“The American writer and academic Edward Said (1935–2003) has been ranked among the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, with much of the field of postcolonial studies springing directly or indirectly from his ideas. He was also an intellectual in action, devoting much of his energy to advocacy for the Palestinian people and their aspirations.
Controversial in his work, Said had both admirers and detractors. Few statements beyond the bare facts of his life would meet with universal agreement from observers, and even those bare facts were sometimes in dispute. But divergent views of Said were, in a way, inevitable, for Said was a man of many contradictions. He was an academic, and yet he spent much of his time addressing the public, often having to cancel classes he taught at Columbia University because he was booked for television appearances. He was a Christian Arab who both defended the Islamic world and, by his own testimony, felt close to Jews for much of his life. He spent many years working toward the goal of Palestinian nationhood but renounced that goal in the last decade of his life. He was attacked by Israelis as a terrorist, and by Palestinians as too accommodating to Israel. Said’s scholarly works indicted Western cultural traditions as complicit in colonialism, but he played and wrote about European classical music extensively and enthusiastically.”
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