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Culture and Imperialism

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A landmark work from the intellectually auspicious author of Orientalism that explores the long-overlooked connections between the Western imperial endeavor and the culture that both reflected and reinforced it. Culture and Imperialism, by Edward Said, is a collection of thematically related essays that trace the connection between imperialism and culture throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

402 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

Edward W. Said

170 books3,132 followers
(Arabic Profile إدوارد سعيد)
Edward Wadie Said was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies. A Palestinian American born in Mandatory Palestine, he was a citizen of the United States by way of his father, a U.S. Army veteran.

Educated in the Western canon, at British and American schools, Said applied his education and bi-cultural perspective to illuminating the gaps of cultural and political understanding between the Western world and the Eastern world, especially about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East; his principal influences were Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Michel Foucault, and Theodor Adorno.

As a cultural critic, Said is known for the book Orientalism (1978), a critique of the cultural representations that are the bases of Orientalism—how the Western world perceives the Orient. Said’s model of textual analysis transformed the academic discourse of researchers in literary theory, literary criticism, and Middle-Eastern studies—how academics examine, describe, and define the cultures being studied. As a foundational text, Orientalism was controversial among the scholars of Oriental Studies, philosophy, and literature.

As a public intellectual, Said was a controversial member of the Palestinian National Council, because he publicly criticized Israel and the Arab countries, especially the political and cultural policies of Muslim régimes who acted against the national interests of their peoples. Said advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state to ensure equal political and human rights for the Palestinians in Israel, including the right of return to the homeland. He defined his oppositional relation with the status quo as the remit of the public intellectual who has “to sift, to judge, to criticize, to choose, so that choice and agency return to the individual” man and woman.

In 1999, with his friend Daniel Barenboim, Said co-founded the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, based in Seville, which comprises young Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab musicians. Besides being an academic, Said also was an accomplished pianist, and, with Barenboim, co-authored the book Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society (2002), a compilation of their conversations about music. Edward Said died of leukemia on 25 September 2003.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 217 reviews
Profile Image for Adam .
58 reviews
July 11, 2008
Edward Said makes one of the strongest cases ever for the aphorism, "the pen is mightier than the sword." This is a brilliant work of literary criticism that essentially becomes political science. Culture and Imperialism demonstrates that Western imperialism's most effective tools for dominating other cultures have been literary in nature as much as political and economic. He traces the themes of 19th- and 20th-century Western fiction and contemporary mass media as weapons of conquest and also brilliantly analyzes the rise of oppositional indigenous voices in the literatures of the "colonies." Said would argue that it's no mere coincidence that it was a Victorian Englishman, Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, who coined the phrase "the pen is mightier . . ." Very highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand how cultures are dominated by words, as well as how cultures can be liberated by resuscitating old voices or creating new voices for new times.
Profile Image for Liz Janet.
579 reviews381 followers
May 8, 2018
I first heard about this collection of essays via Philosophy Tube’s video, in which he praised it as being quite good when compared to another piece of work he read. It is basically a book that focuses on how imperialism and colonialism affected and was presented in the writing of British authors, mainly in the 18th,19th, and 20th centuries; all the while showing how such events shaped, mostly, British and French literature.

“No one today is purely one thing. Labels … are not more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental.”

The main take of the book comes from what has been said by many historians and political scientists, the present is still being affected by the effects imperialism had on the world. Although Said focuses on the cultural aspect, a bit of what he refers to (and quite a lot of philosophers agree on) molds the view of economic and political effects of colonization/imperialism. This is a book I would love to write a full review on.

“They weren’t like us and for that reason deserved to be ruled.”
Profile Image for Canon.
638 reviews64 followers
September 19, 2022
"I don't think of myself as inhabiting a field or a place, really. I mean, obviously I have an address, but it's not an address that means that much to me. I like to think of myself as a sort of energy in motion." - Edward Said

I was hugely impressed by Said's classic Orientalism when I read it earlier this year. This sequel of sorts, in which Said further explores and elaborates various themes in Orientalism, was no less impressive to me.

Early on, Said announces his intention to "[look] at the different experiences [in metropolitan and formerly colonized societies] contrapuntally, as making up a set of what I call intertwined and overlapping histories." Through this contrapuntal reading of texts — from Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, and Albert Camus to W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, and Frantz Fanon — Said strives to "formulate an alternative both to a politics of blame and to the even more destructive politics of confrontation and hostility."

In place of these antagonistic political modes, Said thinks "a more interesting type of secular interpretation can emerge, altogether more rewarding than the denunciations of the past, the expressions of regret for its having ended, or — even more wasteful because violent and far too easy and attractive — the hostility between Western and non-Western cultures that leads to crises. The world is too small and interdependent to let these passively happen," (18-19).

In engaging with texts "contrapuntally," Said also avoids the sheer boringness of rhetorical denunciation, jingoism, and relativism. We learn far more about Jane Austen's complicity in English colonialism through an engaged reading of her texts than we do through a summary pronouncement that Jane Austen is "problematic" or "a product of her times." We can also appreciate her work much more by understanding its social and political context than by merely treating it as a "work of art" separate from "the real world."

I think what I most admire about Said's writing, apart from his eloquence and erudition, his sense of complexity and dynamism, is his anti-authoritarian verve and high-spiritedness. Said is no down in the mouth fatalist about the human condition, no pessimist about ineluctable social structures and historical principles.

For example, one of my favorite passages is: "Let us begin by accepting the notion that although there is an irreducible subjective core to human experience, this experience is also historical and secular, it is accessible to analysis and interpretation, and — centrally important — it is not exhausted by totalizing theories, not marked and limited by doctrinal or national lines, not confined once and for all to analytical constructs," (31).

I think the most compelling aspect of this book for me is Said's idea of secularity and the later ramifications of this idea in Said's notions of incarnation, migration, and "beginning anew." When Said explains his project of contrapuntal interpretation, it's in terms of secularity as non-essentialist (thus open), non-transcendent (thus knowable), non-totalizing (thus dynamic) intertwined histories and social relationships. The best statement of what Said means by secularity is perhaps this one:

"What new or newer kind of intellectual and cultural politics does this internationalism call for? What important transformations and transfigurations should there be in our traditionally and Eurocentrically defined ideas of the writer, the intellectual, the critic? English and French are world languages, and the logics of borders and warring essences are totalizing, so we should begin by acknowledging that the map of the world has no divinely or dogmatically sanctioned spaces, essences, or privileges. However, we may speak of secular space, and of humanly constructed and interdependent histories that are fundamentally knowable, although not through grand theory or systematic totalization. Throughout this book, I have been saying that human experience is finely textured, dense, and accessible enough not to need extra-historical or extra-worldly agencies to illuminate or explain it. I am talking about a way of regarding our world as amenable to investigation and interrogation without magic keys, special jargons and instruments, curtained-off practices," (311-312).

Drawing on C.L.R. James's reading of the poetry of Aimé Césaire and T.S. Eliot (280-281), Said develops this idea of secular interpretation into a secular notion of incarnation as migration, interrelation, and newness (see the conclusion, 329-336). I find all of this, as Said says of a chapter in volume 2 of Deleuze & Guattari's Anti-Oedipius, "mysteriously suggestive." I think it resonates with the idea of "social hope" in Rorty's reading of Dewey, which, as Philip Kitcher says in another context, is not so much the best as the best there is — an at least accessible hope.

