenomenon, unlike any other religion or civilization, and thereafter he shows it to be antihuman, incapable of development, self-knowledge, or objectivity, as well as uncreative, unscientific, and authoritarian. Here are two typical excerpts-and we must remember that von Grunebaum wrote with the unique authority of a European scholar in the United States, teaching, administering,giving grants to a large network of scholars in the field.
It is essential to realize that Muslim civilization is a cultural entity that does not share our primary aspirations. It is not vitally interested in the structured study of other cultures, either as an end in itself or as a means towards clearer understanding of its own character and history. If this observation were to be valid merely for contemporary Islam, one might be inclined to connect it with the profoundly disturbed state of Islam, which does not permit it to look beyond itself unless forced to do so. But as it is valid for the past as well, one may perhaps seek to connect it with the basic anti-humanism of this [Islamic] civilization, that is, the determined refusal to accept man to any extent whatever as the arbiter or the measure of things, and the tendency to be satisfied with the truth as the description of mental structures, or in other words, with psychological truth.
[Arab or Islamic nationalism] lacks, in spite of its occasional use as a catchword, the concept of the divine right of a nation, it lacks a formative ethic, it also lacks, it would seem, the later nineteenth century belief in mechanistic progress; above all it lacks the intellectual vigor of a primary phenomenon. Both power and the will to power are ends in themselves. [This sentence seems to serve no purpose in the argument; yet it doubtless gives von Grunebaum the security of a philosophical-sounding nonsentence, as if to assure himself that he speaks wisely, not disparagingly, of Islam.] The resentment of political slights [felt by Islam] engenders impatience and impedes long-range analysis and planning in the intellectual sphere.115
In most other contexts such writing would politely be called polemical. For Orientalism, of course, it is relatively orthodox, and it passed for canonical wisdom in American study of the Middle East after World War II, mainly because of the cultural prestige associated with European scholars. The point is, however, that von Grunebaum's work is accepted uncritically by the field, even though the field itself today cannot reproduce people like him. Yet only one scholar has undertaken a serious critique of von Grunebaum's views: Abdullah Laroui, a Moroccan historian and political theorist.
Using the motif of reductive repetition in von Grunebaum's work as a practical tool of critical anti-Orientalist study, Laroui manages his case impressively on the whole. He asks himself what it is that caused von Grunebaum's work, despite the enormous mass of its detail and its apparent range, to remain reductive. As Laroui says, "the adjectives that von Grunebaum affixes to the word Islam (medieval, classical, modern) are neutral or even superfluous: there is no difference between classical Islam and medieval Islam or Islam plain and simple There is therefore [for von Grunebaum] onlyone Islam that changes within itself."116 Modern Islam, according to von Grunebaum, has turned away from the West because it remains faithful to its original sense of itself; and yet Islam can modernize itself only by a self-reinterpretation from a Western point of view-which, of course, von Grunebaum shows is impossible. In describing von Grunebaum's conclusions, which add up to a portrait of Islam as a culture incapable of innovation, Laroui does not mention that the need for Islam to use Western methods to improve itself has, as an idea, perhaps because of von Grunebaum's wide influence, become almost a truism in Middle Eastern studies. (For example, David Gordon, inSelf-Determination and History in the Third World ,117 urges "maturity" on Arabs, Africans, and Asians; he argues that this can be gained only by learning from Western objectivity.)
Laroui's analysis shows also how von Grunebaum employed A. L. Kroeber's culturalist theory to understand Islam, and how this tool necessarily entailed a series of reductions and eliminations by which Islam could be represented as a closed system of exclusions. Thus, each of the many diverse aspects of Islamic culture could be seen by von Grunebaum as a direct reflection of an unvarying matrix, a particular theory of God, that compels them all into meaning and order: development, history, tradition, reality in Islam are therefore interchangeable. Laroui rightly maintains that history as a complex order of events, temporalities, and meanings cannot be reduced to such a notion of culture, in the same way that culture cannot be reduced to ideology,nor ideology to theology. Von Grunebaum has fallen prey both to the Orientalist dogmas he inherited and to a particular feature of Islam which he has chosen to interpret as a shortcoming: that there is to be found in Islam a highly articulated theory of religion and yet very few accounts of religious experience, highly articulate political theory and few precise political documents, a theory of social structure and very few individualized actions, a theory of history and very few dated events, an articulated theory of economics and very few quantified series, and so on."118 The net result is a historical vision of Islam entirely hobbled by the theory of a culture incapable of doing justice to, or even examining, its existential reality in the experience of its adherents. Von Grunebaum's Islam, after all, is the Islam of the earlier European Orientalists monolithic, scornful of ordinary human experience, gross, reductive, unchanging.
At bottom such a view of Islam is political, not even euphemistically impartial. The strength of its hold on the new Orientalist (younger, that is, than von Grunebaum) is due in part to its traditional authority, and in part to its use-value as a handle for grasping a vast region of the world and proclaiming it an entirely coherent phenomenon. Since Islam has never easily been encompassed by the West politically-and certainly since World War II Arab nationalism has been a movement openly declaring its hostility to Western imperialism-the desire to assert intellectually satisfying things about Islam in retaliation increases. One authority has said of Islam (without specifying which Islam or aspect of Islam he means) that it is "one prototype of closed traditional societies." Note here the edifying use of the word Islam to signify all at once a society, a religion, a prototype, and an actuality. But all this will be subordinated by the same scholar to the notion that, unlike normal ("our") societies, Islam and Middle Eastern societies are totally "political," an adjective meant as a reproach to Islam for not being "liberal," for not being able to separate (as "we" do) politics from culture. The result is an invidiously ideological portrait of "us" and "them":
To understand Middle Eastern society as a whole must remain our great aim. Only a society [like "ours"] that has already achieved a dynamic stability can afford to think of politics, economics, or culture as genuinely autonomous realms of existence and not merely convenient divisions for study. In a traditional society that does not separate the things of Caesar from those of God, or that is entirely in flux, the connection between, say, politics and all other aspects of life is the heart of the issue. Today, for example, whether a man is to marry four wives or one, fast or eat, gain or lose land, rely on revelation or reason, have all become political issues in the Middle East No less than the Moslem himself, the new Orientalist must inquire anew what the significant structures and relationships of Islamic society may be.119
The triviality of most of the examples (marrying four wives, fasting or eating, etc.) is meant as evidence of Islam's all-inclusiveness, and its tyranny. As to where this is supposed to be happening, we are not told. But we are reminded of the doubtless nonpolitical fact that Orientalists "are largely responsible for having given Middle Easterners themselves an accurate appreciation of their past,"120 just in case we might forget that Orientalists know things by definition that Orientals cannot know on their own.
If this sums up the "hard" school of the new American Orientalism, the "soft" school emphasizes the fact that traditional Orientalists have given us the basic outlines of Islamic history, religion, and society but have been "all too often content to sum up the meaning of a civilization on the basis of a few manuscripts."121 Against the traditional Orientalist, therefore, the new area-studies specialist argues philosophically:
Research methodology and disciplinary paradigms are not to determine what is selected for study, and they are not to limit observation. Area studies, from this perspective, hold that true knowledge is only possible of things that exist, while methods and theories are abstractions, which order observations and offer explanations according to non-empirical criteria.122
Good. But how does one know the "things that exist," and to what extent are the "things that exist" constituted by the knower? This is left moot, as the new value-free apprehension of the Orient as something that exists is institutionalized in area-studies programs. Without tendentious theorizing, Islam is rarely studied, rarely researched, rarely known: the naiveté of this conception scarcely conceals what ideologically it means, the absurd theses that man plays no part in setting up both the material and the processes of knowledge, that the Oriental reality is static and "exists," that only a messianic revolutionary (in Dr. Kissinger's vocabulary) will not admit the difference between reality out there and in his head.
