Gary Kamiya’s article over at Salon entitled “How Edward Said Took Intellectuals For A Ride”:http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2006/12/06/orientalism/ has a nice write up of Robert Irwin’s new book “Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism And Its Discontents”:http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Knowledge-Orientalism-Its-Discontents/dp/158567835X/sr=8-1/qid=1165774790/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-0032906-7355009?ie=UTF8&s=books. As is well known, Irwin’s book has been the focus of an enormous amount of attention after he was stung to death by a sting ray while filming his latest ‘Crocodile Hunter’ special. No just kidding that was Steve Irwin. Robert Irwin’s book caused a stir because it is — or so I’m told — a good book which criticizes Said.
Said, like Derrida and to a lesser extent Foucault, is one of these thinkers that has a lot of lousy critics who seem to be upset more by the way their work challenges their comfortable subject positions than by anything Said said. Irwin shares Said’s substantive politics but takes issue with his analysis. It sounds like an interesting book.
The idea that struck me in Salon was the idea that Said was a keystone of the ‘oppositional canon’. We all know that for every lousy critic of Said there is a uncritical admirer for whom Said is an exemplar of what a non-Haole, leftist, decolonizing academic can and should be. But I’ve never seen a syllabus entitled “The Oppositional Canon: Theoretical Genealogies”.
What else should be on there? What are the classics of the oppositional canon? What are the key articles that people focus on? Fanon? Spivak? Fabian? Do we read Mbembe or Cesaire or both? And which of them? I have a good sense of this for the Pacific (or at least Hawai’i) but not in general. I suppose this is because, subject-position wise, I’m the guy that people are opposing (I checked out “Exemplars”:http://www.amazon.com/Exemplars-Rodney-Needham/dp/0520052005/sr=1-1/qid=1165776136/ref=sr_1_1/103-0032906-7355009?ie=UTF8&s=books from the library to read over the winter break – MWoRN ftw!!!). But as someone who is going to be teaching an “Empire Strikes Backs” section of a grad-level theory course, what do you think I should be teaching?