Category Archives: Middle East

Critical Examination of Edward Said’s “Orientalism”

Here’s a little Q & A on Said’s now seminal and foundational text Orientalism.

Orientalism is a book published in 1978 by Edward Said that has been highly influential and controversial in postcolonial studies and other fields. In the book, Said effectively redefined the term “Orientalism” to mean a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the Middle East. This body of scholarship is marked by a “subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture.” He argued that a long tradition of romanticized images of Asia and the Middle East in Western culture had served as an implicit justification for European and the American colonial and imperial ambitions. Just as fiercely, he denounced the practice of Arab elites who internalized the US and British orientalists’ ideas of Arabic culture.

So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Muslims and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.
—Edward Said

A central idea of Orientalism is that Western knowledge about the East is not generated from facts or reality, but from preconceived archetypes that envision all “Eastern” societies as fundamentally similar to one another, and fundamentally dissimilar to “Western” societies. This a priori knowledge establishes “the East” as antithetical to “the West.” Such Eastern knowledge is constructed with literary texts and historical records that often are of limited understanding of the facts of life in the Middle East.

Following the ideas of Michel Foucault, Said emphasized the relationship between power and knowledge in scholarly and popular thinking, in particular regarding European views of the Islamic Arab world. Said argued that Orient and Occident worked as oppositional terms, so that the “Orient” was constructed as a negative inversion of Western culture. The work of another thinker, Antonio Gramsci, was also important in shaping Edward Said’s analysis in this area. In particular, Said can be seen to have been influenced by Gramsci’s notion of hegemony in understanding the pervasiveness of Orientalist constructs and representations in Western scholarship and reporting, and their relation to the exercise of power over the “Orient”.

Although Edward Said limited his discussion to academic study of Middle Eastern, African and Asian history and culture, he asserted that “Orientalism is, and does not merely represent, a significant dimension of modern political and intellectual culture.” (53) Said’s discussion of academic Orientalism is almost entirely limited to late 19th and early 20th century scholarship. Most academic Area Studies departments had already abandoned an imperialist or colonialist paradigm of scholarship. He names the work of Bernard Lewis as an example of the continued existence of this paradigm, but acknowledges that it was already somewhat of an exception by the time of his writing (1977). The idea of an “Orient” is a crucial aspect of attempts to define “the West.” Thus, histories of the Greco–Persian Wars may contrast the monarchical government of the Persian Empire with the democratic tradition of Athens, as a way to make a more general comparison between the Greeks and the Persians, and between “the West” and “the East,” or “Europe” and “Asia,” but make no mention of the other Greek city states, most of which were not ruled democratically.

Taking a comparative and historical literary review of European, mainly British and French, scholars and writers looking at, thinking about, talking about, and writing about the peoples of the Middle East, Said sought to lay bare the relations of power between the colonizer and the colonized in those texts. Said’s writings have had far-reaching implications beyond area studies in Middle East, to studies of imperialist Western attitudes to India, China and elsewhere. It was one of the foundational texts of postcolonial studies. Said later developed and modified his ideas in his book Culture and Imperialism (1993, another must read).

Edward Said, was a Palestinian American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was a University professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in Post-Colonial Studies. He died in September 2003 after a long battle with cancer.

Many scholars now use Said’s work to attempt to overturn long-held, often taken-for-granted Western ideological biases regarding non-Westerners in scholarly thought. Some post-colonial scholars would even say that the West’s idea of itself was constructed largely by saying what others were not. If “Europe” evolved out of “Christendom” as the “not-Byzantium,” early modern Europe in the late 16th century (see Battle of Lepanto, 1571) defined itself as the “not-Turkey.”

Said puts forward several definitions of “Orientalism” in the introduction to Orientalism. Some of these have been more widely quoted and influential than others:

  • “A way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western experience.” (1)
  • “a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident’.” (2)
  • “A Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” (3)
  • “…particularly valuable as a sign of European-Atlantic power over the Orient than it is as a veridic discourse about the Orient.” (6)
  • “A distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philological texts.” (12)

In his Preface to the 2003 edition of Orientalism, Said also warned against the “falsely unifying rubrics that invent collective identities,” citing such terms as “America,” “The West,” and “Islam,” which were leading to what he felt was a manufactured “clash of civilisations.”

Here’s a little critical “Q&A” to guide you through the central arguments (the first 100 or so pages) of the text.

Question One: 

Said starts his first chapter with a quote from Fourier in the Description de l’Egypte, “le genie inquiet et ambitieux de (sic) Europeens… impatient d’employer les nouveaux instruments de leur puissance, ” which roughly translates as, “the ambitious and anxious spirit of the Europeans.. eager to use the new tools of their power.”  Explain the sentence and comment on why it is the opening quote for this chapter.


Though, Said notes, feelings of Orientalism and demarcation of an European “us” and an Oriental “them” were long in the making, the middle of the eighteenth century brought about two principal elements in the relationship between the West and the East: “growing systematic knowledge in Europe of the Orient, and Europe’s position of strength [read: domination].” (39-40)

This emerging body of literature is what, according to Said, constituted European knowledge of the Orient and is what gave them control of the region – knowledge is power, Said writes, taking from Foucault. (34, 36, and 40) Said structures this paradigm of knowledge in the following manner: “England knows Egypt, Egypt is what England knows; England knows that Egypt cannot have self-government; England confirms that by occupying Egypt; for the Egyptians, Egypt is what England has occupied and now governs; foreign occupation therefore becomes “the very basis” of contemporary Egyptian civilization; Egypt requires, indeed insists upon, British occupation.” (34)

As such, England’s age of discovery, which preceded this period of domination and government, produced a body of knowledge that allowed them to witness Egypt’s inabilities to self-govern and thus fed into England’s occupation. This timeline presented by Said is the thrust of the first chapter – that is to say that the emergent feelings of colonialism stem from systematic knowledge flooding Europe which place European culture and knowledge above that of the Orient and create a hierarchy of power between the West and the East. The tools of Europe’s power, the tools mentioned in the quote at the beginning of the chapter are these aforementioned tools of knowledge. The knowledge gathered during the Age of Discovery was harnessed in the mid-eighteenth century to serve racial and geographic paradigms of power.  This construct of knowledge feeds into Said pivotal phrase – “Orientalism orientalizes the Orient” – meaning that the Orient (and the Occident for that matter) is man made constructs built out of the systematic knowledge gathered in Europe at this time. The Orient is only the Orient when placed in opposition to the Occident.