Here is one such secular practice, that of the reader and intellectual, which Said is engaged in throughout this book:

"This brings us once again to the question of politics. No country is exempt from the debate about what is to be read, taught, or written. I have often envied American theorists for whom radical skepticism or deferential reverence of the status quo are real alternatives. I do not feel them as such, perhaps because my own history and situation do not allow such luxury, detachment, or satisfaction. Yet I do believe that some literature is actually good, and that some is bad, and I remain as conservative as anyone when it comes to, if not the redemptive value of reading a classic rather than staring at a television screen, then the potential enhancement of one's sensibility and consciousness by doing so, by the exercise of one's mind. I suppose the issue reduces itself to what our humdrum and pedestrian daily work, what we do as readers and writers, is all about, when on the one hand professionalism and patriotism will not serve and on the other waiting for apocalyptic change will not either. I keep coming back — simplistically and idealistically — to the notion of opposing and alleviating coercive domination, transforming the present by trying rationally and analytically to lift some of its burdens, situating the works of various literatures with reference to one another and to their historical modes of being. What I am saying is that in the configurations and by virtue of the transfigurations taking place around us, readers and writers are now in fact secular intellectuals with the archival, expressive, elaborative, and moral responsibilities of that role," (318-319).

A couple favorite examples of Said's contrapuntal, back and forth, style:

1. That identity-based nationalisms of previously colonized or oppressed groups sometimes replaces imperial authoritarianism: "What Basil Davidson calls nationalism's 'ambiguous fertility' creates not only the assertion of a once incomplete and suppressed but finally restored identity through national systems of education, but also the inculcation of new authority. This is equally true in the United States, where the tonic force of African-American, women's and minority expression has here and there been turned into doctrine, as if the wish to criticize the myth of white America also meant the need to supplant that myth with dogmatic new ones," (267).

2. Speaking of William Bennett, Allan Bloom et al, and their hysteria about multiculturalism's threat to the Western canon and humanistic education (sadly these culture wars never ended in the U.S.), only to move into a critique of "multicultural" fields qua academic disciplines (a critique that describes rather well my sense of annoyance at the disconnected uselessness of various "theory" courses in school):

"[Bennett] was joined by Allan Bloom and his followers, intellectuals who consider the appearance in the academic world of women, African-Americans, gays, and Native Americans, all of them speaking with genuine multiculturalism and new know ledge, as a barbaric threat to 'Western Civilization.' What do these 'state of the culture' screeds tell us? Simply that the humanities are important, central, traditional, inspiring. Bloom wants us to read only a handful of Greek and Enlightenment philosophers in keeping with his theory about higher education in the United States being for 'the elite'… If every American student were required to read Homer, Shakespeare, the Bible, and Jefferson, then we would achieve a full sense of national purpose… This is an extremely drastic delimitation of what we have learned about culture — its productivity, its diversity of components, its critical and often contradictory energies, its radically antithetical characteristics, and above all its rich worldliness and complicity with imperial conquest anti liberation. We are told that cultural or humanistic study is the recovery of the Judeo-Christian or Western heritage, free from native American culture (which the Judeo-Christian tradition in its early American embodiments set about to massacre) and from that tradition's adventures in the non-Western world.

"Yet the multicultural disciplines have in fact found a hospitable haven in the contemporary American academy, and this is a historical fact of extraordinary magnitude. To a great degree, William Bennett has had this as his target... whereas we would have thought that it has always been a legitimate conception of the modem university's secular mission... to be a place where multiplicity and contradiction co-exist with established dogma and canonical doctrine. This is now refuted by a new conservative dogmatism claiming 'political correctness' as its enemy. The neo-conservative supposition is that in admitting Marxism, structuralism, feminism, and Third World studies into the curriculum (and before that an entire generation of refugee scholars), the American university sabotaged the basis of its supposed authority and is now ruled by a Blanquist cabal of intolerant ideologues who 'control' it.

"The irony is that it has been the university's practice to admit the subversions of cultural theory in order to some degree to neutralize them by fixing them in the status of academic subspecialties. So now we have the curious spectacle of teachers teaching theories that have been completely displaced — wrenched is the better word — from their contexts; I have elsewhere called this phenomenon 'travelling theory.' In various academic departments — among them literature, philosophy, and history — theory is taught so as to make the strident believe that he or she can become a Marxist, a feminist, an Afrocentrist, or a deconstructionist with about the same effort and commitment required in choosing items from a menu," (320-21).
Profile Image for sdw.
379 reviews
December 28, 2010
Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism employs a “contrapuntal” reading strategy by which he asserts the needs to examine texts from the perspectives of both colonized and colonizer. To read a text contrapuntally is to read it “with a simultaneous awareness both of the metropolitan history that is narrated and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts” (51). Contrapuntal reading requires not only reading the text in terms of what it includes but in terms of what has been excluded from it (66-67).

In one of Said’s most broad-sweeping arguments, he contends that the novel itself is an artifact of imperialism, unthinkable outside the context of empire. To read the complicity and construction of imperial ideology in British, U.S. and French literature is not to dismiss the literature of unworthy of analysis but to suggest the need for the complexity of our analysis and examination of literature in relationship to empire. As he explains repeatedly, “understanding that connection does not reduce or diminish the novels’ value as works of art: on the contrary, because of their wordliness, because of their complex affiliations with their real setting, they are more interesting and morevaluable as works of art” (13). Said distinguishes this book from Orientalism both by employing a broad comparative literature framework to examine imperialism’s relationship to culture as a broad system across a range of imperial ventures and through his attention to the resistance to imperialism also present in literature.

I was particularly attuned to his discussions of geography in relationship to empire in the texts he discusses. Spatiality is central to the ways in which Said identifies the relationship of the texts to imperialist ideologies. He makes this argument masterfully in his discussion of Mansfield Park where he writes, “Then there is the hierarchy of spaces by which the metropolitan center and, gradually, the metropolitan economy are seen as dependent upon an overseas system of territorial control, economic exploitation, and a socio-cultural vision; without these stability and prosperity at home – 'home' being a world with extremely potent resonances – would not be possible. The perfect example of what I mean is to be found in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park , in which Thomas Betram’s slave plantation in Antigua is mysteriously necessary to the poise and the beauty of Mansfield Park, a place described in moral and aesthetic terms well before the scramble for Africa, or before the age of empire officially began” (59). The possession of land is central to empire. Consequently, exposing ideologies about territorial control as well as the “primacy of geography” to the “interpellation of culture” by empire are central to Said’s project (78).

Notably, the final chapter turns to the United States and specifically to a discussion of the media coverage of the 1992 U.S. war against Iraq as well as maps out a vision for the productive future of the study of “world literature” or “Anglophone literature.” As Said explains, “The major task, then, is to match the new economic and socio-political dislocations and configurations of our time with the startling realities of human interdependence on a world scale” (330). He suggests the exile exists not as the forgotten and the margin but the norm in a world where experiences, identities, cultures, literatures, etc are hybrid. In this way, the exile represents “an experience of crossing boundaries and charting new territories in defiance of the classic canonic enclosures, however much its loss and sadness should be acknowledged and registered” (317).

On a side note: I found his explanation of the difference between imperialism and colonialism worth keeping for later reference, “As I shall be using the term, ‘imperialism’ means the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory; ‘colonialism,’ which is almost always a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of settlements on distant territory” (9).

Second side note: Oddly enough, one of the most significant impacts of this book was to create in me a desire to re-read many of the 19th Century British novels I last read in high school.
Profile Image for Mohammad Ranjbari.
223 reviews144 followers
August 9, 2022
این حسرت در من ماند که ای کاش وقت زیادی داشتم و البته تخصص و علاقه، تا تمام کتاب را مطالعه می کردم.
نمونۀ اعلا و انحصاری از نقد پسااستعماری و نوعی نقد تاریخی با تاکید و کنکاش ژرف در ریشه های سیاسی، عقیدتی و دینی فرهنگها.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,545 followers
February 6, 2017
In this followup to his classic Orientalism, Saïd looks closer at 20th C British and American imperialism. In this series of essays, he "consider[s] it the aesthetic object whose connection to the expanding societies of Britain and France is particularly interesting to study. The prototypical modern realistic novel is Robinson Crusoe, and certainly not accidentally it is about a European who creates a fiefdom for himself on a distant, non-European island."
If you wonder why a white person shooting innocents is "one crazy isolated incident", where as if the shooter is someone of color or with an Arabic-sounding name is immediately labeled "terrorist", this book is for you. It lays the foundation for how the West has justified its relentlessly violent relationship to Arab countries (other than those it can exploit such as Saudi Arabia) and how a nativist, racist like Drumpf could become President on the heels of Obama. Twenty-four years later, this book still resonates as a clarion call for a shift of perspective and thinking towards the Islamic world rather than sweeping generalizations about a civilization that brought humanity the number "zero" and was more technologically advanced than the West for centuries during the Middle Ages. To be read with urgence.
Profile Image for Darran Mclaughlin.
591 reviews78 followers
February 2, 2013
I didn't finish this to be honest. I got halfway through and gave up. He analyses Verdi's opera Aida as an example of his thesis on the Imperialising nature of western culture because of factors like the fact that Verdi didn't present a thoroughly accurate version of Egyptian society in the opera. He included women among the dancers at one point when in fact it should have only been men. Shakespeare refers to the coast of Bohemia in a Winter's Tale. It doesn't matter that Bohemia is landlocked, art doesn't have to conform to reality and this kind of looseness with the facts certainly isn't unique to western portrayals of colonies.

