القومية وحقوق الإنسان والتفسير / Nationalism, Human Rights and Interpretation



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سعيد, إدوارد و.; Said, Edward; حسنين, أحمد طاهر; Hassanein, Ahmed Taher

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[In this essay, beginning from the eighteenth century English enlightenment and concluding with the contemporary urgency of the question of Palestine, Edward Said demonstrates the role played historically by cultural and rhetorical constructions of national identity and nationalism in the political consolidation of the English imperialist project. If in the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson's "orientalist" travel narrative Rasselas pessimistically presented the possibilities for development and enlightenment for the solitary self, then that pessimism is refashioned a century later by Matthew Arnold whose Culture and Anarchy argues that the State represents the "nation's collective best self." The term "best," however, according to Said, is a comparative, indeed a competitive one and as such is selective rather than inclusive. Arnold's understanding of culture, that is, proposes an "essentialized and distilled identity," one that in the twentieth century will lead to a politics of "identitarian thought." National identity discourse is shown to have been both consentaneous and complicitous with the era of classical European imperialism, so that even reputable critics of domestic politics, such as de Tocqueville, participate in the ideological legitimization of colonialism by the use of a language of "us" and "them" that insists on the superiority of European civilization. But if the colonizers have used nationalism to ensure their global domination, the colonized too have enlisted nationalisms of their own, both in anti-colonial struggles and in neo-colonial enterprises. As evidence of this seeming paradox, Said not only cites Adonis's critique of the turath and points to the judgment on Salman Rushdie's challenge to Islamic orthodoxies, but refers as well to the recent film by Oliver Stone, JFK, on the assassination of U. S. president John Kennedy. Despite these efforts and the inquiries into the development of nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by such writers as Ernest Gellner and E. J. Hobsbawm, the "dependent world," Said suggests, has produced its own critiques of the avatars of nationalism, citing in this regard intellectuals from Tagore and W. E. B. Dubois to Partha Chatterjee. Just as important, the contemporary concern for international human rights, whether in South Africa or Iraq, proposes a counter to the abuses of nationalism. For Said, who reads too the Palestinian struggle as a response to Zionist nationalism, Palestine is the "touchstone case for human rights today." His essay concludes with the appeal that "the time has finally come to join and recognize these two peoples together as indeed their common actuality in historic Palestine already has joined them together. Only then can interpretation be for, rather than only about, freedom."]

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