22 April 2010, University Theatre, Nieuwe Doelenstr. 16, 1012 CP Amsterdam
To mark his 75th birth anniversary, and to ask how different scholars, practitioners, curators and activists respond to the legacy of Edward Said, this symposium seeks to provide a forum for critical dialogue, debate and reflection on various themes that run through his work. These range from the critique of Empire and the questioning of the canonical to the state of the exile and the politics of memory, from irony in literary history to polyphony and counterpoint as tropes of thinking inspired from music.
Said’s writings today form a part of the curriculum of several humanities and social science programmes. How do we assess its relevance, and to what extent has Said’s thought become an example of his own “travelling theory”, in which ideas travel to other times and situations and possibly lose their original force?
His outspoken participation in public debates continues to be of inspiration to human rights and global justice activists as well as journalists. How do we understand the vocation of the intellectual and the interlocutor today? How does location or privilege inform our choice of subjects of engagement?
Said’s wide-ranging interests and affinities in the arts are exemplary to artists committed to a sense of public citizenship. How do artists today relate or respond to the canonical, to the idea of masterpieces, which played a contradictory but important role in Said’s own writings?
The symposium would like to bring together critical perspectives on Said emerging from academics, activism and art and in doing so, interrogate the possibilities of connecting these three areas in our own practices.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
9.30 – 10.15 Welcome and Opening: Sruti Bala
Film screening: Edward Said: The Last interview (Mike Dibb)
10.15 – 10.30 Coffee/Tea
10.30 – 12.30 Roundtable 1: Nation State – Homeland
Academic: Kati Röttger
Activist: Yoad Winter, Gate 48
Artist: Chokri Ben Chikha,
KASK (Royal Academie of Art)/Hogent Association University of Ghent
Moderator: Ihab Saloul
Respondents: Sudeep Dasgupta (to be confirmed)
The “nation state” and “homeland” form two oppositional keywords that span a range of tensions and questions that are recurrent in Said’s work. He opposed rigid nationalism, whilst openly recognising the need for national liberation. He highlighted the vantage position of the exilic, whilst strongly objecting to violent expulsion of peoples by the State. The panelists will respond to the following questions from their own areas of knowledge and action:
How is it possible to oppose virulent nationalism without losing sight of the human need for places of belonging and of affiliation?
How do you think Said’s critique of imperialism needs to be applied or sharpened in the current political developments at national level (Netherlands, Israel-Palestine)? What is your answer to the often repeated question of how to look at “the Other” or “the Outsider”?
12.30 – 13.30 Lunch Break
13.30 – 15.30 Roundtable 2: Masterpiece – Counterpoint
Academic: Michiel Leezenberg
Activist: Marjolein Meester
Artist/Activist: Merlijn Twaalfhoven
Artist: Lina Issa
Moderator: Birgit Abels
Respondents: Saskia Kersenboom, Wim van der Meer
Said’s literary and music scholarship oscillated between a careful but dissident interpretation of canonical texts and masterpieces on the one hand and an insistence on including voices from the margins, “on confronting dogma and representing all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug” on the other. The panelists are requested to respond to this opposition of counterpoint or counter-narrative and masterpiece or canon, based on their own areas of work and engagement. Questions to be addressed include:
What is the position of the canonical or the masterpiece in your work? How do you perceive your role as public intellectual or citizen, in relation to the discipline or subject or medium that you have chosen to work in? What is needed today for a more dissident and counter-hegemonic public culture?
15.30-16.00 Tea Break
16.00 – 17.00 Rokus de Groot: “Contrapuntal Intellectual: Edward Said and Music”
Lecture based on the Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, American University, Cairo, November 2009.
How can music contribute to the intellectual debate about globalization, postcolonial issues and cultural transformation? Time and again Edward W. Said has pointed to a powerful musical ability: polyphony, and especially its dimension of counterpoint. He has studied polyphony as a musical practice, as a metaphor, and as a mode of thinking. Far from accepting the current reduction of music’s role to a mood regulator, identity marker and kick provider, he has stressed its exemplary intellectual potential. Polyphony is one of the rare human endeavours in which full recognition of individual profiles (‘voices’) and their constant mutual attuning are completely integrated, with a vital role of conflict. Equality of voices is manifesting itself in mutual ‘responsibility’ (Boulez) and mutual transformation of those voices, in an engagement characterized by pleasure, inclusiveness, discipline and invention. To Said, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was exemplary as polyphony: not ‘old music’ at all (whatever that may mean), but surprisingly one of the most advanced in terms of human emancipation. Polyphony offered a counter-discourse to Said against totalitarianism and commodification. The lecture analyses Said’s thought about polyphony, in his conception of ‘identity’, and his reading of the Western literary canon in relation to the multitude of texts world-wide which has formed it. On the basis of specific music examples, his metaphoric use of polyphony will be both challenged and refined. Proposals will be offered how musical polyphony can be further explored as an intellectual mode adequate to a time of globalization and cultural transformation.
17.00 – 18.00 Exhibition: Out of Place
curated by Min K. Shin, Johnson Leow and Niels Hoogendoorn
A soundscape exhibition about Asian artists living or working in Amsterdam, their motivations and their responses to Said’s notion of ‘exile’. (The exhibition will be open from 22nd to 27th April)
Location: D.08, Basement of the University Theatre, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Amsterdam
We would like to thank the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA) and the Faculty of Humanities – School of Art, Religion and Culture (KRC) of the University of Amsterdam for the generous support offered to the symposium.
Organising Team: Sruti Bala, Rokus de Groot, Niels Hoogendoorn, Johnson Leow, Dana Rubin, Oscar Seip, Min K. Shin
The symposium will be conducted in English, is free of charge and open to all. Lunch and snacks are provided. Kindly register by sending an email to saidsymposium2010 (at) gmail.com.