New Publication: Ernst Bloch and the Subject of Orientalism

filippo menozzi's picture
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Humanities, Intellectual History, Philosophy

New Publication: Ernst Bloch and the Subject of Orientalism (Textual Practice, open access)


This essay offers a reading of German philosopher Ernst Bloch's 1952 essay Avicenna and the Aristotelian Left in relation to the question of orientalism. Bloch's study of first-century Islamic philosopher, scientist and doctor Ibn Sina (Avicenna) relies on orientalist sources and authors also discussed in Edward Said's Orientalism. Yet, it challenges many stereotypes and ‘structures of attitude and reference’ that are recurrent in European representations of the Middle East. Bloch presents Avicenna as a secular thinker and situates him in a complex economic and social conjuncture, refusing to see his work as manifestation of a non-Western pre-modern ‘essence’. This perspective avoids both primitivism and essentialism; rather, it aims to recuperate the vast influence of Islamic thought on European philosophy, especially the European Enlightenment. Avicenna's heterodox naturalism and rebellious interpretation of Aristotle is hence reframed as the source of a materialist line of descent to which Bloch himself belongs. Bloch hence sketches a concept of philosophical heritage grounded into the legacy of Avicenna's teaching, thereby anticipating Edward Said's critique of the metaphysics of exteriority proper to Orientalist discourse and its colonial underpinning

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Filippo Menozzi, Liverpool John Moores University 


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