Sunday, October 17, 2010

To how many classical English novelists does Edward Said refer in his introduction to Culture and Imperialism; in what context and what purpose? (P.U. 2004)

When we have an analysis of Said's book "culture and imperialism" in detail, we come to know that the main idea of this book was inspired by Said's earlier work orientalism. This book was limited to the Middle East. But his book culture and imperialism presents a clear picture of the domination on the distant territories of the countries of Asia and Africa for capturing their natural responses of raw materials by the imperial western countries. Said also includes the Caribbean Islands, Ireland, the Middle East, East and even some certain areas of the USA.

It is also very worthy to note here that Said does not draw his subject matter from European writings on Africa, India, Far East, Australia and the Caribbean Islands. The writings of these European writers were based on rhetorical figures like the mysterious East, the Indian, Africa or Irish mind and further they depicted violation, torture to death, punishment of flogging the primitive barbaric people for civilizing them. They also asserted in their writings that such punishments were being required when they misbehaved or became rebellious.
Said takes much interest in the cultural study of imperialism and is of the view that the best source of such kind of study can be drawn by the fiction of the period. He also believes that the novel serves as the best source of forming of imperialist attitudes, references and experiences of a certain age. Being a professor of Comparative literature, he has devoted his entire professional life to teaching literature and yet his outlook was influenced further by the colonical system of the Englishmen. That's why, it became his habit to expose and draw the imperialistic implications in the stories. Further, he also quotes the references from the great novelists' works to support his view point on cultural imperialism. Referring to the great novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, he says:
"What Dickens envisions for Pip, being Magwitch's London gentleman, is roughly equivalent to what was envisioned by English benevolence for Australia".
As it is known that Said always writes in organizing the resistance against imperialism, so, his genius tallies to Conrad's genius, who also writes on the imperialistic exploitation of the basic rights of Africans by the Englishmen. Being the great admirer of Joseph Conrad, Said's conscience is spurred up or affected by Conrad's superb criticism of imperialism, especially in Heart of Darkness. In this novel, Conrad openly and clearly exposes the feigned claim of civilizing the barbaric uncivilized people of Congo in Africa. Kurtz who was a British administrator, was sent to Congo to prepare a report on the unspeakable rites, customs and behaviours of the savages of Congo and took suitable steps or measures to eliminate these rites. But what Kurtz did there, was absolutely contrary to our expectations because an imperialistic effect got the better hold of his noble intentions and he turned into a beast by looting, exploiting and snatching their basic rights. He became a cruel collector of ivory and started robbing the wealth of the natives of Congo. In short, we can say that this novel is absolutely and rightly regarded as the severest indictment of imperialism. In the very introductory paragraph of Introduction to Culture and Imperialism, Said rightly utters:
"For the enterprise of empire depends upon the idea of having an empire, as Joseph Conrad so powerfully seems to have realized in Heart of Darkness. He says that the difference between us in the modern period, the modern imperialists, and the Romans, is that the Romans were there just for the loot. They were just stealing. But we go there with an idea".
Here, one point is very worthy to note though Said's criticism and indictment of imperialism are not so severe and violent as Conrad's are yet it is his indictment of imperialism which has shaken the sentiments of the people all over the world.
Commenting on Conrad's detachment, Said points out in the following words:
"Never the wholly incorporated and fully acculturated Englishman, Conrad therefore preserved an ironic distance (from imperial conquest) in each of his works".
In his views on Culture and Imperialism, Said chooses four novelists whose work clearly highlights and promotes their current ideas of their day about the British Empire.' These four great novelists are as Conrad, Kippling, Jane Austen and Dickens.
Quoting Jane Austen, Said says that it seems that by causally referring to Antigua in Mansfield Park, Austen revealed that she had the empire in the back of her mind most of the time, that she was nevertheless indifferent to tie condition of the subjected peoples. Actually, in the Mansfield Park, she sublimates the agonies of the Caribbean existence to a mere half dozen passing references to Antigua, and that she dodged facing up to her true responsibility to codemn imperialism and all its works.