Between the hard and soft schools, however, more or less diluted versions of the old Orientalism flourish-in the new academic jargons in some cases, in the old ones in others. But the principal dogmas of Orientalism exist in their purest form today in studies of the Arabs and Islam. Let us recapitulate them here: one is the absolute and systematic difference between the West, which is rational, developed, humane, superior, and the Orient, which is aberrant, undeveloped inferior. Another dogma is that abstractions about the Orient, particularly those based on texts representing a "classical" Oriental civilization, are always preferable to direct evidence drawn from modern Oriental realities. A third dogma is that the Orient is eternal, uniform, and incapable of defining itself; therefore it is assumed that a highly generalized and systematic vocabulary for describing the Orient from a Western standpoint is inevitable and even scientifically "objective." A fourth dogma is that the Orient is at bottom something either to be feared (the Yellow Peril, the Mongol hordes, the brown dominions) or to be controlled (by pacification, research and development, outright occupation whenever possible).
The extraordinary thing is that these notions persist without significant challenge in the academic and governmental study of the modern Near Orient. Lamentably, there has been no demonstrable effect-if there has been a challenging gesture at all-made by Islamic or Arab scholars' work disputing the dogmas of Orientalism; an isolated article here or there, while important for its time and place, cannot possibly affect the course of an imposing research consensus maintained by all sorts of agencies, institutions, and traditions. The point of this is that Islamic Orientalism has led a contemporary fife quite different from that of the other Orientalist subdisciplines. The Committee of Concerned Asia Scholars (who are primarily Americans) led a revolution during the 1960s in the ranks of East Asia specialists; the African studies specialists were similarly challenged by revisionists; so too were other Third World area specialists. Only the Arabists and Islamologists still function unrevised. For them there are still such things as an Islamic society, an Arab mind, an Oriental psyche. Even the ones whose specialty is the modern Islamic world anachronistically use texts like the Koran to read into every facet of contemporary Egyptian or Algerian society. Islam, or a seventh century ideal of it constituted by the Orientalist, is assumed to possess the unity that eludes the more recent and important influences of colonialism, imperialism, and even ordinary politics. Cliches about how Muslims (or Mohammedans, as they are still sometimes called) behave are bandied about with a nonchalance no one would risk in talking about blacks or Jews. At best, the Muslim is a "native informant" for the Orientalist. Secretly, however, he remains a despised heretic who for his sins must additionally endure the entirely thankless position of being known-negatively, that is-as an anti-Zionist.
There is of course a Middle East studies establishment, a pool of interests, "old boy" or "expert" networks linking corporate business, the foundations, the oil companies, the missions, the military, the foreign service, the intelligence community together with the academic world. There are grants and other rewards, there are organizations, there are hierarchies, there are institutes, centers, faculties, departments, all devoted to legitimizing and maintaining the authority of a. handful of basic, basically unchanging ideas about Islam, the Orient, and the Arabs. A recent critical analysis of the Middle East studies operation in the United States shows, not that the field is "monolithic," but that it is complex, that it contains oldstyle Orientalists, deliberately marginal specialists, counterinsurgency specialists, policymakers, as well as "a small minority ...of academic power brokers."123 In any event, the core of Orientalist dogma persists.
As an instance of what, in its highest and most intellectually prestigious form, the field now produces, let us consider briefly the two-volumeCambridge History of Islam, which was first published in England in 1970 and is a regular summa of Orientalist orthodoxy. To say of this work by numerous luminaries that it is an intellectual failure by any standards other than those of Orientalism is to say that it could have been a different and better history of Islam. In fact, as several more thoughtful scholars have noted,124 this kind of history was already doomed when first planned and could not have been different or better in execution: too many ideas were uncritically accepted by its editors; there was too much reliance on vague concepts; little emphasis was placed on methodological issues (which were left as they have been standing in Orientalist discourse for almost two centuries); and no effort was put forth to make even the idea of Islam seem interesting. Moreover, not only doesThe Cambridge History of Islam radically misconceive and misrepresent Islam as a religion; it also has no corporate idea of itself as a history. Of few such enormous enterprises can it be true, as it is of this one, that ideas and methodological intelligence are almost entirely absent from it.
Erfan Shahid's chapter on pre-Islamic Arabia, which opens the history, intelligently sketches the fruitful consonance between topography and human economy out of which Islam appeared in the seventh century. But what can one fairly say of a history of Islam, defined by P. M. Holt's introduction rather airily as a "cultural synthesis,"125 that proceeds directly from pre-Islamic Arabia to a chapter on Mohammed, then to a chapter on the Patriarchal and Umayyad caliphates, and entirely bypasses any account of Islam as a system of belief, faith, or doctrine? For hundreds of pages in volume 1, Islam is understood to mean an unrelieved chronology of battles, reigns, and deaths, rises and heydays, comings and passings, written for the most part in a ghastly monotone.
Take the Abbasid period from the eighth to the eleventh century as an instance. Anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with Arab or Islamic history will know that it was a high point of Islamic civilization, as brilliant a period of cultural history as the High Renaissance in Italy. Yet nowhere in the forty pages of description does one get an inkling of any richness; what is found instead is sentences like this: "Once master of the caliphate, [al-Ma'mun] seemed henceforth to shrink from contact with Baghdad society and remained settled at Merv, entrusting the government of Iraq to one of his trusted men, al-Hasan b. Sahl, the brother of al-Fadl, who was faced almost at once with a serious Shi'i revolt, that of Abu'l-Saraya, who in Jumada lI 199/January 815 sent out a call to arms from Kufa in support of the Hasanid Ibn Tabataba."126 A non-Islamicist will not know at this point what a Shi'i or a Hasanid is. He will have no idea what Jumada 11 is, except that it clearly designates a date of some sort. And of course he will believe that the Abbasids, including Harun al-Rashid, were an incorrigibly dull and murderous lot, as they sat sulking in Merv.
The Central Islamic lands are defined as excluding North Africa and Andalusia, andtheir history is an orderly march from the past till modern times. In volume 1, therefore, Islam is a geographical designation applied chronologically and selectively as it suits the experts. But nowhere in the chapters on classical Islam is there an adequate preparation for the disappointments in store for us when we come to "recent times," as they are called. The chapter on the modern Arab lands is written without the slightest understanding of the revolutionary developments in the area. The author takes a schoolmarmish, openly reactionary attitude towards the Arabs ("it must be said that during this period the educated and uneducated youth of the Arab countries, with their enthusiasm and idealism, became a fertile soil for political exploitation and, at times, perhaps without realizing it, the tools of unscrupulous extremists and agitators"127 ), tempered by occasional praise of Lebanese nationalism (although we are never told that the appeal of fascism to a small number of Arabs during the thirties also infected the Lebanese Maronites, who in 1936 founded the Falanges libanaises as a copy of Mussolini's Black Shirts). "Unrest and agitation" are ascribed to 1936 without a mention of Zionism, and the very notions of anticolonialism and antiimperialism are never allowed to violate the serenity of the narrative. As for the chapters on "the political impact of the West" and "economic and social change"-ideas left no more specific than that they are tacked on as reluctant concessions to Islam as having something to do with "our" world in general. Change is unilaterally equated with modernization, even though it is nowhere made clear why other kinds of change need be so imperiously dismissed. Since it is assumed that Islam's only worthwhile relations have been with the West, the importance of Bandung or of Africa or of the Third World generally is ignored; this blithe indifference to a good three-quarters of reality somewhat explains the amazingly cheerful statement that "the historical ground has been cleared [by whom, for what, in what way?] for a new relationship between the West and Islam ...based on equality and cooperation."128
If by the end of volume 1 we are mired in a number of contradictions and difficulties about what Islam really is, there is no help to be had in volume 2. Half the book is devoted to covering the tenth to the twentieth centuries in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Spain, North Africa, and Sicily; there is more distinction in the chapters on North Africa, although the same combination of professional Orientalist jargon with unguided historical detail prevails pretty much everywhere. So far, after approximately twelve hundred pages of dense prose, "Islam" appears to be no more a cultural synthesis than any other roll call of kings, battles, and dynasties. But in the last half of volume 2, the great synthesis completes itself with articles on "The Geographical Setting," "Sources of Islamic Civilization," "Religion and Culture," and "Warfare."
