THIS SPECIAL ISSUE OF the Journal of Palestine Studies is dedicated to Edward W. Said, preeminent Palestinian intellectual and University Professor at Columbia University, who died on 25 September 2003 after a long illness.
Said is best known to our readers for his articles in this Journal, for his extensive writings on the question of Palestine—notably his book of the same title and others, including After the Last Sky (with Jean Mohr), Blaming the Victims (with Christopher Hitchens), Peace and its Discontents, The Politics of Dispossession, and The End of the Peace Process, as well as countless political essays published in various venues—and for his frequent lectures and television appearances. Through his eloquence and the force of his personality, he came to represent the face of Palestine for many, not only in the United States but in much of the world.
But Edward Said was far more than a powerful advocate for the Palestinian cause. In the world of academia, he made major and lasting contributions to a wide range of disciplines. This special issue was motivated by a desire to honor his memory by conveying a sense of the breadth of the intellectual impact of his life and work through essays by leading scholars in several of the areas he touched. We felt it was particularly fitting for readers of the Journal, many of whom may not be intimately acquainted with Said’s other dimensions, to get a sense of how truly remarkable a figure he was.
The issue begins with an article by a member of the Journal’s Editorial Committee, Joseph Massad of Columbia University, who helped conceptualize this special issue. Massad’s article, “The Intellectual Life of Edward Said,” provides an overview of Said’s work as well as some of the main themes touched upon in the articles that follow. The next article, by Tim Brennan of the University of Minnesota, entitled “Edward Said and Comparative Literature,” deals with the central field where Said made his academic reputation and name, and in which his scholarly contribution was perhaps the most far reaching. This is followed by “Edward Said and Anthropology” by Nicholas Dirks of Columbia University covering a discipline where Said’s impact was also extensive. Outside of comparative literature, anthropology was perhaps the field most affected by Said’s insights, as Dirks demonstrates. The next two articles, “The ‘Postcolonial’ in Translation: Reading Said in Hebrew” by Ella Shohat of New York University, and “Edward Said’s Intellectual Legacy in the Arab World” by Sabry Hafez of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, take up the impact of Said’s work on different sides of the Arab-Israeli divide. Shohat examines the ambivalent if not hostile ways in which Said was received in Israel, while Hafez examines Said as one in a series of émigré Arab intellectuals who had a profound influence on their homeland. Our tribute to Edward Said concludes with my interview with his close friend, the distinguished Israeli composer and pianist Daniel Barenboim, in which he talks about some aspects of their intellectual and musical collaboration over the years.
It would not be possible for a small number of essays to convey the full scope of Edward Said’s contribution, but it is our hope that this special issue will give our readers a sense of the powerful impact of his scholarship and of his role as a public intellectual, above and beyond his important work on Palestine.