Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror — Hamid Dabashi's Official Website
Hamid Dabashi


Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror

By Hamid Dabashi
Transaction Publishers, 2008

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The Cover of Edward Said’s Orientalism

Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror is a sustained record of Hamid Dabashi’s reflections over many years on the question of authority and the power to represent. Who gets to represent whom and by what authority? When initiated in the most powerful military machinery in human history, the United States of America, already deeply engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, such militant acts of representation speak voluminously of a far more deeply rooted claim to normative and moral agency, a phenomenon that will have to be unearthed and examined. In his groundbreaking book, “Orientalism”, Edward Said traced the origin of this power of representation and the normative agency that it entails to the colonial hubris that carried a militant band of mercenary merchants, military officers, Christian missionaries, and European Orientalists around the globe, which enabled them to write and represent the people they thus sought to rule. The insights of Edward Said in “Orientalism” went a long way in explaining conditions of domination and representation from the classical colonial period in the 18th and 19th century to the time that he wrote his landmark study in the mid 1970’s. Though many of his insights still remain valid, Said’s observations need to be updated and mapped out to the events that led to the post-9/11 syndrome. Dabashi’s book is not as much a critique of colonial representation as it is of the manners and modes of fighting back and resisting it. This is not to question the significance of Orientalism and its principal concern with the colonial acts of representation, but to provide a different angle on Said’s entire oeuvre, an angle that argues for the primacy of the question of postcolonial agency. In Dabashi’s tireless attempt to reach for a mode of knowledge production at once beyond the legitimate questions raised about the sovereign subject and yet politically poignant and powerful, postcolonial agency is central. Dabashi’s contention is that the figure of an exilic intellectual is ultimately the paramount site for the cultivation of normative and moral agency with a sense of worldly presence. For Dabashi the figure of the exilic intellectual is paramount to produce counter-knowledge production in a time of terror.

Praise for Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror

In this stirring book, Hamid Dabashi defines the strength of “defiant subjects” by advancing one of the most committed readings of Edward Said’s life and works; calling for an unequivocal affirmation of exile, for “being at home in not being at home;” drawing a moving, critical portrait of Ignaz Goldziher; delivering a sparring homage to Gayatri Spivak in the name of “the polivocality of dissent;” elaborating “the creative constitution of a historical agency beyond the pale of colonial modernity” in the cinema of Mohsen Makhmalbaf; reclaiming transformative border-crossing, the “revolutionary hybridity” at work in the militant life of Che Guevara, Franz Fanon, Malcolm X, and Ali Shari’ati; and engaging the sorry state of knowledge production in the United States. Post-Orientalism is an impressive display of synthetic erudition, which attends to alternative and essential, but not essentialized, conversations with “changed interlocutors.” There is a war on, Dabashi tells us, but no sides to speak of. And so he shows himself, ever more compellingly and perhaps above all, as a “confessor of Oneness,” indeed, a universalist and “amphibian” intellectual.

— Gil Anidjar, author of The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy

In this fascinating and prodigious work, Hamid Dabashi offers a compelling analysis of the varied phases and modes of Orientalism and persuasively demonstrates the mutations in the evolving modes of knowledge production about Islam and the Middle East. But Post-Orientalism is much more than that. It successfully holds the difficult balance between theoretical sophistication and political engagement in its examination of the imaginary created by the specific manners of knowledge production in a world dominated by the United States, what he calls “an empire without hegemony.” Dabashi’s admirably well argued suggestion to decolonize our analytical apparatus and the need to attend to local geographies so as to develop cross-cultural conversations is substantiated by his critical but appreciative engagement with Edward Said’s, Gayatri Spivak’s and Ranajit Guha’s (and many others’) ideas and thus forges new avenues of research in postcolonial studies. He develops a stunning criticism of the nature of the symbolic imperialism exercised through the ideologies developed by figures such as Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, and Bernard Lewis. It is a conceptually and intellectually elegant, subtle and politically trenchant book and as such, it will interest everyone concerned with contemporary processes of global politics in a wide range of fields.

