Customer Reviews


38 Reviews
5 star:
 (19)
4 star:
 (6)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (5)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging, but not entirely successful, literary study
....
So, what is this book about? Well, contrary to what some of the "reviews" below assume, it's not about contemporary Middle East politics, or media coverage thereof, or anything even remotely like that. It's about literature-- European literature to be specific.
Essentially, Said proposes to look at what he calls "Imperialism" in...
Published on July 16, 2001

versus
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring in the Best Academic Sense
Edward Said's "Culture and Imperialism" (not be confused with cultural imperialism) is meant to be a sequel to his breakthrough work "Orientalism," and that's what probably accounts for its "international bestseller" status. The book's main argument is that there was a symbiotic relationship between imperialism and the empire's metropolitan culture. Actions are not...
Published on April 15, 2010 by Jiang Xueqin


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging, but not entirely successful, literary study, July 16, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
....
So, what is this book about? Well, contrary to what some of the "reviews" below assume, it's not about contemporary Middle East politics, or media coverage thereof, or anything even remotely like that. It's about literature-- European literature to be specific.
Essentially, Said proposes to look at what he calls "Imperialism" in European literature. (Although the title is "Culture and Imperialism" and while he does discuss one opera, he's not really concerned with culture or art, more broadly. He's really talking about literature here-- and especially novels. In truth, "Literature and Imperialism" would be a more accurate title.
So, what is imperialism, as Said uses it here? It is, he explains, an ideology-- a set of assumptions-- that justifies, supports, and legitimates the conquest, control, and domination of lands that are inhabited by other people, who speak different languages and have other traditions. Imperialism, as an ideology, is thus distinct from "Colonialism", which is the actual, real, activity of conquering, controling, and domination other lands and people. Imperialism is, Said might say, the intellectual/cultural/ideological base that makes an otherwise morally dubious project of colonialism (conquering and ruling over others) seem acceptable, even justifiable.
Essentially, Said traces the role that imperialism (as defineed above) plays in a host of European literary works, focussing on the past two centuries. After his theoretical/methodological introduction, each chapter is devoted to the discussion of a single literary work (or in some cases, multiple works by the same author), illuminating its imperialist qualities. In doing so, he chooses only truly great literary works by the biggest and best names, and he also leaves a side a fewer mediocre authors who might have been obvious targets (like Kipling). Said's reason for doing this, I believe, is twofold: First, I think, is the simple fact that he, like all true lovers of literature, prefers to discuss works that are truly great on their own right, rather than ones that are merely mediocre but happen to prove his point. Secondly, Said wants to show that the imperialist ideologies he's talking about weren't just a peripheral sidenote in European culture-- but that they were part and parcel of its finest artistic achievements. He does this, not as some of his critics might suppose, to indict European culture or to question the greatness of any of these texts. Quite the contrary, I think, Said is concerned with showing how important and central this subject is to the history of European literature.
The only problem is that a lot of the individual chapters (which are more or less case studies of specific works/authors) seem unsuccessful. Obviously this is not the case in his chapters on Conrad, or on Verdi's "Aida", both of which have clear and undeniable imperial/colonial elements to them. However, his discussion of Jane Austin's works (for example), seems quite unconvincing. Yes, there is the brief moment in one novel where the family patriarch announces that he is leaving to look after some of the family's "sugar interests" in the Caribbean.... but that's the closest one can get to an "imperialist moment" in Austin. Said does, of course, acknowledge that it's not much-- and he does show how the father's absence enables many of the other events in the novel to transpire-- but it seems a bit forced. Even the chapter on Verdi falls short a couple of times because Said seems to ignore the fact that, in many ways, Aida was an explicitly *anti-colonialist* opera that was most often interpreted as a quasi allegory *criticizing* Italian intervention in East Africa. (Paul Robinson actually has a great chapter on this subject in his book, "Opera and Ideas").
Still, in spite of its faults, and in spite of the fact that it doesn't establish its claim that "imperialism is the central theme" of European literature in the 19th century, "Culture and Imperialism" is a worthwile book to read. While Said may overstate his case, he's definitely on to something important, and at the very least, he offers new and fresh perspectives of many great literary works that, in the end, go to show just how wonderfully complex, insightful, and meaningful those works are, both in and of themselves, and to the history of literature and ideas as a whole. (Oh yes, I suppose I should add that, in contrast to many contemporary literary critics, Said can write well, and clearly. Additionally, he's even retreated from the Foucauldian basis of some of his earlier work, and "Culture and Imperialism" has very much the feel of a good ol' fashioned piece of literary criticism, rather than something that bows to the current thoretical academic trends). Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art and Colonialism, October 10, 2001
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
This work is one of Edward Said's best , in fact, Culture and Imperialism is better than Orientalism. The overarching theme is the interconnection between culture and society be it in the past or the present. His aim is not to disparage the West but to show how one's identity is more or less determined by one's relationship with the Other ( the third world). His obeservations on this relationship, the other and the west is quite enlightening. Contrary to what have been written, this is not an apologia for Islamicism ( Islamic Fundamentalists), he is indeed critical of fundamentalists of any stripe. Said is a secularist so it would be nonsensical for him to support a fundamentalist government. While he is critical of the West(rightfully so), he does acknowledge the undemocratic nature of Middle Eastern governments. His love for liberty and justice convinces the reader that he is sincere in his condemnation of Islamicism. This book is needed to be read carefully but once you're done reading you'll be glad to have done so.
[....]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring in the Best Academic Sense, April 15, 2010
By 
Jiang Xueqin (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
Edward Said's "Culture and Imperialism" (not be confused with cultural imperialism) is meant to be a sequel to his breakthrough work "Orientalism," and that's what probably accounts for its "international bestseller" status. The book's main argument is that there was a symbiotic relationship between imperialism and the empire's metropolitan culture. Actions are not possible without thought, Said argues, and for imperialism to be possible people had to think and to will it. This cultural attitude and perception could only be made possible by the culture's literary elite, and resistance to this cultural domination necessitates that colonial cultures create their own literature.

