Wed 7 May 2008
A very positive review of Daniel Martin Varisco’s recent book Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (University of Washington Press 2007), appears in this week’s issue of the prestigious Times Literary Supplement. In his examination of the evidence and logic of Edward Said’s argument in his classic book Orientalism, first published in 1978, Varisco provides an evenhanded exploration of the subject, thirty years on.
Aside from minor quibbles concerning Varisco’s tendency to pun (a common trait, regretfully, among scholars associated with the University of Chicago’s Anthropology Department), Robert Irwin, the Middle East editor of the TLS, praises the book’s careful research and insight. “Varisco’s book,” he concludes, referring in part to its magnificently detailed and informative footnotes, “makes for exhilarating reading.”
Given the tendency of right-wing pundits to claim that contemporary academe has fallen for Said hook, line, and sinker, what is one to make of a thoughtful and sensitive critique from within? Could it be that the field of contemporary Middle East Studies is no more homogenous and globally misguided than the field Said himself identified as “Orientalism”?