Said's "Intellectual Exile: Expatriates and Marginals"
To continue our discussion of the exile, I turn to Said's Representations of the Intellectual, based on the 1993 Reith Lectures. Said asserts that modern exile is much different than pre-modern exile (i.e. Dante) because "the normal traffic of everyday contemporary life keeps you in constant but tantalizing and unfulfilled touch with the old place" (49). That is especially true at the beginning of this century, as information about the goings-on of virtually anywhere in the world are available at the click of a button. Said also posits exile as a metaphorical condition as well as an actual one, the metaphorical exile being the intellectual who refuses to become part of the vast institutional machinery of his or her country, instead choosing to be always adversarial and critical. Said identifies Bazarov, the nihilist from Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, as the prototype for modern nihilistic intellectuals, as Turgenev represents him as cut off from his family and given little or no background information in the narrative: "he sets of seismic shocks, he jolts people, but he can neither be explained away by his background nor his friends" (56).
Said also makes a contribution to my examination of the context of human rights discourse. Because the exile is constantly negotiating between his lost homeland and the provisionality of his current place, he or she is able to bring multiple perspectives to any discussion: "Intellectually this means that an idea or experience is always counterposed with another, therefore making them both appear in a sometimes new and unpredictable light: from that juxtaposition one gets a better, perhaps even more universal idea of how to think, say, about a human rights issue in one situation by comparison with another" (60). This seems to be att odds with Said's assertion that any discussion of human rights is by its very nature tied to nationalism, but I think these views can be reconciled if we think of the idea of contrapuntal reading, an important Saidian term, instead of universal. The exile can point up differences and similarities between human rights abuses and expose the contradictions and hypocrisy that almost always occampanies apologetics concerning offical friends and condemnations for our enemies.
Another important aspect of exile is that one is able to appreciate the process of becoming as opposed to assertions that "things have always been that way." This is especially relevant in the context of the Palestinian/Israeli case, where the violence is oftentimes discussed without any context whatsoever, and a hopelessness sets in as if there is nothing that either side can do in working towards a solution. Said states: "Look at situations as contingent, not as inevitable, look at them as the result of a series of historical choices made by men and women, as facts of society made by human beings, and not as natural or god-given, therefore unchangeable, permanent, irreversible" (61). One can hear echoes of both Vico and Nietzsche in this position.
"The exilic intellectual does not respond to the logic of the conventional but to the audacity of daring, and to representing change, to moving on, not standing still" (64).