5 YEARS ON…some discussions on Orientalism

On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the February 17 revolution of Libya our reading group went through some works of Orientalism, and discussed the influence of the writer Antonio Gramsci on Edward Said.


ANTONIO GRAMSCI Antonio Gramsci (Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo ˈɡramʃi], listen (help•info); 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist theoretician and politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how states use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. By This file is a work by Emilio J. Rodríguez-Posada. Please, credit this: emijrp (CC-BY-SA)I would appreciate being notified (emijrpgmail.com) if you use it outside WikimediaMore of my work can be found in my wikigallery (category) and on Flickr – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46313010
Gramsci’s salient contribution to Western Marxism and to political philosophy was his analysis of the tendency of class interests in conditions of industrial capitalism to disguise themselves as cultural values, and even to become naturalized as instincts.

Gramsci realized that dominant classes were able to exert a leadership and directive influence at the level of ideas as much as at the level of force.

Hegemony- The ability of the ruling elite to retain power by manipulating public opinion in the realm of civil society, so as to obtain the organised consent of the masses. Hegemony has truly been achieved when the masses recognise ideas and values that actually serve the interests of the rulers of society as their own.

Difference between Organic and Traditional intellectuals

Traditional intellectuals- are those educated persons who provide an ideological rationale for the existing status quo in a given society

Organic Intellectuals– are those who elaborate at the conceptual and organisational level, a sense of change , of new social relations or arrangements and their legitimacy

What is work of Organic Intellectuals?

To give emergent socio-political movements a clear self-consciousness and a coherence at the level of ideas that will enable them to intervene persuasively in the public sphere


On being asked if they have heard of Antonio Gramsci, many of our Libyan friends said they had not. However, when told that this thinker was imprisoned by the same Italian authorities who were ruling Libya (1911-1951) they brightened up.

One Libyan friend said- There are no simple answers to this complex situation in the mad world of today.

For them and all concerned individuals, we said that the work and writings of Professor Edward Said are a must-read.

As a starter, one can go through the following lectures on Orientalism.


Edward Said
EDWARD SAID…I doubt if it is controversial, for example, to say that an Englishman in India, or Egypt, in the later nineteenth century, took an interest in those countries, which was never far from their status, in his mind, as British colonies. To say this may seem quite different from saying that all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact — and yet that is what I am saying in this study of Orientalism. — Introduction, Orientalism, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said

Another touching book of Edward Said is- Out of Place.

In the talk (Link given below) the writer speaks movingly about the three countries which he grew up in- and which were no more on the map of the world as he knew them.

On a personal note, he speaks movingly about his mother, and how she insinuated herself into the lives of her children.

She warned Said, that his politics would lead him to troubles..a prescient warning, which he ignored, but found true


Did the women, children pay a much heavier price for the Libyan revolution.

A troubled father

5 years on, a troubled father goes to pick up his son from the tuitions at 10.30 pm in the night. His son studies in the Pakistani Community school of Tripoli which is one of the most reputed.

The Libya as we knew it under Gaddafi will never exist.

There is talk between the warring parties of three regions-and all of them have their severe conflicts…with one word, which has no answer




Also for those interested in exploring these themes further, the following talk will be a good starter

On the occasion of this anniversary, we also went through works of Translating Libya, which we will discuss in subsequent blogs.

(gracereadings.com is the Reading Journal of the Tripoli Reading Group, in which we use the framework of literature to interrogate various layers of society)


Earlier perspectives

2011- Shafshoofa Maleshi-Tripoli is Free

Link http://wp.me/piL5Q-e6

2012- One year on-what is the change

Link http://wp.me/piL5Q-k3

2013-Examining Belief and Interest

Link : http://wp.me/piL5Q-xm

2014: Mitiga               Link http://wp.me/siL5Q-mitiga

2015 : Lost Generation   Link http://wp.me/piL5Q-Jq






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