But something new happened--perhaps because the cultural ancestors of Europe included the Jews, or perhaps because of the catholicity of Christianity--interest in other cultures' ancestors grew too. At first they collected prizes and curiosities, but after a while there was study to find the meaning of the things. This real interest in the outside--uncovering the history for peoples who had forgotten theirs--is one of the great accomplishments of the West. Perhaps other cultures are better at other things (hospitality, perhaps?), but looking outward is one thing at which the West was best.
Naturally many things were misinterpreted, but Said's position that European understandings were necessarily wrong is also wrong. Scholars often defend the conclusions of their youth all the way to their deaths, but on the whole people learned. I can't think of another culture that cared about the antiquities of strangers. Romans emulated Greek things--but then, much of Italy had been settled by Greeks and they were already cultural ancestors.
It's a shame to fragment that knowledge. Instead of accumulating and sharing the cultures and voices, the fashion seems to isolate them, so that only a mexican ought to speak of mexican things, or only a woman speak of a female painter.
We can safely presume that the Chicago Art Institute firing is a way of creating patronage jobs for relatives of the clout-heavy--it's the Chicago Way--but it's garbed in this claim that only bodies similar to the artist's can interpret the work properly.
Where did this despair come from?