Basically I can see the point of his thesis but he repeats himself and uses too much hyperbole to hammer his point home. He criticizes other critical approaches and overstates his case; for example declaring that the 19th and 20th century novel (particularly the French, American and above all the English) are unthinkable without Imperialism and vice versa. He says the key to Austen's Mansfield Park, around which everything else resolves itself, is the sugar plantations the Bertram's own in Antigua, which seems ridiculous to me.

Reading this you would think that Said has no idea that the phenomenon of Imperialism has occurred all over the world in every culture throughout history. Post-colonial, Marxist, feminist and other politically charged interpretations of literature and art just seem too ideologically narrow to me I suppose. They certainly have value and can lead to interesting insights, but I find them overly restrictive.
Profile Image for T S.
86 reviews44 followers
March 14, 2022
Considered an unofficial 'sequel' to Saïd's famous "Orientalism", "Culture and Imperialism" vastly expands the scope and scale of the former work. Saïd analyzes the imperial "structure of attitude and reference" that is contained in Western literary, political, and cultural attitudes during the age of imperialism- specifically in Britain and France and, later, the United States. It's quite apt that the book begins with a famous passage from Conrad's "Heart of Darkness": "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to...."

The prose oscillated between elegance and a density that bogged me down at times (I couldn't help but laugh when, near the end, Saïd mocks the indecipherable jargon of modern academia; but, given his clarity and accessibility in other forums- lectures, interviews, speeches- he gets a pass). However, the graceful writing predominates and even when things get difficult there are still some very valuable concepts being expressed. The book rewards a close reading, and I blackened many pages of my notebook writing down entire paragraphs.

From Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, to Rudyard Kipling and Albert Camus, Saïd insists that these works are aware of the fact of empire, and that, at best, they simply take it for granted (the latter two were much more vocal about how they felt, of course). That is not to say that Saïd condemns European culture as irredeemably racist, or heaps scorn upon the aforementioned works. On the contrary, it is clear that he admires these works for their artistic and aesthetic achievements. However, he is unwilling to view them in isolation- as somehow having transcended the context of their creation; ideological, social, political. To see them as reflective of, and even generative, of attitudes is to make them more interesting, to see them in their totality.

The great strength of this book, compared to "Orientalism", was Saïd's analysis of the "resistance and opposition" which grew- and continues to grow- to the aforementioned imperialist culture. Chapter 3, which was one of the best things I have read in a long time, covers a vast expanse: from Yeats to CLR James, from Fanon to Ranajit Guha, from Chinua Achebe to Aimé Césaire. Edward Saïd is, predictably, scathing in his criticism of 'nativism' -as a reactive response to the deprivations of empire that seeks refuge in imagined pasts, and embraces the fundamental distinction between 'them and us'- and the shortcomings of anti-colonial nationalism: “What had once been the imaginative liberation of a people- Aimé Césaire’s ‘inventions of new souls’ - and the audacious metaphoric charting of spiritual territory usurped by colonial masters were quickly translated into and accommodated by a world system of barriers, maps, frontiers, police forces, customs and exchange controls.”

And yet, "is that an accurate representation of what resistance politics and culture were all about? Was the radical energy that propelled Algerians and Indians into mass insurrection finally contained and extinguished by independence? No, because nationalism was only one of the aspects of resistance, and not the most interesting or enduring one." Echoing Fanon on the "Pitfalls of National Consciousness", Said seeks to chart the trajectory of a "liberationist" tendency that went beyond the nationalism that led to the establishment of post-colonial nation states: "There is the possibility of a more generous and pluralistic vision of the world, in which imperialism courses on, as it were, belatedly in different forms...but the opportunities for liberation are open...[and] the possibility of a universalism that is not limited or coercive...moving beyond nativism does not mean abandoning nationality, but it does mean thinking of local identity as not exhaustive, and therefore not being anxious to confine oneself to one's own sphere, with its ceremonies of belonging, its built-in chauvinism, and its limiting sense of security."

And therein lies the generosity of Saïd's vision in this book; he does not seek to engage in the "rhetoric of blame" against 'Western culture', only to bring to light a more holistic understanding of it. In a wonderful metaphor, he sees the existence of anti-colonial revolt, the dissent of the Third World, and the "discrepant experiences" of the 'natives'- who would not have recognized themselves in Western accounts of the 'inferior races'- as introducing polyphony into the music of Western self-conception and identity. It is only by reading histories, literature, identity, and cultures, "contrapuntally"- by emphasizing the interdependence and interaction of us all- that things can be seen with clarity. There ought to be no retreat into comfortable notions of the self or the community- for colonizer or colonized. Instead:

“Scholars can be frankly engaged in the politics and interests of the present- with open eyes, rigorous analytical energy, and the decently social values of those who are concerned with the survival neither of a disciplinary fiefdom or guild nor of a manipulative identity like ‘India’ or ‘America’, but with the improvement and non-coercive enhancement of life in a community struggling to exist among other communities…What matters a great deal more than the stable identity kept current in official discourse is the contestatory force of an interpretive method whose material is the disparate, but intertwined and interdependent, and above all overlapping streams of historical experience.”
Profile Image for Steffi.
272 reviews238 followers
March 23, 2018

So, yeah. The white woman in Africa, aka moi, is always a little obsessed with imperialism. Then again, working in international development where we teach them brown folks how to wash their hands and defecate in a more civilized manner in exchange for food made in USA and human rights, gets you a little fascinated with imperialist ideology and colonial practice, doesn’t it.

Said’s Culture and Imperialism” (1993) is kind of a sequel to his earlier book, now a classic, ‘Orientalism’ (1978). So this book probably doesn’t make too much sense without some kind of familiarity with Orientalism-the-book or at least orientalism-the-concept aka the West's patronizing and essentializing representations of the Orient/ The East.

(Second caveat: the book is like 25 years old so obviously things have changed. Like we are all eating tons of hummus and kimchi now and read non-Western authors, Murakami lol, watch Iranian movies and have African wooden masks or at least some Buddha shit in our bed rooms. But we kind of still feel great about invading brown folks’ countries to change their governments, economies and cultural practices. Wouldn’t they be so lost without us! Who can bring human rights and democracy if not our fancy weaponry? Not sure how exactly this relates to the book, lol, but just sayin’.)

Anyhow, the book (collection of essays) focuses on culture (primarily novels) and its link to empire in France, UK and the US. Like, yeah, culture plays a central role in maintaining and confirming power/ hegemonic ideology, imperialist or otherwise. So half of the book is a (too detailed) deconstruction of Western 19th and 20th century novels by (mainly) Austen, Kipling, Conrad, and Camus. Showing, kind of, how the novel implicitly reconfirms empire and imperialist ideology, sometimes less explicit (Austen) sometimes more so (Conrad). Then again Said is a literary critic so what exactly did I expect?

The second part is Said’s ‘contrapuntal analysis’ (learned a new word), bringing together geographically, temporally and culturally discrepant and, at times, suppressive experiences and perspectives through reading ‘colonial writers’ besides the likes of Yeats (Ireland), Rushdie (India), Ngugi (Kenya), Mahfouz (Egypt) and Salih (Sudan).