Now one's legitimate questions and objections seem more justified. Why is a chapter commissioned on Islamic warfare when what is really discussed (interestingly, by the way) is the sociology of some Islamic armies? Is one to assume that there is an Islamic mode of war different, say, from Christian warfare? Communist war versus capitalist war proposes itself as a suitably analogous topic, Of what use for the understanding of Islam--except as a display of Gustave von Grunebaum's indiscriminate eruditionare the opaque quotations from Leopold von Ranke which, along with other equally ponderous and irrelevant material, dot his pages on Islamic civilization? Is it not mendacious thus to disguise the real Grunebaumian thesis, that Islamic civilization rests on an unprincipled borrowing by Muslims from the Judeo-Christian, Hellenistic, and Austro-Germanic civilizations? Compare with this idea that Islam is by definition a plagiaristic culture-the one put forward in volume 1 that "so-called Arabic literature" was written by Persians (no proof offered, no names cited). When Louis Gardet treats "Religion and Culture," we are told summarily that only the first five centuries of Islam are to be discussed; does this mean that religion and culture in "modern times" cannot be "synthesized," or does it mean that Islam achieved its final form in the twelfth century? Is there really such a thing as "Islamic geography," which seems to include the "planned anarchy" of Muslim cities, or is it mainly an invented subject to demonstrate a rigid theory of geographical-racial determinism? As a hint we are reminded of "the Ramadan fast with its active nights," from which we are expected to conclude that Islam is a religion "designed for town .dwellers." This is explanation in need of explanation.
The sections on economic and social institutions, on law and justice, mysticism, art and architecture, science, and the various Islamic literatures are on an altogether higher level than most of theHistory. Yet nowhere is there evidence that their authors have much in common with modern humanists or social scientists in other disciplines: the techniques of the conventional history of ideas, of Marxist analysis, of the New History, are noticeably absent. Islam, in short, seems to its historians to be best suited to a rather Platonic and antiquarian bias. To some writers of theHistory Islam is a politics and a religion; to others it is a style of being; to others it is "distinguishable from Muslim society"; to still others it is a mysteriously known essence; to all the authors Islam is a remote, tensionless thing, without much to teach us about the complexities of today's Muslims. Hanging over the whole disjointed enterprise which isThe Cambridge History of Islam is the old Orientalist truism that Islam is about texts, not about people.
The fundamental question raised by such contemporary Orientalist texts asThe Cambridge History is whether ethnic origins and religion are the best, or at least the most useful, basic, and clear, definitions of human experience. Does it matter more in understanding contemporary politics to know that X and Y are disadvantaged in certain very concrete ways, or that they are Muslims or Jews? This is of course a debatable question, and we are very likely in rational terms to insist on both the religious-ethnic and the socio-economic descriptions; Orientalism, however, clearly posits the Islamic category as the dominant one, and this is the main consideration about its retrograde intellectual tactics.
3. Merely Islam. So deeply entrenched is the theory of Semitic simplicity as it is to be found in modern Orientalism that it operates with little differentiation in such well-known anti-Semitic European writings asThe Protocols of the Elders of Dori and in remarks such as these by Chaim Weizmann to Arthur Balfour on May 30, 1918:
The Arabs, who are superficially clever and quick witted, worship one thing, and one thing only-power and success.... The British authorities ...knowing as they do the treacherous nature of the Arabs ...have to watch carefully and constantly.... The fairer the English regime tries to be, the more arrogant the Arab becomes.... The present state of affairs would necessarily tend toward the creation of an Arab Palestine, if there were an Arab people in Palestine. It will not in fact produce that result because the fellah is at least four centuries behind the times, and the effendi ...is dishonest, uneducated, greedy, and as unpatriotic as he is inefficient.129
The common denominator between Weizmann and the European anti-Semite is the Orientalist perspective, seeing Semites (or subdivisions thereof) as by nature lacking the desirable qualities of Occidentals. Yet the difference between Renan and Weizmann is that the latter had already gathered behind his rhetoric the solidity of institutions whereas the former had not. Is there not in twentieth-century Orientalism that same unaging "gracious childhood heedlessly allied now with scholarship, now with a state and all its institutions-that Renan saw as the Semites' unchanging mode of being?
Yet with what greater harm has the twentieth-century version of the myth been maintained. It has produced a picture of the Arab as seen by an "advanced" quasi-Occidental society. In his resistance to foreign colonialists the Palestinian was either a stupid savage, or a negligible quantity, morally and even existentially. According to Israeli law only a Jew has full civic rights and unqualified immigration privileges; even though they are the land's inhabitants, Arabs are given less, more simple rights: they cannot immigrate, and if they seem not to have the same rights, it is because they are "less developed." Orientalism governs Israeli policy towards the Arabs throughout, as the recently published Koenig Report amply proves. There are good Arabs (the ones who do as they are told) and bad Arabs (who do not, and are therefore terrorists). Most of all there are all those Arabs who, once defeated, can be expected to sit obediently behind an infallibly fortified line, manned by the smallest possible number of men, on the theory that Arabs have had to accept the myth of Israeli superiority and will never dare attack. One need only glance through the pages of General Yehoshafat Harkabi'sArab Attitudes to Israel to see how-as Robert Alter put it in admiring language in Commentary130 - the Arab mind, depraved, anti-Semitic to the core, violent, unbalanced, could produce only rhetoric and little more. One myth supports and produces another. They answer each other, tending towards symmetries and patterns of the sort that as Orientals the Arabs themselves can be expected to produce, but that as a human being no Arab can truly sustain.
Of itself, in itself, as a set of beliefs, as a method of analysis, Orientalism cannot develop. Indeed, it is the doctrinal antithesis of development. Its central argument is the myth of the arrested development of the Semites. From this matrix other myths pour forth, each of them showing the Semite to be the opposite of the Westerner and irremediably the victim of his own weaknesses. By a concatenation of events and circumstances the Semitic myth bifurcated in the Zionist movement; one Semite went the way of Orientalism, the other, the Arab, was forced to go the way of the Oriental. Each time tent and tribe are solicited, the myth is being employed; each time the concept of Arab national character is evoked, the myth is being employed. The hold these instruments have on the mind is increased by the institutions built around them. For every Orientalist, quite literally, there is a support system of staggering power, considering the ephemerality of the myths that Orientalism propagates. This system now culminates in the very institutions of the state. To write about the Arab Oriental world, therefore, is to write with the authority of a nation, and not with the affirmation of a strident ideology but with the unquestioning certainty of absolute truth backed by absolute force.
