Fjordman: Edward Said and the Myth of Eurocentrism

While I was away last week, Fjordman took a brief sabbatical from his “Human Accomplishment” series and posted an essay at Europe News about Edward Said and “Eurocentrism”. Some excerpts are below:

In his book Orientalism from 1978, Edward Said slammed what he considered to be the “racist ethnocentrism” of Europeans. Said argued that Western stereotypes of the “Orient” and Asia date back to ancient Greece. The only problem with Said’s claim is that it is utterly false, as is the entire basic premise of his book.

Probably all nations in the world are “ethnocentric” to some degree. This is not a specifically “European” quality; it is a human one. If anything, Europeans have not infrequently proved to be less ethnocentric than many other cultures.

The conclusion we can draw from these examples is this: Most Asian nations, and probably most nations elsewhere in the world, too, were simply too subjective and too ethnocentric to invent comparative linguistics. Treating their own language on the same level as those of alien peoples was mentally impossible and just wasn’t done.

Contrast this with the genuine curiosity, openness and much more objective attitude displayed by linguists such as William Jones and we realize that Europeans invented comparative linguistics because they were the least ethnocentric of the major civilizations. It is likely that this heritage of greater scholarly objectivity was a major contributing factor to the emergence of modern science in Europe.

Needless to say, this insight completely blows away the main arguments presented in Edward Said’s Orientalism. The entire basic premise of his book is wrong and can easily be shown to be so. It is unfortunate that he and his disciples have been allowed to spread demonization and falsehoods against European and Western scholars for so many years relatively unchallenged.

Read the rest at Europe News.

6 thoughts on “Fjordman: Edward Said and the Myth of Eurocentrism

  1. Greece and Italy were both on the Mediterranean Sea–i.e., they saw the sea that separated them from North Africa as the centre of the world, because the ‘world’ was the bit of it they knew. The ancient name for China, Chungguo, means ‘Middle Kingdom’, because the Chinese saw themselves at the centre of the world that they knew. I imagine that the place names of wildly diverse peoples and cultures frequently serve to put them at the centre of the world. Of course we’re ethnocentric! Unless, of course, you live in the antipodes . . .

  2. The thing is that, the beginning of European History wasn’t European, it was/ is, from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor (Turkey).

    So really, Said is uneducated, and/or wants to distract/derail the discussion.

  3. “If anything, Europeans have not infrequently proved to be less ethnocentric than many other cultures.”

    This is putting it far too mildly, to the point of gross understatement. In fact, the West has been the least tribalistic (=ethnocentric) culture in all world history, its process of trying to transcend ethnocentrism not merely somewhat greater in degree than that of other cultures, but astronomically so, quantitatively and qualitatively.

    One cannot use enough superlatives to describe the stupendous contrast between the West in this respect and all other cultures throughout all history and now.

    Indeed, the West has gone so far in this respect, it has gone too far, and has thus wrought PC MC, which is precisely the transcendence of ethnocentrism taken too far — which has to go exceedingly far to be taken to the grotesque excess as it has.

    Fjordman’s curious locution of understatement is furthermore ironic, seeing how grandiosely he otherwise criticizes (apparently, though, in so many words) the post-modern West for precisely the monumental consequences of taking its ethnocentrifugal process so far. One cannot chalk it up to a mere oversight (for how could someone who has studied the West as much as Fjordman has so remarkably understate such a colossal phenomenon?) Perhaps it is somehow paradoxically interwoven with his quasi-apocalyptic pessimism, and may provide insight into the nature of that general pathos which seems to have developed considerably within the AIM.

  4. On Edward Said, I have found that many in the AIM exaggerate him by making him into some sort of Godfather of Academic PC MC; whereas, as this Martin Kramer essay tends to show, Said only cleverly capitalized on a trend in Western Academe already long underway. I.e., before this non-Westerner came along to try to skewer “Orientalism”, the majority of Western Academics, excessively and reflexively self-critical of their own West(by that same process to which I alluded in my previous post above), had already paved the ground for his shoddy hypothesis to gain further traction.

    As I wrote in response to Robert Spencer once, who typically assumed that Said was responsible for the dominance of anti-“Orientalism” in Academe (and in pseudo-Academic pop culture — cf. Master’s graduates who move up in their careers to write for Salon magazine, or sideways for the new and improved The New Yorker):

    Spencer wrote:

    “It was with Said that this perspective became dominant. And its dominance is what has chilled rational discourse about Islam and jihad.”

    I disagree, however, that it was “with Said” that this perspective became dominant — if by “with Said” you mean he was not simply exploiting an already existing perspective that flourished completely without his help before he came along to exploit it (he only really got going in the late 1970s — the main font of his influence began in 1978 with his book Orientalism, while prior to that he was only dabbling in articles about various Islamic and Palestinian issues, beginning in 1970 (see for example this).

    The mere fact that a pseudo-scholar like Said can have the influence he has had in Academe points to a phenomenon larger than him — an already existing predisposition and predilection to swallow what he cooked up.

    Thus, Fjordman (perhaps more mildly than Spencer) uses the locution “that he [Said] and his disciples have been allowed to spread demonization and falsehoods against European and Western scholars for so many years relatively unchallenged.” The problem is not so much that Said has “been allowed” to do this (yet again, a curious and gross understatement of the phenomenon under analysis) — but rather that Said was positive encouraged by a massively nutritious context in Academe already predisposed, long before Said came along, to nourish his academic activities and give his pet theory a boost.

  5. @Hesperado.
    Amen. Had the West not been fertile ground for Said, he would have been a fish floundering without water. Said is like a banner that only SEEMS to rise above his followers. In reality he is like a “king” who is only king because he tells the people what they want to hear. The second he criticizes them, he will be shocked to see what his “noble blood” (or ideology) is actually worth. The West isn’t celebrating Said, it is celebrating its own pathological multi-cultural, secular-progressive mentality. To a large degree, it washes its hands of its own involvement by attributing it to Said’s “genius”.

    The emperor has no clothes. And the only reason he is perceived to HAVE clothes at all, is because the nobility and the servile people WISH to see it that way. If the king believes the hype, he is a fool who will be dead the second he has his own mind.

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