The third part are essay that explore native movements of resistance in literature and theory, obviously very much Fanon inspired. The last part is the most interesting one re: modern day imperialism (read: early 1990s) and American ascendancy to global hegemony. That was even written before the post-9/11 hell broke loose, but the gist, especially the North-South divide, unfair trade practices, IMF free market crap, aid and debt traps remain so very, very relevant. Bottom line: imperialism did not end with de-colonization, ‘imperialism remains the single most powerful force in the various political, economic and military relations in which developing countries are subjected to the more economically advanced’.
Profile Image for Ali Reda.
Author 3 books184 followers
September 3, 2016
Texts are not finished objects.
Foucault's discourse is systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs and practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which they speak. Foucault traces the role of discourses in wider social processes of legitimating and power, emphasizing the construction of current truths, how they are maintained and what power relations they carry with them. He later theorized that discourse is a medium through which power relations produce speaking subjects.

Edward Said’s work depends on this notion by asking how we read texts. For any text is constructed out of many available discourses, discourses within which writers themselves may be seen as subjects.

For Said, The critic’s function is both enhanced and focused by his or her capacity to be in the world. Perhaps the best conception of the critic’s worldliness can be found in a passage from a twelfth-century Saxon monk called Hugo of St Victor which Said uses more than once:
The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.
And as Said said:
Criticism must think of itself as life-enhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination, and abuse; its social goals are non-coercive knowledge produced in the interests of human freedom”.
In summary “Speak Truth To Power”.

Said main doctrine is that through culture, the assumption of the divine right of imperial powers to rule is supported, that the institutional, political and economic operations of imperialism are nothing without the power of the culture that maintains them. The imperial nations have not only the right but the obligation to rule those nations lost in barbarism to civilize them. As Conrad puts it:
The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an Unselfish belief in the idea -- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to.
He gives an example from Kipling’s Kim, where Kipling has the widow of Kula says, when a District Superintendent of Police walks by, that
These be the sort to oversee justice. They know the land and the customs of the land.
which is Kipling’s way of demonstrating that natives accept colonial rule so long as it is the right kind.
They weren't like us and for that reason deserved to be ruled.
Said’s resistance to this is by what he calls "the voyage in" , to
enter into the discourse of Europe and the West, to mix with it, transform it, to make it acknowledge marginalized or suppressed or forgotten histories.
For example by rewriting these classics from the point of view of the colonized. This subtle movement beyond simple binary
refuses the short-term blandishments of separatist and triumphalist slogans in favour of the larger, more generous human realities of community among cultures, peoples, and societies.
He refuses works that just promotes the nationalism of the oppressed,
to the theory of the absolute evil of the native the theory of the absolute evil of the settler replies.
because it
reinforces the distinction even while reevaluating the weaker or subservient partner.
so he avoids this binary opposition of east and west and this summaries his Worldliness. A dialogue between equals.
Profile Image for Arda.
252 reviews158 followers
February 7, 2023
I listened to this book through audible, and realized that while readers "skim through" academic researches/books, listeners of audible have the option to "speed-narrate". Some parts of this book I hesitantly listened to through speed-narration. Other parts, however, I savored, replayed and wished I had the book to quote and reference from. Edward Said embellishes his words and prepositions. He makes countless citations of literary work from different parts of the world, and he analyzes the literature so seriously that it almost seems like he’s the only one in class paying attention.

While I studied English Language and Literature at Birzeit University (in the West Bank), Edward Said’s name never once came up during the four semesters [even though he is celebrated in the Palestinian society and has often spoken at the University.] I was a little dismayed by this fact, which brought home key messages from the book itself on the study of literature, the power of the novel, “what” work is considered important to read, and “for what reasons”.

Equally depressing was the fact that a few of my American friends had admitted to me that they did not read much, if any, non-American literature. This brought forth the realization that it would have to take an American a "personal interest" to choose to read "something else." Edward Said’s reasoning may have developed some resentment in the way that the remnants of colonial and imperial ways of thinking are likely to still be present among us, and could even be within us as "receivers" of information.

Edward Said is an intellectual; extremely well-read and somewhat self-important. I have to admit that some chunks of the book (which I speed-narrated) were a little dull to listen to, such as his over-and-slightly-imposed scrutiny of Jane Austen’s and Verdi’s work, and the repetitive-and-slightly-overbearing analysis of other works of fiction. My earlier sense of dismay as to why we had not studied Edward Said at University started to shift to the question of: who would want to read this examination of literature in the first place if not for students or professors of literature! However, these few chapters are not what the book is about. They are simply examples leading to the bigger picture that Edward Said is gradually revealing before our eyes. The last chapters of the book brought rise to powerful messages that are perhaps becoming more relevant in our times than before.

One of the key messages here is that “power” is not really measured by the tanks and weapons but more importantly by literature and science. What do we read? And by whom? And how do we read what we read? It is mainstream culture that orchestrates power and regulates the public discussion on what the world is, and how it should be. Moreover, how does mainstream culture with all of its media, arts, literature and supposed-morality take over the world? What are the remnants of colonization and imperialism? And how do we find them in works of literature?

Edward Said, in the same line of Noam Chomsky, talks about manufacturing consent. He challenges the secular reader, i.e. us, to have a role. He challenges us to "think" about why we deem it necessary to read what we read, and how we read it. It is not only the reading of books, it would turn out, but the picking of concepts, too, that are trivialized and added to universities as though students ‘have the choice to pick them out like they are looking at a menu’: Communism. Women's Liberation. Slavery. Racism. Revolution. Colonization. Post Modernism. Orientalism... all of these theories that are placed before us.

There are strikingly important points that Edward Said makes at the very end of this book that were reminiscent of Amin Maalouf’s “In the Name of Identity, Violence and the Need to Belong.” Both of these intellectuals seem to have battled with their identities in exile and came out with similar perceptions of how it is through “fear and prejudice” that patriotism and intolerance are made up. These may be the two factors that shape up mainstream culture, including the media, and, basically, the hegemony of discourse.

I could not help thinking about what Edward Said would make of social media today: Would he perhaps have thought that an app like twitter only reinforces the regulation of public discussion and mainstream culture? Would he have said the most-followed tweets belong to “privileged ethnic groups” and that the rest of the world that is trying to emulate them are all but going to get crushed, or worse, ignored? Whoever said that this book is “dated” may want to reconsider.

Quote (!Spoiler Alert! Last Word):

“No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental. Yet just as human beings make their own history, they also make their cultures and ethnic identities. No one can deny the persisting continuities of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems to no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human life was about. Survival in fact is about the connections between things; in Eliot’s phrase, reality cannot be deprived of the “other echoes [that] inhabit the garden.” It is more rewarding –and more difficult—to think concretely and sympathetically, contrapuntally, about others than only about “us.” But this also means not trying to rule others, not trying to classify them or put them in hierarchies, above all, not constantly reiterating how “our” culture or country is number one (or not number one, for that matter). For the intellectual there is quite enough of value to do without that."
Profile Image for Lulu .
19 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2016
Edward Said’s analysis of 19th and 20th century western written texts is outstanding. In Culture and imperialism Said makes the distinction between the two terms Colonialism and Imperialism. Before this book I used these terms interchangeably, even after reading the book I don’t think I fully understand how they are different. In any case, I now know that Colonialism is the practise while Imperialism is the idea that shapes that practice. In other words Colonialism is: “Now we (The colonizer) own you (The colonized), your land, and we will be exploiting your economic resources to our benefit using brute force. We also know and want you to know that we are a superior racial group, our intellectual abilities are beyond your comprehension and reach”. While imperialism is: “Now we (the colonizer) own you (the colonized), your land and we will be exploiting your economic resources to our benefit using culture and language alongside nuanced force. We discretely think and want you to think that we are a superior racial group that is intellectually blessed and would like to help you by making you more like us”.

