Social Scientist. v 16, no. 158 (July 1986) p. 3.

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Uses and Limits of Foucault : A Study of the Theme of Origins in Edward Said's 'Orientalism

THE PUBLICATION of Edward Said's Orientalism in 1978 and its subsequent reception and influence is a phenomenon of considerable significance to those of us who are vitally engaged by the possibilities of a Third-World intewention in the field of theory. That Said's book emerges from a widespread debate is indicated by the common assumptions shared by others writing at the same time like Bryan S. Turner, Marxism and the End of Orientalism (1978), Anwar Abdel Maiek, Orientalism in Crisis (1963) and J.P.S. Oberoi, Science and Swaraj (1978).1 The last few years have seen the formation of a loosely-affiliated group (Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak, Homi Bhabha and Edward Said among others) who have variously been extending the critique of colonialism and post-colonialism.

The critique arises from the intermingling of the concerns of the disciplines of history (particularly the school of subaltern-studies), sociology, Freudian psychoanalysis and literary criticism under the umbrella of what is now increasingly becoming known as Theories of Subject-Production. There is a new climate of speculation about the ways in which the colonized subject was and continues to be produced by cultural practices/ historical documents, archives and literary texts. The complex processes by which the colonized people are awarded a self-image, their culture explained to them, the ways in which they are newly named and interpreted to themselves—this would seem to be what is meant by the (re)pro-duction of the colonized subject. The colonial subject has become central to theories of subject-production both for the continuing political value of colonial struggles, as also because colonialism marks, in Fanon's phrase, violence in its natural state.2

These speculations and investigations in what is becoming discernible as a field-in-the-making in Third World theory are to some extent influenced by Said's Orientalism even where they may take the form of a reaction against the absences discovered in the book. There is however one remarkable area of consensus between Said and other theorists in that they all adopt the methods of post-structuralism, although there may be differences in ideological positions, areas of address and even mutations in textual

"Teaches English at SGTB Khalsa College, Delhi University, Delhi.

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