Reflections on Exile

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Reflections on Exile

"Reflections of Exile" by Edward Said is an elaborate analysis of the state of exile in the modern world. Said claims that there is an interplay between Nationalism and Exile that creates a sense of "us" and a sense of the "outsiders." In recent times the Caribbean has provided an example of this state of exile. The African Diaspora brought slaves across the pacific to work on sugar plantations as slaves. After the period of American Revolutions, the former slaves found themselves in a position without a clear sense of identity or belonging. The Caribbean provides an example of modern day exiles that were removed from their homeland and are forced to reform their sense of identity. Said claims that "Exile is a jealous state...an exaggerated state of group solidarity, and a passionate hostility to outsiders" (Said 178). Many forms of literature focus on the exile's journey to find a definition for themselves taking after their "African" ancestry and their new role in American society.

About the Author

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Edward Said, author of "Reflections on Exile." A quote from the essay, "Exile...is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted."

Edward Said (1935 - 2003) was a Palestinian/American political literary theorist who did extensive writings on Palestinian and Middle Eastern politics. Said was known to support Palestinian foreign policy, and made several criticisms of modern society, and modern politics. He is also known for his development of 'postcolonial criticism' and his involvement in literary/cultural criticism. Reflections on Exile was one of Said's latest works, and is written on a more personal note as Said himself was an exile. "Reflections on Exile" is an acknowledgment of modern exiles and their place in society, relating the experiences of several individuals that were exiled during the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. These stories give the essay a more personal tone, and make it easier to relate "Exile" to a modern scenario.

Course Relations

Many of the writings that we have used in this course have shown the relations to exile in the Caribbean culture. As peoples move from the Caribbean to the United States they experience a sense of separation from their homeland, or what they perceive to be their homeland. Said describes feelings like these as "Exiles look at non-exiles with resentment. They belong in their surroundings, you feel, whereas and exile is always out of place. What it is like to be born in a place, to stay and live there, to know that you are of it, more or less forever?" (Said 180-181). Many of the characters that we have been introduced to have felt out of place in their new homes, and have difficulties adjusting to their new environments. In the States race is used as an excuse for differential treatment, and many immigrants are exposed to hate and discrimination from the instant they step into America. Their "African" ancestry is a reason that they cannot fit into their new environment, and makes them feel out of place. Boy and Kitty from "No Telephone to Heaven," Caroline's mother from "Krik? Krak!" and the family in "Fiesta 1980" all experience discrimination from their "African" ancestry and are treated as exiles because of it.

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The Caribbean; where many slaves found themselves after the African Diaspora. Once in the Caribbean, the blend of African ancestry and New World geography created a culture that had to define itself using both of these pasts. The books that we read focused on how Diaspora (Said), and ethnicity affected people as they lived their lives.