Culture and language are very powerful tools, Said demonstrates over and over how western imperialism uses the written word to dominate other nations and send some into near obliteration. The Foucauldian manner in which he excavates these materials is well suited, I’m only saddened that I’m not familiar with all the works he mentions (which I’m sure diluted my understanding of his thesis). Said shows how some oppressed voices chose to resist cultural displacement by refusing to write in english and writing in their mother language instead. Against the backdrop of globalization I don’t see how that is a sound methodology to preserve one’s culture and language. If you refuse to write in english and instead write in Kenyan for example, to preserve your culture and language that is great. However, I’m inclined to think that only a handful of people will read what you write, half of those people will comprehend what you are trying to present, and half of that half will respond to it. In other words, while you think as an intellectual you are strengthening your culture you are not even putting a dent in western imperialism, actually, you are helping it along by isolating yourself as an intellectual. Liberating oppressed voices is of course more complex than that but it it something I’m deeply thinking about.

A reader might think that this book is repetitive (maybe it is?!) but I don't think of it that way, what seems repetitive is actually a historical narration with stacks of evidence to support the writer’s thesis. As far as I’m concerned the abundance of evidence presented strengthens the case which is necessary, especially given the boldness of Said’s thesis. Despite being a challenging read, I would recommend this book to others curious about why we all need to speak english to exist in this world. I will definitely reread Culture and imperialism after I’ve read colonialism and postcolonilsm for dummies, something I’ve should of done the first time around!
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,714 reviews2,310 followers
February 9, 2023
Long on the shelf with the best of intentions to get to it "someday"... and thankfully that time finally came.

Rebecca Solnit's Orwell's Roses is actually what spurred this reading on - Solnit references Said's literary criticism of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, and how the English family's wealth in the story is completely based on their slaveholdings and plantations in Antigua, and encourages a reading of Caribbean authors alongside these imperial writers for a deeper understanding, what he coins "reading contrapuntally", or point/counterpoint, analysis of colonial and imperial texts with the colonized counterpoint perspectives.

Said spends many pages and much ink discussing Austen and other 18-20th century writers whose work "props" of the Empires that they were living within: Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Albert Camus, E.M. Forster, Charles Dickins, Gustave Flaubert... you get the drift - it's a lot. Primarily considering British and French imperialist works, "contrapuntal" readings and literary nods are given to Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, Aime Cesaire, Walter Rodney, Jamaica Kincaid, Nadine Gordimer, and the mainstay of Frantz Fanon. Many other names and works sprinkled about too.

Said encourages the tandem reading activity: read Austen, AND read Kincaid. Read Camus, AND read Fanon, Conrad AND Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Forster AND Rushdie...

Just the briefest mentions of former Spanish colonies and the rich literary scenes in Latin America with nods to Marquez and Fuentes. Missing is discussion about Russian/Soviet and East Asian imperialist literatures - perhaps there is more that Said wrote/spoke on these regional literatures, but undoubtedly similar contrapuntal reading opportunities here too with Eastern European, Balkan, Ukrainian, Korean, Philippine, Vietnamese, Cambodian (etc etc etc) voices.

The late chapters change course a bit, but the same spirit, speaking to American physical and cultural imperialism and the current events at the time of Said's writing (1993): The Gulf War and the role of the media in how this was reported/covered, and discussed, Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Gulf States, the tensions in Iran, Rushdie's fatwa, and the on-going occupations and intifada in Palestine, Said's birthplace.

An academic text, no way around it - lots of "-isms" and assumed knowledge of historical events and intellectual history and thought leaders, but an opportunity to note, to learn, and to dig deeper. This is a book you never really finish reading, because it will be a constant "return to" on the shelf.

Profile Image for J.
730 reviews436 followers
August 30, 2016
I remember being completely blown away by Said's 'Orientalism' years ago, and this book, like that one, is less concerned with resolving every possible issue it brings up than with inaugurating and providing profound moral and aesthetic incentives for a massive intellectual mission.

Said's goal here is not simply to explain the numerous ways that ideas of 'empire' and 'culture' bleed into each other, but to explain the broad humanistic necessity of studying that phenomenon at all. This book, more than anything I've read in my life, offers a profound statement about why its important to exhume the writings and works of the politically marginal, the dispossessed and the displaced.

That's a project which has arguably become one of if not the dominant goals of the humanities in our age. If you've taken a college level literature course in the past ~20 years that has focused on 'non-white' 'non-western' writers, or characters of that type within western literature itself, it's largely because Edward Said and others like him made an impassioned, essential case for why that mattered. His influence in the academic world is, in many ways, almost too large to quantify.

Said emerges in this, as in his other work, as one of the most erudite, sophisticated, and (perhaps most importantly) profoundly humane thinkers of the past century. I can't imagine any thinking person reading him and not being affected.

19 reviews7 followers
August 23, 2018
One of the richest books in content you will ever read. Full of insights and references. A very illuminating work. A must read.
384 reviews8 followers
June 26, 2022
Every time I start writing a review for this in my head it feels like I’m having a fight with unknown people. So I’m going to just accept that this is the mindset it puts me in for some reason and have at it.

First of all, this is a book about literary criticism. That’s what the man was and that’s what he writes about. The imperialism comes into it as a new framing device through which he analyses multiple works of fiction (including for some reason an opera). His thesis in this regard is simple, straightforward and seemed to me to something so self-evident that I can’t imagine people having overlooked it (which obviously means I owe a heavy debt of gratitude to Said and others who figured this out and spread the knowledge around until it became so self-evident): people are a product of their environment and if these people happen to write books they bring all that into the book. They can’t help it because they most certainly aren’t even aware of all of it consciously. And so if that environment happens to be imperialist, it’s worthwhile to look at their works through that lens. Furthermore, it’s unbelievably short-sighted to basically scope out the historical, political and geographic context of a work of fiction when analyzing it.

Since the literary critic is also, in the broadest sense, a writer, that applies to literary criticism itself as well. So no matter how much they’d like to live in an ivory tower, literary critics can’t properly exercise their vocation without dealing with their political context as well and they have a duty to be aware of how this may affect their criticism too.

Now this is obviously such a heavy simplification that it’s almost a misinterpretation of the book. Said actually develops the technique of ‘contrapuntal reading’ of the literature of the colonizer and the colonized and does an excellent job of applying it in practice. Most importantly, his stance isn’t anything as ridiculous as merely saying that a work is ‘imperialist’ and stopping at that but much more akin to a precise psychological dissection of the ways the imperialist mindset affected the work and the stance of the author. In obnoxiously simplified terms, he’s a ‘middle of the road’ guy, all about acknowledging both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ in a work of art.

So far so good and nothing I think anyone could take issue with. Now, there is a more unexpected idea put forward as well: that the novel itself as a literary category is a product of imperialism. I’m not even close to being able to have an educated opinion on this but I liked the way he made his case.

Where the book gets more morally complicated though is in dealing with the different phases of the colonizer’s reaction to imperialism and particularly the revolutionary violence and subsequent oftentimes very oppressive regimes it engenders. Here Said tries to walk a very thin line between an empathetic understanding of the source of that violent energy and a very strong criticism of the means it is expressed and particularly the way the oppressed in turn all too often become oppressors of their own people. Of course, he isn’t critical of the struggle for liberation as such.

He gives it his level best and I admired the subtlety of reasoning and argument here. I’m not sure he succeeds, but that’s not necessarily a fault of his own. It causes no small amount of cognitive dissonance in me personally to be simultaneously aware that regime change (even much-needed one) is very seldom realistically achievable without violence and to abhor violence as a personal stance. This dissonance is all the more jarring given that violent regime change has most often only succeeded in replacing one tyrant with an even worse one. And even where democracy has established a foothold in these cases we have recently been seeing a backslide to more authoritarian regimes or simply just corrupt oligarchies. So I really did feel for the man.

