In the early 1980s, in the first blush of the excitement generated by the publication of Orientalism, Edward Sa‘id ventured on a meditation on a different subject—exile—that would prove as enduring an intellectual preoccupation for him as charting the structures of colonialism. In his introduction to The World, the Text and the Critic (1983), Sa‘id speaks of his admiration for a passage from Eric Auerbach’s classic Mimesis (1946) where the great philologist speaks of the value to be found in “the ascetic code of willed homelessness” as the best position to adopt for those who wish “to earn a proper love for the world” (7). Later in the essay, this formulation becomes the equivalent of a definition for cosmopolitanism, a concept that, for Sa‘id, is inextricably linked to exile.
Yet, this definition of cosmopolitanism as a willed ideal rooted in exile, for Sa‘id—over his long career and with his many allegiances—remained an elusive and unstable concept. This lecture will seek to articulate, through engagement with more recent theorists’ work on cosmopolitanism, what value Sa‘id’s reflections on cosmopolitanism can still hold for us.
Terri DeYoung is professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Washington. She received her BA from Princeton University (1977), her MA from the American University in Cairo (1981), and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (1988). She is the author of a number of articles and studies on modern and medieval Arabic literature. Her monographs include Placing the Poet: Badr Shakir al-Sayyab and Postcolonial Iraq (1998) and Mahmud Sami al-Barudi: Reconfiguring Society and the Self (2015)