Question Two:

Comment on Said’s question which is central to his entire book: “Can one divide human reality, as indeed human reality seems to be genuinely divided, into clearly different cultures, histories, traditions, societies, even races, and survive the consequences humanly?” (45) Is this simply a rhetorical question or a statement about a much more difficult and unresolved issue.


Ideally, Said’s book aims to answer this question though in this context (placed in the first chapter) the question is asked rhetorically. Does this statement have to be either a rhetorical question or an unresolved issue? Can it not be both? In the first chapter it is meant to be rhetorical – it is meant to make that reader believe that the author will attempt to answer the question or that the reader will be able to answer the question come the end of the book. In the context of the whole book however, it is a statement of deeply unresolved issues of race and superiority and how each and every individual defines themselves and those around them. Is Said not saying with this statement that while we [the collective human race] wish not to admit such things, we all define ourselves in opposition to others? (I am I because I am not you…so on and so forth) Can discussing such practices and their roots ever make the practice cease? I don’t think Said had an answer, try as he might to find one in the process of this book.

Question Three:

Explain what Said means by: “As a discipline representing institutionalized Western knowledge of the Orient, Orientalism comes to exert a three-way force, on the Orient, on the Orientalist, and on the Western “consumer” of Orientalism” (67) What do you think about Said’s implied position about the constitution and growth of knowledge?


This statement, on page 67, harkens to the phase mentioned in the response to the first question – “Orientalism orientalizes the Orient.” Orientalism, as a practice, penalizes the Orient for not being Europe. In the process of penalizing the Orient, the Occident is orientalizing the Orient by implementing a set of constraints, limitations upon the Orient (these constraints are apart of Said’s description of the practice of Orientalism on page 41). In this process that Occident receives that it believes to be “truths” of the Orient, but in reality the “truths” they are ingesting are learned judgments of the Orient built upon the power dynamic established. Thus the process of Orientalism is as destructive to the West as it is to the East, for as mentioned above (response to question 1) both operate under false senses of themselves and the other.

Question Four:

Said argues that there are two major reasons which favor a “textual attitude” [accepting the authority of texts] over direct human encounters: one has to do with the human need for the comfort of textual authority when confronted with “something relatively unknown, threatening and previously distant”, the second has to do with “the appearance of success” (93) Explain his point in relation to Orientalism.


Said writes that all things, all experiences and places, cane be described as a book. Therefore, all reality can be described and thus descriptions garner authority as sources of reality. His over simplified example of the man who reads of a fierce lion, encounters a fierce lion, believes in the authority of the author about lions and thus subsequently about all other realities that he or she might write on is apropos.

The written word garners power because of its relationship (even if only perceived relationship) to reality. This relationship that Said constructs of how an individual will take a written account as authentic over or in place of a personal account is a large piece of both Said’s and Foucault’s arguments on the power of both language and knowledge. This is essential to the Orientalist dialectic because the power relationship between East and West, Orient and Occident, is built upon power (read: language and knowledge). If the West has more knowledge they have more power, then get more knowledge through language (written word), thus power is imbued into written accounts of travels in the Orient and encounters with the Orient. Thus the written account will trump the personal account.

This book and its main arguments serves as the basis for a paper I wrote on Orientalist painting and Napoleon’s explorations in Egypt and Greater Syria, here.


Filed under Culture, History, Middle East


Beautiful travel photos from Giza, January 2009.

Sphinx and Pyramid from a distance

The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid with Bedouin and Camel

Great Pyramid with Bedouin and Camels

Pyramids of Giza, from the West

Pyramids, from the North

Sphinx, northern profile


Sphinx and Pyramid

Temple at Giza

Temple at Giza

Sphinx, from the south

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Filed under Art, Art History, Culture, History, Middle East


How I long to be back in Egypt. Wonderful photos from early 2009.

Nile facing north from Giza

National Islamic Museum (near al-Azhar)

Cairo, from the Citadel

Mosque of Muhammad Ali, the Citadel

Entry portal of the Complex of Sultan al-Nasr Hasan

Sahn of al-Azhar Mosque

The National Museum of Antiquity, from Meydan Tahrir

Meydan Tahrir

Sahn of Ibn Tulun Mosque

Old City, from the roof of al-Hakim Mosque

Southern Cemetery

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Current Middle East Uprisings

The current events in the Middle East are disturbing for many reasons. Gruesome, indiscriminate violence by dictatorial regimes against their citizens is nothing new, nor is the desire by dictators to squash democratic uprisings. But never have so many democratic efforts occurred in the region simultaneously.

Uprisings in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Yemen come on the heels of successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. You can read my post on the causes of the democratic effort in Egypt here, and my thoughts on the start of events in Libya in my show notes from Tim Corrimal‘s Episode 157, here.

Let me begin where I left off with Libya, then I’ll discuss Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, last.

As noted previously, the current situation in Libya began with a series of protests and demonstrations on February 15. Within a week these protests had spread and Gaddafi’s regime was significantly challenged. Similar to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the primary goal of the protests in Libya was the cessation of Gaddafi’s 42-year-long regime. Gaddafi has responded to the uprising with brute military force, censorship, and the blocking of communication outlets.

What has occurred since February 15 is essentially the devolution of Libya into civil war. Gaddafi has seen segments of his armed forces defect to a coalition of rebel organizations (a mixture of international entities (it’s alleged the Tunisia and Egypt are assisting financially and militarily), Libyan tribes, National Transitional Council, Free Libyan Air Force, Libyan People’s Army, etc). He has also seen the eastern third of his country fall out of his control and into the control of the hands of the opposition (this control is maintained in the coastal town of Benghazi). Gaddafi has maintained control of the western and central thirds of Libya and has maintained the largest city, Tripoli. I hesitate to call Tripoli the “capital” since it is becoming clear that Libya is divided in civil warfare and Benghazi is now the “capital” of the opposition forces’ National Transitional Council.

Gaddafi has tried to negotiate with the opposition leaders. But his continued use of international paid mercenaries, his violent attacks on his own citizens, and his and his son’s continued public petulance to calls for their resignation have kept the opposition leaders away from negotiations. The UN has taken several measures against Gaddafi and numerous members of his inner circle: freezing their bank accounts and restricting their travel. This was followed up with a resolution by member states to enact a no-fly zone over Libya. This was led, as we all know by now by France and the US (among others) before the US handed off control to NATO.