Now, YMMV on this, especially if you don’t have the misfortune to come from a place that has a violent revolution in its recent past. In my personal case it would be terribly weird NOT to empathize with the colonized given that my country only recently escaped what was very clearly a typical imperialist exploitative relationship (and hasn’t run far enough away, at that). I realize though that most people reading this don’t have that perspective (or haven’t re-contextualized their past in this manner) and so might not have any qualms outright dismissing the right of oppressed people to riot and be violent.
Profile Image for hami.
103 reviews
January 9, 2019
The central thesis of the book is focused on the relationship of art/culture to imperialism. Said is influenced by William Blake who famously said “the foundation of empire is art and science. Remove them or degrade them and the empire is no more. Empire follows art and not vice versa.” Following the same topic in Orientalism Said asserts that what made the process of the colonialism possible was not just economically driven (capitalism) but also racial (superiority of white man to Arabs, Africans, etc.).

In this work, Said focused on European works of literature and mainly the novel. As the professor of English literature, he was expert on both European classical literary works as well as non-European writers criticizing imperialism from inside or outside of it. He examined works by theoreticians, historians as well as fiction writers. The list of bibliography for the book is even bigger than Orientalism (with more than 400 different references). In this book Said expanded the prior thesis of Orientalism to a more global scale with including writers from the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Europe. He is moving beyond the simple binary of East and West, to present the role of art and culture in a series of global interventions that was fostered by the United States as the vanguard of the West, and other European imperialist powers such as England and France.

He references authors such as Naguib Mahfouz, Chinua Achebe, Angus Calder, C.L.R James, Rabindranath Tagore, Pablo Neruda, Alfred Crosby in contrast to Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, E.M. Forster and V.S. Naipaul. At the same time, it’s very obvious that Lenin is somehow absent from the book, rather there is a shift of perspective towards thinkers who experienced imperialism from the other side of it.

Said’s position is completely against the so-called Western experts on the topics related to the east, especially politics. Said is definitely influenced by Fanon. In regard to the universalization of Western philosophy and myth of objective truth, Said is following Fanon, where he famously said: “for the native, objectivity is always directed against him.”

On the same topic and in regard to knowledge production, Said makes a compressing between Fanon and Foucault, but ultimately settles with Fanon due to the understanding of politics, and the geographic relationship to the Empire:

"Both Fanon and Foucault have Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Canguihelm, and Sartre in their heritage, yet only Fanon presses that formidable arsenal into anti-authoritarian service. Foucault, perhaps because of his disenchantment with both the insurrections of the 1960s and the Iranian Revolution, swerves away from politics entirely.”

Culture and Imperialism is also published in an era following the fall of the Berlin wall and invasion of Iraq where Western Universalism is under direct criticism. Said emphasizes the failure of academy and intellectuals to bridge the gap of culture in preventing further military intervention and continuation of imperialism.

The urgency of the topic became evident when after 9/11, invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, suddenly the focus of the Western academies shifted to Middle Eastern writers and artists in search of an answer. Journals such as Bidounwas formed consequently to urgently fix an already-too-late problem. In the past 15 years, we have seen a bit more of scholarship on these topics regarding art and culture of the Middle-east. Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh’s Insurgent, Poet, Mystic, Sectarian: The Four Masks of an Eastern Postmodernism is a good example of this.

In regard to the understanding of violence and Western promotion of War against terror (as George W. Bush called it a crusade), Said similar to Eqbal Ahmad brings attention to the current and historical interventions that remain relatively unspoken. USA support of the valiant Afghanistani moujahidin (freedom fighters, today’s Taliban), Poland’s Solidarity movement, Nicaraguan “contras,” Angolan rebels, Salvadoran regulars are some examples mentioned in the book. Said takes us to the mechanics of Empire and its cultural devices. We gain an understanding on why the United States first supports Saddam, just to demonize him into an Arab Hitler (1991), yet to make friends with him again, just before his overthrown (2003).

Full Review Here:

Profile Image for Clif.
444 reviews122 followers
October 10, 2020
Reading this excellent book I realize how little of the power of language is used in everyday life. Edward Said was a professor of literature at Columbia University, not surprisingly a master of words. Each sentence in this book is crafted from a large vocabulary to convey exactly what the author intends. The result is a dense work that doesn't allow the reader either a wandering mind or the common practice of skimming.

The man's mastery of English prose is also evident in the depth of his interpretation of classics of literature. Insightful mentions made of so many works beyond those he has selected for close scrutiny caused me to marvel at Said's erudition.

Held up for analysis throughout the book are Rudyard Kipling's Kim, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I found Said's interpretations so compelling that after completing this book I read the Kipling and Conrad works, prepared to get an extra amount of pleasure from doing so. His careful analyses made clear how much is contained in literature that can pass without notice to the casual reader. In fact, an author may not be consciously aware of all that he/she is relating.

A written work is a kind of time capsule that cannot help but reveal the time in which it was written. It is Said's intent to show how literature is a reflection of culture revealing imperialism as an integral part of British life in the 19th and very early 20th centuries, so closely related as to be like wallpaper to a room and so necessary as a support for the economy. To the British and to the French in Algeria empire was embraced, each colony a necessary part of the nation enlarged, accepted with pride along with the seemingly unquestionable facts that the people of the colonies were both inferior and beneficiary to white Europeans.

Culture and Imperialism concludes with an examination of the American empire that while abandoning the idea of placing colonies of settlers abroad retains the central idea that expansion of influence and capitalism across the globe is both good and just regardless of how it may be seen by those subject to domination.
Profile Image for J.I..
Author 2 books34 followers
December 17, 2012
Dense and sometimes irritatingly circular in logic, this book is still a fantastic piece of examining postcolonial literary theory. Rooted in literature, this book looks at the history around the works (though not in as extreme a detail as Orientalism and analyses it. When it goes to far, it can tend to be annoying (for example, while Aida is a brilliant example of imperialist orientalising a culture, and the history around it are interesting, it too specifically points to the cultural circumstances as being the reason that Aida came out as it was (ie: a specific attempt by Verdi) rather than influencing the attitudes indirectly, which is a stronger argument both for Aida and also for the concept), but when it isn't exaggerating, it is clever and helpful. Oh, ignore the last chapter. It's interesting but a tangent.
Profile Image for Greg Florez.
39 reviews
August 5, 2022
This is an incredibly beautiful book - you feel the full force not just of Said’s scholarly work and his activism, but the full force of his life hits you when you finish this book.
“Exile is predicated on the existence of, love for, and a real bond with one’s native place; the universal truth of exile is not that one has that love or home, but that inherent in each is an unexpected, unwelcome loss. Regard experiences then as if they were about to disappear: what is it about them that anchors them or roots them in reality? What would you save of them, what would you give up, what would you recover? To answer such questions you must have independence and detachment of someone whose homeland js ‘sweet’, but whose actual condition makes it impossible to recapture that sweetness and even less possible to derive satisfaction from substitutes furnished by illusion or dogma, whether deriving from pride in one’s heritage or from certainty about who ‘we’ are.”
RIP Edward Said.
Profile Image for Asma.
39 reviews31 followers
September 23, 2015

