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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review of Culture and Imperialism
Contrapuntal and contrapuntally are words that Edward Said uses to describe both the relationship between culture and imperialism, and the way that relationship may be apprehended. In essence: there are two thematic principals in culture, one dominant, and one subordinate (less visible), but crucially these two themes operate in an interdependent and highly dynamic...
Published on 25 July 2009 by G. Heath

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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bargain price for a very readable, and still relevant book
It is some years since I last read this. In some ways it seems more relevant now then when it came out. At a certain point, I became quite anti-Said because the parroting of his view in the Indian context was just plain wrong. His analysis of Kipling is jejeune- but then Indian critics are too ignorant about their own Sacred Literature to have registered the RG Vedic...
Published on 28 Sep 2009 by windwheel


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review of Culture and Imperialism, 25 July 2009
By 
G. Heath - See all my reviews
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Contrapuntal and contrapuntally are words that Edward Said uses to describe both the relationship between culture and imperialism, and the way that relationship may be apprehended. In essence: there are two thematic principals in culture, one dominant, and one subordinate (less visible), but crucially these two themes operate in an interdependent and highly dynamic manner. Specifically, Said is interested in examining the "interacting experience that links imperializers with the imperialized." (pg.194). In Culture and Imperialism, his crowning achievement published in 1993, Said examines this interacting experience through the prism of literature, his area of especial expertise.

Said begins his huge and difficult task by discussing, in general terms, the way that in the West (the dominant imperializers since the sixteenth century) cultural representations of the non-European world are crude, reductionist and often racist. Said believes this tendency is not accidental but systematic and part of an imperial impulse that needs to dominate. Voices of the non-European world in Western culture are not expected to be heard, and are deliberately, if not always consciously, suppressed. In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, for example, the world of the Caribbean plantation is only peripherally referred to, though its existence and economic exploitation are essential to the well-being of the novel's main characters. When referred to, the plantation is subordinate and dominated--no non-European voices are heard. This illustrates one of Said's key arguments: "the experience of the stronger party overlaps and, strangely, depends on the weaker." In a wider political sense--and for Said politics and culture is one and the same thing--the developed world depends on the underdeveloped ("developing") world even though in cultural representations the former often portrays itself as separated and elevated from the latter.

The author also examines the work of Albert Camus, Rudyard Kipling, and Verdi (opera), among others, in detail and critically. Why was the Indian resistance (to British imperial rule) not represented in Kim? Why did Aida not attempt to examine contemporary urban reality in Cairo at the time of its making? Said enjoys and appreciates these works, and those of contemporaneous artists, but cannot help viewing them critically, and urges us to do likewise. He seems to want us to see the imperial motive in all cultural artefacts, most especially in "high art." Knowledge of domination and being dominated has been artificially and falsely separated from "culture", argues Said, whereas it should lie at the centre of our cultural understanding.

One important point that Said makes is that imperialism did not end after decolonisation, and that there is still an intense need to justify domination in cultural terms. The way the media in the West helps to engender consent for military interventions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan being a case in point. Rambo-like movies represent Arab Muslims as desperados, and so on. Journalists and intellectuals who should be able to think more critically, often participate in this cultural brain-washing, having internalized the norms of the state, and go along with the story--North Korea is therefore a "rogue" state, instead of just a state acting in its own interest. Palestinians who decide to resist Israeli domination are always portrayed as "terrorists." But the dropping of phosphorous and cluster bombs on civilian areas by Israel's military does not, apparently, deserve the terrorist epithet.

Cultural domination always meets cultural resistance, notes Said. This is one of the interesting things about the phenomenon of imperialism, and in the second part of his book Said discusses the work of Fanon, Lukacs, and others. In between these discussions, which are interspersed with interesting personal anecdotes, Said returns to his arguments and his agenda: "The job facing the cultural intellectual is therefore not to accept the politics of identity as given, but to show how all representations are constructed, for what purpose, by whom, and with what components."

Great books leave you looking at the world in a slightly different way, forever. Culture and Imperialism is, I believe, one such great text, and even if you cannot agree point for point with everything the author is saying, his overall import, that there is an unavoidable interdependency between imperialism and culture (the two phenomena cannot be artificially separated) is brilliantly and precisely argued. And also like all great books, Said's narrative raises as many questions as it answers, particularly about the nature of domination, and whether liberation can be achieved through "poetry" (a metaphor for non-violence) alone.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greater of the Said studies, 11 May 2009
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Culture And Imperialism (Paperback)
The name of Edward Said will forever be associated mostly with his famous masterpiece, "Orientalism" (Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (Penguin Modern Classics)) in which he studied many historical and literary texts of the 18th and 19th century to criticize the imperialist background of the field of 'Oriental studies', as it was known at the time. Despite its fame however, "Orientalism" is a difficult read for most people, lacking a clear structure and containing long excursions on generally obscure travel books from the 1820s and so on.

