Blogs > Cliopatria > Noted Here and There ...

Feb 7, 2004 6:22 am

Noted Here and There ...

Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost on the horror of Belgian rule in the Congo, has a terrific essay, "Against All Odds", in Mother Jones on the origins of the British anti-slavery movement.

Brian Ulrich at Brian's Study Breaks has an interesting post up on Bernard Lewis, Edward Said, and the western development of middle eastern studies.

The blogosphere continues to morph. Ed Cohn at Mildly Malevolent has joined a new group blog of University of Chicago graduate students, Gnostical Turpitude, where he's doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Invisible Adjunct appears to be back at her keyboard after a well earned two week sabbatical. Or, maybe not. (Trolls, your sins are not forgiven. Anonymous trolls, your sins are not anonymous. G_d knows your IPS # and she is really pissed off!) Now, if only Moby Lives would get itself together ...

At The Right Christians, Allen Brill suggests that conservative Christians who wish to write New Testament teaching about marriage into state and federal statutes and/or state and federal constitutions might begin where the New Testament is quite unambiguous: with a ban on marriage after a divorce. It won't happen, of course. Too many leaders of said Christians are already in violation of the biblical teaching.

Troubles bubble for the Bush administration. The UPI's Richard Sale says that the FBI has tracked leaks in the Valerie Plame affair to high sources in Vice President Cheney's office. Kevin Drum, here, here and here, has a close look at the"torn document" which is key evidence about G. W. Bush's service in the National Guard 30 years ago. [It's just a shot across the bow, of course, should Republicans decide to paint John Kerry as the unpatriot. But if you believe this story, I've got a torn document which shows that I was tenured in a history department 30 years ago. I just don't have the pay stubs to back it up, which may be why neither George nor I will release our service files.] Meanwhile, just when American credibility abroad is at its lowest ebb internationally because of the failure to find WMDs in Iraq, President Bush will appear on"Meet the Press" Sunday. It isn't at all unprecedented, but we'll see how Tim Russert lives up to his reputation as a tough questioner.

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Oscar Chamberlain - 2/9/2004

I know less about Said than I should, but, that doesn't change the fact that Lewis's "What went Wrong" is not very good.

Three thoughts:

1. He suggests that he is discussing all of Islam, but ignores it from India eastward.

2. He reduces western imperialism to barely a footnote in Islamic history. I am not someone who blames all on the West, but surely the impact on Islam in the middle East was not negligible.

Two examples: a)Egypt was attempting something secular looking when the British took over the Canal and (technically speaking) returned Egypt to the Ottomans.
b) After WWI, the West treated the Ottoman remnants very differently than it did eastern Europe.

In either case, I can't say with certainty what might have been different, but surely each had an impact.

3. The section on music is just weird. Perhaps Lewis had one too many cognacs while listening to Mahler one evening. That I can sympathize with. To raise that to an argument of cultural superiority is, well, weird.

Richard Henry Morgan - 2/7/2004

Just a few more nuggets. Here's a bit on Said's attempt to rewrite history and cast himself as a Palestinian refugee dispossessed by Israelis in 1947-48, when actually he was a resident of Cairo, and his family was dispossessed by Nasser's nationalization:

And here's Said claiming he didn't even know there were media when he threw rocks at Israelis, when it turns out he delivered the photo himself to AFP of him doing so:

Richard Henry Morgan - 2/7/2004

For those interested in a few well-aimed grenades aimed at Said's "scholarship" (quotation marks well thought out in this case) in Orientalism, I refer you to Ibn Warraq's little piece (I particularly enjoyed the historical howlers from the "historian" Said -- again, quotation marks well thought out this time):

Said then goes on, in a Counterpunch article, to characterize Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami as "major planners of this war":

Said then labels Lewis "a tireless mediocrity":

Ralph E. Luker - 2/7/2004

"Ralph" accepts. You do pretty well for someone with the attention span of a Mediterranean fruit fly. I'm thinking about including the quotation marks whenever I sign my name from now on.

Richard Henry Morgan - 2/7/2004

No insult intended, "Ralph". One of the symptoms of CIDP is an attention span roughly half that of the Mediterranean fruit fly. By the time I read Brian's blog I had forgotten that I'd read his name in your article, his name nowhere appears on the blog's main page, and I (of course, batting 1000) missed the link "Who am I?". Apologies all around.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/7/2004

Brian Ulrich's question to you, "Richard", is well justified. His full name was available to you from my post. He doesn't post anonymously at his blog. Spare the quote marks if they are there simply to attempt some rhetorical advantage. He responds to your comment honestly and forthrightly. You should do him the same honor.

Brian Ulrich - 2/7/2004

I've read The Jews of Islam, and consider it good, as I do Race and Slavery in the Middle East. Perhaps the difference I see between his good work dealing with history and his weaker attempts to interpret modern politics didn't come through clearly in my post. I don't think I've read Lewis's review, though I did read Islam and the West ages ago. The criticisms I made of Said are those I've received as part of the general hunk of Said-related chatter in my department, where I've heard such one-liners as "Said's Orientalism is a work containing a number of good points carried to such exaggeration that it is possible to completely miss them," from a professor who probably doesn't want his name associated with the quote.

Why do you put my name in quotation marks?

Richard Henry Morgan - 2/6/2004

It's been fun watching Said's monomania vis-a-vis Lewis develop ever since Lewis took Said down a peg in his New York Review of Books review of Orientalism, June 24, 1982, The Question of Orientalism, also available, with a later exchange, and without fee, at

In fact, the weaknesses in Said's argument provided (with approval) by "Brian" are precisely those provided by Lewis (though not attributed to him by "Brian"). The exchange is particularly illuminating, as it demonstrates precisely the differences between a scholar (Lewis) and the ad hominem blather of Said. Anyone who has read Lewis' The Jews of Islam, or his response in NYRB, The Vanished Library, or any number of his works, will realize that he doesn't conform to the caricature of him as an Orientalist in the Saidian mode. Lewis may be "out of fashion", but in a world where Derrida, Judith Butler, and Stanley Fish are stars, then perhaps that is a badge of honor.

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