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What distinguishes Said as a humanist, and what are the core features of his thought? I cluster them into three categories – his political humanism, commitment to modernism, and antisystemic theory – while mainly focusing on the first. Said’s main project after 1967 was to connect culture to imperial practices and humanism to political domination. In the process of delineating this crucial relationship, I show how Said ends up inflating the significance of culture in imperial affairs. He wrongly presumes that the domestic culture of countries that have empires is necessarily imperial (that empire permeates all domestic culture), and that metropolitan resistance to empire only emerges after decolonization. I critically and historically engage him on both counts and argue that Said advances those positions because he assumes that all imperialism is settler colonial (a distinct and deeply intensive variety of empire). I then show what a materialist understanding of the relationship between “culture and imperialism” that utilizes class and capitalism as key categories looks like.
By the time of his death in 2003, Edward Said was one of the most famous literary critics of the twentieth century. Said's work has been hugely influential far beyond academia. As a prominent advocate for the Palestinian cause and noted cultural critic, Said redefined the role of the public intellectual. This volume explores the problems and opportunities afforded by Said's work: its productive and generative capacities as well as its in-built limitations. After Said captures the essence of Said's intellectual and political contribution and his extensive impact on postcolonial studies. It examines his legacy by critically elaborating his core concepts and arguments. Among the issues it tackles are humanism, Orientalism, culture and imperialism, exile and the contrapuntal, realism and postcolonial modernism, world literature, Islamophobia, and capitalism and the political economy of empire. It is an excellent resource for students, graduates and instructors studying postcolonial literary theory and the works of Said.