Introduction to Culture and Imperialism

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Introduction to Culture and Imperialism
Edward Said

Culture is one of the things that elude an accurate definition. Some of the various well-known definitions are cited by Said in his various works. For instance:

“Culture is the learned, accumulated experience of the communities, and it consists of socially transmitted patterns of behavior.”

The final analysis of definition boils down to “socially transmitted patterns of behavior”, and makes more sense, though like other definitions, it too cannot be taken as exact and conclusive.

Said also cites anthropologist Clifford Greety’s definition,

“An ordered system of meanings and symbols in terms of which social interaction takes place, and social system is the pattern of social interaction itself.”

This definition too, has partial relevance to what culture amounts to.

Said seems more in agreement with Matthew Arnold who regards culture as, “each society’s reservoir of the best that has been known and thought”.

Edward Said’s entire professional life was devoted to the teaching of literature. As his critical outlook was influenced by his colonial social background, he could not help looking for imperialistic implications in literature.

Imperialism too does not lend itself to a complete conclusive definition, though it is more easily comprehensible than the word culture. For a meaningful discussion, Solomon Modell’s definition of imperialism makes a good promise. He says,

“Imperialism is a policy of extending a country’s power beyond its own borders for the purpose of exploiting other lands and other people by establishing economic, social and political control over them.”

Said gives an updated version of Modell’s definition in the following words”

“Imperialism means the practice, the theory and the attitude of a dominating metropolitan centre that rules a distant territory.”

It is obvious that the interaction in imperialism takes place between the dominating and dominated...
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