American University of Beirut

Edward Said

World renowned writer, scholar, literary critic, and political and social activist, Edward Said feels out of place in a world where humanism does battle with overwhelming forces of the anti-human, the non-human, or the superhuman. He is a modern-day renaissance man, speaking through literature, anthropology, sociology, history, politics, and music. A Columbia University professor since 1963, Edward Said has never taken refuge in academia's ivory tower; on the contrary, he welds bonds between scholarship and political and social activism, between intellectuals and ordinary citizens and he promotes humanist resistance in every-day life.

In his March 2003 lecture. Humanism and Intellectual Resistance, delivered before a standing-room-only packed crowd in AUB?s Issam Fares Hall, Said said humanists and intellectuals in modern society should cultivate that sense of multiple worlds and complex interacting traditions. We must never be persuaded, he says, that we live in one world; we live in many worlds and must recognize that fact. The task for the humanist is not just to occupy a specific position or place, nor simply just to belong somewhere, but rather to be an insider and an outsider to the circulating ideas and values that are an issue in our society or in someone else's society. . . . Said stands for articulation as opposed to silence; for him the humanist must be involved in constant questioning and investigation, deeper reading and interpretation, and understanding.

Professor Said is resisting the dehumanizing forces of globalization, neo-liberalism,religious fundamentalism, economic greed euphemistically called the free market. . . , the chopped-up bits that come at you in all directions from the media and elsewhere, and the Bush administration. He wants the humanist as citizen to speak out on the economy, health services, and military policies.

Edward Said has every right to feel out of place, the title of his memoir, Out of Place, published in 1999 to wide critical acclaim. Born in Jerusalem in 1935, he was educated in both Jerusalem and Cairo, where his family settled after the Israeli takeover of Palestine in 1948. He later attended an American New England secondary school, and then received his BA from Princeton University in 1957 and his MA and PhD degrees from Harvard in 1960 and 1964.

Since 1963 Said has been teaching at Columbia University, where he is now University Professor of English and comparative literature; in 1992 he became one of only seven Columbia professors to be awarded the title of University Professor. During his long academic career Professor Said has taught at a number of other universities, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Yale, and Chicago. He has also been a fellow of Stanford?s Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, directed a 1978 NEH seminar on literary criticism, and given distinguished lectures at many universities, among them Oxford, Cambridge, London, Princeton, and Cornell. He has been a frequent lecturer in Lebanon and at the American University of Beirut.

Accolades and recognition follow Edward Said. He has received many awards and honorary degrees, among them the prestigious Italian literary award, the Premio Nonio in 1996; the Sultan Owais Prize for general cultural achievement in 1998 (he was the first American to receive the prize); and the Dutch government's International Spinoza Prize in 1999. He served as president of the Modern Language Association in 1999. He has received honorary degrees from Bir Zeit, Chicago, Michigan, Jawaharlal Nehru, Toronto, Guelph, Edinburgh, Haverford, Warwick, and Exeter Universities, Jamia Malleyeh, the National University of Ireland, the American University of Cairo.

But Professor Said has never moved only in the paths of academia. A Palestinian who holds American citizenship, he served as a member of the Palestine National Council from 1977 to 1991. He has written a number of books on the Palestinian cause: The Question of Palestine (1979), Covering Islam (1980), After the Last Sky (1986), Peace and its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process (1996), and Entre Guerre et Paix (1997). His understanding of multiple worlds has led him to favor a one-state solution to the Palestinian conflict a state in which Arabs and Israelis can live fruitfully and meaningfully together.

Edward Said's activism goes beyond the purely political. Long an accomplished pianist and musician, he collaborated with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphny Orchestra in a new production of Beethoven's Fidel, for which he wrote the text. In 1999 the two worked together to bring talented young Arab and Israeli musicians to a workshop in Weimar, where the participants were coached by musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The workshop continues as a yearly even in Seville, Spain. Said also serves as music critic for The Nation.

Fluent in Arabic, French, and English, Edward Said?s is an international voice. In addition to having lectured at more than two hundred universities around the world, he serves on the editorial board of 20 journals; writes twice-monthly columns for Al-Hayat and Al-Ahram, Arabic newspapers published in London and Beirut; and contributes regularly to newspapers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages.

Among Said's major works are Beginnings: Intention and Method (1975), Orientalism(1978), The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983), After the Last Sky (1986), Musical Elaborations (1991), Culture and Imperialism (1993), Representations of the Reith Lectures (1994), Peace and Its Discontents (1996), Out of Place​: A Memoir (1999), Reflections on Exile (2000), and The Edward Said Reader (2001).

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