Bernard Lewis  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"For almost a thousand years, from the first Moorish landing in Spain to the second Turkish siege of Vienna, Europe was under constant threat from Islam."--Islam and the West (1993) by Bernard Lewis

Related e

Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Shop


Featured:

Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Enlarge
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Bernard Lewis, FBA (31 May 1916 – 19 May 2018) was a British American historian specializing in oriental studies. He was also known as a public intellectual and political commentator. Lewis was the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Lewis' expertise was in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West. He was also noted in academic circles for his works on the history of the Ottoman Empire.

In 2007 and 1999, respectively, Lewis was called "the West’s leading interpreter of the Middle East" and "the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East." His advice was frequently sought by neoconservative policymakers, including the Bush administration. However, his support of the Iraq War and neoconservative ideals have since come under scrutiny.

Lewis was also notable for his public debates with Edward Said, who accused Lewis and other orientalists of misrepresenting Islam and serving the purposes of imperialist domination, to which Lewis responded by defending Orientalism as a facet of humanism and accusing Said of politicizing the subject. Lewis argued that the deaths of the Armenian Genocide resulted from a struggle between two nationalistic movements These views prompted a number of scholars to accuse Lewis of genocide denial and resulted in a successful civil lawsuit against him in a French court.

Debates with Edward Said

Lewis was known for his literary debates with Edward Said, the Palestinian American literary theorist whose aim was to deconstruct what he called Orientalist scholarship. Said, who was a professor at Columbia University, characterized Lewis' work as a prime example of Orientalism in his 1978 book Orientalism and in his later book Covering Islam. Said asserted that the field of Orientalism was political intellectualism bent on self-affirmation rather than objective study, a form of racism, and a tool of imperialist domination. He further questioned the scientific neutrality of some leading Middle East scholars, including Lewis, on the Arab World. In an interview with Al-Ahram weekly, Said suggested that Lewis' knowledge of the Middle East was so biased that it could not be taken seriously and claimed "Bernard Lewis hasn't set foot in the Middle East, in the Arab world, for at least 40 years. He knows something about Turkey, I'm told, but he knows nothing about the Arab world." Said considered that Lewis treats Islam as a monolithic entity without the nuance of its plurality, internal dynamics, and historical complexities, and accused him of "demagogy and downright ignorance". In Covering Islam, Said argued that "Lewis simply cannot deal with the diversity of Muslim, much less human life, because it is closed to him as something foreign, radically different, and other," and he criticised Lewis' "inability to grant that the Islamic peoples are entitled to their own cultural, political, and historical practices, free from Lewis' calculated attempt to show that because they are not Western... they can't be good."

Rejecting the view that Western scholarship was biased against the Middle East, Lewis responded that Orientalism developed as a facet of European humanism, independently of the past European imperial expansion. He noted the French and English pursued the study of Islam in the 16th and 17th centuries, yet not in an organized way, but long before they had any control or hope of control in the Middle East; and that much of Orientalist study did nothing to advance the cause of imperialism. In his 1993 book Islam and the West, Lewis wrote "What imperial purpose was served by deciphering the ancient Egyptian language, for example, and then restoring to the Egyptians knowledge of and pride in their forgotten, ancient past?"

Furthermore, Lewis accused Said of politicizing the scientific study of the Middle East (and Arabic studies in particular); neglecting to critique the scholarly findings of the Orientalists; and giving "free rein" to his biases.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bernard Lewis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools