Edward W. Said - Identity, Authority, And Freedom - The Potentate and the Traveler (2)

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Transcript of Edward W. Said - Identity, Authority, And Freedom - The Potentate and the Traveler (2)

Identity, Authority, and Freedom: The Potentate and the Traveler Author(s): Edward W. Said Source: boundary 2, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 1-18 Published by: Duke University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/303599 Accessed: 06/07/2010 21:12Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=duke. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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Identity, Authority,and Freedom: The Potentate and the Traveler

Edward W.SaidSeveral weeks ago, as I was reflecting on what I might say at this occasion, I encountered a friendlycolleague, whom I asked for ideas andof presented as the T.B. Davie AcademicFreedomLectureat the University Originally 54 Cape Town,South Africa,May22, 1991. This essay appearedin printin Transition here by permission the author. of (1991) and is reprinted The editorsof boundary2 are happyto reprint W. Edward Said'sT. B. DavieAcademic FreedomLecture.Inthis lecture,ProfessorSaid raises issues regarding relationships the that among the state, politics,and the university shouldbe centralto our own criticalreof flection. Infact, withthe publication this lecture,boundary2 begins a projectto reflect on the university and its role in the new worldorder,the ways in whichits relationswith the state and the globaleconomy have changed, and how,as a consequence, the order of knowledgehas changed and willcontinueto change. We are especially interestedin the role to investigating university's in relation these topics. ProfessorSaid's lecturewas written beforethe recentelectionof Mr.Mandelain South Africa.There are remarks,especiallyaboutSouth Africa, that mightappearanachronistic. Fundamentally, though,the critical,theoretical,and politicalissues Said discusses remainimportant despite historical progressin South Africa.Forthose who mightthink Said's remarkson the Palestiniansituationare also somewhatanachronistic-I am not one of those-I suggest they consultthe introduction his newest book, The Politicsof to Dispossession, to understand whythe fate of the Palestinian people is stillunacceptable East.-PAB preciselybecause of recentpeace effortsin the Middle

2 2 boundary / Fall1994 suggestions. "Whatis the title of your lecture?" he asked. "Identity,Auhe thority, and Freedom," I replied. "Interesting," responded. "Youmean, therefore, identity is the faculty, authorityis the administration,and freedom..." Here he paused meaningfully."Yes?"Iasked. "Freedom," said, he "is retirement." This prescription is altogether too cynical, and in its flippancy reflected what I think both of us felt: that the issue of academic freedom in a setting likethis one here in Cape Townis far more complex and problematic for most of the usual formulasto cover with any kindof adequacy. Not that academic freedom has been a great deal easier to define, discuss, and defend for North American intellectuals. I hardly need to remind you that discussion concerning academic freedom is not only different in each society but also takes very differentforms, one version of which in American universities today concerns the nature of the curriculum.For at least the past decade, a debate has been going on between those on the one hand who feel that the traditionalcurriculum the liberalarts-in of particularthe core of Western humanitiescourses-has been under severe attack, and those on the other side, who believe that the curriculumin the humanities and the social sciences should more directlyreflectthe interests of groups in society who have been suppressed, ignored, or papered over with high-sounding formulas. For it is a fact that everywhere in the United States, which is after all an immigrantsociety made up of many Africans and Asians as well as Europeans, universities have finallyhad to deal with non-Western societies, with the literature,history,and particularconcerns of women, various nationalities, and minorities;and with unconventional, hitherto untaught subjects such as popularculture, mass communications and film, and oral history. In addition, a whole slew of controversial political issues like race, gender, imperialism,war, and slavery have found their almost Copernican way into lectures and seminars. To this extraordinary, change in the general intellectual consciousness, responses have often been very hostile. Some critics have reacted as if the very nature of the university and academic freedom have been threatened because unduly politicized. Others have gone further:for them the critique of the Western canon, with its panoply of what its opponents have called Dead White European Males (for example, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Wordsworth), has rather improbablysignalled the onset of a new fascism, the demise of Western civilizationitself, and the returnof slavery, child marriage, bigamy, and the harem. In most cases, however, the actual changes in the canon that reflect

Said / Identity, and Authority, Freedom 3 the interests of women or Africanor Native Americans have been pretty mild:Western humanities courses now often include Jane Austen or Toni Morrison,and they mightalso have added novels by ChinuaAchebe, Garcia Marquez, and Salman Rushdie. There have been a few extreme cases of silliness: younger teachers and scholars publiclyattacking more senior scholars as racists, or pilloryingtheir peers for not being "politicallycorrect."Yet all of this discussion and controversy underlinesthe general fact that what goes on in school or universityis somehow privileged, whether on the one hand it is supposed to appear "above" parochial interests, changes in fashion or style, and political pressure, or on the other hand, whether the universityis meant to be engaged intellectuallyand politically with significant politicaland social change, with improvementsin the status of subaltern or minoritypopulations, and with abuses of power and lapses in morality,which the universitymust remedy, criticize, and align itself in opposition to. Although a thousand qualificationsand conditions can enter into a discussion of either or both sides, one assumption is common to both: the idea that the status of the universityor school as well as what goes along with them intellectuallyand socially is special, is differentfrom other sites in society like the government bureaucracy,the workplace, or the home. I believe that all societies today assign a special privilege to the academy that, whether the privilege exempts it from intercourse with the everyday world or involves it directlyin that world,says that unique conditions do, indeed ought to, prevailin it. To say that someone is educated or an educator is to say something having to do with the mind,with intellectualand moral values, with a particular discussion, and exchange, none process of inquiry, of which is encountered as regularlyoutside as inside the academy. The idea is that academies form the mind of the young, prepare them for life, just as-to look at things from the point of view of the teacher-to teach is to be engaged in a vocation or calling having principallyto do not with financial gain but with the unending search for truth. These are very high and importantmatters, and for those of us who have made education our life, they testify to the genuine aura surrounding the academic and intellectualenterprise. There is something hallowed and consecrated about the academy: there is a sense of violated sanctity experienced by us when the universityor school is subjected to crude political pressures. Yet, I believe, to be convinced of these genuinely powerful truths is not entirely to be freed of the circumstances-some would call them encumbrances-that impingeon education today, influence our think-

4 boundary 2 / Fall 1994

The ingaboutit,andshape oureffortsinthe academy. pointIwantto make is thatas we considerthese situational contextual or the matters, searchfor academicfreedom,to whichthis occasion is so manifestly dedicated,beof comes moreimportant, moreurgent, morerequiring careful reflective and So whereasit is universally thatcontemporary true societies treat analysis. of the academywithseriousnessandrespect,each community academics, of and intellectuals, studentsmustwrestlewiththe problem whatacademic is freedominthatsociety at thattimeactually and shouldbe. Let me speak briefly aboutthe two partsof the worldthat I know most about. Inthe UnitedStates, whereI liveand work,there has been a distinctchange inthe academicclimatesince Iwas a studenta generation ago. Untilthe late 1960s, it was assumed by most people that whattook fromany steady,or collabowas removed university precincts place within outside. or-in the worstcase-collusive associationwiththe world rative, and was so powerful, beYet because the experienceof war in Vietnam betweenthe academyandthe institutions cause therewas so muchtraffic and po