Orientalism Beyond Belief: Critiquing the Problematics of V. S. Naipaul’s Islamic Excursion

Document Type: Research Article

Authors

1 University of Tehran

2 University of Canterbury

Abstract

This study aims to offer a critical analysis of V. S. Naipaul’s second Islamic travelogue Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples (1998), which chronicles the author’s excursions to the 4 non-Arab Muslim countries of Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia. This critique is presented, firstly, through problematizing the author’s theorization on the theme of Muslim conversion— which, according to Naipaul, has bred nothing but neurosis and nihilism in Muslim societies—and then through analyzing representations of the post-Revolutionary Iran of the late 90s. We argue that Naipaul’s representations fall within an Orientalist frame of reference in which Iran and its people are portrayed through various tropes of Othering in a narrative fraught with disinformation, exaggerations, and reductive treatment of complex sociopolitical phenomena. Finally, Naipaul’s reasoning in formulating conversion coupled with his myopic approach undermine the authenticity of his representations, resulting in what Said (1998) has dubbed “an intellectual catastrophe of the first order” (p. 42).

Keywords


Ahmad, E., & Barsamian, D. (2000). Confronting empire: Interviews with David Barsamian. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Alharbi, I. S. (2011). Democracy in Islamic and international law. Bloomington: AuthorHouse.

Anjum, Z. (2001). A convert’s complaint: Analyzing Naipaul’s views on Islam. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from the World Wide Web: http://www.indowindow.com/akhbar/article.php?article=21&category=8&issue=14

Behdad, A., & Williams J. (2010). Neo-Orientalism. In B. T. Edwards & D. P. Gaonkar (Eds.), Globalizing American studies (pp. 283-99). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Chomsky, N. (1998). Rogue states. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from the World Wide Web: https://chomsky.info/199804  

Gilsenan, M. (1998). Manager of stories. [Review of the book Beyond belief: Islamic excursions among the converted peoples, by V. S. Naipaul].  Review of Books, 20(17), 21-22.

Goodman, A., & Kinzer S. (2008, March 3). Stephen Kinzer on US-Iranian relations, the 1953 CIA coup in Iran and the roots of Middle East terror. Democracy Now! Retrieved May 20, 2016, from the World Wide Web: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/3/3/stephen_kinzer_on_the_us_iranian

Greer, H. (1998). Islam's imperial demands. [Review of the book Beyond belief: Islamic excursions among the converted peoples, by V. S. Naipaul]. World & I, 13(11), 282.

Hiro, D. (1991). The longest war: The Iran-Iraq military conflict. New York: Routledge.

Kazin, A. (1971). December 30. Displaced person. [Review of the book In a Free State, by V. S. Naipaul]. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from from the World Wide Web: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/dec/30/displaced-person

Keshavarz, F. (2007). Jasmine and stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Knights Bachelor. (1989). Supplement to the London Gazette. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from the World Wide Web: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue /51981/data.pdf

Koolaee, E. (2014). The impact of Iraq-Iran war on social roles of Iranian women. Middle East Critique, 23(3), 277-291.

Marandi, S. M., & Pirnajmuddin, H. (2009). Constructing an axis of evil: Iranian memoirs in the “land of the free.” The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 26(2), 23-47.

Naipaul, V. S. (1998). Beyond belief: Islamic excursions among the converted peoples. London: Little Brown.

Nobel Prize for Literature 2001 (2001). Nobelprize.org. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from the World Wide Web: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/ laureates/2001/press.html

O'Shea-Meddour, W. (2004). Gothic horror and Muslim madness. In V. S. Naipaul's Beyond belief: Orientalist excursions among the converted people. American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 21(1), 57-72.

Paul, R. (2002). Questions that won't be asked about Iraq. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from the World Wide Web: http://www. antiwar.com/paul/paul45.html

Phillips, C. (2000). The enigma of denial. [Reviews of the books Between father and son: Family letters and Reading and writing: A personal account, by V. S. Naipaul]. New Republic, 222(22), 43-49.

Rowe-Evans, A., & Naipaul, V. S. (1971). V. S. Naipaul: A transition interview. In F. F. Jussawalla (Ed.), Conversations with V. S. Naipaul (pp. 24-36). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Said, E. W. (1998). Ghost writer. [Review of the book Beyond belief: Islamic excursions among the converted peoples,by V. S. Naipaul]. The Progressive, 62(11), (p. 40).

Said, E. W. (2003). Orientalism. London: Penguin.

Shahbazi, S. (2009). Nowruz ii. in the Islamic period. In Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from the World Wide Web: http://www.iranicaonline .org/articles/nowruz-ii