The Reflections of Edward Said’s Exile in the Works of the Most Prominent Middle Eastern Intellectuals

Key information

3:30 pm to 5:00 pm
Russell Square: College Buildings
Event type

About this event

Dr Rehnuma Sazzad (CCLPS, SOAS)

The idea of exile is correlated to the causes of punishment and ordeal. Exile evokes a cold, colourless, and dismal wintry time. Paradoxically though, these phenomena create an occasion for soul-search, self-reliance, and contemplation. This suggests that the sufferings of exile can be transformed into an empowering experience. An uprooted intellectual survives the unhomely condition and the insurmountable challenges associated with it through sharpening his/her reasoning and skills. The paradoxical blessing of exile inspires Edward Said, the ‘out of place’ Palestinian in the USA, to propose the concept of a formidable intellectual practice. In this presentation, I offer a comprehensive definition of the practice, and analyse the works of Naguib Mahfouz, Mahmoud Darwish, Leila Ahmed, Nawal El Saadawi and Youssef Chahine to further illustrate Said’s intellectual mission. The discussion elaborates upon Said’s proposition that the exilic intellectual does not necessarily have to be spatially disconnected from a homeland. S/he has to project willing homelessness through some strategies, which s/he can materialize with or without being uprooted from the native soil. Thus, Said and his compatriots enable me to create the portrait of an unco-opted intellectual. Their vision of a humanly satisfactory world may appear utopian; but their struggle towards enhancing cultural coexistence is extremely significant in the twenty-first century, when the frontiers of belonging are frequently drawn and redrawn.