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).
©1993 Edward Said (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"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)
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.
As an American of Irish decent I can certainly relate to the authors distain for the British people’s feelings of superiority and right to colonize the world. However the author presented and often repeated his points thru literature of the time and often broke into French for no reason, which was annoying. Kind like listening to a pompous university professor. For $4.95 it was worth the money, I will be reading Kim by Rudyard Kipling which Said often quoted and maybe Heart of Darkness which was quoted also. Other critics complained that the author got historical facts wrong but the work is more that of literary review than historical. The narrator was excellent.
Born to be a writer. Raised to forget about it. Follow me on twitter @ArdaWhateverian
“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.
Culture and Imperialism describes how the language used in literature can powerfully impact our stereotypes of other cultures. Using examples in classical literature (ranging from Jane Austen, to Joseph Conrad, to Albert Camus), Said shows us how imperialism was reinforced by the written word. Then, (using examples including V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie) he illuminates how today's societies - who are so focused on multi-culturalism - read the right books for the wrong reasons. I found this book intriguing. I listened to it on audiobook - Ganim's reading was smooth and engaging - but I'm now tempted to pick up a hard-copy of the book and use it as a reference in my perusal of literature. This book would be interesting to anyone interested in the culture of imperialism or in literary criticism of literature in the imperialist era.
This is an unabashedly anti-colonialist (read "anti-western") book. A book like this would likely appeal to those who believe that the United States has a duty to apologize to the rest of the world for its actions and policies of the last century and particularly since World War II. While history certainly provides sufficient evidence that the predominantly white west has done its share to exploit the non-white, nonwestern world, I – and likely most U.S. citizens – reject the notion that the United States is the moral successor to the western imperialists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Said is in the anti-colonialist camp that lumps the United States of today with the England, France, and Holland of yesteryear.
History provides examples of U.S. exploitation and unwelcome meddling in third-world affairs to be sure, but Said’s position seems to minimize, if not ignore, any redeeming qualities of the west. While not ignoring the corruption high-handedness of some nonwestern post-colonial leaders, he seems to blame the west for their ascension and durability, as well. The west, in his view, has promoted the bourgeoisie of the decolonizing world, allowing them to relegate their masses to further subjugation – even if at the hands of leaders who look like them. At what point do formally colonized countries begin to take responsibility for the condition of their nations? This question remains unanswered. Said begins the book by stating that he can provide alternatives to the diametrically opposed views of the American Exceptionalist and the anti-colonialists, but the book does not seem to offer any clear solutions or alternatives.
With that said, I recognize that the book is primarily a critical review of western literature and not necessarily an attempt to resolve all the problems of west/non-west relations. Said does do a thorough job of reviewing authors from Austen to Conrad and Camus to Faubert. He points out the references to colonialism in the works of western authors that might go unnoticed to the unaware reader, and introduces the reader to works of non-western authors of the decolonizing world.
Peter Ganim does a fantastic job of narrating this book. His diction is clear, his voice is pleasant, and he provides just the right amount of emphasis to create interest in what could be a pretty dry listen.
While I do not personally agree with the views of Edward Said, I would read another book by him, and would read more books written from an anticolonialist point of view, if only to understand the roots of anti-American sentiment. I am a firm believer of reading the views of those you disagree with as well as those with whom you feel to be your kindred spirits.
Peter Ganim brings an inflection and drama (although controlled and understated) to the text that makes this erudite and intellectual book much easier to digest.
This book would not make a good film. Its subject matter is not the stuff of cinema.
Best part is author's use of novels for evidence, such as Conrad and Naipaul. This was most helpful in driving home major ideas.
A plot, a narrator who didn't speak in constant uninteresting monotone and a more interesting subject matter.
Something fiction, perhaps.
He was monotone and uninteresting.
All of them, or none of them. I don't know. I kept falling asleep, which is not good because I was driving.
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