Ever since the Enlightenment, which gave the Europeanization of the World its progressive legitimacy, the articulations of nationalism and cosmopolitanism, community and universality, have been linked to a construction of the moral, political, and aesthetic subject in terms of what Fichte called the internal border, the perilous limit where his identity is assured, or threatened. Etienne Balibar submits that Said’s meditation of the perpetual dis-placement of the post-colonial subject, involving fidelity and projection, exile and translation, performs a radical metamorphosis of that category, which is not so much framed as “double consciousness” (as in Du Bois and Fanon) than “transposition” and “paraphrase” of the dominant theme (as in musical elaboration). The border thus becomes at the same time sharpened, densified, and lost. With the help of this assumption, returning to some of my preferred texts of engagement and criticism in his work, he explains how it was possible for him, not only to combine a merciless critique of the codes of imperialism with a deep commitment to the tradition of secular humanism, but to open the path towards a new understanding of the cultural time-space in which we are entering.
This lecture was given at the Edward Said Memorial Conference, which focused on Edward Said’s legacy and paid tribute to the 10th anniversary of his passing. Each day of the conference featured renowned speakers and established academics on Edward Said’s work. Major attention was paid to cultural activities that resounded with Said’s vision in combining scholarship with the Arts so as to support the quest for justice, self-determination and equality.