The efforts to squash political unrest in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt is no different then what is happening in the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan and Syria. Military dictators ruling in the Arab/Islamic World since the 1960s and 1970s under “emergency law” are rampant and have enacted vicious, heinous police states upon their people for decades. They have systematically raped their countries of financial resources and and have syphoned money away from their citizens and into their own pockets.

This is echoed through out the Middle East and is at the heart of the current uprisings. Take Bahrain, for example, a Sunni monarchy that presides over a predominantly Shiia population. While Bahrain is different from it’s neighbors, in that it’s protests are based prominently on religious minority ruling over a different religious majority, the concern is still over-extended leadership and the dangers that poses to a country’s citizenry. Bahrain’s protests were based on greater political freedoms and calls to end the monarchy. After all, as of 2010, more than half of the serving cabinet members in Bahrain came from the ruling family.

After a month of camping out in the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the Bahrani capital, the monarchy called in troops to violently confront the protestors. On March 15, Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa declared martial law and a three-month state of emergency. This pattern of cause and effect – protestors gather, present their demands, state responds by trying to squash protestors, violence ensues, martial law or emergency law is enacted as last resort – has been used consistently by Middle East dictators and despots to control cyclical uprisings.

In Yemen, the current protests began on the heels of the Tunisian revolution and simultaneous to the Egyptian revolution. Starting in Sana’a on January 27, a protest of 16,000 Yemenis kicked off the effort which has been aimed at addressing concerns about unemployment, economic conditions, corruption, and the government’s attempts to modify the state constitution. Protests soon escalated to calling for the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to resign.

Following the lead of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Ali Abdullah Saleh announced on February 2 that he would not seek reelection in 2013, but instead he would pass the role to his son. The following day, February 3, outraged Yemenis took to the streets by the tens of thousands in Sana’a and Aden, in a “Day of Rage” called for by Tawakel Karman. There were counter-protests organized in in Sana’a by pro-regime forces and organizations. Fridays of protests in Sana’a, in particular, but in other cities have continued throughout February and March.

The same concerns about a over-reach and a regime ruling under emergency law propelled Syria to unprecedented protests beginning at the end of January. After the Ba’athist overthrow in Iraq in 1963, the party took control in Syria. Hafez al-Assad and then his son Bashar have ruled Syria under emergency rule since 1970. Almost all of the constitutional rights afforded Syrians are squashed under emergency rule. It also squelches opposition to the party and the al-Assads. Furthermore, when Hafez al-Assad died in 2000 a controversial amedment was pushed through to lower the age requirement for president so Bashar could succeed his father. This kind of corruption and squelching of rights and free elections are at the heart of not only the current protests in Syria, but as I have discussed, all the protests, demonstrations and revolutions in the Middle East since the start of the year.

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Filed under Culture, Islam, Middle East, Politics

Your Bruises

New guest post from the divine @ThundarKitteh. Read, revel, enjoy. See her previous guest post, “Kitteh Litter,” here.


HOWDEH! So my poetry is the polar opposite of my previous entry. Very sad and depressing, but it addresses a reality for far too many of us. Let me know if you want any background info on this one for the blog. I don’t mind talking about what I went through, I just figure it’s not all that interesting when simply told. I think by creating a character who has suffered more than I have helped me deal with it better than anything else I tried.


Your Bruises (Backward Waltz)

So much blood in the carpet
It always had such a lovely pyle.
But the house needs to eat…again.
You left me worse than last time,
I hope you’re having fun at the tavern.
And I will wear your bruises
While I clean the sanguine marsh.
These bruises, lacerations and lumps
Are in fact yours, but you say
They look so much better on me.
So I will wear your bruises
Because you can’t.

I forget why it is that I love you,
I have to, because I’m still here
Painting my face with Bactine and stage make-up.
If I’m still covering up for you,
That means I must still care, right?
My skin is a gothic rainbow, imported my tears from the Dead Sea
This T-shirt my mother bought for me from some stupid catalog
Is now, like me, a rag only to be seen indoors.
Too much evidence of your little dictatorship,
I remember the first time you choked me
You left dark violet gills on my throat
And I wore them with false pride.
Now that I’ve tripped on this liar’s spiral staircase
I’m tired
So tired
So I will wear your bruises
No longer caring that your Daddy gave them to you.
If you really are so strong,
You keep them to yourself.
So I will wear your bruises,
Your abrasions, your scars-to-be
Wile I stare at this glassy web in the mirror
Some of my broken hairs are embedded in the center,
An abused spider with no roots.
I look at the bottle of All-Purpose Cleaner:
“Tough on Messes! Cuts Thru Grime!”
And yet, all its purposes amount to a bottle of shit.
So, as I laugh at my new-found freedom,
Bruises and all,
I drive, floating toward the universe filled with the ones
With the metal stars, the guns, the power
To toss you to the cages lions.
I hope you’re having fun at the cafeteria
Finally wearing your own bruises
Because mine have faded away.


Filed under Feminism, Middle East

“Kitteh Litter”

Well, it’s Women’s History Month! All month I will be hosting guest posts from kick-ass women (and the occasional man) about their lives, experiences, thoughts, reactions, etc. This post comes from @ThundarKitteh, an AMAZING Twitter follow! It’s rambling, it’s everything you can want and imagine from a tattooed, vegan, kitteh-loving, half-Arab DIVA. Enjoy!


O HAI, WIMMINZ!!! It’s our time of the month…er, sorry, it’s just our month…wait, what if they mean we are on the rag for a whole bloody month?! And it’s a 31-day month too! Those unbelievable bastards! *freebases chocolate while chucking tampons at said unbelievable bastards* Hey, we women have to multitask, right? Just a warning before you keep reading: I’m writing this as I go, so I don’t know what’s going to happen, so deal with it. Or don’t, I don’t care. Anyway, I thought I’d write a little something today, as it’s near the end St. Paddy’s Day (EST, mind you) and I don’t drink anymore, so really, what the fuck else am I going to do? And what would I rather be doing than providing copious amounts of babbling and bad jokes to people on a friend’s blog? To be honest, making out with Daniel Henney is what I’d rather be doing. I’m willing to bet you don’t know who he is. I’ll give you a second to look him up. No, it’s totally cool, I’ll wait. Trust me on this.

