A pink taxi

A pink taxi

March 18, 2012

Edward Said's Advise

I pride myself to have been a prospective pupil of the late Professor Edward Said (RIP). I elected the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy for post graduate studies instead of Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Life is replete with decisive choice makings that fork out at various junctions. I am sure earning my PhD at Fletcher where I met my husband on Commencement was my destiny.

I had the same conversation with the esteemed Professor over dinner once, as I recounted how my desire to analyse the influences of French and LatinAmerican novels on the Iranian novels had been in my academic plans but that I had instead become a specialist on Saudi Arabia and its cultural changes. Edward Said had been invited to talk at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. That afternoon he lectured on the eternal and hopeless peace process. He even lifted his shoe and hammered it "a la Nikita Kruschev" in passionate discussion on the lectern.

But what I remember most from that speech, which dates back more than 15 years ago was his advise. Advise that was too late for me to take but which I will dispense onto my children.

"Do not get lost in your cultural ghettos!" he proclaimed to the students in the audience.

He denounced those, who, like myself, had selected our own regional studies as our speciality in American universities. Why have we selected Middle Eastern Studies in the United States when we should be studying American History or Literature? Indeed, I had, mistakenly and with much regret not taken a single American class: neither literature, nor art history, nor politics! Why had I studied in the USA for 10 years if it was to study "my old world"?

Perhaps the answer is that I had been French educated and known more about the series of kings called Louis than the four caliphs! Perhaps because I had studied Romance languages instead of Farsi! Perhaps because I wanted an answer to my political qualms!

As a result, I am tutoring my children "Middle Eastern studies" from early on. I am constantly integrating their "cultural ghetto" studies in their earlier years. When they attend religion classes at school, they are being exposed to their culture and learning Arabic as well. When they will apply to American colleges I will transmit Professor Said's advise:

"Do not get lost in your cultural ghettos!"


  1. Do You make your own destiny,or is it Circumstances?I feel I had a hand in encouraging the choice of Fletcher over Columbia for the only reason that the doctorate in Comparative Literature at Columbia would have taken years to complete,and as a Middle Eastern father I opted for an easy way out.
    With my other daughter,her choice was Creative writing,and I pressured her to get a professional degree like her male siblings,that might help her more to sustain herslf in the future.I was of the opinion that she can take courses in Creative writing after she gets her JD if she was still interested.
    I wish we all listened to Edward Said,and got interested in other cultures that would have opened more windows to Russia,China,India or the USA.

  2. Is that anonymous comment from Amou saad? There are too many doctors and lawyers in the world. We need more people who are dynamic enough to understand the cultural ghetto effect which is deep seeded so that they can identify with and improve upon the ghetto effect by reaching out and changing minds.

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