— Meyda Ye?eno?lu, author of Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism

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Array ( [2] => Array ( [title] => [text] => "A leading cultural observer." Washington Post "Our most prominent intellectual." Shirin Neshat "Renowned Columbia University scholar on Iranian culture." Boston Globe "Spectacular, important, and incisive. Dabashi's work is crucial for our times." Zillah Eisenstein
Ithaca College, NY
"Hamid Dabashi lovingly writes about the history of Iran that teaches us how to understand a people overshadowed by the grand narratives of political (mis)representation." Gayatri Spivak
Columbia University
"You are with a humanist who deeply loves his country, and invites you to feel very much at home." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Superb authority... Dabashi provides a tour de force on Iranian art, politics and culture." Shirin Neshat "Great erudition and imagination... bringing out rich aspects of Iranian culture that are little known or not recognized." Vanessa Martin, Royal Holloway
University of London
"Hamid Dabashi, is one of the most significant intellectual voices outside of Iran since the Islamic revolution." Shirin Neshat "A leading light in Iranian studies." The Chronicle of Higher Education "Cuts through the myths, past and present, that Americans have been told about Iran... presenting Iran's history through the lens of its literary cosmopolitanism." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Magisterial." Houchang Chehabi
Boston University
"An important man in New York." Sir Ridley Scott "Much-needed in our troubled times." Gayatri Spivak
Columbia University
"Exemplary of a new Leftist discourse that is undogmatic and non-sectarian... open and intimate." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Hamid Dabashi beautifully lays out the alluring dynamic between Iranian art and politics." Shirin Neshat "A rare cultural critic." Mohsen Makhmalbaf "Dabashi's passion and extraordinary vision, gives us the knowledge and commitment to stand against war and build the possibilities for peace and global justice." Zillah Eisenstein
Ithaca College, NY
"Hamid Dabashi's piercing revelations have been as instrumental in fashioning my own films as have Scorsese, Rossellini and Bresson." Ramin Bahrani "Superb and brilliant." Bruce Lawrence
Duke University
"Fresh, provocative and iconoclastic." Ian Richard Netton
University of Leeds, UK
"Learned... sparkles with verve and a sometimes punishing wit. Hamid Dabashi is the perfect guide." Edward W. Said "There are few better places to begin than with Dabashi's subtle and vividly presented wealth on Iran." Said Amir Arjomand
SUNY, New York
"Objective and empathetic... unlike many others on contemporary Iran." Ervand Abrahamian
Baruch College, New York
"Enthusiastic... clear and accurate... impressive." Oliver Leaman
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
"Original, creative and insightful." John L. Esposito
Georgetown University
"Extraordinary." Daniel Brumberg
Georgetown University
"Dabashi has an astonishing ability to range over some of the most complex issues of modern intellectual life." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"If anyone can lay claim to Nima Yushij's statement that this world is his home, it is Hamid Dabashi. I want a very broad readership to know the quality of his writing and thinking, of his immense epistemic and historical scholarship." Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Columbia University
"Dabashi is learned, poetic, ranging from philosophy to film, every word written with a commitment to the possibility of a just world. I have worked with him in the past and will work with him again in the future." Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi is one of the foremost exponent today of postcolonial critical theory, whose work deserves to be called post-colonial with all the multivalence of this description." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi's writings on Iranian culture and politics brilliantly re-imagine the rich heritage of a shared past and a conflicted present. His reflections on revolution and nationhood, poetry and cinema, philosophy and the sacred, are urgent, provocative, complex, and highly original." Timothy Mitchell
Columbia University
"Equally fluent in philosophical reasoning, literary interpretation, visual hermeneutics and writing with a rare combination of penetration and lyricism, Dabashi's work continues values of both modern critical theory and the highly sophisticated and subtle intellectual traditions of Iranian... reflection -- for both of which he is an wonderfully sympathetic reader." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi belongs to a marvelous tradition of poetic thinkers, whose deep insights are crafted in magnificent poetic prose." Gilbert Achcar
University of London
"Dabashi provides his readers with the wine of literary pleasure along with rich food for thought." Gilbert Achcar
University of London
"In Dabashi's work, post-coloniality does not mean a denial or denunciation of the modern European tradition of philosophy and social theory, but their effortless absorption into a larger, more complex reflection." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
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