The Ghosts of Edward Saïd

Vladislav Davidzon in Tablet:

ScreenHunter_38 Jul. 10 13.37Walking through the astounding new show “Les Juifs dans l’orientalisme”—“The Jews in Orientalism”—in Paris, it is impossible to avoid the ghostly accompanying presence of the late Edward Saïd, who turned the term “Orientalism” into a curse against the West and a political weapon in the service of his people. Hung in the elegant halls of the three-and-a-half-century-old Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, home of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (which by common acclaim has the most interesting programming of any Jewish museum in Europe), the show charts the European encounter with the Sephardic Jewish communities of Northern Africa and the Mediterranean rim at the beginning of the 19th century. Would Saïd, the great scourge of Western cultural condensation and appropriation, have taken the art that resulted from that encounter to be prime evidence in his case against the Occident? Or would he have dismissed it as a high-class form of Zionist-colonialist propaganda?

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