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Why Every Student at SF State Should Know Who Edward Said is

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at San Francisco chapter.

In light of the recent genocide occuring in Gaza, San Francisco State University held a mural celebration on Thursday, November 2nd for the Palestinian Cultural Mural above the campus book store located on the Cesar Chavez building, North Plaza. The event is held annually but is especially vital this year to bring further awareness and solitude to our campus. Sponsored by the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center (ROMC), the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) hosted the event in Jack Adams hall on the top floor of Cesar Chavez with more than one hundred folks in attendance. In light of the celebration a 6×9 infographic card version of the mural was printed and handed out; they are also available in the ROMC located across Jack Adams hall for students to keep. On the back side there is a detailed explanation of the mural in which each section is numbered. Associated with each number is an in-depth explanation of its representation within the mural. The mural was dedicated on November 2nd in 2007 and produced by artists Fayeq Oweis and Susan Greene. Being the first campus in the country to display a mural of a Palestinian Leader, SFSU added to their already highly decorated resume in promoting progressiveness, diversity, and inclusion.

On the mural is Edward Said (sah-EED), an integral figure within Palestinian history who was a political activist, writer, and literary critic. He aided in the overall comprehension of the country’s continuous misrepresentation; combating against postcolonial ideas and imperialism while truthfully representing Palestinian culture through his teaching in cultural studies. Born and raised in Jerusalem, Said came to the United States to study at Princeton University for his undergraduate degree and then a Masters at Stanford University. He went on to teach English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Despite his passing in 2003, Said is very much still alive through his works, such as his books The Questions of Palestine, Orientalism, and, Covering Islam to name a few. His interviews, one of which is linked at the end, are also a great visual representation into his perspectives and ideology. Famously known for his views and development of the concept known as “Orientalism,” Said delves into the nuances regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As an “educator, writer, philosopher, and civil and human rights activist” he continuously advocated for a peaceful solution regarding the country’s conflict; unfortunately the events that are unfolding every day in Gaza are the direct opposite of what he spent his life envisioning for his people (Mural Infographic Card).

One of his main teachings, “Orientalism” is especially relevant to modern day. Said coined the term in 1978 to describe the overall patronizing attitude the West holds towards Middle Eastern, Asian, and North African societies. Orientalism predominantly helps to outline how the West developed an “us vs. them” mentality that fuels the discourse, both politically and socially, between the West and the East. For instance, the United States military occupied Afghanistan for two decades on the premise that Afghani folks needed saving against the Taliban; however the effects were not as successful seeing as the Taliban resumed control following the dispersal. If the West isn’t perceiving the East through a white savior complex lens then they are overtly sexualizing them with the notion of Middle Eastern women being “exotic.” Orientalism also reveals the large contradiction of the West arguing the need to save the East due to their lack of protective strength as a society, but simultaneously arguing that they are too irrational, too inhuman to be civil. There is a large clash of Western ideas created in order to feed into the upholding of colonial power which Said strived to detangle. Though he has passed, his teachings must be carried on to continue the fight for Palestine.

“Human is the only, and I would go as far as saying, the final resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history”
Edward Said (1935-2003)

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”

Edward Said on Orientalism

Manisha Singh

San Francisco '24

Hi, my name is Manisha :) I am a junior at SFSU and am majoring in Sociology with a minor in Business Administration. I transferred to SFSU in the Spring of 2023 from community college where I worked as an English Tutor. I have always loved writing and reading as it helps to create a welcoming and relatable space for all areas of my life. I hope to help cultivate this same space for other women.