Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Republic: Refuting (or Trying to Refute) Said

On New Republic blog, Martin Peretz's recent jabs at Edward Said are almost too annoying to highlight, and yet buried in Peretz's chest thumping is his pointing fingers at Arab collectors and enthusiasts of Orientalist art. Peretz claims it is ironic that Arabs are the newest fans and supporters of the Orientalism Said tried to identify. The problem for me is that Peretz falls into the common trap of assuming Said wished to vilify this aesthetic. My understanding is that Said wished to label and identify varying aesthetics so that commonalities between peoples become clearer and more accurate. The uneven power structures that he spoke out against were bolstered by the West's aesthetic habit and practice of making "the East" a romantic blur, easily understood, and simple. With this observation about the popularity of Orientalist art in the Arab cultures, Peretz makes a weird intellectual leap to this situation being a "refutation" of Said's theories. If Arabs buy this art, how can it be "Orientalist"? A simplistic argument on every level.
So here is the connection with Orientalish. Frequently dancers aspire accepted or applauded by Arab audiences, friends, or perhaps relatives as a way of achieving "legitimacy." There is a weird subservience to "approval." One group's support or admiration is different from the others; and at the same time, those seeking legitimacy (in dancing) are making money either way. Peretz doesn't go into who is making the most profit out of these traveling exhibits. He changes the focus instead to distasteful jabs at Said's place of burial. Creepy.
The article: Another Refutation of the "Orientalist" Disputations of Edward Said.

Here is the article:

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