Politics of Non-Identity in Edward Said’s Autobiography

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  • Title: Politics of Non-Identity in Edward Said’s Autobiography: "Out of Place"
  • Author(s): Asmaa Elshikh
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Arts Theory and History
  • Keywords: Autobiography, Identity, Non-Identity, Postcolonial-Theory, Edward Said, Resistance
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2326-9952 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-1779 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2326-9952/CGP/v13i04/1-10
  • Citation: Elshikh, Asmaa. 2018. "Politics of Non-Identity in Edward Said’s Autobiography: "Out of Place"." The International Journal of Arts Theory and History 13 (4): 1-10. doi:10.18848/2326-9952/CGP/v13i04/1-10.
  • Extent: 10 pages


Edward Said grew up and received his early education in such a unique and hybrid culture as that of Egypt, Lebanon, and Palestine, an important factor that contributed to his thought about postcolonial criticism and identity. His call for the critic and the intellectual to dissociate themselves from cultural constraints is an essential topic in Said’s theory. Said is interested in resisting the constraints of constructed identity—notably, national identity—in favor of cosmopolitan values of plurality and tolerance. This attitude is reflected not only in Said’s theoretical discourse, but also, as this paper discusses, in his autobiographical discourse. More specifically, Said’s autobiography, “Out of Place,” embodies a practical reflection of his own ideology about the politics of non-identity. Said’s autobiography reflects on the Arab culture (in Egypt, Palestine, and Lebanon) as the colonized world where he led his early childhood; meanwhile it is published and written for the Western audience and in a Western language. These contradicting elements would not have been able to create such a successful narrative without affording the author’s identity a position that is secure enough from identifying techniques like filiation and affiliation. This secure position, as this paper discusses, could only be offered through politics/techniques of non-identity.