Edward Said analyzes the imperial culture writers (Austen, Conrad, Kipling, Camus, etc.) individually before analyzing the nationalist writers such as Yeats (I really stopped paying attention after being told that Yeats, who is considered a fascist poet, is also a nationalist writer capable of liberating the mentality of his countrymen). Said claims that by analyzing literature in its cultural and thus imperialist content we gain a better understanding of literature. This is an intellectually dishonest argument, and I'm surprised and awed that man of Said's repute and academic standing would dare attempt it.

Said first analyzes "Mansfield Park," and makes several specious arguments. He argues that "Mansfield Park" is about how the protagonist Fanny Price (a distant cousin of the aristocratic family at Mansfield Park) incorporates the cultural attitudes and thinking of Mansfield Park, and eventually becomes its matron and guardian. Said goes on to argue that this transformation also reflects Austen's co-optation. He points out repeatedly how Mansfield Park is sustained by the family's Carribean plantations, and that these places are out of place and out of mind at Manfield Park.

I've actually read "Mansfield Park," but even if I had not I still would not be comfortable with the reduction of any novel into a political worldview. There can be two definitions of a novel: the actual book (which achieves a life of its own) or the interaction between the words and the reader. In the case of the latter, it's perfectly plausible and legitimate to think that the middle-class readers, who themselves benefit so much from England's imperialist policies and in fact are the clerks, the accountants, and the lawyers that make imperialism possible, of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park" would find the book a justification of England's imperialist attitudes. But how do we in fact know? And who is to say that in the reading process readers are actually processing what the authors, and not instead re-writing the book while they're reading it? In other words, readers will bring their attitudes, prejudices, and worldview into whatever they read. But even if that were not the case how could we truly understand and interpret authorial intent?