At another place in the book culture and imperialism, Said referes to Dickens in Great Expectations. In this novel, we see that he sent the convict Magwitch off to Australia, which was absolutely a dreadful place, unfit for decent Englishmen, it showed that Dickens intentionally knew that he was a despised colonial lad.
Said is of the views that colonialism is also a consequence of imperialism and it takes its final shape in implanting of settlements on distant territory. Here he quotes the historian Michael Doyle who states as:
"Empire is a relationship, formal or informal, in which one state controls the effective political sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collabouration, economic, social or cultural dependence. Imperialism is simply the process or policy of establishing or maintaining an empire".
In addition to the novelists, Said also quotes some prominent historians of English society who have differently favoured the imperialism and domination of the western countries. For example, a very allowable but curious idea was propogated by the English historian J.R. Seeley. He was of the views that some of Europe's overseas empires were originally acquired by accident, it does not by any stretch of the imaginative account for their inconsistency, persistence and systemized acquisition and administration, let alone their rule and sheer presence.
As David Landes also speaks in the same connection but to some an extent it is about the industrial expansion of western countries. He states in the following words as "the decision of, certain European power to establish plantations, that is, to treat their colonies as continuous enterprises, was, whatever one may think of the morality, a momentous innovation".
In the mid of 19th century though the era of imperialism came to an end because France and Britain gave up their strong possessions after World War II yet that era had an identity — for example, Eric Hobsbawm, talked about the latter part of the nineteenth century. He utters as:
"Though the age of empire clearly had an identity all of its own, and historians talk about it roughly from 1878 through World War II, the meaning of the imperial past is not totally contained within it, but has entered the reality of hundreds of millions of people. Its existence as shared memory in a highly conflicted texture of culture, ideology memory and policy still exercises tremendous force".
Talking about the flattering notion of the French and the British that they were going to improve and civilize the barbaric people of backward regions, Franz Fanon, another historian openly exposes the real cruel nature of exploitation of the imperialists of the western countries in the following words:
"Colonialism and imperialism have not paid their dues when they withdrew their flags and their police forces from our territories. For centuries the foreign colonists have behaved in the underdeveloped world like nothing more than criminals".
The end of the Cold War resulted in a new world order with the United States at the top. Edward Said is of the views here that it is a new kind of imperialism which gave US an authority of setting things right all over the world. In the present age, we see its implimentation in almost all the countries of the third world because this doctrine of "world responsibility is now considered as justification for US involvement in any affair of every country.
In this regard, Said rightly quotes the words of Chomsky who aptly and beautifully lashes out at the western idealogy of "world order" and "world responsibility" in the following words:
"It is an absolute requirement for the western system of idealogy that a vast gulf be established between the civilized west, with its traditional commitment to human dignity, liberty and self determination, and the barbasic brutality of those who, for some reason perhaps defective genes, fail to appreciate the depth of this historical commitment, so well revealed by America's Asian Wars, for instance".
In the concluding portion of the book, Said gives reference from Kurnan's saying who points out that now America's self-appointed writ is running and working throughout the world today. As the utters:
"America loved to think that whatever it wanted was just what the human race wanted".
Every prominent critic knows and believes that the counter forces to imperialism are migrant workers, refugees, decolonized people. Imperialism always   threatens   personal   freedom   as   well   as environment ironically under the  guise of trying to civilize and improve these both. Under these circumstances, these millions of dislocated may unite on these two points and rise a very dreadful revolt against the champion of world order and responsibility. It is also observed now that U.S.A has become weaker and unstable due to its inner problems of economic and cultural crisis, for example, there has been a lot of discussion about the "Canon". It's power is decreasing due to these internal crisis and on the other hand there is ascendancy of Pacific Rim States, like Taiwan, China and Japan.

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