Abstract

Introducing these three critical essays on Edward Said's Orientalism† raises perplexing questions of scholarly and professional definition. In the case of the recent JAS symposium on Thomas A. Metzger's Escape from Predicament, the organizer of the group effort came to the Journal with a proposal which the editor ultimately encouraged, accepted, and brought to publication; this time the editor initiated the Said symposium himself, persuaded his colleagues to participate, and then subjected them to varying degrees of editorial suggestion before sending the whole package off to the printer. It might well be suggested that editors should stick to processing and avoid initiating; that there is a built-in conflict of interest, a potential for abuse of editorial discretion, if the editor not only decides what ought to be accepted for publication but also dabbles in what ought to be written about in the first place. As is obvious from this symposium's appearance in the Journal, I would hold that occasionally crossing the line from processing to initiating—in the case of a work like Said's, for example, which does not fall within the ordinary domain of the Journal's primary readership—can be constructive.

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