Edward Said and Anthropology

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VOL. 33

2003/04

No. 3
P. 38
Essays in Honor of Edward W. Said
Edward Said and Anthropology
ABSTRACT

Since the publication of Orientalism in 1978, it has been virtually impossible to study the colonial world without explicit or implicit reference to Edward Said’s charge that the sources, basic categories, and assumptions of anthropologists, historians of the colonial world, and area studies experts (among others) have been shaped by colonial rule. This article charts Said’s influence on anthropology, tracing both anthropology’s engagement with colonialism and the frequently ambivalent (and sometimes defensive) responses within the field to Said’s critique. The article also considers the larger terrain of Said’s engagement with the field, from his concern about its “literary” turn of the 1980s to his call for U.S. anthropology explicitly to confront the imperial conditions not only of its epistemological inheritance but also of its present position. Though Said’s direct writings on the discipline have been limited, the article concludes that anthropology has not only learned a great deal from Said’s critique, but has become one of the most important sites for the productive elaboration and exploration of his ideas. NICHOLAS B. DIRKS is Franz Boas Professor of anthropology and history at Columbia University. He is the author of Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, 2001), The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom (Cambridge, 1987), Colonialism and Culture (Ann Arbor, 1993), and In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century (Minneapolis, 1999). He is currently completing a book entitled The Scandal of Empire.


Nicholas B. Dirks is Franz Boas Professor of anthropology and history at Columbia University. He is the author of Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, 2001), The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom (Cambridge, 1987), Colonialism and Culture (Ann Arbor, 1993), and In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century (Minneapolis, 1999). He is currently completing a book entitled The Scandal of Empire.