Interview with Bernard Lewis, the great Orientalist and Historian

Long live Bernard Lewis! Long live Orientalism! I have learned a great deal from Lewis and am thankful for him. In this interview with Neil Conan, Dr Lewis talks about political correctness and Islamic slavery.


Sharpy said…
So I take it you're not convinced or at least don't appreciative Edward Said's critique.
Abu Daoud said…
Thanks Sharpy, you got me on this one. I find nothing of worth in Said's critique to be honest. What is he saying? Scholars from the West tend to generalize and view things through a cultural lens? Underwhelming... But at least the West produced scholars to really investigate the Orient. What scholars did the Orient produce to investigate the Occident?

Lewis is a great scholar. I love his chutzpah and willingness to defy political correctness (only at times though).

What do you think Sharpy? Am I unfair to Edward Said, who, by the way, lied about his own biography. Low stuff there. That anyone includes this guy in bibliographies anymore, after he has been clearly caught lying about objective facts regarding his own life--this is a testimony to the fact that western academia is a whorehouse, with each scholar selling himself to the highest bidder.
Sharpy said…
Regarding his supposed 'lie' in his autobiography. I remember hearing about that a few years back, but I don't think it has affected people's acceptance of his scholarship any more than the immoral behavior of people like Foucault. Like it or not, that's a fact.

The reality of scholarship in M.E. studies today is that being conversive with Said is a must, Lewis not so much. I took an entire course called "Orientalism and History," so you can imagine what we did. Said is the bismallah of so-called 'proper' research.

In my studies very little of Lewis' work is acceptable. Maybe his stuff on modern Turkey. If you mention Lewis it typically receives snickers, groans and all kinds of whispered profanities. For certain profs, Foucault is God and Said is his messenger. To question Said too much puts you in a very awkward position. If you want to discredit anyone you just label them an Orientalist.

There is a lot being done to resurrect Orient scholars' writings on the Occident. I think a lot of it is just trying to make exceptions the rule.

I don't buy all of Said's "power - knowledge' thesis, but of his 3 part thesis there is plenty to find commendable or at least be aware of. Personally I think the missing element in all of the talk is that it's the sinful nature of humans to objectify others. The whole idea of 'othering' is portrayed as something unique to the Western discourse, I believe it's just part of our nature, not particularly specific to a time, place, culture etc.
Abu Daoud said…
I am aware of Said's reputation, and I know his influence is 'a fact', but it's one that in my view says more about the poverty of Western academia than about anything else.

I would also say there is a differene between immorality like that of Foucalt and what Said did and is doing.

Anyway, we'll have to wait a century or two to see who comes out on top. I'm not impressed or swayed by that fact that one is more popular than the other today. Popularity in academia has very little to do with intelligence or quality of research, and a lot do with producing material that can perpetuate and reinforce a certain secular metanarrative.

Sorry for the dim view of academia, but I've been there and worked in it (secular and religious), so I'm speaking from my own personal experience.
Sharpy said…
Agreed, I was just describing the situation on the ground. Wasn't trying to take one side or the other.
Abu Daoud said…
Yep, fair enough.

Who else have you found influential in studying the Middle East?

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