Background of writing Culture and Imperialism

Question: What do you know about the background of writing Culture and  Imperialism and its contents? Discuss with reference to the “Introduction”. Or, discuss the circumstances that encourage to write “Culture and Imperialism”. Or, what are the reasons for which Said has written “Culture and Imperialism”? Background of writing Culture and Imperialism.


“Culture and Imperialism” published in 1993 is a collection of essays by Edward Wadie Said (1935-2003). This was followed by his highly influential “Orientalism”, published in 1978. In his series of essays, the author attempts to identify the connection between imperialism and culture in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. In the “Introduction”, Mr. Said himself describes the reasons and resources for which he is going to write his internationally acclaimed book.

Limitation of “Orientalism”

In his internationally acclaimed book Orientalism, Edward Said suggests that a general essay on the relationship between culture and empire has not yet been written. He composes “Culture and Imperialism” as an attempt to expand the “logic” of orientalism in order to describe a more general pattern of relationship between the western imperialists and their overseas territories. In “Orientalism”, he only focuses on the societies and people of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. So, about five years after the publication of “Orientalism,” he began to gather his arguments for a decisive judgment of the relationship between culture and imperialism. Then during the years 1985 and 1986, he began to deliver a series of lectures on the topic at several universities in the USA and Canada. These lectures formed the basic content of the book “Culture and Imperialism” which appeared in the year 1993.

To expose the hidden meaning of culture

In order to point out the furtive two-fold facets of culture, Said writes “Culture and Imperialism”. According to him, culture means two things from the surface and inner perspectives. It primarily means practices of arts and aesthetic forms. Second, Culture is the idea of refined and improved materials and the best reservoir. By referring to Matthew Arnold in his “Introduction”, Said asserts that if culture is not equal for all citizens of a country, it will suffer. This fundamental concept of culture provides information that the natives of India, Africa, America, and so on could not preserve their arts and aesthetic forms that is why imperialists became able to be aggressive on the above-mentioned nations by the name of spreading so-called civilization.

The secret strength of the imperialists

It is surprising and praiseworthy that Edward Said is the first mammoth critic who discovers the power of literature to sustain imperialism. Since literature is the mirror of society, he critically focuses on the French and English literature of the 19th and 20th which displayed the imperial experiences throughout the world but especially in Africa, India, Australia, the Caribbean, Ireland, Latin America.

As a result of his critical evaluation, he has been capable enough to illustrate English novels that are powerful weapons of imperialism. English Fiction helped their oppressed rulers by providing the following information:

  1. Exploration of strange regions
  2. Psychological study
  3. Britain’s imperial intercourse through trade and travel
  4. La mission civilisatrice or civilizing mission
  5. Anti-imperialistic view

Now it seems to be awkward and questionable how English novelists are the imperialists in disguise, despite illustrating anti-imperialistic views. It is very interesting to note that Mr. Said has blazoned his mastery to figure out this. In conformity with Said, Conrad’s vilifying against imperialism has better concerned the imperialists as to the following facts.

  1. Comprehension of foreign cultures.
  2. Political willingness as an alternative to imperialism etc.

That is why Said tells the world:

“To the extent that we see Conrad both criticizing

and reproducing the imperial ideology of his time”

Therefore, it is obvious that literature forced Mr. Said to compose his last major work “Culture and Imperialism”.

Ethical point of view

Being a humanitarian, Mr. Said forced to formulate “Culture and Imperialism”. He focuses on the challenges of imperialism and confidently declares that imperialism must always encounter resistance which creates conflict and destruction. So, it is better to refrain than reign. And the people of the third world have to be well-conceived and united to establish peace and progress.


In termination, it can be asserted though it is difficult to accept Edward Said starkly, it is undoubted that his critical power has brought about a revolution in the field of criticism. And one can get a vast vista of the secret sources of imperialism by reading his “Culture and Imperialism”.

Click here: For all the notes of Literary Criticism

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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