Is there a controversy in Edward Said's works?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of the largest criticism against Said and his work comes from the idea that he views Western European thought and action as coming from a point of view that is discriminatory.  Critic Robert Irwin argues as much, when he criticizes what he claims to be Said's thesis that throughout Europe’s history, “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric."  In the end, this becomes the crux of argumentation against Said.  Others argue that it is time "to look past orientalism" and move into a realm that transcends the issue of racial and ethnic identity, something that critics argue Said does not do.  The majority of arguments against Said seem to be the same ones made against the conflict view of historical narratives, when individuals who believe in a consensus methodology of history suggest that the alternative seeks to fragment history and break from a central and unified narrative.  It is in this light that arguments are made against Said and his work.