Culture and Imperialism

by Edward W. Said

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Culture and Imperialism is a collection of 21 essays by the American writer Edward Said, first published in 1993. The essays serve as a critique on western colonialism.

As a series of political and social commentaries, Culture and Imperialism does not feature characters as they are used in fiction. There are no personal protagonists or antagonists, rather these roles are assumedacross the various essaysby non-corporeal concepts such as imperialism. In other cases, Said uses the characters developed by western writers as a study on these concepts.

One example of the latter comes in the essay "Jane Austen and Empire." In it, Said invokes and analyzes the characters of Austen's Mansfield Park to support his thesis that a British preoccupation with space was an inspiration for their establishment of the British colonial empire. He uses Austen's character of Fanny Price to underscore what he says is a British perception that, if one does not acquire "space" through birth (as in a manor home), one can simply move to "space" as an adult.

In "The Empire at Work," Said writes that Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida establishes "the Orient as an essentially exotic, distant, and antique place in which Europeans can mount certain shows of force." Said analyzes the character Radamès and advances the idea that Radamès' treachery to the king of Egyptand subsequent death sentenceis presented in tragic form as a way of emphasizing the dangers of native treachery to France's colonial policy.

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