Said’s Subtlety

The more diverse our readings in this class get, the more I realize that I appreciate the calculated subtlety and nuance of Said and Williams over the radicalism of Fanon or Althusser. For me, there is something to be said about acknowledging the intricacy of an issue, as Said seems to do in his discussions on imperialism and colonialism.

The specific example I’m thinking of is his acknowledgment on page1 19 of Fanon’s theory of “national bourgeoisie”, and their ideological domination of the colonized, post colonization. Now having acknowledged this as a legitimate issue, Said brings up the converse side of this relationship in a discussion on immigrants of colonized countries to the cities of their colonizers (Algerians in Paris, Indians in London etc.) and the enormous impact they have made on the western cultures of these major European cities. To me, this is an extremely important aspect of imperialism which is generally overlooked in other accounts such as Fanon’s. Not to say that I find it a positive aspect of imperialism, it is merely an aspect, not to be overlooked.

Playing into this more over-arching idea of imperialism presented by Said, is his warning against “compartmentalizing” histories of imperialism. He addresses the issue on page 28 as such, “…it is one of the virtues of such conjunctures of politics with culture and aesthetics that they permit the disclosure of a common ground obscured by the controversy itself. Perhaps it is especially hard for the combatants directly involved to see this common ground when they are fighting back more than reflecting.”

Said’s dissection of culture and imperialism offers something more accessible for me than the moments of rage, and promotion of violence. Maybe this comes from a colonial education, such as that of Said’s (and to a certain extent, mine), but I find his points to be more useful and grounded than Fanon’s.

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