Culture and Imperialism
By Edward W. Said
Compelling, visceral, urban and complex, Edward Said confronts Western imperialism in the 19th and early 20th centuries by way of his profoundly impressive new book Culture and Imperialism.
For those already accustomed to the precision and propriety of Said’s analytical prowess (the author has written ten other books, of which Orientalism and The Question of Palestine are the most renowned), this book should come as no surprise. Those discovering Said for the first time will be/should be profoundly enlightened.
The author covers a terrain that is simply littered with humanity, a facet which is unfortunately widely ignored by everyday geopolitics. It is for this reason that the reader feels comparatively benign in his or her quest to connect with what Said has to offer.
In today’s world of xenophobic intransigence, the sort of which bequeaths a nirvana of hate for the masses – Germany, the Middle East and what’s left of Yugoslavia – this book is very timely indeed: ‘’And so in the late twentieth century the imperial cycle of the last century in some replicates itself, although today there are really no big empty spaces, no expanding frontiers, no exciting new settlements to establish. We live in one global environment with a huge number of ecological, economic, social, and political pressures tearing at its only dimly perceived, basically uninterpreted and uncomprehended fabric. Anyone with even a vague consciousness of this whole is alarmed at how such a remorselessly selfish and narrow interests – patriotism, chauvinism, ethnic, religious, and racial hatreds – can in fact lead to mass destructiveness. The world simply cannot afford this many more times.’’
Take not Slobodan Milosevic and all future apprenticeship warlords!
Moreover, by probing some of the great literary masterpieces of Western tradition – including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Austen’s Mansfield Park, Verdi’s Aida and Camus’ L’Etranger – Said wonderfully illuminates how culture and politics co-operated, knowingly and unknowingly, to produce a system whereby some people feel they are better than others. Hence, the Holocaust, Northern Ireland, Lebanon and the ongoing rape of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
An essential book for all those with a conscience.