*cue Final “Jeopardy!” theme music*
Did you see him?! Did you see?! I KNOW!!!! Hey, hey! Come back, I’m not done here yet. Give me a few more minutes of your time and you can go back to ogling him. Whoa, whoa! Both hands on the keyboard, Missy! Yeesh.
Moving on…sorta. I’m trying to think of deep things to write about, but I know that if I do, I’ll end up going on and on about really dark stuff and probably regret sharing it when I wake up tomorrow (so it’s not that different from St. Paddy’s Day Past, now is it?), so instead, I’ll talk about my heroine, who’s really an anti-hero: Tank Girl. Yes, you read that right. See, I’m not the type of woman who likes high heels and glitter and getting my hair done (I’m half Arab, I need less hair…it’s…it’s everywhere! Thanks, Dad). So most women who are considered worthy of worship don’t do much for me. I figured out at a young age that it’s because they’re people, real people. And real people mostly suck. So my first girl crushes were Wonder Woman and Princess Leia. Why? They have their shit together, and you don’t mess with them. The problem for me was that Wonder Woman was too sexualized (yes, I noticed this as a kid because I was weird). While I don’t have a problem with that per se, it’s not me. Princess Leia vanished into decent science fiction novels, but it wasn’t the same. Where did all the badass bitches go?
Then I discovered the Tank Girl comics. This epiphany tasted like AWESOMESAUCE! Here you have a badass bitch with funny hair who’s stinky, owns a fucking tank and who’s boyfriend is a kangaroo-human hybrid. She levels whole towns in the deserts in Australia just so she can get a case of beer. Oh yeah, and sometimes she saves the world (usually by mistake). SIGN. ME. UP!!! Sadly, I realized that this is not a way to live, but I adore her regardless. I’m still trying to get to her level of “I don’t give a fuck”, and it’s hard for me, sadly I was born caring about the world around me, and have a PhD in Worry Wartology. Oh yeah. It’s awful. Actually, I have an M.A. in Classical Studies from Tulane, but who’s counting? No, seriously, who is? I suck at math.
Though I suck at math, I can tell you that I have 11 tattoos. Big ones, too. I’d get into what they all are and mean, but seriously, who gives a shit? It annoys the hell out of me when people say “This pink butterfly represents my desire to be a free spirit.” Or “This tribal tattoo represents my heritage…of my frat! High five, bro!” K. That’s cute, but honestly, I don’t care. As for my tattoos, I blame the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the initial obsession with my wanting to get ink in the first place. After I quit drinking and smoking (all cold turkey, all in the same year. Yay, me), I realized that tattooing releases endorphins, and gives you a buzz similar to the one you get by drinking, etc. Running and scuba diving apparently do the same thing, which is why you see so many newly-sober people doing one or more of those activities. Neat huh? See, you learned something.
I’m also vegan. Don’t worry, I’m not one of the angry vegans. I developed an allergy to animal proteins at age 28. If I ate anything animal-based, I had heartburn so bad it would radiate throughout my chest and all the way down my left arm. I also would get all bile-y and acid reflux-y. I know, right? So, rather than have tons of tests done to confirm what’s wrong and be put on medication (I have no health insurance, btw), I decided that saner thing to do was give up animals and animal by-products. In three days all my pain was gone. If I eat anything with animal parts in it, the heartburn and acid reflux comes back instantly. I wonder if I could get a job testing food. “Is it truly vegan? This chick will find out for you.” I feel like I’d need a really outrageous hat for a job like that. Dunno why. *side glances at the Pope* Hey, if he gets one, I should too. I make no apologies for my weirdness, sorry.
So, what is it like being half Arab in a post-9/11 world you probably aren’t wondering? Well, to be honest, it is a bit ridiculous. And by “a bit” I mean “really fucking”. I have had some of the stupidest shit ever said to me in my life since that cursed date. Look, just because you see/hear/read a “special” on the news, doesn’t make you a fucking expert on Arabs, my dears. Hell, I don’t even consider myself any kind of authority, and I grew up overseas (mostly…I was born in La Jolla, then we moved back to Indianapolis cause my Mom hated SoCal, then we started travelling back and forth to Abu Dhabi (we’d go to school in AD and spend the summers and Xmas in Indy…again, weird, I know)). Anyway, all I’m saying is please stop parroting the nearly-100%-bullshit you see on TV about we Arabfolk and do something unheard of: Ask us questions, if you want to know more. You’d be amazed at the answers you get. You might even realize that what you’re hearing on the news is *gasp* racist! Here’s how to tell if something is racist or not. Like truly racist, not “saying Black Friday is racist”. No. No it isn’t. Anyway: If someone says something that sounds kinda shitty, replace the race/religion/gender/diet//minivan brand/whatever that they’ve said or written with your own. If you find it shitty and uncalled for, it’s racist. Yes, it’s really that simple.
Example: I worked for a while at a catering company in the baking section with two sisters who are your typical Indiana slightly trashy chicks; they have dad issues, a shitty mother, poor self-images, have recently found Jesus (he was on top the the fridge the whole time!), think highly of themselves to mask the fact that they should be on medication (or more medication, in most cases), but they mean well. I had the “privilege” of meeting the older sister’s husband. The next day, the other sister said to me, “[Blank] really enjoyed meeting you yesterday, he thought you were really cool.”
“Oh, well, thanks. It was nice meeting him too. He seems like a cool guy.”
“Yeah, well, he did say he was a bit surprised when he met you, cause you know…”
“Huh?” “Well, with you being Arab and all…”
“Oh, is it that I’m not all swaddled in fabric?”
“No, it’s that you’re…you’re pretty and Arab women normally aren’t pretty. Like, at all.”
OK, TIME OUT: What the FUCK do you say to that? I went with “First off, I’m not one of the pretty ones, you should see them. Wowza! And good-looking Arab women are just as gorgeous as other pretty women all over the world. I’ve never seen a race that has a monopoly on that.” I think I handled that quite nicely. I still want to smack her, though. Don’t judge me! I’m only human. It’s not like I really am Tank Girl. Hell, she’d have leveled that place.
Anyway, I’m prattling on more so than I intended (it’s an Arab thing), so thanks for reading this nonsense and stuff. Make sure to subscribe to Sarah’s blog because it is awesome, just like her! I’m not even kidding, I’d donate one of my boobs to her. I don’t care if it doesn’t work that way, it’s the truth!
Now you can return to the ogling of Monsieur L’Henney. Just make sure to put some plastic liner on your chair, don’t want you to have to explain why you’re stuck. See? I do care!


