photo manipulation by nacrowe
i came across the works of COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY literature professor EDWARD SAID while still in high school, which made since given that he also attended NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON. he is primarily celebrated for his post-colonial book ORIENTALISM (PANTHEON, 1979) which discusses the ways in which the west misperceives and distorts their perceptions of near-eastern cultures based on various remnants of outdated colonial thinking.
i believe i read it as part of a history or comparative religions class my sophomore year, but what it did embed in me, much like the work of HOWARD ZINN which i read years later, was the idea that my perception of the world was based on narratives with agendas.
within a year of being exposed to ORIENTALISM i was living in KUWAIT and unfortunately i was there on 9/11. my family lived in a PALESTINIAN enclave (most people don't know that KUWAIT has a large PALESTINIAN population, YASSER ARAFAT being one before returning to run the PLO) and on that fateful day people around me were celebrating. it twas my understanding of SAID that made me not go ballistic, especially at school the next day. the world is complicated and there are competing narratives, one of which was the UNICEF figure of 500,000 IRAQI children dead as a direct result of AMERICAN sanctions on SADAM HUSSEIN. i don't remember that being spoken about much in the aftermath of 9/11. i'm not promoting any conspiracy theories here, i am an AMERICAN who knew someone that passed on that terrible and was worried about the safety of my family, as we were physically in the MIDDLE EAST during that period. what i am saying is that just like in GESTALT PYSCHOLOGY and POST-STRUCTURALISM, the same event/sign can have different interpretations and both can be true.
being abroad most of my life i was always searching for these native understandings and narratives, not that i agreed with them but i certainly made an effort to acknowledge and understand them. to me that is the legacy of SAID.