Said– “Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories” –Chapter 1 from CULTURE AND IMPERIALISM

Dominant powers interested in defining homogenous culture so it is easier to manage and within the culture, people want to homogenize culture to gather power against dominant forces….


 “History, in other words, is not a calculating machine.  It unfolds in the mind and the imagination, and it takes body in the multifarious responses of a people’s culture, itself the infinitely subtle mediation of material realities, of underpinning economic fact, of gritty objectives” (Basil Davidson, AFRICA IN MODERN HISTORY).


Said begins this discussion with T.S. Eliot’s claim that writers must have a historical sense.  “This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional.  And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity.  No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone” (4). Said reminds us that “how we formulate or represent the past shapes our understanding and views of the present” (4).


Said defines imperialism as “thinking about, settling on, and controlling land that you do not possess, that is distant, that is lived on and owned by others” (7).   “Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography.  That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings” (8). A more formal definition of imperialism by Said is “practice, theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory; colonialism implants settlements and distant territories and is result of imperialism (9).  Thus, imperialism is result of political, ideological, economic, and social practices (9).


Said says that the American empire is founded on the idea of imperialism even though it couches its intentions in altruism and opportunity (9). Said says that today we do not spend enough time interrogating how the authority of our ideas subjugates other peoples and territories (12). Said wants to know how culture–education, literature, visual and musical arts- is complicit in imperialism (12). Culture is complicit in imperialism because it creates “‘structures of feeling” that support, elaborate, and consolidate the practice of empire” (14).  “Far from being unitary or monolithic or autonomous things, cultures actually assume more ‘foreign’ elements, alterities, differences, than they consciously exclude” (15).


Said also explains that we most often create “useful pasts” in which we exclude unwanted elements, vestiges, and narratives (15). The manufacture of rituals, ceremonies, and traditions give authority to imperializing cultures (16). Said says that one of the tragedies of imperialism is the “limitations of the attempts to deal with relationships that are polarized, radically uneven, remembered differently” (18).  In conducting a comparative literature of imperialism, Said models the ways in which we can look at “different experience contrapuntally as making up a set of what [he] calls intertwined and overlapping histories…[or a] network of interdependent histories (18-19). Contemporary discourse “assumes the primacy and even the complete centrality of the West;” this 

Colonization is dependent on acceptance of colonization.  But colonized are always waiting to for their turn to uprise–see Gua “dominance without hegemony”





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Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

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