Filed under Culture, Feminism, Middle East

Oriental Nationalism

Given the political climate in the Middle East since January, I have found some interesting parallels between this exploration of Napoleon and current discussions of despotism in the Middle East.

Oriental Nationalism: Gros’ Napoleon at the Pesthouse of Jaffa

Napoleon at the Pesthouse of Jaffa, Antoine-Jean Gros, 1804. Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

In his now seminal canvas, Napoleon at the Pesthouse of Jaffa (1804),[1] Antoine-Jean Gros depicts Napoleon Bonaparte visiting French soldiers sicken by an outbreak of the bubonic plague in a mosque in Jaffa that had been converted into a hospital for plague sufferers. Napoleon stands just right of center, bathed in light, surrounded in front and to his right by Frenchmen succumbing to disease. At his immediate back stand two well Frenchmen in uniform, aghast at his bare, outstretched hand investigating the pustules in a sickened man’s armpit. To his right stand robed and turbaned men attending to the sick seated, slouched, and lying on straw mats on the floor of the mosque. In fact the few scattered non-European figures in the painting are all well-dressed and well-mannered figures attending to the needs of the sick. None of the sick are non-European. The human interaction between the well and the ill takes place in front of an arcade that opens onto the mosque’s courtyard. In the distance, the viewer discerns the other arcaded sides of the courtyard, the mosque’s minaret and the rise of a hilled and walled site in the distance, presumably the city’s citadel, complete with unfurled and full-masted French flag atop. The sky is turbulent with clouds, the sun breaking through only in scattered places, and the mysterious light source bathing Napoleon and those immediately around him in light is indiscernible and does not extend to the front or edges of the picture plane which are shrouded nearly entirely in darkness.

Napoleon at the Pesthouse of Jaffa, detail, Antoine-Jean Gros.

Napoleon at the Pesthouse of Jaffa was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte and overseen by the arts administrator Vivant Denon.[2] The painting was an “epic machine tasked with depicting, retrospectively, the Egyptian campaign to the French people.”[3] A carefully controlled amalgam of Napoleon’s Syrian campaign, the painting has served many historians in their bids to read Gros’ work as hero-worship of Napoleon and propaganda for his regime. It is easy, as many have done, to read Messianic imagery in Napoleon’s upright, contraposto stance with the out stretched hand touching, fearlessly, the wounds of the ill. He is, for all intensive proposes, Christ reaching out and laying hands on Lazarus. Similarly, as noted by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, he is Rationality touching irrationality.[4] Instead of a monarch touching the ill as means of healing through divine intercession, Napoleon is a mortal man reaching out and touching the sick to show his fearlessness in the face of the disease, but also to show that the disease was not transmitted through touch. Napoleon and his doctors, fearful of an even worse plague of fear and imagination among the troops, had long denied that the plague was what sickened soldiers but rather a fever, and that it was not contagious by touch.[5]

Napoleon at the Pesthouse of Jaffa, detail of Napoleon's hand, Antoine-Jean Gros.

Grigsby eschews the scholarship before her, which elucidates only a Christ-like reading of Napoleon without proper contextualization of why such an image was important at that time.[6] This paper, unlike Grigsby’s theses of sexualized imagery and homoerotic subtext,[7] is not concerned with the Orientalizing and feminizing of the sickened French soldiers but with the political and artistic climate of France, which made such an image successful. As Grigsby notes fleetingly, and off-handedly answers at the end of her essay: “What, one must ask, are the terms to which Napoleon’s authority are opposed?”[8] The answer lies, not in the French troops slouched, crumpled and supine on the floor of the mosque in the painting, but in the tightly controlled message of why the Egyptian expedition was embarked upon and what happened during the trip. The truth of what happened at Jaffa was controlled in France until Napoleon’s deposition when it became a rallying cry for his detractors.[9] Gros’ painting, as with Napoleon’s reign, was a amalgamation of dichotomies: rooted in classical language but also a deviation, heroic depiction of a leader while also revealing the crime, truth and spun propaganda. In the end it is not just the sick French soldiers who serve as the Other, it is Napoleon himself who is Othered, for he becomes the spitting image of the despot he rallied his troops against in Egypt.

Map of Napoleon's campaign in Egypt.

England and France had been vying for control of territories from India to North America to the South Seas since the 1600s.[10] The advantages of such control were obvious to all involved. France’s interest in Egypt has been noted by some to come after a consideration of invading the British Isles, which was dismissed given the size and might of the British Navy.[11] Rather, the French government entertained at least a dozen proposed exhibitions into Egypt between 1774 and 1798. After all, as noted by a counselor to Louis XVI, “Egypt belongs to nobody.”[12] Napoleon’s plan was brazen and ill timed. After all France was coming out of a Revolution that had left it’s economy and its streets trashed. The streets and alleys of Paris ran with sewage and smelled worse than they had in the Middle Ages. The anti-monarchist country that had killed its king was still faced with royalist nations pushing at its borders, a climate not traditionally conducive to launching a large military and academic campaign so far from the homeland. But the French wanted their piece of the colonial pie, and the hope was that Egypt would be the penultimate gateway to large swathes of Asian and African territories under French control.[13] As such Napoleon Bonaparte launched his campaign into Egypt, achieving early success in Lower Egypt but losing later when Admiral Nelson destroyed the French fleet, isolating Napoleon’s army from Europe.[14] Napoleon turned his attentions and his troops to the north, to Syria (modern day Israel), following the disastrous loss to Nelson. He advanced as far as Acre but could not take the city, even after a two-month siege. It was during this campaign that the plague struck, especially hard in Jaffa to the south, and forced Napoleon to retreat. Almost half of the men he had left Cairo with did not return.[15]

This brings us back to Gros and the now infamous depiction of Napoleon’s visit to the hospital in Jaffa where his sick and dying men were treated. The scene, purportedly, depicts an actual occurrence of Napoleon visiting his men. The battle of Jaffa was launched on March 7, 1799, where French soldiers killed at least 2,000 Ottoman soldiers prior to two days of raping and slaughtering of civilians.[16] Approximately, 2,500 to 3,000 Ottoman soldiers took to the citadel for refuge, refusing to surrender until the French assured them that they would not be killed. Napoleon, however, promptly ordered their slaughter once they left their refuge. To conserve gunpowder, Napoleon ordered his troops to take the Ottoman soldiers to the sea and kill them with their bayonets.[17] The most scandalous part of the Syrian expedition to Europeans was not the horrendous treatment of Syrian civilians and Ottoman soldiers, but Napoleon’s treatment of his own men.

