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Transnational Law Reading Laboratory

SW1.18 Somerset House East Wing
17/02/2016 (18:00-20:00)
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Launched in November 2014, the Transnational Law Institute at King’s College London hosts a regular reading and discussion forum on seminal and new writings in transnational law, governance, and political legal theory.


The READING LAB is an informal gathering to revisit or discover scholarly contributions to an emerging field of legal research, doctrine and practice and is open to anyone interested. There is only one rule: anyone attending ought to have read the assigned text.

Featured Text: EDWARD SAID, ORIENTALISM (1978)

The upcoming session of the Transnational Law Reading Laboratory is dedicated to the much acclaimed and discussed study, ORIENTALISM, by the Palestinian author, literary critic and political thinker, Edward Said (1935-2003). The book, published in 1978, had an enormous effect on literary and cultural studies, on political theory, post-colonial critique and social theory. Said’s claim that much of Western writing ‘orientalized’ and ‘othered’ the subjects it was writing on by postulating essential qualities allegedly inherent to and characteristic of ‘the Orient’, received both enthusiastic praise and harsh rejection. While supporters celebrated the force and anti-colonialist relevance of Said’s critique of a persuasive and deeply influential Western form of subjugation and domination, his critics pointed to dramatic flaws in the work, including the highly selective use of literature Said had drawn upon to make his point, the methodological limitations of a project which largely excluded an otherwise already rich anthropological, ethnographic literature on the subject and the problematic consequences his work would have for the further development of literary criticism and cultural anthropology. The debate ‘around Said’s orientalism’ still continues, with ever more, highly specialized sub-discourses and disputes.

During the Reading Lab we will have the opportunity to collectively put Said’s main contentions ‘on the table’ of our informal discussion as well as engage with some of the points that have been made in this long and ongoing debate around Said’s theses. A prior reading of Said’s book is a prerequisite for attending the Reading Laboratory.

In our session, we will draw on and discuss some of the voices in the debate, including reviews of his work and subsequent interventions, some of which are listed here below:

Other important interventions are the following: James Clifford, "Orientalism: Review Essay," in; Clifford, The predicament of culture: twentieth-century ethnography, literature, and art (Cambridge, Mass., 1988),  Edward Saïd, "Orientalism Reconsidered," 27:2 Race & Class  (1985), 1-15.; Edward Said, "The Politics of Knowledge," Raritan (1991), 17-31, and Arif Dirlik "Placing Edward Said: Space, Time and the Travelling  Theorist," in; Ashcroft and Kadhim, eds., Edward Said and the Post-Colonial. (Huntington, N.Y., 2001), 1-29; also Patrick Williams, "Nothing in the Post?–Said and the Problem of Post-Colonial Intellectuals," 31-55. [this listing is taken from Professor Rabbat’s course on ‘Orientalism and Representation’ at MIT:]

There will be refreshments.

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