In its February 1974 issue Commentary gave its readers an article by Professor Gil Carl Alroy entitled "Do the Arabs Want Peace?" Alroy is a professor of political science and is the author of two works,Attitudes Towards Jewish Statehood in the Arab World andImages of Middle East Conflict; he is a man who professes to "know" the Arabs, and is obviously an expert on image making. His argument is quite predictable: that the Arabs want to destroy Israel, that the Arabs really say what they mean (and Alroy makes ostentatious use of his ability to cite evidence from Egyptian newspapers, evidence he everywhere identifies with "Arabs" as if the two, Arabs and Egyptian newspapers, were one), and so on and on, with unflagging, one-eyed zeal. Quite the center of his article, as it is the center of previous work by other "Arabists" (synonymous with "Orientalists"), like General Harkabi, whose province is the "Arab mind," is a working hypothesis on what Arabs, if one peels off all the outer nonsense, are really like. In other words, Alroy must prove that because Arabs are, first of all, as one in their bent for bloody vengeance, second, psychologically incapable of peace, and third, congenitally tied to a concept of justice that means the opposite of that, they are not to be trusted and must be fought interminably as one fights any other fatal disease. For evidence Alroy's principal exhibit is a quotation taken from Harold W. Glidden's essay "The Arab World" (to which I referred in Chapter One). Alroy finds Glidden able to have "captured the cultural differences between the Western and the Arab view" of things "very well." Alroy's argument is clinched, therefore-the Arabs are unregenerate savages-and thus an authority on the Arab mind has told a wide audience of presumably concerned Jews that they must continue to watch out. And he has done it academically, dispassionately, fairly, using evidence taken from the Arabs themselves -who, he says with Olympian assurance, have "emphatically ruled out ...real peace"-and from psychoanalysis.131
One can explain such statements by recognizing that a still more implicit and powerful difference posited by the Orientalist as against the Oriental is that the formerwrites about, whereas the latter iswritten about. For the latter, passivity is the presumed role; for the former, the power to observe, study, and so forth; as Roland Barthes has said, a myth (and its perpetuators) can invent itself (themselves) ceaselessly."132 The Oriental is given as fixed, stable, in need of investigation, in need even of knowledge about himself. No dialectic is either desired or allowed. There is a source of information (the Oriental) and a source of knowledge (the Orientalist), in short, a writer and a subject matter otherwise inert. The relationship between the two is radically a matter of power, for which there are numerous images. Here is an instance taken from Raphael Patai'sGolden River to Golden Road:
In order properly to evaluate what Middle Eastern culture willwillingly accept from the embarrassingly rich storehouses of Western civilization, a better and sounder understanding of Middle Eastern culturemust first be acquired. The same prerequisite is necessary in orderto gauge the probable effects ofnewly introduced traits on the cultural context of tradition directed peoples. Also, the ways and means in which new cultural offerings can be made palatable must be studied much more thoroughly than was hitherto the case. In brief, the only way in which the Gordian knot of resistance to Westernization in the Middle East can be unraveled is that of studying the Middle East, of obtaining a fuller picture of its traditional ulture, a better understanding of the processes of change taking place in it at present, and a deeper insight into the psychology of human groups brought up in Middle Eastern culture. The task is taxing, but the prize, harmony between the West and a neighboring world area of crucial importance, is well worth it.133
The metaphorical figures propping up this passage (I have indicated them by italics) come from a variety of human activities, some commercial, some horticultural, some religious, some veterinary, some historical. Yet in each case the relation between the Middle East and the West is really defined as sexual: as I said earlier in discussing Flaubert, the association between the Orient and sex is remarkably persistent. The Middle East is resistant, as any virgin would be, but the male scholar wins the prize by bursting open, penetrating through the Gordian knot despite "the taxing task." "Harmony" is the result of the conquest of maidenly coyness; it is not by any means the coexistence of equals. The underlying power relation between scholar and subject matter is never once altered: it is uniformly favorable to the Orientalist. Study, understanding, knowledge, evaluation, masked as blandishments to "harmony," are instruments of conquest.
The verbal operations in such writing as Patai's (who has outstripped even his previous work in his recent The Arab Mind134 ) aim at a very particular sort of compression and reduction. Much of his paraphernalia is anthropological-he describes the Middle East as a "culture area"-but the result is to eradicate the plurality of differences among the Arabs (whoever they may be in fact) in the interest of one difference, that one setting Arabs off from everyone else. As a subject matter for study and analysis, they can be controlled more readily. Moreover, thus reduced they can be made to permit, legitimate, and valorize general nonsense of the sort one finds in works such as Sania Hamady's Temperament and Character of the Arabs. Item:
The Arabs so far have demonstrated an incapacity for disciplined and abiding unity. They experience collective outbursts of enthusiasm but do not pursue patiently collective endeavors, which are usually embraced half-heartedly.They show lack of coordination and harmony in organization and function, nor have they revealed an ability for cooperation. Any collective action for common benefit or mutual profit is alien to them.135
The style of this prose tells more perhaps than Hamady intends. Verbs like "demonstrate," "reveal," "show," are used without an indirect object: to whom are the Arabs revealing, demonstrating, showing? To no one in particular, obviously, but to everyone in general. This is another way of saying that these truths are selfevident only to a privileged or initiated observer, since nowhere does Hamady cite generally available evidence for her observations. Besides, given the inanity of the observations, what sort of evidence could there be? As her prose moves along, her tone increases in confidence: "Any collective action ...is alien to them." The categories harden, the assertions are more unyielding, and the Arabs have been totally transformed from people into no more than the putative subject of Hamady's style. The Arabs exist only as an occasion for the tyrannical observer: "The world is my idea."
And so it is throughout the work of the contemporary Orientalist: assertions of the most bizarre sort dot his or her pages, whether it is a Manfred Halpern arguing that even though all human thought processes can be reduced to eight, the Islamic mind is capable of only four,136 or a Morroe Berger presuming that since the Arabic language is much given to rhetoric Arabs are consequently incapable of true thought."137 One can call these assertions myths in their function and structure, and yet one must try to understand what other imperatives govern their use. Here one is speculating, of course. Orientalist generalizations about the Arabs are very detailed when it comes to itemizing Arab characteristics critically, far less so when it comes to analyzing Arab strengths. The Arab family, Arab rhetoric, the Arab character, despite copious descriptions by the Orientalist, appear denatured, without human potency, even as these same descriptions possess a fullness and depth in their sweeping power over the subject matter. Hamady again:
Thus, the Arab lives in a hard and frustrating environment. He has little chance to develop his potentialities and define his position in society, holds little belief in progress and change, and finds salvation only in the hereafter.138
What the Arab cannot achieve himself is to be found in the writing about him. The Orientalist is supremely certain of his potential, is not a pessimist, is able to define his position, his own and the Arab's. The picture of the Arab Oriental that emerges is determinedly negative; yet, we ask, why this endless series of works on him? What grips the Orientalist, if it is not-as it certainly is not-love of Arab science, mind, society, achievement? In other words, what is the nature of Arab presence in mythic discourse about him?
Two things: number and generative power. Both qualities are reducible to each other ultimately, but we ought to separate them for the purposes of analysis. Almost without exception, every contemporary work of Orientalist scholarship (especially in the social sciences) has a great deal to say about the family, its maledominated structure, its all-pervasive influence in the society. Patai's work is a typical example. A silent paradox immediately presents itself, for if the family is an institution for whose general failures the only remedy is the placebo of "modernization," we must acknowledge that the family continues to produce itself, is fertile, and is the source of Arab existence in the world, such as it is. What Berger refers to as "the great value men place upon their own sexual prowess"139 suggests the lurking power behind Arab presence in the world. If Arab society is represented in almost completely negative and generally passive terms, to be ravished and won by the Orientalist hero, we can assume that such a representation is a way of dealing with the great variety and potency of Arab diversity, whose source is, if not intellectual and social, then sexual and biological. Yet the absolutely inviolable taboo in Orientalist discourse is that that very sexuality must never be taken seriously. It can never be explicitly blamed for the absence of achievement and "real" rational sophistication the Orientalist everywhere discovers among the Arabs. And yet this is, I think, the missing link in arguments whose main object is criticism of "traditional" Arab society, such as Hamady's, Berger's, and Lerner's. They recognize the power of the family, note the weaknesses of the Arab mind, remark the "importance" of the Oriental world to the West, but never say what their discourse implies, that what is really left to the Arab after all is said and done is an undifferentiated sexual drive. On rare occasions-as in the work of Leon Mugniery-we do find the implicit made clear: that there is a "powerful sexual appetite ...characteristic of those hot-blooded southerners."140 Most of the time, however, the belittlement of Arab society and its reduction of platitudes inconceivable for any except the racially inferior are carried on over an undercurrent of sexual exaggeration: the Arab produces himself, endlessly, sexually, and little else. The Orientalist says nothing about this, although his argument depends on it: "But co-operation in the Near East is still largely a family affair and little of it is found outside the blood group or village.141 Which is to say that the only way in which Arabs count is as mere biological beings; institutionally, politically, culturally they are nil, or next to nil. Numerically and as the producers of families, Arabs are actual.
The difficulty with this view is that it complicates the passivity amongst Arabs assumed by Orientalists like Patai and even Hamady and the others. But it is in the logic of myths, like dreams, exactly to welcome radical antitheses. For a myth does not analyze or solve problems. It represents them as already analyzed and solved; that is, it presents them as already assembled images, in the way a scarecrow is assembled from bric-a-brac and then made to stand for a man. Since the imageuses all material to its own end, and since by definition the myth displaces life, the antithesis between an overfertile Arab and a passive doll is not functional. The discourse papers over the antithesis. An Arab Oriental is that impossible creature whose libidinal energy drives him to paroxysms of overstimulation- and yet, he is as a puppet in the eyes of the world, staring vacantly out at a modern landscape he can neither understand nor cope with.