The plague had initially broken out in the summer of 1798 while the French were still in Egypt. The plague became a significant problem for the French army only while in Syria when 1,300 of the 13,000 French troops[18] contracted the disease with 1,000 of them dying. A makeshift hospital was set up in Jaffa, but not in a mosque as is depicted by Gros, but in an Armenian monastery.[19] The magisterial image is constructed by Gros in more ways than just location. Upon retreat from the city in May of 1799, Napoleon ordered his doctors to poison all bed-ridden soldiers who remained. Doses of laudanum were administered to all who remain, but as noted by David O’Brien, some men vomited the dosage and lived to tell their tales to the English who occupied the city after the French.[20]

Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne, Antoine-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. 1806, Oil on canvas. Musée de l'Amée, Paris.

The Jaffa legend extends beyond the crimes committed by Napoleon and his men while they were there, especially for Napoleon’s detractors. As David O’Brien notes, “when Bonaparte abandoned his army in Egypt, leaving it to certain destruction, Jaffa became a synecdoche for the entire expedition, encapsulating the acts of betrayal and callous disregard for human life that characterized the whole affair.”[21] The Napoleon of Gros, Ingres, and David – a regal man, a messianic figure – is not representative of the fierce political environment of France at the time. Napoleon was presiding over a deeply divided country, torn between scheming Jacobin and Royalist groups both angling for power. France’s political and art worlds were equally torn between what was before Napoleon and what was during Napoleon. Politically, Napoleon wasn’t the secure authoritative figure presiding over a unified country. There were numerous failed assassination attempts and conspiracies, which “undermined the government’s ability to present an image of stability and permanence.”[22] The post-Revolution art world of France was weary of history painting, which it no longer trusted and was the subject of intense derision amongst Salon painters. The lack of government intervention into Salon artists’ work during and since the Revolution suited a cadre of Jacobin painters just fine, while others David included still sought up front government commissions with little intention of completing the work.[23] Even though the Salon itself was unclear on whether or not modern events belonged within the scope of history painting, Napoleon sought to invigorate such work. With his decree of October 1802, he wanted four large canvases produced every year devoted to French history. Even with the decree, no significant works were completed.[24]

Napoleon Crossing the Alps, Jacques-Louis David. 1800, Oil on canvas. Musée National du Château de Malmaison.

The enormous success of Gros’ painting at the Salon of 1804 changed the game entirely.[25] The immediate embrace of the painting by his peers established Gros as a major painter of his day and established the visibility of large-scale propagandistic representations of contemporary events depicted in the language of classical history painting. The chaos of the arts scene during the Revolution seemed over in 1804. Not only due to the appearance and success of Gros’ canvas at the Salon but also because Napoleon became a protector, of sorts, for artists, so long as they “only had eyes for him.”[26]

Napoleon at the Pesthouse of Jaffa was not Gros’ only work depicting Napoleon during the Egyptian campaign. Gros painted the Battle of Nazareth (1801), Battle of Aboukir (1806), and Napoleon Haranguing the Army Before the Battle of the Pyramids (1810). In these images, unlike Jaffa, Napoleon and his troops are violently clashing with Arab soldiers in with bloodshed and horrific carnage strewn around the picture plane. The intention in the battle scenes is clear: make Napoleon look like the triumphant general fearlessly leading his troops into battle. Do not let the salacious bloodshed fool you; these war scenes are as much operatic constructions of the Napoleon legend as Jaffa. As O’Brien notes, “Bonaparte was defeated in Egypt, and on some level that failure had to be explained in his propaganda.”[27] Gros and his fellow Napoleonic painters as well as the significant painters of the Restoration (1815-1830) never traveled to the Orient. These images were ordered by Napoleon, overseen by his administrator and then

The Battle of Nazareth, Antoine-Jean Gros. 1801, Oil on canvas. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes.

carefully, purposefully positioned in the Salon in such an arrangement as to effect the biggest impact on the public. His [Gros’] later paintings were no exception to this arrangement.[28] In the case of Jaffa, and the battle scenes, the aim of Gros’ brush was to craft an image that spoke to the larger cultural contrasts between the French and the Arab Other that they engaged while on the campaign. In the case of Battle of Nazareth, Napoleon skillfully insisted on naming the battle after the city of Nazareth (even though it actually took place in Loubia)[29] so as to conjure images of the Holy Family and to reinforce the notion of the campaign as a latter-day crusade.

The Battle of Aboukir, Antoine-Jean Gros. 1806, Oil on canvas. Musée du Château, Versailles.

Similarly, in the case of Jaffa the painting countered a number of charges lobbed against Napoleon: “instead of a general abandoning his army in a foreign land, it represented a caring leader risking his life to raise the troops’ morale, and instead of a ruthless, self-interested executioner, it showed a compassionate, humane man with seemingly supernatural healing powers.”[30] Unlike the Nazareth of Aboukir, where Napoleon is calm in the face of danger, valiantly leading his men into battle against fatalistic Arabs (their faces drawn in scowls to further set them apart), here Napoleon is not calm in the face of confrontation from an Other, but rather in the face of disease. It is his own men he must fear. O’Brien latches onto Grigsby’s astute theory that it is the sickened Frenchmen who are the Other, but neither discuss the presence of the Arab figure; which is present, is not threatening or attacking, and is upright, a point glaringly missed by Grigsby. In fact, here in Jaffa, by the brush of Gros, the fearsome Arab is turned savior, for he is the Turkish doctor lancing the bubo of the sickened Frenchman kneeling before Napoleon.

Napoleon Haranguing the Army Before the Battle of the Pyramids, Antoine-Jean Gros. 1810, Oil on canvas. Musée National du Château, Versailles.

Gros’ roots in the Neoclassical tradition, particularly due to his tutelage in the atelier of Jacques-Louis David, are noticeable in the composition of Jaffa. While Grigsby uses Oath of the Horatii as evidence of a tradition Gros deviates from in Jaffa,[31] I will use David’s masterpiece as a tradition Gros grows out of and whose charged narrative Gros capitalizes for his veiled critique of Napoleon.

