List

Said, Edward. “The Clash of Ignorance.” The Nation. 4 Oct. 2001.

Said first recognizes that Huntington’s 1993 article “The Clash of Civilizations” did much to articulate the new phase of global politics that would follow on the heels of the cold war.  Said then begins his (appropriate!) indictment of Huntington taking him to task for the sorts of oversimplification and binarism characteristic of Bernard Lewis’ article “The Roots of Muslim Rage.”  Said chastises Huntington for claiming to have “figured it all out” from a perspective detached from all loyalties and ideological presuppositions; furthermore, he takes him to task for creating static representations of entire civilizations and identities when in all reality things are much, much more complex and dynamic.

In the post 9/11 era, Said sees Huntington’s thesis being articulated time and again to explain the horrific events of Autumn 2001 and to generalize about a huge swathe of the world’s people – villianizing them and creating an environment where the fiction breeds factual realities.  Arguing for a much more nuanced exploration of the interconnectedness between the “West” and “Islam,” Said recognizes that bellicose war rhetorics are far more effective in mobilizing collective passions toward the use of force than reflective examinations might produce.  Noting the permeability of contested borders, Said highlights how intertwined “warring” nations often are in the interest of demonstrating how binaristic thinking and black-white demagoguery can be deployed to mobilize a passionate, but ultimately non-reflective and herd-like, populace.

Finally, Said highlights how Islamic and Western culture have always been intertwined – much to the converse of Huntington’s own argument.  According to Said, “These are tense times, but it is better to think in terms of powerful and powerless communities, the secular politics of reason and ignorance, and universal principles of justice and injustice, than to wander off in search of vast abstractions that may give momentary satisfaction but little self-knowledge or informed analysis.  ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ thesis is a gimmick like ‘The War of the Worlds,’ better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time.”

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