It is in recent discussions of Oriental political behavior that such an image of the Arab seems to be relevant, and it is often occasioned by scholarly discussion of those two recent favorites of Orientalist expertise, revolution and modernization. Under the auspices of the School of Oriental and African Studies there appeared in 1972 a volume entitledRevolution in the Middle East and Other Case Studies, edited by P. J. Vatikiotis. The title is overtly medical, for we are expected to think of Orientalists as finally being given the benefit of what "traditional" Orientalism usually avoided: psychoclinical attention. Vatikiotis sets the tone of the collection with a quasi-medical definition of revolution, but since Arab revolution is in his mind and in his readers', the hostility of the definition seems acceptable. There is a very clever irony here about which I shall speak later. Vatikiotis's theoretical support is Camus-whose colonial mentality was no friend of revolution or of the Arabs, as Conor Cruise O'Brien has recently shown-but the phrase "revolution destroys both men and principles" is accepted from Camus as having "fundamental sense." Vatikiotis continues:
...all revolutionary ideology is in direct conflict with (actually, is a head-on attack upon) man's rational, biological and psychological make-up.
Committed as it is to a methodical metastasis, revolutionary ideology demands fanaticism from its adherents. Politics for the revolutionary is not only a question of belief, or a substitute for religious belief. It must stop being what it has always been, namely, an adaptive activity in time for survival. Metastatic, soteriological politics abhors adaptiveness, for how else can it eschew the difficulties, ignore and bypass the obstacles of the complex biological-psychological dimension of man, or mesmerize his subtle though limited and vulnerable rationality? It fears and shins the concrete and discrete nature of human problems and the preoccupations of political life: it thrives on the abstract and the Promethean. It subordinates all tangible values to the one supreme value: the harnessing of man and history in a grand design of human liberation. It is not satisfied with human politics, which has so many irritating limitations. It wishes instead to create a new world, not adaptively, precariously, delicately, that is, humanly, but by a terrifying act of Olympian pseudo-divine creation. Politics in the service of man is a formula that is unacceptable to the revolutionary ideologue. Rather man exists to serve a politically contrived and brutally decreed order.142
Whatever else this passage says-purple writing of the most extreme sort, counterrevolutionary zealotry-it is saying nothing less than that revolution is a bad kind of sexuality (pseudo-divine act of creation), and also a cancerous disease. Whatever is done by the "human," according to Vatikiotis, is rational, right, subtle, discrete, concrete; whatever the revolutionary proclaims is brutal, irrational, mesmeric, cancerous. Procreation, change, and continuity are identified not only with sexuality and with madness but, a little paradoxically, with abstraction.
Vatikiotis's terms are weighted and colored emotionally by appeals (from the right) to humanity and decency and by appeals (against the left) safeguarding humanity from sexuality, cancer, madness, irrational violence, revolution. Since it is Arab revolution that is in question, we are, to read the passage as follows: This is what revolution is, and if the Arabs want it, then that is a fairly telling comment on them, on the kind of inferior race they are. They are only capable of sexual incitement and not of Olympian (Western, modern) reason. The irony of which I spoke earlier now comes into play, for a few pages later we find that the Arabs are so inept that they cannot even aspire to, let alone consummate, the ambitions of revolution. By implication, Arab sexuality need not be feared for itself but for its failure. In short, Vatikiotis asks his reader to believe that revolution in the Middle East is a threat precisely because revolution cannot be attained.
The major source of political conflict and potential revolution in many countries of the Middle East, as well as Africa and Asia today, is the inability of so-called radical nationalist regimes and movements to manage, let alone resolve, the social, economic and political problems of independence.... Until the states in the Middle East can control their economic activity and create or produce their own technology, their access to revolutionary experience will remain limited. The very political categories essential to a revolution will be lacking.143
Damned if you do, and damned if you don't. In this series of dissolving definitions revolutions emerge as figments of sexually crazed minds which on closer analysis turn out not to be capable even of the craziness Vatikiotis truly respects-which is human, not Arab, concrete, not abstract, asexual, not sexual.
The scholarly centerpiece of Vatikiotis's collection is Bernard Lewis's essay "Islamic Concepts of Revolution." The strategy here appears refined. Many readers will know that for Arabic speakers today the wordthawra and its immediate cognates mean revolution; they will know this also from Vatikiotis's introduction. Yet Lewis does not describe the meaning ofthawra until the very end of his article, after he has discussed concepts such asdawla, fitna, andbughat in their historical and mostly religious context. The point there is mainly that "the Western doctrine of the right to resist bad government is alien to Islamic thought," which leads to "defeatism" and "quietism" as political attitudes. At no point in the essay is one sure where all these terms are supposed to be taking place except somewhere in the history of words. Then near the end of the essay we have this:
In the Arabic-speaking countries a different word was used for [revolution]thawra. The rootth-w-r in classical Arabic meant to rise up (e.g. of a camel), to be stirred or excited, and hence, especially in Maghribi usage, to rebel. It is often used in the context of establishing a petty, independent sovereignty; thus, for example, the so-called party kings who ruled in eleventh century Spain after the break-up of the Caliphate of Cordova are calledthuwwar (sing.tha'ir). The nounthawra at first means excitement, as in the phrase, cited in the Sihah, a standard medieval Arabic dictionary,intazir hatta taskun hadhihi 'lthawra, wait till this excitement dies down-a very apt recommendation. The verb is used by al-Iji, in the form ofthawaran oritharat fitna, stirring up sedition, as one of the dangers which should discourage a man from practising the duty of resistance to bad government.Thawra is the term used by Arabic writers in the nineteenth century for the French Revolution, and by their successors for the approved revolutions, domestic and foreign, of our own time.144
The entire passage is full of condescension and bad faith. Why introduce the idea of a camel rising as an etymological root for modern Arab revolution except as a clever way of discrediting the modern? Lewis's reason is patently to bring down revolution from its contemporary valuation to nothing more noble (or beautiful) than a camel about to raise itself from the ground. Revolution is excitement, sedition, setting up a petty sovereignty-nothing more; the best counsel (which presumably only a Western scholar and gentleman can give) is "wait till the excitement dies down." One wouldn't know from this slighting account ofthawra that innumerable people have an active commitment to it, in ways too complex for even Lewis's sarcastic scholarship to comprehend. But it is this kind of essentialized description that is natural for students and policymakers concerned with the Middle East: that revolutionary stirrings among "the Arabs" are about as consequential as a camel's getting up, as worthy of attention as the babblings of yokels. All the canonical Orientalist literature will for the same ideological reason be unable to explain or prepare one for the confirming revolutionary upheaval in the Arab world in the twentieth century.
Lewis's association ofthawra with a camel rising and generally with excitement (and not with a struggle on behalf of values) hints much more broadly than is usual for him that the Arab is scarcely more than a neurotic sexual being. Each of the words or phrases he uses to describe revolution is tinged with sexuality:stirred, excited, rising up. But for the most part it is a "bad" sexuality he ascribes to the Arab. In the end, since Arabs are really not equipped for serious action, their sexual excitement is no more noble than a camel's rising up.Instead of revolution there is sedition, setting up a petty sovereignty, and more excitement, which is as much as saying that instead of copulation the Arab can only achieve foreplay, masturbation, coitus interruptus. These, I think, are Lewis's implications, no matter how innocent his sir of learning, or parlorlike his language.For since he is so sensitive to the nuances of words, he must be aware that his words have nuances as well.
Lewis is an interesting case to examine further because his standing in the political world of the Anglo-American Middle Eastern Establishment is that of the learned Orientalist, and everything he writes is steeped in the "authority" of the field. Yet for at least a decade and a half his work in the main has been aggressively ideological, despite his various attempts at subtlety and irony. I mention his recent writing as a perfect exemplification of the academic whose work purports to be liberal objective scholarship but is in reality very close to being propaganda against his subject material. But this should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of Orientalism; it is only the latest-and in the West, the most uncriticized-of the scandals of "scholarship."