Oath of the Horatii, Jacques-Louis David. 1785, Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The interior scene is set with an arcade in the background past which the viewer is unable to discern. Center stage: a man holding three swords aloft between his person and those of three Roman soldiers. Behind the central man, swooning, despondent women lean on one another, their eyes down cast, avoiding the scene. Though based on the account of the Roman salute by Livy, the scene is of David’s own creation. The men are upright and active, engaged in some kind of ceremonial process. A light shaft rakes across the scene from a source unknown to the viewer, filling the room with light casting the shadows to an even dark black. Gros, David’s student, takes up the foreground scene, employing the arcade as divider between that which is essential and important to the scene and that, which is not. A similar unknown light shaft rakes across Gros’ scene, though David fully illuminates nearly his entire cast while Gros leaves all but the central figures in shadow. Gros color palette is not the somber, subdued palette of the Neoclassical, which places the narrative above the painting itself. Rather, Gros embraces warm saturated hues, tones that feed a celebratory, Messianic reading of Napoleon.

The warmth of reds and golden ambers in Jaffa as well as the mysterious glow surrounding Napoleon further separate student from master. But the charged narrative remains in Gros’ work. In David’s painting it is a familial oath pledged before battle, in Gros’ painting the agonizing deaths of soldiers from the plague and the possibility of recovery at the hands of their leader.

It is here that Grigsby’s work fails most significantly. In her pursuit of evidence to support her claim that the sickly and dying French soldiers represent a feminized Other, she distorts the relationship between master and student. Gros was not deviating from the Neoclassical; he was implementing classical language and traditions anew. His painting of Napoleon at Jaffa was equal parts glory-filled propaganda, for the Messianic connections cannot be missed, and critique. Gros benefited from his relationship to power.[32] He was repeatedly asked to paint problematic subjects in which Napoleon’s crimes needed to be concealed and his triumphs exalted, or in this case created. In this vein, Gros was a sharpened tool of propaganda and of the nationalism prevalent in France during and after the Revolution. However, Gros’ response to these requests was a blending of both the heroizing of Napoleon and graphic depictions of violence.[33] For as much as Jaffa is about Napoleon visiting his troops, laying his hands on the sick, it is about the horrors of the Syrian campaign and France’ involvement in Egypt, and the process of colonialism generally, too.

Though Grigsby was right to identify the lack of explication of this work by Gros by other scholars and appropriately sought and elucidated alternative readings of the painting, she misses, nearly entirely, the political climate in France post-Revolution as well as the act of colonialism and the fallout thereof until the very end of her essay when the body politic is shoved gracelessly into the concluding paragraph. The wounded and battered body politic of France should, I believe come first. Any readings of the feminization of homoerotic subtexts of the painting should be second to the discussion of why Napoleon needed such a glorifying depiction of himself. The highly censored, repressive regime that Napoleon created had to be dominated by his message and his images to avoid unrest and to control his troops and the public at large. Napoleon became the very despot he went to Egypt to destroy. It is this contribution that keeps Jaffa from slipping into arid propaganda.[34] It is easy after Grigsby to read the plague ridden French soldiers as the Other, as the object of Gros’ Orientalist gaze; but it is harder though more important to see Napoleon in the same gaze. This time France had instead of a monarchy with divine pretenses an Enlightened despot who ruled with the same barbaric fist that colonialism was supposed to root out in the Orient. Therefore, it is of little surprise that anti-Napoleonic sentiment and detractors turned to this painting as a basis of protest against the Napoleonic regime.

The authors cited in this paper, with the exception of selected primary sources in footnotes and the inclusion of J. Christopher Herold, are all post Edward Said’s Orientalism. Be that as it may, none of the author’s question Said’s discussion of the French campaign in Egypt, nor is a critical light shone onto narrowness of Said’s telling of the French involvement in Egypt.[35] Grigsby not only cites Orientalism, but she also cites a passage from Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, a book and author Said worked with extensively prior to Orientalism. Heart of Darkness also deeply impacted Orientalism for Said, and for Grigsby, apparently. Grigsby’s argument benefits from the binary construction of Orientalism; she revels in flipping what she calls the Neoclassical binary of strong man-weak woman around and present dominate vertical Frenchman-supine subordinate Frenchman. But in doing so, as previously noted and cited above, Grigsby weakens her argument by not breaking out of binary blinders, as it were, and placing both Gros’ painting and the French Egyptian campaign in a broader context of French political upheaval during the Revolution that had to be squelched in order for Napoleon to be successful. Grigsby’s rush to seek an alternative reading on Gros from the previous (stale) scholarship labeling him a propagandist and nothing more, takes her out of range for a valid and needed discussion on the fraught tension between French Enlightenment despot and his public.

David O’Brien, writing after Grigsby, errs on the opposite side, too conservative. His introduction pushes at the tension between Napoleon and his deeds and the image he desired to present the public, but still perpetuates Gros’ role as propagandist.

Stuart Harten picks up Orientalism and agrees, whole cow, with Said’s position that “Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt was the enabling project for all subsequent Orientalist enterprises.”[36]

The result is, that even after Said, even after a discourse has opened up to more honestly explicate Orientalist images, no such dialogue – with the exception of Grigsby – has dared to draw a new line in the sand. Grigsby’s argument may verge on irresponsible at times – with the lack of larger contextualization and political awareness – but at least her argument opens up new frontiers. The same cannot be said for other scholars operating with the same material.

Napoleon had to control his public French citizens were wary of political propaganda, tired of monarchical power gone too far, and thirsty for a champion of the people. With his ever-present starched uniform and fearless quest for France’s new frontier, Napoleon was the Messiah France needed. But all roads did not lead to Paris for Napoleon and the detours had to be glossed over if he was going to avoid the guillotine. Gros, eager to become the prominent painter he had toiled to become in David’s atelier, was all to eager to please. But Napoleon’s pleasure came at a higher cost than Napoleon bargained for. Jaffa was equal parts the desired gloss Napoleon needed to keep France’s attention tuned to the cultural accomplishments of the campaign and away from the failures, and scathing critique of a general who abandoned his troops in the care of the fearsome Turks they had fought.

