’Orientalism,’ Then and Now | by Adam Shatz | NYR Daily


  • ’Orientalism,’ Then and Now | by Adam Shatz | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books


    Un retour sur l’histoire de l’orientalisme et sa « mutation » à l’époque actuelle.

    Edward Said’s Orientalism is one of the most influential works of intellectual history of the postwar era. It is also one of the most misunderstood. Perhaps the most common misunderstanding is that it is “about” the Middle East; on the contrary, it is a study of Western representations of the Arab-Islamic world—of what Said called “mind-forg’d manacles,” after William Blake. The book’s conservative critics misread it as a nativist denunciation of Western scholarship, ignoring its praise for Louis Massignon, Jacques Berque, and Clifford Geertz, while some Islamists praised the book on the basis of the same misunderstanding, overlooking Said’s commitment to secular politics.

    Since the book’s first publication in 1978, “Orientalism” has become one of those words that shuts down conversation on liberal campuses, where no one wants to be accused of being “Orientalist” any more than they want to be called racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic. That “Orientalist” is now a commonly applied epithet is a tribute to the power of Said’s account, but also to its vulgarization. With Orientalism, Said wanted to open a discussion about the way the Arab-Islamic world had been imagined by the West—not to prevent a clear-eyed reckoning with the region’s problems, of which he was all too painfully aware.

  • Why race science is on the rise again | Books | The Guardian

    It was only towards the end of the 20th century that genetic data revealed that the human variation we see is not a matter of hard types but small and subtle gradations, each local community blending into the next. As much as 95% of the genetic difference in our species sits within the major population groups, not between them. Statistically, this means that, although I look nothing like the white British woman who lives upstairs, it’s possible for me to have more in common genetically with her than with my Indian-born neighbour.

    After the second world war, race science gradually became taboo. But one of the key people to have kept his racial worldview intact, Mehler learned, was a shadowy figure called Roger Pearson, who is in his 90s today (he declined to speak to me). Pearson had been an officer in the British Indian army and then, in the 1950s, worked as managing director of a group of tea gardens in what was then known as East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. It was around this time that he began publishing newsletters, printed in India, exploring issues of race, science and immigration.

    Very quickly, Mehler says, Pearson connected with like-minded thinkers all over the world. “He was beginning to institutionally organise the remnants of the prewar academic scholars who were doing work on eugenics and race. The war had disrupted all of their careers, and after the war they were trying to re‑establish themselves.” They included Nazi race scientist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, who before the war ended had run experiments on the body parts of murdered children sent to him from Auschwitz.

    One of Pearson’s publications, the Northlander, described itself as a monthly review of “pan-Nordic affairs”, by which it meant matters of interest to white northern Europeans. Its first edition in 1958 complained about the illegitimate children born due to the stationing of “Negro” troops in Germany after the war, and about immigrants arriving in Britain from the West Indies. “Britain resounds to the sound and sight of primitive peoples and of jungle rhythms,” Pearson warned. “Why cannot we see the rot that is taking place in Britain herself?”

    The public may have assumed that scientific racism was dead, but the racists were always active under the radar. In The Bell Curve (1994), a notorious bestseller, US political scientist Charles Murray and psychologist Richard Herrnstein suggested that black Americans were less intelligent than white and Asian Americans. A review in the New York Review of Books observed that they referenced five articles from Mankind Quarterly, a journal co-founded by Pearson and Von Verschuer; they cited no fewer than 17 researchers who had contributed to the journal. Although The Bell Curve was widely panned (an article in American Behavioral Scientist described it as “fascist ideology”), Scientific American noted in 2017 that Murray was enjoying “an unfortunate resurgence”. Facing down protesters, he has been invited to give lectures on college campuses across the US.

    “Mother Nature’s the racist,” he has said. “I’m just shining the light.” Former guests on his show include one-time columnist Katie Hopkins and bestselling author Jordan Peterson.

    What is worrying is that the thinkers who supply the material being brandished online have begun asserting a presence in other, more credible spaces.

    The editors of Mankind Quarterly, which has been called a “white supremacist journal”, have begun to assert a presence in other, more widely trusted scientific publications. Assistant editor Richard Lynn today sits on the editorial advisory board of Personality and Individual Differences, produced by Elsevier, one of the world’s largest scientific publishers, with the Lancet among its titles. In 2017, both Lynn and Meisenberg were listed on the editorial board of Intelligence, a psychology journal also published by Elsevier.

    In late 2017, the editor-in-chief of Intelligence told me that their presence in his journal reflected his “commitment to academic freedom”. Yet after my inquiries to both him and Elsevier, I found that Lynn and Meisenberg had been quietly removed from the editorial board by the end of 2018.

    A common theme among today’s “race realists” is their belief that because biological race differences exist, diversity and equal opportunity programmes – designed to make society fairer – are doomed to fail. If an equal world isn’t being forged fast enough, it is due to a permanent natural roadblock created by the fact that, deep down, we’re not the same. “We have two nested fallacies here,” Marks continues. The first is that the human species comes packaged up in a small number of discrete races, each with their own different traits. “Second is the idea that there are innate explanations for political and economic inequality. What you’re saying is, inequality exists, but it doesn’t represent historical injustice. These guys are trying to manipulate science to construct imaginary boundaries to social progress.”

    #racisme_scientifique not dead
    Et belle récup d’une peinture classique, @mad_meg.