So intent has Lewis become upon his project to debunk, to whittle down, and to discredit the Arabs and Islam that even his energies as a scholar and historian seem to have failed him. He will, for example, publish a chapter called "The Revolt of Islam" in a book in 1964, then republish much of the same material twelve years later, slightly altered to suit the new place of publication (in this case Commentary) and retitled "The Return of Islam." From "Revolt" to "Return" is of course a change for the worse, a change intended by Lewis to explain to his latest public why it is that the Muslims (or Arabs) still will not settle down and accept Israeli hegemony over the Near East.
Let us look more closely at how he does this. In both of his pieces he mentions an anti-imperialist riot in Cairo in 1945, which in both cases he describes as anti-Jewish. Yet in neither instance does he tell us how it was anti-Jewish; in fact, as his material evidence for anti-Jewishness, he produces the somewhat surprising intelligence that "several churches, Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox, were attacked and damaged." Consider the first version, done in 1964:
On November 2, 1945 political leaders in Egypt called for demonstrations on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.These rapidly developed into anti-Jewish riots, in the course of which a Catholic, an Armenian, and a Greek Orthodox church were attacked and damaged. What, it may be asked, had Catholics, Armenians and Greeks to do with the Balfour Declaration?145
And now theCommentary version, done in 1976:
As the nationalist movement has become genuinely popular, so it has become less national and more religious-in other words less Arab and more Islamic. In moments of crisis-and these have been many in recent decades-it is the instinctive communal loyalty which outweighs all others. A few examples may suffice. On November 2, 1945, demonstrations were held in Egypt [note here how the phrase "demonstrations were held" is an attempt to show instinctive loyalties; in the previous version "political leaders" were responsible for the deed] on the anniversary of the issue by the British Government of the Balfour Declaration. Though this was certainly not the intention of the political leaders who sponsored it, the demonstration soon developed into an anti-Jewish riot and the anti-Jewish riot into a more general outbreak in the course of which several churches, Catholic, Armenian, and Greek Orthodox [another instructive change: the impression here is that many churches, of three kinds, were attacked; the earlier version is specific about three churches], were attacked and damaged.146
Lewis's polemical, not scholarly, purpose is to show, here and elsewhere, that Islam is an anti-Semitic ideology, not merely a religion. He has a little logical difficulty in trying to assert that Islam is a fearful mass phenomenon and at the same time "not genuinely popular," but this problem does not detain him long. As the second version of his tendentious anecdote shows, he goes on to proclaim that Islam is an irrational herd or mass phenomenon, ruling Muslims by passions, instincts, and unreflecting hatreds. The whole point of his exposition is to frighten his audience, to make it never yield an inch to Islam. According to Lewis, Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they merely are, and they are to be watched, on account of that pure essence of theirs (according to Lewis), which happens to include a long-standing hatred of Christians and Jews. Lewis everywhere restrains himself from making such inflammatory statements fiat out; he always takes care to say that of course the Muslims are not anti-Semitic the way the Nazis were, but their religion can too easily accommodate itself to anti-Semitism and has done so.Similarly with regard to Islam and racism, slavery, and other more or less "Western" evils. The core of Lewis's ideology about Islam is that it never changes, and his whole mission is now to inform conservative segments of the Jewish reading public, and anyone else who cares to listen, that any political, historical, and scholarly account of Muslims must begin and end with the fact that Muslims are Muslims.
For to admit that an entire civilization can have religion as its primary loyalty is too much.Even to suggest such a thing is regarded as offensive by liberal opinion, always ready to take protective umbrage on behalf of those whom it regards as its wards. This is reflected in the present inability, political, journalistic, and scholarly alike, to recognize the importance of the factor of religion in the current affairs of the Muslim world and in the consequent recourse to the language of left-wing and rightwing, progressive and conservative, and the rest of the Western terminology, the use of which in explaining Muslim political phenomena is about as accurate and as enlightening as an account of a cricket match by a baseball correspondent. [Lewis is so fond of this last simile that he quotes it verbatim from his 1964 polemic.]147
In a later work Lewis tells us what terminology is more accurate and useful, although the terminology seems no less "Western" (whatever "Western" means): Muslims, like most other former colonial peoples, are incapable of telling the truth or even of seeing it.According to Lewis, they are addicted to mythology, along with "the so-called revisionist school in the United States, which look back to a golden age of American virtue and ascribe virtually all the sins and crimes of the world to the present establishment in their country.148 Aside from being a mischievous and totally inaccurate account of revisionist history, this kind of remark is designed to put Lewis as a great historian above the petty underdevelopment of mere Muslims and revisionists.
Yet so far as being accurate is concerned, and so far as living up to his own rule that "the scholar, however, will not give way to his prejudices,"149 Lewis is cavalier with himself and with his cause. He will, for example, recite the Arab case against Zionism (using the "in" language of the Arab nationalist) without at the same time mentioning-anywhere, in any of his writings-that there was such a thing as a Zionist invasion and colonization of Palestine despite and in conflict with the native Arab inhabitants. No Israeli would deny this, but Lewis the Orientalist historian simply leaves it out. He will speak of the absence of democracy in the Middle East, except for Israel, without ever mentioning the Emergency Defense Regulations used in Israel to rule the Arabs; nor has he anything to say about "preventive detention" of Arabs in Israel, nor about the dozens of illegal settlements on the militarily occupied West Bank of Gaza, nor about the absence of human rights for Arabs, principal among them the right of immigration, in former Palestine. Instead, Lewis allows himself the scholarly liberty to say that "imperialism and Zionism [so far as the Arabs are concerned were] long familiar under their older names as the Christians and Jews."150 He quotes T. E. Lawrence on "the Semites" to bolster his case against Islam, he never discusses Zionism in parallel with Islam (as if Zionism were a French, not a religious, movement), and he tries everywhere to demonstrate that any revolution anywhere is at best a form of "secular millenarianism."
One would find this kind of procedure less objectionable as political propaganda-which is what it is, of course--were it not accompanied by sermons on the objectivity, the fairness, the impartiality of a real historian, the implication always being that Muslims and Arabs cannot be objective but that Orientalists like Lewis writing about Muslims and Arabs are, by definition, by training, by the mere fact of their Westernness. This is the culmination of Orientalism as a dogma that not only degrades its subject matter but also blinds its practitioners. But let us listen finally to Lewis telling us how the historian ought to conduct himself. We may well ask whether it is only the Orientals who are subject to the prejudices he chastises.
[The historian's] loyalties may well influence his choice of subject of research; they should not influence his treatment of it. If, in the course of his researches, he finds that the group with which he identifies himself is always right, and those other groups with which it is in conflict are always wrong, then he would be well advised to question his conclusions, and to reexamine the hypothesis on the basis of which he selected and interpreted his evidence; for it is not in the nature of human communities [presumably, also, the community of Orientalists] always to be right.
Finally the historian must be fair and honest in the way he presents his story. That is not to say that he must confine himself to a bare recital of definitely established facts. At many stages in his work the historian must formulate hypotheses and make judgments. The important thing is that he should do so consciously and explicitly, reviewing the evidence for and against his conclusions, examining the various possible interpretations, and stating explicitly what his decision is, and how and why he reached it.151
To look for a conscious, fair, and explicit judgment by Lewis of the Islam he has treated as he has treated it is to look in vain. He prefers to work, as we have seen, by suggestion and insinuation. One suspects, however, that he is unaware of doing this (except perhaps with regard to "political" matters like pro-Zionism, anti-Arab nationalism, and strident Cold Warriorism), since he would be certain to say that the whole history of Orientalism, of whom he is the beneficiary, has made these insinuations and hypotheses into indisputable truths.