أرهقني الكتاب و أستنزف قوتي..إدوارد سعيد أنت مذهل!
صدر كتاب الثقافة و الإمبريالية سنة 1978 كامتداد لكتاب الإستشراق و كإسهام في بلورة خط نقدي جديد سيعرف لاحقا بالنقد ما بعد الكولونيالي.
يرى إدوارد سعيد أن الاستعمار السياسي و العسكري كان مسبوقا و متزامنا مع خطاب ثقافي سانده و دافع عنه بل ووفر له الشرعية أيضا حيث أسهمت الثقافة بكل عناصرها في تعزيز مشروع التوسع الإمبريالي و صيانته حيث يربط سعيد بين ظهور و صعود الرواية بالتحديد و توسع الإمبراطورية من خلال دراسته لعدد من الروايات لعل أبرزها قلب الظلام لكونراد و الغريب و الطاعون لكامو و آمال عريضة لديكنز.
استوقفتني بالتحديد القراءة الجديدة التي يقترحها سعيد لرواياتي الغريب و الطاعون لكامو. في الجامعة عندنا كما في المدارس الفرنسية تطرح رؤية واحدة رسمية حول كامو الكاتب المثقف الحامل لهم الوجود الإنساني و لم يتجرأ أحدهم يوما عن طرح أسئلة حرجة حول موقفه المساند للاحتلال الفرنسي و معارضته لاستقلال الجزائر. و يلفت الكاتب النظر إلى أن جل الشخصيات العربية في الروايتين لا تحمل أسماء و لا ألقاب و لا تواريخ ولا مرجعيات بل كانت ترمز دائما إلى الموت و المرض في مقابل الإشارات المتكررة إلى المؤسسات و الإنجازات الفرنسية في المدن الجزائرية. و يسخر سعيد من مشهد محاكمة الفرنسي بتهمة قتل عربي أمام محكمة فرنسية متسائلا عن إمكانية وجود هذه المحكمة فعلا.
و يقترح إدوارد سعيد نهجا مغايرا في النقد إذ لا يمكن قراءة الرواية بمعزل عن تاريخها و عن سياقها و لا تستقيم دراسة أدب المركز بمعزل عن الهامش . هذا الهامش الذي يدافع عنه إنطاقا من أطروحات فانون و يكشف الحجاب عن ثقافة المقاومة التي طبعت بعض روايات الأطراف في مسيرة التحرر من الظلم و القهر.
يكشف الكتاب عن سعة إطلاع و معرفة كبيرة للكاتب...لا في الأدب فقط بوصفة مجال تخصصه الأكاديمي بل في الفلسفة و التاريخ و الموسيقى و السياسة و الأنتروبولوجيا . أحيانا يستغرق سعيد في التفاصيل لدرجة الملل كما يستخدم كثيرا مفاهيم و مفردات تقنية تبدو صعبة.
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,715 reviews1,242 followers
August 29, 2011
This was an unexpected pleasure, as I'd never read Said before and was fearful of drowning in jargon. He's largely un-jargony, with the exception of some mentions of "universalizing discourses" here and there. Pleasantly catholic in his tastes, he finds merit in authors as diverse as Kipling and Achebe. There was a little too much of Frantz Fanon for me, but tidbits I especially liked included a brief discussion of the fabulousness, erudition, and extinction of philology-trained scholars like Erich Auerbach; his analysis of A Passage to India; a tantalizing mention of "the professionalization of intellectual life" which I wish had been more extensive; and his calling bullshit on Fouad Ajami.
Profile Image for a..
82 reviews110 followers
July 30, 2022
i read aijaz ahmad's 'orientalism and after: ambivalence and cosmopolitan location in the work of edward said' shortly after finishing this book, in search of the sorts of criticisms of orientalism that might similarly be mapped onto culture and imperialism. ahmad argues, among other things, that said reproduces the very discourse that he seeks to elucidate and overcome; the western corpus of literature retains its primacy, the non-western is flattened into a discourse of 'colonial' and 'postcolonial' that obscures dynamics internal to a country's literature in favour of eternally tethering it to its relationship with the west; the reliance on a logic of humanism even as said tries to situate himself outside of humanism results in an ultimately liberal imaginary; the incoherence of a theory that at once tries to trace an east/west literary divide back to the literature of antiquity and insists on its emerging as part of a tool of colonialism rather than interrogating the incorporation of classical texts into the colonial imaginary. all of these are pitfalls in which culture and imperialism is also trapped.

i respect said as a theorist & find both orientalism and culture and imperialism to be clarifying texts that establish a certain necessary starting-point for literary analysis. however, they are severely incomplete and often--as ahmad's paper outlines--incoherent. on top of the criticisms outlined by ahmad, here is a list of some of my grievances w/ c&i.
> that the first half of the book is a work of literary analysis that discusses individual texts of the western canon within the contrapuntal framework, yet the second half of the book struggles to afford the same depth of analysis to the 'postcolonial' texts that it discusses.
> that said's reading of austen overasssumes that mansfield park's titular estate is rendered a site of social harmony. as susan fraiman explores in 'jane austen and edward said: gender, culture, and imperialism,' austen's relationship to regency colonialism & slavery was less one of uncritical approval embedded into her social fabric and more a means by which she understood the subjugation of women in similar discursive terms to the subjugation of enslaved people (a discourse also taken up in emma, which said elides.) i am hardly an austen apologist & would argue that her politics were ultimately socially conservative, yet it is still a nuance that said misses (a shame because a lot can be gotten out of reading regency 'social literature' alongside the colonial violence that made its social world possible--cf. for example samuel taylor coleridge's 'conciones ad populum'!).
> that said places rudyard kipling on the same level of literary proficiency and prestige as eg. austen + forster, rather than examining the disparity in purpose between mansfield park and a passage to india and a book like kim that falls more in the domain of 'popular' literature. kim absolutely has its place within this discourse, but--as ahmad notes--it's an odd move to treat kipling as though he holds the same position in the literary canon as those authors when that simply isn't the case?
> that much of said's arguments towards the end of the book became deeply uncompelling, especially the halfhearted gestures towards a critique of the university as an institution.

anyway! with all that said, i'm still glad i read this, lol
Profile Image for Ruby Jusoh.
250 reviews6 followers
January 8, 2022
(Reflection) Fuh! Ya Allah! It’s Said, so obviously it’s life-changing. Every page hits hard, every sentence asks us to review the inequality around us and confront it. I must thank him for continuously teaching us, those living in postcolonial worlds, about the continual violation around us. Imperialism, it seems, has never really ended.
Culture and Imperialism by Edward Wadie Said
He defined imperialism as ‘the practice, the theory and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan centre ruling a distant territory’. Colonialism is ‘always a consequence of imperialism’ and ‘the implanting of settlements on distant territory’. With colonialism, there exists an assumption that the West is dominant, superior and proper. We are all merely peripheral, not as important, not as civilized. It is more than just a legal or technical existence. I believe that our mindsets still operate in such a manner.
After the Western colonisers left, we are now colonized by the bourgeoise nationalists who inherited imperial values. Without an ideological break, our society will never recover from massive exploitation. For example, British came to Malaya and solidified colonial capitalism. They left and to be honest, we are still stuck with a horrible version of feudal capitalism. As a society, Malaysians cannot seem to break free from our colonisers, whoever they may be. I think the most mind-boggling is that Said asks us to evaluate – is our culture really our culture? Is our ethnicity really our ethnicity? Or are those aspects merely the solidification and codification of the Imperialists? It feels like a lie, no? Our colonisers told us who to be, how to think and how to run the country years after they have left. We thought we are independent. It turns out that now we are ruled by another sort of colonisers who look similar to us.
How does culture come into play? Culture is being used to emphasise and justify domination. DOMINATION. It seems I cannot escape this word. Once the ones with power dominate, they exploit and they violate. We can see that happening daily for the past years. The people are made to feel inferior and helpless. Some of them even believe in their own inferiority and do not want to fight back. Similar colonising tactics? Yes. Said also mentions Alatas a lot in the book. Need to get The Myth of The Lazy Native for the focus is Malaysian history. Said proposes that we look back at our own history – it is not enough to just KNOW. We must also situate ourselves within the context of the world, other communities and that we have overlapping commonalities. It should not be a matter of us versus them. We cannot let differences define who we are. Bak kata dia, ‘no one today is purely one thing’.
The book changed me. Now I am a bit sad and disheartened. But at least I know a bit more. And can do more within my limited capacity.
Profile Image for Rick Rapp.
628 reviews3 followers
May 5, 2022
This is probably the most challenging book I have read in a long while, both in content and style. The scope of the work is massive and dizzying. Said posits many ideas relating to imperialism and nationalism and his bottom line (with which I agree) is that both tend to be internecine in nature. The first part of this book explores imperialism through various works of literature/music (Mansfield Park, Heart of Darkness, and Aida, for example.) Most of the early references pertain to Great Britain and France. The casual references to empire and cultural (as well as racial) superiority regularly pop up in each work. As Said progresses, he explores the aftermath of imperialism and the rise of self-destructive nations in many of the former colonies. In an effort to overthrow the oppressor, so many former colonies just modeled themselves after the occupying powers. In the last part of the book, Said expands his focus to include the behavior of the United States as self-appointed protector of the world and the fall-out from that attitude, from resentment to terrorist responses. He points out in his conclusion that we cannot pigeonhole ourselves as "Man", "American", "White", etc. We are all too interdependent and too interconnected for that to work anymore.
Said certainly did his research. He quotes dozens of writers and works, both literary and sociological. If anything, my two biggest problems with this work are as follows. 1. The scope is so massive that any one of these issues could have been exhaustively explored. The fact that he took on all of them made the work ponderous and at times unfocused. (This is a scholarly work, for sure, and not a piece for casual reading.) 2. His style is extremely challenging, with Faulknerian sentence structures, and a dense, rich vocabulary. Unfortunately, sometimes, I got the impression that he was saying, "Look how smart I am" when enumerating examples, and several of his points were repeated many times, weakening the impact of the book.
But for those who believe that many of the current problems in the world can be traced back to European interference and destruction through the many empires which grew like a cancer in the 19th century, this book is a must read.
Profile Image for Kshitij Chaurel.
142 reviews11 followers
January 2, 2020
The well written book about contrast between Third World cultures' and imperial nature of Western power. Without no doubt, Said is one of the influential thinker of the 20th century.

