At the outset, it will be useful to ground our study and interpretation of Edward W. Said's hermeneutical praxis. As a basis for our explorations of Said's contrapuntal approach, this chapter endeavours to lay a conceptual groundwork upon which to build our understanding of Said. To that end, those concepts that are considered most important to his unique perspective and the approaches arising out of it are introduced here, together with relevant criticism of Said's work. This chapter will also treat those aspects of Said's personal, political and existential commitments that are relevant to the issues at hand. At the conclusion of this chapter, the reader will have a solid foundation from which to venture into more specific considerations of Said's thought.
The Foundation: Orientalism and Objectivity, Knowledge and Power
In his widely acclaimed and controversial book Orientalism, Edward W. Said lays the foundations for his theory of the inherent relationship between knowledge and power, particularly in colonial contexts. Said asserts that all knowledge is, at bottom, interested, and that objective knowledge, no matter what the subject under consideration, is impossible. Intellectual debate carries on under a false dichotomy between objectivity and subjectivity, and “whereas we are right to bewail the disappearance of a consensus on what constitutes objectivity, we are not by the same token adrift in self-indulgent subjectivity”.