Said, Edward


Edward Said (1935–2003) was an American literary critic, university professor and political activist. Said's 1978 book Orientalism made a major contribution to the understanding of how the human sciences have reflexively shaped and been shaped by the politics of empire. Much of his work detailed the ways in which European perceptions of the colonial world, and of the Islamic world in particular, relied on spurious claims of academic science which were themselves influenced by imperial ambitions. For Said, politically predetermined biases profoundly shaped European perspectives on race, ethnicity and religion in the colonial world.

Key Concepts:

  • Academic inquiry is easily influenced by political ideology and vice versa.

  • The pursuit of knowledge has historically shaped global politics; for example, the scientific study of race and culture had powerful consequences for European colonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

  • That knowledge is socially and politically constructed does nothing to weaken its force; indeed, that fact immeasurably strengthens its power.

Keywords: Edward Said; literary criticism; political activism; human sciences; colonialism


Said E (1966) Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography. London: Oxford.

Said E (1978) Orientalism. New York: Pantheon.

Said E (1993) Culture and Imperialism. New York: Pantheon.

Said E (2003) Freud and the Non‐European. London: Verso.

Further Reading

Ali T (2006) Conversations with Edward Said. London: Seagull.

Herman D (2004) Edward Said (1935–2003). Salmagundi 143: 76–88.

Kennedy V (2000) Edward Said: A Critical Introduction. London: Polity.

Rubin AN (2004) Edward W. Said (1935–2003). Arab Studies Quarterly 26(4): 37–52.

Said E (1975) Beginnings: Intention and Method. London: Basic.

Said E (2000) Out of Place: A Memoir. New York: Vintage.

Walia S (2001) Edward Said and the Writing of History. Cambridge: Icon.

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How to Cite close
Keller, Richard C(Dec 2010) Said, Edward. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005702]