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I am waiting for Audible to do Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society by Edward W. Said and Daniel Barenboim !! Please !!!
This is a truly masterful and enigmatic work that is immensely readable despite its well-earned reputation. Consequently this is a book that will and should be of interest to everyone, from the specialist to the casual reader who has never encountered theory before.
So why then Culture and Imperialism?
Western societies seem to have entered a phase of collective amnesia whereby colonialism, if it is remembered at all, is envisioned as ending somewhere along the length of the Suez Canal.
Said's thoughtful analysis challenges the modern myth of the end of Empire and of the slow decline of an age of economic and cultural imperialism which came to an end sometime after 1948 with the final dropping of the Union Jack in the final colonially occupied territory.
In many ways economic and cultural imperialism is as pervasive and violent today as it ever was, if not a little more so. Indeed, Said's brilliance in this book is to fundamentally disrupt and deconstruct the modern Western amnesia. Far from being back then and over there Said helps us to trace the links, connections, and complicities between writers as diverse as Jane Austen, J. S. Mill and W. B. Yeats.
For anyone with an interest in postcolonialism Culture and Imperialism is an essential grounding. Not only does the text follow on from Said's brilliant and ground-breaking Ur text of postcolonial studies Orientalism, but it suggests the possibility and methodology of subjecting imperialism to a systemic analysis.
Said has always been controversial, and rightly so. Unlike the quite frankly shoddy and poorly argued vitriol of some of his detractors (and reviewers) Said's work is always superbly well argued and controlled. Whether you support Said's point of view or not you cannot but fail to be impressed by his depth of insight and by the humanism of his intelligence.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful
What was one of the most memorable moments of Culture and Imperialism?
“Power” is not really measured by the tanks and weapons but more importantly by literature and science.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
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.<br/><br/>“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."
Any additional comments?
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, or the repetitive-and-slightly-overbearing analysis of other works of fiction. Yet the last chapters of the book brought rise to powerful messages that are becoming more relevant in our times than ever before.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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 tweeps 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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful