“On the 17th of August something extraordinary happened in Lucerne: members of the West-Eastern Divan sat in a room and talked about….Hegelian self-consciousness. Another subject matter was Edward Saïd’s concept of orientalism, but that may not be quite as extraordinary. What had happened?
Roni Mann and Mena Mark Hanna, two thinkers from Israel and Egypt who will work for the newly created Barenboim-Saïd Academy, had come to visit us.Roni began with Hegel: self-consciousness only exists when it is recognised by others. The famous master-slave dialectic served as an explanation and as a basis to understand this idea. Then Mena continued with Saïd, at first linking his ideas to the power-relationship of the master and the slave. Saïd uses the conceptual pair of nationalism and exile. His assumption is that in exile one has at least two identities, as opposed to just one “national” identity, and that is comparable to the slave who is forced to perceive the world through his own eyes and also through the eyes of his master. The discussion then led to the concept of orientalism which denotes the collection of ideas of the “orient” that serve to prove their inherent inferiority. This concept is necessary for the coloniser to legitimise his actions.
Why is this extraordinary? Because everyone expects us to talk about Gaza, the occupation, rockets, injustice, security, etc., which we did before. But nobody would expect Hegel. Absolutely nobody. And nobody expects that from any orchestra, anywhere. Long may it continue!”
– Michael Barenboim, violin