I am also uncomfortable with using a book or a body of writing to interpret the worldview of authors. Joseph Conrad may have written "Heart of Darkness," but he also did write the arguably anti-imperialist "Under Western Eyes." Camus did grow up as a Frenchmen in Algeria, and that makes him suspect in the imperialist project. But as he proves time and time again in his philosophical writings "The Myth of Sisyphus" and "The Rebel" Camus is obsessed with the plight of the modern thinking individual. And even if an author (like Kipling) is outrageously imperialist in his public demeanor it does not mean that his writings cannot achieve a life and a worldview of its own, and it is disappointing that a powerful literary critic such as Edward Said ignores this fundamental maxim of literature.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greater of the Said studies, May 10, 2009
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
The name of Edward Said will forever be associated mostly with his famous masterpiece, "Orientalism" (Orientalism) 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


32 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, highly recommened read, September 18, 2001
By 
W. Schmidt "Shane Schmidt" (Minneapolis, MN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
This is an excellent book covering the power of literature to form and maintain ideological control over cultures, history, and people. In fact, the wide range of opinions about this book expressed here among the amazon customer reviews points to just how real this kind of control can be. Your position in the world will affect your reading of this book. But really that's Said's point. And it is true of whatever you see and read. Being entirely objective probably is asking too much of anyone, but opening yourself to the opinions and experiences of others is not asking too much. There's more than just a little that is valid and true in this book even if it is not immediately true for you. How Western literature, words, and ideas have affected other non-western lives is real. Here's the proof. Everyone needs to be aware of these relationships and this book does make a sound argument for that awareness.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting, May 19, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
This is certainly an overhyped book, and in fact there are a great many scholars that have investigated this material before; it's just that Said manages to get it all in one book, and makes it a pleasure to read. I suppose we now have to ask whether this economically and educationally priviledged male is genuinely on the side of the oppressed people in economically depressed 'third world' nations. Something tells me that he more than occassionally finds something attractive in what he claims is the litearture of conquest. There are of course more original voices working in post-colonial cultural studies today, but it is doubtful if any of them write with such clarity and assurance as Said.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review of Culture and Imperialism, January 27, 2010
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting book by a learned man....., August 23, 2000
By 
J. Michael Showalter (Nashville, TN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
In this book, Edward Said (also author of the classic Orientalism) shows the broad grasp of imperialism (i.e. the possession of one culture/group fo people by another) through analysis of 'Western' authors and texts. First, this book differs from most, if not all other major 'revisionist' kinds of texts because its author never sets aside the value of reading anything: Said uses his erudition in order to illustrate the plight of the oppressed, as opposed to many others, who view erudition, developed through culture, as a device that can only bind one more into a group of people. Whereas others read stories of Conrad and see mainly a story of the white upper class, Said reads between the lines and shows Conrad's implications toward other people.
I guess that explanation was relatively unclear: I don't have the book in front of me. This is an important book for any person who wishes to consider themself either educated or worldly to read. Setting aside that it is brilliant for what it is about, just having the oppurtunity to read the words of its author would provide value enough.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Promote Mutual Understanding Through Text, September 12, 2004
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
This book is highly recommended to understand the fact that imperalism goes beyond the political and economic domination. Imperialism stayed in the most subtle way, in the culture. Said clearly described that the reaction toward imperialism is mutual: from the Western side, the prejudice and biased and the supremacy-feeling, which unfortunately still existed today; and from the "other side", also prejudice and to the extreme side, anti-Western.

Readers who knows Said's background well will understand that Edward Said had a long commitment in building understanding between the "West" and the other,and contrast to some of the reviewers' accuses that "he forgive terrorism". Not at all. Said opposed terrorism. He was very much concern about the idea of " to valued mutuale experience in order to understand the imperialism in a whole", and I think that is the main idea of the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine reference, May 30, 2004
This review is from: Culture and Imperialism (Paperback)
Edward W.Said's Culture and Imperialism explores seemingly difficult areas of postcolonial discourse with consummate ease, carefully and clearly definining terms and writing an utterly convincing piece. As with all of his texts, Culture and Imperialism's main strength is in the conviction of the writer as he puts forward his claims. An invaluable tool for those approaching Postcolonialism, Culture and Imperialism is quite possibly the most illuminating piece of writing I have considered. A fine text, and one of immeasurable usefulness.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Culture and Imperialism
Culture and Imperialism by Edward W. Said (Paperback - May 31, 1994)
$16.95 $13.00
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.