Edward Said (Routledge Critical Thinkers)

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Certainly, in post-colonial discourses, the local place, culture and community are becoming ever more insistent. Something of the urgency of geographical veracity can be found in an interview Said gave as early as This notation is particularly pertinent to the assertion of cultural dominance.

Pramod K. Nayar

Said a: 69 This reliance upon the colonised territories cannot be over-emphasised. Contrapuntal reading acts to give those absences a presence. The contrapuntal reading is one that brings the reality of Antigua to the fore in this process. What assures the domestic tranquillity and attractive harmony of one is the productivity and regulated discipline of the other.

Fanny Price, the poor niece, the orphaned child, displays an integrity of character favourable to Sir Thomas, and gradually acquires a status superior to her more fortunate relatives. However, in reading the novel, there is a corresponding movement to the one that searches out the relevance of references to colonial holdings. Whereas the references to Antigua uncover hidden aspects of the dependency of British wealth upon overseas holdings, there is also, says Said, a need to try to understand why Austen gave Antigua such importance.

Such a reading, although it is one among many, changes for ever the way in which the novel can be read. But the structure of attitude and reference that supports the novel cannot be accessed without reading the novel itself carefully. So, by the time of the rise of the overt doctrine of imperialism, even the most questionable and hysterical assertions of dominance are announced as virtually universally agreed truths.


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These assumptions have percolated up by this time through the culture itself. When a cultural form or discourse aspired to wholeness or totality, when it assumed its own universality, this was usually because its cultural assumptions were backed by a quite explicit demonstration of political power. Its story, for instance — of the Egyptian hero of a successful campaign against an Ethiopian force who is impugned as a traitor, sentenced to death and dies of asphyxiation — recalls the rivalry of imperial powers in the Middle East.

From a French point of view, Aida dramatised the dangers of a successful Egyptian policy of force in Ethiopia. This, indeed, is a subtle aspect of the complicity of European culture in the imperial process. Its ideology of universality, its assumptions of European centrality and value make it peculiarly amenable to obscuring that imperial politics of power from which it draws sustenance. Aida is a particularly good example of the way in which European cultural forms divest themselves of any apparent connection to the world of their creation, as they assume the myths of transcendence that attach to the works of classical Western art.

Yet contrapuntality does provide two fundamental insights. This is not to say, of course, that Kipling consciously fabricated a propagandist view of India. Rather, his own deep belief in the value of British rule, and the imperialist dominance of narrative, conspired to create this India of the imagination for the European and Indian alike.

In Kim, time never seems to be the enemy for the White man because the geography itself seems to be so open and available to freedom of movement ibid. Kim is neither a simple imperialist apologetic nor a naively blind though lavishly decorated panorama of India. It is the realisation of [a] great and cumulative process, which in the closing years of the nineteenth century is reaching its last major moment before Indian independence: on the one hand, surveillance and control over India; on the other, love for and fascinated attention to its every detail.

The fact that Meursault kills an Arab, or that Arabs die in La Peste — indeed, the fact that Arabs exist, even as unnamed presences in the novels — appears to be incidental. The correspondence between how Camus incorporates both the Arab population and the overwhelmingly French infrastructure into his novels, and the ways in which schoolbooks account for French colonialism is arresting.

Culture and Imperialism does redress, however, the absence of those cultures of resistance to imperialism that spread throughout the various European empires.

Global Empire - A Conversation With Edward Said

But the crucial feature of a contrapuntal reading is that it reveals the overlapping and intersection of imperialism and its resistance. This is the value of contrapuntality, because it enables the critic to detect the constant counterpoint of power and resistance operating within the colonised world.

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But post-colonial analysis has revealed Ashcroft et al. While not made explicit in his earlier work, resistance becomes a central theme in Culture and Imperialism. Said argues that a dialectical relationship very quickly characterised the engagement of colonial subjects with the empire.

Pdf Edward Said (Routledge Critical Thinkers)

Indeed, resistance against empire was ever pervasive within the domain of imperialism, since the coming of the White man brought forth some sort of resistance everywhere in the non-European world Said a: xii. The fact that he did not discuss this response to Western dominance in Orientalism meant that he ran the risk of negating the active resistance of the colonised. And yet it is here that he wishes to part company with Foucault.

For Said, this is the playfulness of Foucault, the lack of political commitment.

Michel Foucault (Routledge Critical Thinkers)

For if power oppresses and controls and manipulates, then everything that resists it is not morally equal to power, is not neutrally and simply a weapon against that power. Resistance cannot equally be an adversarial alternative to power and a dependent function of it, except in some metaphysical, ultimately trivial sense. He sees three alternatives to the problem.

The second is to be aware and accept the past without allowing it to prevent future developments. The third is what leads to nativism and arises out of shedding the colonial self in search of the essential pre-colonial self ibid. The third topic is a movement away from separatist nationalism towards human community and human liberation.

The interrelationship of these three topics becomes clear when viewed as a progressive formulation. Such a reading of history draws upon this strength to break down the binary division of self and other. This culminates in the move towards human liberation by bringing the self and the other together.

Frantz Fanon (Routledge Critical Thinkers)

This community, for Said, is the real human liberation portended by the resistance to imperialism ibid. This is not an outright rejection of nationalism because, in the tradition of C. This need to resurrect an African culture founded on the claimed glories of the past is one rejected by Fanon.

Like Fanon and Soyinka, Said is concerned with the problem of continued racialisation. For Said, it was imperative to transcend the simplistic formulations of racial or national essence while recognising their role in the early stages of identity formation. In addition, such transcendence is possible if one recognises that people have multiple identities that allow them to think beyond their local identities. Said, however, engages with Fanon within a new trend that seeks to locate him as a global theorist who can be understood by problematising his identity.

Become different, they said, in order that your fate as colonized peoples can be different. Said a: —5 The focus, then, is not on a racialised notion of culture but on a decolonised culture in which race is no longer a key element: a decolonised culture in which consciousness and conscious activity will be liberated. It was a project Fanon discussed in The Wretched of the Earth in terms of the creation of a national culture.

Edward Said

For Fanon, a new national culture has to be formed and the old ideology of domination dispersed. For Said, an alternative non-coercive knowledge that counters the dominant narrative becomes essential. It is this need for a counter-narrative that motivates Said and that is the main intellectual issue raised by Orientalism.

Under a Foucauldian formulation of power which he in part endorses , such capacity to resist is problematic. For it is the construction of identity that constitutes freedom, because human beings are what they make of themselves, even if they are subjects of repressive discourses. And yet, at the same time, he faces the problem that identity is constituted through a process of othering. Identity is crucial to Said because the identity of a people determines the manner in which they organise knowledge.

For Said, the workings of identity issues are clearly at the heart of his project.


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To him, identity is not static. Hence the notion that any culture could be explained within terms of itself without any reference to the outside is anathema to him. He rejects the notion that insiders have a privileged position from which to address these questions Said By operating inside the discourse of Orientalism, these intellectuals negate the Orientalist constructions which have been ascribed to them.

It is through this process of negation that they are able to become selves as opposed to the identity of mere others that they inherit. What is important about a text, then, is not only what is there but what can be put there. The voyage in allows for the development of texts that break down the tyranny of the dominant discourse.