Academic journal article Text Matters

Edward Said and the Margins

Academic journal article Text Matters

Edward Said and the Margins

Article excerpt

The feeling of being on the edge of something could be the signature of the complicated times we inhabit. Fringes of experiences, speculations, memories and histories-call it by any other name; limits, edges, borders, frontiers or margins of all kinds-are thresholds waiting to be crossed, spaces rife with the seductive aura of transgression. As the twilight which invades both night and day, margins infiltrate the centre and the core expands to the periphery. Fred Dallmayr points out that "margins of political discourse . . . designate those border-zones or crossroads where attentiveness and creative initiative intersect and where the stakes of meaning and non-meaning, order and disorder have to be continually renegotiated" (ix). Jacques Derrida in The Truth in Painting illuminates that, when we look at a painting we take the frame to be part of the wall, yet when we look at the wall the frame is taken to be part of the painting, the parergon is neither work (ergon) nor outside the work (hors d'oeuvre), neither inside or outside, neither above nor below, it disconcerts any opposition but does not remain indeterminate and it gives rise to the work (61). Voices from the margins will demand to be heard and will demand that the nuances they offer be taken into account. Spaces on margins have to be occupied to reclaim lived spaces as localization of radical openness and possibility. Margins are "both sites of resistance and sites of repression" (hooks 151) and are seen as "an intervention."

A message from that space in the margin that is a site of creativity and power, that inclusive space where we recover ourselves, where we move in solidarity to erase the category colonizer/colonized. Marginality as site of resistance. Enter that space. Let us meet there. Enter that space. We greet you as liberators. (hooks 152)

This paper attempts to explore how Edward Said negotiated with "margins" of varied forms in his critical output. It looks into the "art/act of crossing" borders along textual, political and cultural margins.

Edward Said was a "border intellectual" par excellence. The broadness of Said's approach to literature and his other great love, classical music, eludes easy categorization. Said's influence, however, was far from being confined to the worlds of academic and scholarly discourse. He distinguished himself as an opera critic, pianist, television celebrity, politician, media expert, popular essayist and public lecturer. His interests ranged from intellectual history to current affairs, from philosophical to journalistic discourse. Said thrived on creative, often strategically, selective eclecticism. Abdirahman Hussein notes that

Said often conjoins in the same sentence or paragraph . . . epistemological with ethical concerns, materialist constructions with speculative leaps, or existentialist self-definitions with broad socio-political matters, given this lack of respect for traditional boundaries between genres, modes of enquiry, and areas of intellectual combat, what grid or criterion does one use and to what specific interpretive end? (Edward Said 2)

The "in-between zone" was vital to Said not only in its geographical and political designations but also in its subtler cultural, historical, epistemological and ontological connotations. It is not an indication of ambiguity, neutrality or passivity but an active field of engagement deployed as an instrument of ideology critique. His multi-vectored methodology is thus an empowering one. Said's life was one always "between worlds," crisscrossing boundaries, constantly incurring the risk of falling offone side or the other side of the limit while undoing, redoing, modifying this limit. His "voyage in" invited danger and reputation as "professor of terror"!

Said was a "cultural amphibian," who exulted in the role of the "humanist gadfly," challenging experts in their carefully guarded territories (Marrouchi, Edward Said 24). He reiterated the Adornian stance that "for a man who no longer has a homeland, writing becomes a place to live" (Reflections 568). …

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