However, the book is complex with lots of examples which demand deep understanding of the contexts as well as references.
Profile Image for Mohammed omran.
1,565 reviews145 followers
January 6, 2018
ألهذا تنهض الثقافةُ العربيّةُ السّائدة على تكوين الفرد التّابع، المتّبع، المُقلِّد. تنهض على تكوين الشّبيه والمماثل والقرين؟
كأنّها ثقافةُ استنساخ. وكأنّ التّراثَ «مُلْكٌ» يُنقَلُ كما هو، بالوراثة من الخلَف إلى السَّلَف.
إنّها ثقافةٌ تهمِل العقلَ، وتُعنى بـ «النّفس» وحدها.
هل يصحُّ، إذاً، أن نطلِق على هذه الثّقافة اسم «الثقافة النّفسيّة»؟ أين إذاً، البحث؟ أين العقل والاستبصار؟

ـ 7 ـ

يعرف جميع المعنيين أنّ التاريخ الثّقافيّ العربيّ عرف حركاتٍ كثيرة في مختلف الميادين، وبخاصّةٍ الشعر والفكر، لمناهضة الاتّباع والتّوكيد على الإبداع.
لكنّ شهوة القتل، لم تصل في هذا التّاريخ كلِّه إلى ما وصَلَت إليه اليوم: ممارسة القتل بأشكاله كلّها، كما لو أنّه الطّريقُ الأكثر استقامةً وكمالاً.
وفوق ذلك تُسمّى هذه الممارسة معارضة. وبعضهم يتلطّف ويضيف إليها هذا الوصف: متطرِّفة!
ـ 8 ـ

كلا، نحن الذين ننتمي ثقافيّاً إلى الإسلام العربيّ لا نزال نحيا في تاريخٍ لم نصنعْه. من جهة، كان تاريخنا قد انتهى مع سقوط بغداد عام 1258، أي مع سقوط إبداعاتنا ومنجَزاتنا وحضورنا الخلاق في العالم. ومُذّاك، صار تاريخنا «عثمانيّاً»، في مرحلته الأولى، ثمّ أصبح «غربيّاً» في مرحلته الثانية.
اليوم نحيا بلا تاريخ. هكذا نستأنف ماضينا. هكذا نعود إلى البدايات. وهي تشبه في آفاقها، عودة أطفالٍ يلعبون في سهوبٍ من الرّمل.

ـ 9 ـ

يشارك المسلمون العربُ، اليوم، على نحوٍ مُقلِقٍ، بوصفهم في المقام الأوّل مستهلكين - يشاركون في تدمير الأرض والطّبيعة، إنسانيّاً وحـــضاريّاً، وفي توسيع حدود التلوُّث الشامل:
تلوّث الينابيع والأنهار والبحيرات والغابات والجبال والبحار، إضافةً إلى تلوّث العقول والقلوب والثّقافات.
وهي مشاركة عمياء وآليّة وجارفة. إنها مشاركة تسير في الاتّجاه الذي يحوِّل الفضاء الإسلاميّ - العربيّ إلى صحراء بالمعنى الحقــيقيّ الكامل، أو بالمعنيين الماديّ والرمزيّ.

ـ 10 ـ

من رسالة إلى صديق:
أن يبدع الشاعرُ هو أوّلاً أن يبدع نفسه. الشاعر، كمثل غيره من أبناء الأرض، لم يولد كاملاً. هو مجــرّد إمـــكان. مجرّد مشروع. وعليه أن يبنيه يوماً يوماً. أن يوجِّه حَياته في سياق هذا البناء، ومن أجله. فلا يكتمل شعرُ الشاعر إلا بقدْر ما تكتمل كينونته الحياتيّة والثقافيّة.
إبداع القصيدة هو في العمق إبداعٌ للذّات. ولا نستطيع أن نبدع الخارج إلا بدءاً من إبداع الدّاخل. لا يستطيع أن يثوِّر الحياة والمجتمع شخصٌ لم يثوِّر نفسه أوّلاً.
الإبداع الشّعريّ أو الفنّيّ بعامّة ليس مجرّد إبداع للأثَر قصيدةً أو لوحةً أو تمثالاً، وإنّما هو كذلك إبداعٌ للحياة ذاتها.
( ... )
هكذا لم تَعُد خصوصيّةُ الشعر العربيّ تتمثّل في مجرّد انتمائه التاريخيّ، أو اللغويّ أو الثقافيّ بعامّة.
إنّ خصوصيّته هي في كونيّته. فلم يعدْ ممكناً فهمُ العالم العربيّ في معزلٍ عن الكون، كما لو أنّه أُنزِل هو، وحده، في خريطةٍ رسَمَتْها يدُ السّماء. إنّه الآن جزءٌ لا يتجزّأ من الخريطة الكونيّة. وهي إذاً خصوصيّة الإبداع الفرديّ، خصوصيّة الصّوت الذي يخرج من كينونة الشاعر العربيّ، من تجربته الخاصّة، ومن رؤيته الخاصّة إلى الإنسان والعالم .»
Profile Image for saïd.
6,178 reviews711 followers
December 18, 2021
No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental. Yet just as human beings make their own history, they also make their cultures and ethnic identities. No one can deny the persisting continuities of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human life was about. Survival in fact is about the connections between things; in Eliot’s phrase, reality cannot be deprived of the “other echoes [that] inhabit the garden.” It is more rewarding—and more difficult—to think concretely and sympathetically, contrapuntally, about others than only about “us.” But this also means not trying to rule others, not trying to classify them or put them in hierarchies, above all, not constantly reiterating how “our” culture or country is number one (or not number one, for that matter).
Profile Image for Muhammad Ahmad.
Author 3 books153 followers
January 15, 2011
Like all of Edward Said's writings this book is endlessly repetitive, but if you can wade through the thickets of verbiage you'll find gems of extraordinary insight. The subject of the book is obvious from the title, but the book also offers a trenchant critique of nativist nationalism. Drawing on Fanon, Said argues that nationalism might serve as a mobilizing force during the war of liberation but unless it develops a social and political vision in its evolution toward liberation, it will ossify into mere nativism. Said's analysis of empire's cultural appendages, and the responses of the colonized are original, but unfortunately there is little that is original in his chapter on America. His commentary on Conrad, whom he oldly lumps with Kipling over and over, is equally problematic. For a superior analysis of Conrad's prophetic "Heart of Darkness", I'd recommend Sven Lindqvist's "Exterminate All the Brutes".
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