Tag Archives: said

Imperalism as a Business

“That this group of people is drawn largely from the business world is Conrad’s way of emphasizing the fact that during the 1890s the business of empire, once an adventurous and often individualistic enterprise, had become the empire of business” (Said 23).

He states this fact not as a starting point with examples to prove or uphold his statement, but rather culminates with it and uses support from both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as well as societal “pressures” to promote imperialism. For example, the quote above is certainly explained by the the paragraph proceeding it, but the real value of it lies within the paragraph that precedes it. The “white-suited clerk” and the “semi-crazed Russian”, etc all offer a lot for Marlow to think about during his journey as interruptions and digressions of the original narrative. These interruptions no longer allow for the solitary plundering of Africa, but bring about this bigger theme of “Europeans performing imperial mastery”. It is interesting and noteworthy how Said begins with an example of the book, the breaks in narrative. to the generalization of who these interruptions are made by, to become an overarching societal statement, to then finally claim that the both the book and society point to an empire of business.



“The ensemble of relationships between works, audiences, and some particular aspects of the Orient therefore constitutes an analyzable formation – for example, that of philological studies, of anthologies of extracts from Oriental literature, of travel books, of Oriental fantasies – whose presence in time, in discourse, in institutions (schools, libraries, foreign services) give it strength and authority” (Said, 1811).

Specifically in terms of authority and the power it ensures, Said comments on how different types of texts are interrelated with the different types of institutions. Throughout his introduction, Said analyzes the idea of the West vs East, Occident vs Orient, or the Civilized vs Uncivilized, and how they are framed through different texts using the lens of European superiority. If there is one thing I learned from Edward Said, it is how to be critical of texts – especially those coming from the dominant writers. Said suggests how different types of text frame the ideas of the world in sometimes an inacurrate and distorted way. This is a huge idea that effect the way texts are used and respected today, especially those used in school institutions that can dramatically influence the readers. Said shows perfectly how different types of text can influence the world in a negative way. In his idea of Orientalism, the West has always seen the East to be its inferior, an idea that has preserved all throughout history and up until today, and is primarily maintained through texts. It is common knowledge that all humans have biases derived from their knowledge, and Said shows how these biases are framed by the West in order to maintain their superiority and justify their colonization. As literary readers, it is important to be literary critics as well because texts are what shape our thinking and ideas of the world.