REPRESENTATIONS OF THE INTELLECTUAL
The 1993 Reith Lectures
In six essays delivered as lectures for the BBC, Said (The Politics of Dispossession, p. 537, etc.) makes the case that intellectuals should maintain a vigilant skepticism toward all received wisdoms. Said conceives of the ideal intellectual as "exile and marginal, as amateur, and as the author of a language that tries to speak the truth to power." Some may find an exquisite irony in the spectacle of Said, a member of the Palestinian National Council, cautioning thinkers against allowing their ideas and reputations to be co-opted by patriotism, nationalism, and various forms of group-think. But Said sees the irony as well, and he struggles honestly in these essays to describe a role for the intellectual in which the moral authority of the prophetic outsider is not purchased by forfeiting all political and social engagement.