Culture Talk and Orientalism

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In the opening sections of the article “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim,” Mahmood Mamdani cautions against affixing the label “terror” only to violence perpetrated by political Islamist movements or more broadly both state and non-state actors whose interests do not align with American or Western ideas about modern warfare. Mamdani introduces us to what he calls “Culture Talk.” In his 2003 book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, Mamdani offers arguments put forth by colonial intellectuals, including Frantz Fanon’s assertions about the violence of the colonial system and Hitler’s colonization of Europe, Edward Said’s monumental thesis on the colonial origins of Orientalist representations and ways of thinking (see “Edward Said on Orientalism” under read/watch), and as a counter narrative, the Orientalist writings of Bernard Lewis and Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington whose “Clash of Civilizations” paradigm has informed American foreign policy since at least the late Cold War.

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