Culture and Imperialism

Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 5/24/2014

Texts are not finished objects.
Foucault's discourse is systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs and practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which they speak. Foucault traces the role of discourses in wider social processes of legitimating and power, emphasizing the construction of current truths, how they are maintained and what power relations they carry with them. He later theorized that discourse is a medium through which power relations produce speaking subjects.

Edward Said’s work depends on this notion by asking how we read texts. For any text is constructed out of many available discourses, discourses within which writers themselves may be seen as subjects.

For Said, The critic’s function is both enhanced and focused by his or her capacity to be in the world. Perhaps the best conception of the critic’s worldliness can be found in a passage from a twelfth-century Saxon monk called Hugo of St Victor which Said uses more than once:
The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.
And as Said said:
Criticism must think of itself as life-enhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination, and abuse; its social goals are non-coercive knowledge produced in the interests of human freedom”.
In summary “Speak Truth To Power”.

Said main doctrine is that through culture, the assumption of the divine right of imperial powers to rule is supported, that the institutional, political and economic operations of imperialism are nothing without the power of the culture that maintains them. The imperial nations have not only the right but the obligation to rule those nations lost in barbarism to civilize them. As Conrad puts it:
The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an Unselfish belief in the idea -- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to.
He gives an example from Kipling’s Kim, where Kipling has the widow of Kula says, when a District Superintendent of Police walks by, that
These be the sort to oversee justice. They know the land and the customs of the land.
which is Kipling’s way of demonstrating that natives accept colonial rule so long as it is the right kind.
They weren't like us and for that reason deserved to be ruled.
Said’s resistance to this is by what he calls "the voyage in" , to
enter into the discourse of Europe and the West, to mix with it, transform it, to make it acknowledge marginalized or suppressed or forgotten histories.
For example by rewriting these classics from the point of view of the colonized. This subtle movement beyond simple binary
refuses the short-term blandishments of separatist and triumphalist slogans in favour of the larger, more generous human realities of community among cultures, peoples, and societies.
He refuses works that just promotes the nationalism of the oppressed,
to the theory of the absolute evil of the native the theory of the absolute evil of the settler replies.
because it
reinforces the distinction even while reevaluating the weaker or subservient partner.
so he avoids this binary opposition of east and west and this summaries his Worldliness. A dialogue between equals.

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