Perhaps the most indisputable of these rock-bottom "truths," and the most peculiar (since it is hard to believe it could be maintained for any other language), is that Arabic as a language is a dangerous ideology. The contemporary locus classicus for this view of Arabic is E. Shouby's essay "The Influence of the Arabic Language on the Psychology of the Arabs."152 The author is described as "a psychologist with training in both Clinical and Social Psychology," and one presumes that a main reason his views have such wide currency is that he is an Arab himself (a self-incriminating one, at that). The argument he proposes is lamentably simpleminded, perhaps because he has no notion of what language is and how it operates. Nevertheless the subheadings of his essay tell a good deal of his story; Arabic is characterized by "General vagueness of Thought," "Overemphasis on Linguistic Signs," "Overassertion and Exaggeration." Shouby is frequently quoted as an authority because he speaks like one and because what he hypostasizes is a sort of mute Arab who at the same time is a great word-master playing games without much seriousness or purpose. Muteness is an important part of what Shouby is talking about, since in his entire paper he never once quotes from the literature of which the Arab is so inordinately proud. Where, then, does Arabic influence the Arab mind? Exclusively within the mythological world created for the Arab by Orientalism. The Arab is a sign for dumbness combined with hopeless overarticulateness, poverty combined with excess. That such a result can be attained by philological means testifies to the sad end of a formerly complex philological tradition, exemplified today only in very rare individuals. The reliance of today's Orientalist on "philology" is the last infirmity of a scholarly discipline completely transformed into social-science ideological expertise.
In everything I have been discussing, the language of Orientalism plays the dominant role. It brings opposites together as "natural," it presents human types in scholarly idioms and methodologies, it ascribes reality and reference to objects (other words) of its own making. Mythic language is discourse, that is, it cannot be anything but systematic; one does not really make discourse at will, or statements in it, without first belonging-in some cases unconsciously, but at any rate involuntarily-to the ideology and the institutions that guarantee its existence. These latter ate always the institutions of an advanced society dealing with a less advanced society, a strong culture encountering a weak one. The principal feature of mythic discourse is that it conceals its own origins as well as those of what it describes. "Arabs" are presented in the imagery of static, almost ideal types, and neither as creatures with a potential in the process of being realized nor as history being made. The exaggerated value heaped upon Arabic as a language permits the Orientalist to make the language equivalent to mind, society, history, and nature. For the Orientalist the language speaks the Arab Oriental, not vice versa.
- Orientals Orientals Orientals. The system of ideological fictions I have been calling Orientalism has serious implications not only because it is intellectually discreditable. For the United States today is heavily invested in the Middle East, more heavily than anywhere else on earth: the Middle East experts who advise policy-makers are imbued with Orientalism almost to a person. Most of this investment, appropriately enough, is built on foundations of sand, since the experts instruct policy on the basis of such marketable abstractions as political elites, modernization, and stability, most of which are simply the old Orientalist stereotypes dressed up in policy jargon, and most of which have been completely inadequate to describe what took place recently in Lebanon or earlier in Palestinian popular resistance to Israel. The Orientalist now tries to see the Orient as an imitation West which, according to Bernard Lewis, can only improve itself when its nationalism "is prepared to come to terms with the West."153 If in the meantime the Arabs, the Muslims, or the Third and Fourth Worlds go unexpected ways after all, we will not be surprised to have an Orientalist tell us that this testifies to the incorrigibility of Orientals and therefore proves that they are not to be trusted.
The methodological failures of Orientalism cannot be accounted for either by saying that the real Orient is different from Orientalist portraits of it, or by saying that since Orientalists are Westerners for the most part, they cannot be expected to have an inner sense of what the Orient is all about. Both of these propositions are false. It is not the thesis of this book to suggest that there is such a thing as a real or true Orient (Islam, Arab, or whatever); nor is it to make an assertion about the necessary privilege of an "insider" perspective over an "outsider" one, to use Robert K. Merton's useful distinction. On the contrary, I have been arguing that "the Orient" is itself a constituted entity, and that the notion that there are geographical spaces with indigenous, radically "different" inhabitants who can be defined on the basis of some religion, culture, or racial essence proper to that geographical space is equally a highly debatable idea. I certainly do not believe the limited proposition that only a black can write about blacks, a Muslim about Muslims, and so forth.
And yet despite its failures, its lamentable jargon, its scarcely concealed racism, its paper-thin intellectual apparatus, Orientalism flourishes today in the forms I have tried to describe. Indeed, there is some reason for alarm in the fact that its influence has spread to "the Orient" itself: the pages of books and journals in Arabic (and doubtless in Japanese, various Indian dialects, and other Oriental languages) are filled with second-order analyses by Arabs of "the Arab mind," "Islam," and other myths. Orientalism has also spread in the United States now that Arab money and resources have added considerable glamour to the traditional "concern" felt for the strategically important Orient. The fact is that Orientalism has been successfully accommodated to the new imperialism, where its ruling paradigms do not contest, and even confirm, the continuing imperial design to dominate Asia.
In the one part of the Orient that I can speak about with some direct knowledge, the accommodation between the intellectual class and the new imperialism might very well be accounted one of the special triumphs of Orientalism. The Arab world today is an intellectual, political, and cultural satellite of the United States. This is not in itself something to be lamented; the specific form of the satellite relationship, however, is. Consider first of all that universities in the Arab world are generally run according to some pattern inherited from, or once directly imposed by, a former colonial power. New circumstances make the curricular actualities almost grotesque: classes populated with hundreds of students, badly trained, overworked, and underpaid faculty, political appointments, the almost total absence of advanced research and of research facilities, and most important, the lack of a single decent library in the entire region. Whereas Britain and France once dominated intellectual horizons in the East by virtue of their prominence and wealth, it is now the United States that occupies that place, with the result that the few promising students who manage to make it through the system are encouraged to come to the United States to continue their advanced work. And while it is certainly true that some students from the Arab world continue to go to Europe to study, the sheer numerical preponderance comes to the United States; this is as true of students from so-called radical states as it is of students from conservative states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Besides, the patronage system in scholarship, business, and research makes the United States a virtual hegemonic commander of affairs; the source, however much it may not be a real source, is considered to be the United States.
Two factors make the situation even more obviously a triumph of Orientalism. Insofar as one can make a sweeping generalization, the felt tendencies of contemporary culture in the Near East are guided by European and American models. When Taha Hussein said of modern Arab culture in 1936 that it was European, not Eastern, he was registering the identity of the Egyptian cultural elite, of which he was so distinguished a member. The same is true of the Arab cultural elite today, although the powerful current of anti-imperialist Third World ideas that has gripped the region since the early 1950s has tempered the Western edge of the dominant culture. In addition, the Arab and Islamic world remains a second-order power in terms of the production of culture, knowledge, and scholarship. Here one must be completely realistic about using the terminology of power politics to describe the situation that obtains. No Arab or Islamic scholar can afford to ignore what goes on in scholarly journals, .institutes, and universities in the United States and Europe; the converse is not true. For example, there is no major journal of Arab studies published in the Arab world today, just as there is no Arab educational institution capable of challenging places like Oxford, Harvard, or UCLA in the study of the Arab world, much less in any non-Oriental subject matter. The predictable result of all this is that Oriental students (and Oriental professors) still want to come and sit at the feet of American Orientalists, and later to repeat to their local audiences the clichés I have been characterizing as Orientalist dogmas. Such a system of reproduction makes it inevitable that the Oriental scholar will use his American training to feel superior to his own people because he is able to "manage" the Orientalist system; in his relations with his superiors, the European or American Orientalists, he will remain only a "native informant." And indeed this is his role in the West, should he be fortunate enough to remain there after his advanced training. Most elementary courses in Oriental languages are taught by "native informants" in United States universities today; also, power in the system (in universities, foundations, and the like) is held almost exclusively by non-Orientals, although the numerical ratio of Oriental to non-Oriental resident professionals does not favor the latter so overwhelmingly.
