Culture and Imperialism

by Edward W. Said

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said is a collection of essays on the symbiotic relationship between imperialist policies and the contemporary urban culture of the West.

The recurring thesis of the essays is that British and other European societies are affected by their respective colonial territories overseas and, in turn, British and European culture affects those colonized territories. Said uses the mainstream entertainment culture of the day—primarily English novels and popular literature— as an example of how Western culture expresses its imperialist guilt or ambitions.

For instance, Said cites Robinson Crusoe as a literary work that articulates the European mentality of claiming foreign land as their own and genuinely believing they have the right to own and exploit that non-European land.

In addition, such depictions of heroic and daring Europeans romanticizes the idea of colonization, rather than offering the perspectives of the natives, or colonized peoples, who suffer under the oppression of imperialist tactics.

Despite the fact that many former colonies gained independence by the late 20th century, imperialist tactics such as using Western culture to non-physically colonize foreign lands are still used in the modern age. For example, Hollywood has become one of America's greatest exports, and has shaped how non-Americans view American culture and people.

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