Culture And Imperialism In Malcolm H. Kerr's Orientalism

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Some critics have been fairly harsh with their views on Orientalism, even going so far as to “[accuse] Said of perpetuating the same Eastern stereotypes for which he has faulted the Western imperialist” (“Edward W. Said” 336). Others simply focused on the imperfections in his arguments, stating that they were weak or could have had more impact (336). In his review of Orientalism in 1980, Malcolm H. Kerr states that “Edward Said, a literary critic loaded with talent, has certainly made a splash [with Orientalism], but with this sort of effort he is not going to win any major races” (544). He goes on to explain:
The book contains many excellent sections and scores many telling points, but it is spoiled by overzealous prosecutorial argument in
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Said argues that reading these texts contrapuntally—attempting to draw out the entities with which a nation defines itself—can vastly increase our understanding of the text. In Culture and Imperialism, he states:
In an important sense, we are dealing with the formation of cultural identities understood not as essentializations (although part of their enduring appeal is that they seem and are considered to be like essentializations) but as contrapuntal ensembles, for it is the case that no identity can ever exist by itself and without an array of opposites, negatives, oppositions: Greeks always require barbarians, and Europeans Africans, Orientals, etc. The opposite is certainly true as well. (52)
The point of contrapuntal reading, as he states later, is to take in the processes of both imperialism and its subject—the colonizer and the colonized—and to extend “our reading of the texts to include what was once forcibly excluded”
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And like Orientalism, it achieved mixed reviews—chiefly because people wanted to see more of Said’s theory being applied. In her review of Culture and Imperialism, Audrey A. Fisch questions Said’s idea on removing the political and legislative authority to the novel—although it is important to note that Said made this statement in reference to the way stereotypes and positions of power are reinforced, through what Said states is “an extremely slow, infinitesimal politics that clarifies, reinforces, perhaps even occasionally advances perceptions and attitudes about England and the world” (Fisch 100; Said, Culture and Imperialism 75). Ultimately, Fisch does admit that Said’s insistence on “looking beyond high canonical literary figures and looking at all texts as social presences … the politics of culture and cultural events become more and more clear,” and thus, Said’s “insistence on the imperialism within and beyond nineteenth-century high and low culture is important” (100). Fisch finishes by stating what Said oftentimes states himself: the work is incomplete. Questions of the relationship between culture and politics of social identity (class, race, sexual orientation, etc.) will be left to the next generation of scholars

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