|The British Library|
English and French today are world-languages. Arabic is either a local demotic or a liturgical language, but one of the great seminal moments in the history of modern Arabic politics was when Abdel Nasser used his speeches as the occasion to attack colonialism in the native Egyptian dialect. Not only was he avoiding the straight-jacketing effect of the classical (which Orientalism had legislated into a kind of other-worldly uselessness, so much so that even many Arabs believed the myth) but he was also turning on Britain and France on his own terms, on his own linguistic terrain, so to speak. This is much more impressive a thing than it sounds, particularly when you remember, for example, that the constitutions of at least two Arab countries were originally written not in Arabic but in a European language, and when you consider too that the historical archives of several of the Arab states exist only in London and in English. Add too the fact that there exists in Europe a vast cache of Arabic texts, removed out of the Arab world by the colonial powers during the nineteenth century. Here Foucault's theory of the archive and discourse acquires a very material dimension; the archive of much of modern Arab history resides unmetaphorically, has been deposited in, has been physically imprisoned by, Europe.
— Edward Said, “Interview,” Diacritics (Fall 1976)