Social Scientist. v 16, no. 158 (July 1986) p. 23.


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RAJESWARI SUNDER RAJAN*

After 'Orientalism9 : Colonialism and English Literary Studies in India

"AFTER^ in my title is intended as homage in several senses : to acknowledge that this essay is "according to" Orientalism even in that in several places it is an extended quotation and paraphrase of that work ;

to "suggest that it intends to play at the margins of Edward Said's book, teasing out its implications and paying attention to at least oneof^he "tasfcs^' that he acknowledges are left "incomplete" in his study ; and, ftna?Hy, to indicate that it takes into account Said's own work after Orientalism, in particular "The Text, the World, the Critic," and "Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community."

To be a university lecturer in English in India, as I am, is to be intermittently aware of anomalies in one's position, and to be afflicted 'by doubts and uncertainties about on's relationship with the object of one's investigation, viz. the English literary text. So in a sense this is an autobiographical account of my attempt to find this position and reach some clarity about this relationship. If for me this process originated with reading Orientalism (first published in 1978),1 it is not to say that it is the only starting point for such an investigation. I merely trace the process here.

Said's the&is is simply put: the Orient comes into being as a representation within a discourse identified as Orientalism. Serving as the "other" of Europe, it is seen as variously strange, mysterious, corrupt, beautiful, decadent, etc., while fulfilling a variety of Europe's desires. The energy, scholarship and polemics of Said's work are directed towards stressing the power and systemiasation of this discourse, which is not merely "superstruc-tua^al." Said finds Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony useful in showing how political society "reaches into the realms of civil society" which are the "cultural" areas (such as the academy, for instance), "and saturates themwMh significance of direct concern to it" (p. 11).

What are the further implications of this work ? Said himself points m to both empirical and theoretical tasks that await anyone undertaking a critique

Theie is still a general essay to be written n imperialism and culture;

* Department of English, Miranda House, Delhi University, Delhi.



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