Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism: (1993)
"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."
Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness
"the rhetoric of power all too easily produces an illusion of benevolence . . . "
France and French culture.
Once a premier nation of exploration and subsequent invasions of African, Asian, and American territories, France, due in part to population decline and stabilization, retreated from the world stage –albeit reluctantly between– 1954 and 1964 after its serious defeats by Germany in 1871 and 1941.
"As I use the word 'culture' means two things in particular.
First of all it means all those practices like the arts of description, communication, and representation that have relative autonomy from the economic, political and social realms and that often exist in aesthetic forms, one whose principle aims is pleasure."
"Second, and almost imperceptibly, culture is a concept that includes a refining and elevating element, each societies reservoir of the best that has been known and thought, as Matthew Arnold put it in the 1860s."
"Culture perceived in this way may become a protective enclosure." p. xiv
Culture as our collective heritage may thus, be devoid of "worldly affiliations."
Thus culture may also become the antiseptic and quarantined arena into which we may, unwittingly take refuge to escape the horrors that imperialism and dominion over other subject peoples may entail.
"Much of the rhetoric of the 'New World Order' promulgated by the American government since the end of the Cold War --with its redolent self-congratulation, its unconcealed triumphalism, its grave proclamations of responsibility -- might have been scripted by Conrad's Holroyd: we are number one, we are bound to lead, we stand for freedom and order, and so on. No American has been immune from this structure of feeling...."
"the rhetoric of power all too easily produces an illusion of benevolence when deployed in an imperial setting. Yet it is a rhetoric whose most damning characteristic is that it has been used before not just once (by Spain and Portugal) but with deafeningly repetitive frequency in the modern period, by the British, the French, the Belgians, the Japanese, the Russians, and now the Americans."
"No one today is purely one thing.
Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental."
p. 336. Jamaica Kincaid on being West Indian
And your identity? Said I.His response: Self-defence . . . Conferred on us at birth, in the end it is we who fashion our identity, it is not hereditary. I am manifold . . . Within me, my outer self renewed. But I belong to the victim’s interrogation.
Were I not from that place, I would have trained my heart to raise metonymy’s gazelle there . . .So take your birthplace along wherever you go and be a narcissist if need be. Exile, the outside world. Exile, the hidden world. Who then are you between them? I do not introduce myself lest I lose myself. I am what I am.
I am my other in harmonious duality between word and gesture
Were I a poet, I should have written:
I am two in one, like the swallow’s wings.And if spring is late coming, I am content to be its harbinger!
He loves countries and leaves them. (Is the impossible remote?) He loves to migrate towards everything. Traveling freely between cultures, there is room for all who seek the essence of man.
A margin moves forward and a centre retreats. The East is not completely the East, nor the West, the West. Identity is multifaceted.
Interview With Edward Said, November 2001.
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