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Edward Said

Said expressed the true tragedy of the postcolonial intellectual

By David Herman   November 2003

In death, as in life, Edward Said polarised opinion. Indeed, it is hard to think of any other major intellectual of the last 30 years who has so divided people. At least Noam Chomsky’s critics acknowledge the importance of his work in linguistics. With Said, there is little about his life or work that people agree on.

The recent obituaries tell the tale. To his admirers, mostly from the third world or the academic left, he was “a great scholar, a brilliant mind, … an uncompromising fighter on behalf of human dignity” (Hanan Ashrawi). The Independent called him “one of…

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