Edward Said – Culture and Imperialism

edwardsaidThe late Edward Said speaking in 1993 on Culture and Imperialism.

Edward Said – Culture and Imperialism (57:23): MP3

Imperial power is constructed on a bedrock not only of force but of culture as well. Culture provides the underpinning, justification and validation of empire. Its crudest manifestation is perhaps Kipling’s “White man’s burden.” A more refined version is the French “mission civilisatrice,” civilizing mission. Imperialism is often thought of as a European phenomenon of the past. In fact it continues today in new shapes and forms. The US carries out its imperial policies behind the facade of democracy and freedom. Culture and politics produce a system of control that transcends military power to include a hegemony of representations and images that dominate the imaginations of both the oppressor and the oppressed.


Edward Said, internationally renowned Columbia University professor, practically invented the field of post-colonial studies. His great work, “Orientalism” has been translated into many languages and is widely used in colleges and universities. The “New York Times” called him, “one of the most influential literary and cultural critics in the world.” As one of the few advocates for Palestinian rights in the US, he was the target of vilification, death threats and vandalism. The “Economist” said he “repudiated terrorism in all its forms and was a passionate, eloquent and persistent advocate for justice for the dispossessed Palestinians.” He was a trenchant critic not just of Israeli policies, but also of Arafat, the corrupt coterie around him and the despotic Arab regimes. He felt strongly that intellectuals had a special responsibility to speak out against injustice, challenge power, confront hegemonic thinking and provide alternatives. His memoir “Out of Place” won the New Yorker Book of the Year Award. Edward Said died in New York on September 25, 2003.

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