There are all kinds of other indications of how the cultural domination is maintained, as much by Oriental consent as by direct and crude economic pressure from the United States. It is sobering to find, for instance, that while there are dozens of organizations in the United States for studying the Arab and Islamic Orient, there are none in the Orient itself for studying the United States, by far the greatest economic and political influence in the region. Worse, there are scarcely any institutes of even modest stature in the Orient devoted to study of the Orient. But all this, I think, is small in comparison with the second factor contributing to the triumph of Orientalism: the fact of consumerism in the Orient. The Arab and Islamic world as a whole is hooked into the Western market system. No one needs to be reminded that oil, the region's greatest resource, has been totally absorbed into the United States economy.By that I mean not only that the great oil companies are controlled by the American economic system; I mean also that Arab oil revenues, to say nothing of marketing, research, and industry management, are based in the United States. This has effectively made the oil-rich Arabs into huge customers of American exports: this is as true of states in the Persian Gulf as it is of Libya, Iraq, and Algeriaradical states all. My point is that the relationship is a one-sided one, with the United States a selective customer of a very few products (oil and cheap manpower, mainly), the Arabs highly diversified consumers of a vast range of United States products, material and ideological:
This has had many consequences. There is a vast standardization of taste in the region, symbolized not only by transistors, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola but also by cultural images of the Orient supplied by American mass media and consumed unthinkingly by the mass television audience. The paradox of an Arab regarding himself as an "Arab" of the sort put out by Hollywood is but the simplest result of what I am referring to. Another result is that the Western market economy and its consumer.Orientation have produced (and are producing at an accelerating rate) a class of educated people whose intellectual formation is directed to satisfying market needs. There is a heavy emphasis on engineering, business, and economics, obviously enough; but the intelligentsia itself is auxiliary to what it considers to be the main trends stamped out in the West. Its role has been prescribed and set for it as a "modernizing" one, which means that it gives legitimacy and authority to ideas about modemization, progress, and culture that it receives from the United States for the most part. Impressive evidence for this is found in the social sciences and, surprisingly enough, among radical intellectuals whose Marxism is taken wholesale from Marx's own homogenizing view of the Third World, as I discussed it earlier in this book. So if all told there is an intellectual acquiescence in the images and doctrines of Orientalism, there is also a very powerful reinforcement of this in economic, political, and social exchange: the modern Orient, in short, participates in its own Orientalizing.
But in conclusion, what of some alternative to Orientalism? Is this book an argument only against something, and not for something positive? Here and there in the course of this book I have spoken about "decolonializing" new departures in the so-called area studies-the work of Anwar Abdel Malek, the studies published by members of the Hull group on Middle Eastern studies, the innovative analyses and proposals of various scholars in Europe, the United States, and the Near East155 -but I have not attempted to do more than mention them or allude to them quickly. My project has been to describe a particular system of ideas, not by any means to displace the system with a new one. In addition, I have attempted to raise a whole set of questions that are relevant in discussing the problems of human experience: How does one represent other cultures? What is another culture? Is the notion of a distinct culture (or race, or religion, or civilization) a useful one, or does it always get involved either in self-congratulation (when one discusses one's own) or hostility and aggression (when one discusses the "other")? Do cultural, religious, and racial differences matter more than socio-economic categories, or politicohistorical ones? How do ideas acquire authority, "normality," and even the status of "natural" truth? What is the role of the intellectual? Is he there to validate the culture and state of which he is a part? What importance must he give to an independent critical consciousness, an oppositional critical consciousness?
I hope that some of my answers to these questions have been implicit in the foregoing, but perhaps I can speak a little more explicitly about some of them here. As I have characterized it in this study, Orientalism calls in question not only the possibility of nonpolitical scholarship but also the advisability of too close a relationship between the scholar and the state. It is equally apparent, I think, that the circumstances making Orientalism a continuingly persuasive type of thought will persist: a rather depressing matter on the whole. Nevertheless there is some rational expectation in my own mind that Orientalism need not always be so unchallenged, intellectually, ideologically, and politically, as it has been. .
I would not have undertaken a book of this sort if I did not also believe that there is scholarship that is not as corrupt, or at least as blind to human reality, as the kind I have been mainly depicting. Today there are many individual scholars working in such fields as Islamic history, religion, civilization, sociology, and anthropology whose production is deeply valuable as scholarship. The trouble sets in when the guild tradition of Orientalism takes over the scholar who is not vigilant, whose individual consciousness as a scholar is not on guard against idées reçues all too easily handed down in the profession. Thus interesting work is most likely to be produced by scholars whose allegiance is to a discipline defined intellectually and not to a "field" like Orientalism defined either canonically, imperially, or geographically. An excellent recent instance is the anthropology of Clifford Geertz, whose interest in Islam is discrete and concrete enough to be animated by the specific societies and problems he studies and not by the rituals, preconceptions, and doctrines of Orientalism.
On the other hand, scholars and critics who are trained in the traditional Orientalist disciplines are perfectly capable of freeing themselves from the old ideological straitjacket. Jacques Berque's and Maxime Rodinson's training ranks with the most rigorous available, but what invigorates their investigations even of traditional problems is their methodological self-consciousness. For if Orientalism has historically been too smug, too insulated, too positivistically confident in its ways and its premises; then one way of opening oneself to what one studies in or about the Orient is reflexively to submit one's method to critical scrutiny. This is what characterizes Berque and Rodinson, each in his own way. What one finds in their work is always, first of all, a direct sensitivity to the material before them, and then a continual self-examination of their methodology and practice, a constant attempt to keep their work responsive to the material and not to a doctrinal preconception. Certainly Berque and Rodinson, as well as Abdel Malek and Roger Owen, are aware too that the study of man and society-whether Oriental or not-is best conducted in the broad field of all the human sciences; therefore these scholars are critical readers, and students of what goes on in other fields. Berque's attention to recent discoveries in structural anthropology, Rodinson's to sociology and political theory, Owen's to economic history: all these are instructive correctives brought from the contemporary human sciences to the study of so-called Oriental problems.
But there is no avoiding the fact that even if we disregard the Orientalist distinctions between "them" and "us," a powerful series of political and ultimately ideological realities inform scholarship today. No one can escape dealing with, if not the East/West division, then the North/South one, the have/have-not one, the imperialist/anti-imperialist one, the white/colored one. We cannot get around them all by pretending they do not exist; on the contrary, contemporary Orientalism teaches us a great deal about the intellectual dishonesty of dissembling on that score, the result of which is to intensify the divisions and make them both vicious and permanent. Yet an openly polemical and right-minded "progressive" scholarship can very easily degenerate into dogmatic slumber, a prospect that is not edifying either.
My own sense of the problem is fairly shown by the kinds of questions I formulated above. Modern thought and experience have taught us to be sensitive to what is involved in representation, in studying the other, in racial thinking, in unthinking and uncritical acceptance of authority and authoritative ideas, in the sociopolitical role of intellectuals, in the great value of a skeptical critical consciousness. Perhaps if we remember that the study of human experience usually has an ethical, to say nothing of a political, consequence in either the best or worst sense, we will not be indifferent to what we do as scholars.And what better norm for the scholar than human freedom and knowledge? Perhaps too we should remember that the study of man in society is based on concrete human history and experience, not on donnish abstractions, or on obscure laws or arbitrary systems. The problem then is to make the study fit and in some way be shaped by the experience, which would be illuminated and perhaps changed by the study. At all costs, the goal of Orientalizing the Orient again and again is to be avoided, with consequences that cannot help but refine knowledge and reduce the scholar's conceit. Without "the Orient" there would be scholars, critics, intellectuals, human beings, for whom the racial, ethnic, and national distinctions were less important than the common enterprise of promoting human community.
Positively, I do believe-and in my other work have tried to show -that enough is being done today in the human sciences to provide the contemporary scholar with insights, methods, and ideas that could dispense with racial, ideological, and imperialist stereotypes of the sort provided during its historical ascendancy by Orientalism. I consider Orientalism's failure to have been a human as much as an intellectual one; for in having to take up a position of irreducible opposition to a region of the world it considered alien to its own, Orientalism failed to identify with human experience, failed also to see it as human experience. The worldwide hegemony of Orientalism and all it stands for can now be challenged, if we can benefit properly from, the general twentieth-century rise to political and historical awareness of so many of the earth's peoples. If this book has any future use, it will be as a modest contribution to that challenge, and as a warning: that systems of thought like Orientalism, discourses of power, ideological fictionsmind-forg'd manacles-are all too easily made, applied, and guarded. Above all, I hope to have shown my reader that the answer to Orientalism is not Occidentalism. No former "Oriental" will be comforted by the thought that having been an Oriental himself he is likely-too likely-to study new "Orientals"-or "Occidentals"-of his own making. If the knowledge of Orientalism has any meaning, it is in being a reminder of the seductive degradation of knowledge, of any knowledge, anywhere, at any time.Now perhaps more than before.