[ilds] Remembering Lawrence Durrell, Predictor of our Postmodern World_By Peter Pomerantsev 6/25/2012

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Sun Dec 6 10:24:03 PST 2015

Hi Bruce,

We might have to just disagree on this one.  In the ongoing development 
of postcolonial / decolonization studies, Said's shift was away from the 
primarily Marxist understandings brought to African decolonization 
through Fanon, Césaire, et al. by bringing in Foucault, institutions, 
and reorienting attention to Egypt and the Middle East.  Despite the 
earlier historical decolonization of India, the discussion in Western 
critical studies followed after.  I don't know if we can blame him too 
much for not covering it earlier.

In a sense, this is why I've argued Said isn't necessarily helpful in 
reading Durrell (even though I use him for other work often).  The 
project of Orientalism (as a discipline) relies on claims to veracity 
that Durrell's works consistently disrupt.  In a sense, it's like the 
discourses of indigeneity that conflict with the materialist orientation 
of Marxist work on decolonization, even though there are an increasing 
number of projects putting those two things together.

I also think that looking back to /Pied Piper/ changes how we see the 
later works.  For instance, one of Manzalaoui's complaints against 
Durrell (pre-Said) is that he uses Urdu corruptions of Arabic in the 
Quartet -- knowing that he draws on rudimentary Urdu in that first novel 
gives a rationale for why.  The in-between-ness (a real word?) of Walsh 
in that novel explains why we'd have Darley's Irishness later, which 
buffers him from the Imperial project just as Walsh's Anglo-Indian 
identity shelter (and excludes) him.


On 2015-12-06 9:23 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> James, yes.  But it’s precisely Said’s portrayal of “Orientalism” as a scholarly discipline that I strenuously object to.  Said doesn’t discuss India in detail (he admits that); his emphasis is on Egypt and the Near East.  His clear implication is that the Indian Civil Service was just another example of a Western power-grab in an occupied country.  I don’t see this.  As I’ve said before, he overstates his argument and ignores contrary evidence.  I think Said’s argument borders on the paranoid.
> Bruce
>> On Dec 6, 2015, at 9:11 AM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'd go along with that, Bruce.  It does make Durrell's stance in /Pied Piper/ remarkable.  However, I would suggest that despite the polemical nature of Said's /Orientalism/, the "Oxbridge" recruiting system is very much a part of that book's concerns.  He's looking to Orientalism not just as a codeword for racism and exploitation but also very much as a scholarly discipline understood through a foucauldian disciplining of knowledge.
>> Increasingly, I tend to read /Orientalism/ as a book about the modern university...  I think I'm outside the pack on that one, admittedly.
>> Best,
>> James
>> On 2015-12-06 9:03 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>>> It’s probably hard for us in the 21st century to appreciate, but the
>>> Brits in India—the “Anglo-Indians” or the “Anglo-Irish” (if
>>> correct)—were often big racists.  The historian Niall Ferguson (a Scot
>>> educated at Oxford [DPhil]) has written about this in /Empire/ (2002).
>>>   He describes how the Brits in the 19th century and early 20th, as a
>>> rule, believed in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race and its
>>> “God-given right” to rule the world under the auspices of the “British
>>> Empire.”  Ferguson, however, sharply distinguishes between the British
>>> Civil Service in India (relatively few in number, perhaps a thousand)
>>> and the British missionary and mercantile class (the great majority of
>>> the colonials).  The former (usually recruited from Oxbridge) he admires
>>> for its rigorous requirements of service (e.g., a knowledge of Hindi was
>>> necessary) and its respect for Indian culture.  The latter he abhors for
>>> its attempts to convert, reform, and exploit “the heathen.”  Given this
>>> pervasive culture among the Anglo-Indians, it’s quite remarkable that
>>> Lawrence Durrell identified with and honored the land of his birth.  I
>>> would add that Edward W. Said does not make any such distinction in his
>>> /Orientalism/ (1978) and lumps Western attitudes under the latter class.
>>> Bruce
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