[1] The oil on canvas, now housed at the Museé du Louvre, Paris, France, is 17 feet 5.5 inches by 23 feet 7.5 inches in size. It should be noted that the painting is known by a variety of titles: Bonaparte Visiting the Plague House of Jaffa, Napoleon Visiting the Pesthouse at Jaffa, etc. The title used in this project is the most frequently used title and the closet to the most popular variations.

[2] This point was clarified by David O’Brien in “Antoine-Jean Gros in Italy,” Burlington Magazine 137, no. 4, October 1995, 651-660. Prior to the publication of this article scholarship asserted that the painting was commissioned not by Bonaparte but by his wife Josephine. This was the case due to, as noted by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby in Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 66 n9, a letter previously published between Napoleon and his wife in which he chastises her for not getting Gros to agree to a better price. Further more, the O’Brien article reiterates the point that oversight of the commission was handled by Vivant Denon, Director of the Musée Central des Arts at the time. Grigsby also notes that Denon had previously promised the commission to another artist, Guérin, but that Napoleon announced one day in the Louvre that he wanted Gros to execute the work and as such Gros was given the commission. It should be noted, as David O’Brien does in After the Revolution: Antoine-Jean Gros – Painting and Propaganda Under Napoleon (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), that Denon forged a relationship with Napoleon by “securing a position as a savant in the Egyptian expedition.” (92) O’Brien notes further that when he [Denon] returned to France in 1799, he wrote the immensely popular work: Voyage in Lower and Upper Egypt During the Campaigns of General Bonaparte (1802). Despite this accomplishment, when he received his post as Director it was quite a coup. He was put in charge of not only overseeing works of art commissioned by Bonaaparte but he was also in charge of selection and display on works in the Salon.

[3] Grigsby, 66.

[4] Grigsby 72-73 n34: “Emmanuel Comte de Las Cases: “Fear caused [the disease’s] spread more than anything else. The principal seat of the plague was in the imagination. During the Egyptian campaign all those whose imagination was struck by fear died of it. The surest protection, the most efficacious remedy, was moral courage.” … An Enlightenment model of rationality has been superimposed on the sacred tradition of the healing king…Physical contact with an ill man appears to be rationally justified (if ineffectual), not courageous…Napoleon’s heroism does not reside in his willingness to touch an ill man, who is, after all, not contagious. Rather, his heroism lies in his “moral courage” and his conviction – that is, his capacity to maintain his rationality – in the midst of horror.”

[5] Fear, notes Grigsby, was “palpable and pervasive.” She insists that this is the context with which the viewer must read the painting. The livret that accompanied the painting at the Salon read: “Bonaparte, general in chief of the army of the Orient, at the moment when he touches a pestilential tumor while visiting the hospital at Jaffa…To distance further the frightening idea of a sudden and incurable contagion, he had opened before him some pestilential tumors and touched several. He gave, by this magnanimous devotion, the first example of a genre of courage unknown until then and which has had imitators.” Grigsby, 72 and n30.

[6] See above, n4. Grigsby sees the heroism of Napoleon as an Enlightenment manifestation, not as a Messianic “laying of hands.” In this shift she negates all previous scholarship so as to assert her theories of eroticism and sexualization of figures, which she offers, in the succeeding pages of the chapter. Her failure to see that the ideas do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive is one weakness in the chapter and in her thesis.

[7] Grigsby’s argument really begins in earnest with her discussion of Gros’ deviation from David (75-top of 76) by changing the male-female binary into a male-binary. This discussion feeds into her reading of the strength and phallic nature of Napoleon and his fellow upright, vertical troops juxtaposed with the nude, ‘reclining’ soldiers on the ground (76-77). Finally, the last piece of the initial argument is the argument that touching a male nude is laced with eroticism. Here (78-82) Grigsby creates a circle of nudity: Napoleon’s nude hand touching the pustule of a nude soldier, and the horizontal body of a nude soldier on the ground connecting the two vertical men.

[8] Grigsby, 71.

[9] David O’Brien, After the Revolution, 97-98.

[10] Nina Burleigh, Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt (New York: Harper Collins; 2007), x-xi.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Stuart Harten, “Rediscovering Ancient Egypt: Bonaparte’s Expedition and the Colonial Ideology of the French Revolution.” In Napoleon in Egypt. Edited by Irene A. Bierman (Reading, UK: Ithaca Press; Los Angeles: Gustave E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies, 2003) 33. “Bonaparte’s goal of setting sail for Egypt in May of 1798 was to establish a military protectorate in the Near East in order to impinge on Britain’s commercial trade routes to India…Egypt was also envisioned as a replacement for Saint-Domingue, the pearl of the French mercantile empire and by far the richest colony in the world. With the collapse of the Atlantic economy and the abolition of slavery during the Revolutionary wars, France increasingly looked to Egypt as a viable colonial alternative to what had been the most dynamic sector of French overseas commerce in the eighteenth-century.”

[14] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 94-95.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid. Also, J. Christopher Herold, Bonaparte in Egypt (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) 274-278; Joseph-Marie Moiret, Memoirs of Napoleon’s Egyptian Expedition, 1798-1801 Edited and translated by Rosemary Brindle (London: Greenhill Books; Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001) 21-22.

[17] Ibid.

[18] This figure, notes Herold, does not include a bevy of Egyptian and Arab personnel attached to the army. Likewise, it does not include additional French personnel such as civilian commissioners. Herold, 264.

[19] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 97-98.

[20] Ibid.

[21]O’Brien, After the Revolution, 97-98.

[22] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 98.

[23] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 91-92.

[24] O’Brien, After the Revolution, top of 92.

[25] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 90.

[26] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 92. O’Brien quoting Quatremère de Quincy.

[27] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 96.

[28] See n30.

[29] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 96.

[30] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 98.

[31] Grigsby, 74-75.

[32] O’Brien, After the Revolution, 10.

[33] Ibid. “Gros also benefited from his unusual relationship to power. The government repeatedly asked him to treat problematic subjects in which Napoleon’s crimes were concealed and his failures construed as moral triumphs. Gros responded by combining the requisite, idealized vision of Napoleon with an astonishingly graphic depiction of the violence, suffering, and death that resulted from the French leader’s actions. It is especially this unexpected combination of elements that saved Gros’ work from lapsing into arid propaganda and that continues to fascinate viewers.”

[34] Ibid.

[35] Said’s discussion of Egypt: Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978) 79-88.


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