A landmark work from the intellectually auspicious author of Orientalism, this book explores the long-overlooked connections between the Western imperial endeavor and the culture that both reflected and reinforced it. This classic study, the direct successor to Said's main work, is read by Peter Ganim (Orientalism).
"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'.... 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." (Amazon.com review)
"Grandly conceived… urgently written and urgently needed…. No one studying the relations between the metropolitan West and the decolonizing world can ignore Mr. Said's work." (The New York Times Book Review)
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BRAVO, AUDIBLE!! WE NEED MORE SAID!! REAL BOOKS!!
A Relevant Book for our Times
“Power” is not really measured by the tanks and weapons but more importantly by literature and science.
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.
“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."
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.
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 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.
- Arda "Born to be a writer. Raised to forget about it. Follow me on twitter @ArdaWhateverian"