For the readers intrigued by the idea of "Orientalism" but who seek a more structured, accessible and explicitly political version of the same, "Culture and Imperialism" is the ideal book. It is perhaps for these reasons better than "Orientalism" at achieving its purpose, since Said's writing style is also generally better and more polemically strong in this book, and the literary studies are less obscure and more clearly linked to the topic. Though much of it still consists of 'lit crit', there is in this book a direct analysis of the imperialist contents and their historical background of such famous works as "Mansfield Park", Joseph Conrad, the "Aida" of Verdi and the oeuvre of Camus. Said brings all his erudition and subtlety of judgement to bear on these and similar products of culture, and the result is an engrossing, stimulating and effective polemic, while generally lacking in an actual outright polemical tone.

Also of interest is that a significant part of the book is concerned with the counter-imperialist products of culture, from the poetry of Yeats to the evocative works of Fanon and Achebe. As some have remarked already, what it does not do is establish Said's somewhat exaggerated implication that imperialism is the one Grand Theme of 19th Century literature in Europe, let alone the 20th; but imperialism certainly is a major one, and Said has done great work in excavating that particular aspect. In a time when the 'new conservatism' has made it en vogue to unreflectively declare the West 'superior' again to the Orient (despite the West having historically been vastly more murderous and destructive) and in an atmosphere where the ideas of the White Man's Burden are undergoing a revival, the criticisms of an intellectual like Said are sorely missed.
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103 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Impressive and Urgently Topical., 14 Feb 2004
This review is from: Culture And Imperialism (Paperback)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive book, 3 Jan 2010
By 
L. Montilla Gordo (Madrid, Spain) - See all my reviews
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Edward Said proposes a literay and cultural journey across our recent world history, during the ninentieth and twentieh centuries and its historical facts Imperialism and colonialism, resistance and opposition, decolonization, post-colonial independence movements, the travails of the new independent states, immigration and the hegemony of one single nation over the world. In this voyage we are acquainted with authors like Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Verdi's "Aida", Aimé Césaire, Joseph Conrad, André Gide, V.S. Naipaul, Yeats, E.M. Forster's "Passage to India", Albert Camus and many other writers from both sides of the divide. A complete appraisal of our common recent History from a well known scholar, written in a somewhat complex language but wiht a strong message in it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 26 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Culture And Imperialism (Paperback)
Edward said, is one of the most influential writers in last century he succeeded in identifying the relationship between the knowledge and the power.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tour De Force, 2 Dec 2013
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a powerful read on how historic narratives are a basis of understanding the relationship between culture, imperialism and colonization. Powerful indeed
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 29 Oct 2014
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J. Brown (Norwich, Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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Excellent !
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good, 10 Sep 2011
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M. Khalil "Mokh" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Culture And Imperialism (Paperback)
It was on time in good condition and there were no problem I recommend it to all my friends thank you very much
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, 28 April 2013
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Well written and illuminating, this book describes the effect of imperialism in the nineteenth century and after on culture and of culture's role in reinforcing imperialism.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bargain price for a very readable, and still relevant book, 28 Sep 2009
This review is from: Culture And Imperialism (Paperback)
It is some years since I last read this. In some ways it seems more relevant now then when it came out. At a certain point, I became quite anti-Said because the parroting of his view in the Indian context was just plain wrong. His analysis of Kipling is jejeune- but then Indian critics are too ignorant about their own Sacred Literature to have registered the RG Vedic references in Kim- so why pick on Said?
Eihteenth and early Nineteenth Orientalism- but also Macaulay's Occidentalism- were quite kind to India- it was the naked exploitation of the East India Company (condemned in ringing terms by Sheridan and Burke) that was the problem. In any case India is no longer important.

The Middle East, on the other hand, is extremely important to the West and so disguised racism and Islamophobia must be combated.
Still, when I recall the early Said- his brilliant essay on the Chanson Rolland which showed how scription, bourgeois literature, fed in a parasitic, colonial, fashion on the oral tradition- and the quite beautiful sentences he could, from time, fling as baksheesh to his readers- I can not but regret the polemical turn his work took.
There was also the matter of his dispute with the Iraqi dissident Kanan Makkiya- though, I suppose, Makkiya might be blamed for Bush's Iraq adventure, so again perhaps Said got that right.
For a very bright man his books are curiously light-weight. But then, I guess, he would have had a lot of 'survivor's guilt', so so to speak, about Palestenians- including highly educated Christians like himself- suffering calamity after calamity, exile upon exile- uprooted first from Palestine, then Jordan after Black Sept., then Lebanon, then Kuwait, then Iraq....
It would take a truly heartless man to criticise Said for not being the belle letrristic sort of academic he was so well qualified to be.
This is a good price to buy a book that, at the very least, will have some nostalgia value for you in years to come.
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Culture And Imperialism by Edward W Said (Paperback - 6 Jan 1994)
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