But there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth !
R. Kipling, The Ballad of East and West, 1889.
Edward Said’s Orientalism has been endlessly reinterpreted and re-used over the past 35 years, all too often in a spirit of violent partisanship which views his text either as a new orthodoxy to be upheld or a heresy to be refuted. Whether genuflecting before Orientalism or attacking it, however, it is remarkable how rapidly the field of postcolonial studies which grew out of it has managed to acquire a canon of accepted texts, situations and interpretations. Said’s own focus was on British and French imperialism in the Middle East : he offered some theoretical justifications for ignoring Germany and Russia, and for only touching on other regions of Africa and Asia with a much longer and more intensive history of colonisation, but these were never wholly convincing. The real reasons were th...