Sunday, May 31, 2009

Servants of Power

At the recommendation of a close friend, I've started to read Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism. I am drawn to read it also because of what Noam Chomsky (an over-quoted gentleman) had to say about the book, as related on the front cover: "Edward Said helps us to understand who we are and what we must do if we are to aspire to be moral agents, not servants of power."

If Said’s book can really do that, then we all need to read it. Like now. This phrase “servants of power” is something to keep in mind. I'm not sure "exactly" what it entails or where its conclusions ultimately march to, but some things are not meant to be learned with the precision of a watchmaker. What comes to my mind is this: Muslim Americans awkwardly attempting to figure out things related to identity and their relationship to a larger and powerful cultural vortex. It's possible for people to unwittingly become “servants of power” when they espouse such progressive-seeming, independent-appearing work (or terminologies) like reform or a certain identity or even tradition, that vague but often-trumpeted word.

I’m still in the introduction of the book. By all signs, it’s going to take a while to read it, and it’s not because I’m a slow reader (which I am, and slow walker, too), but for the fact that when you read something that speaks about an issue that’s very big and that gives form to something that has been roving around in your mind as a nebulous disquieting feeling, you want to read carefully.

Here are a couple of excerpts so far:
Readers of this book will quickly discover that narrative is crucial to my argument here, my basic point being that stories are at the heart of what explorers and novelists say about strange regions of the world; they also become the method colonized people use to assert their own identity and the existence of their own history....
The power to narrative, or to block narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them.


Blogger Shurufu Anasema said...

I have read that book about four times and I wrote an essay on Othello using Said's thesis. I find his argument that those who control the narrative of our reality will inevitably be in control of the conception of that reality compelling It is a powerful book. Enjoy!

6/02/2009 3:08 AM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Thanks for the note, Shurufu. If your essay on Othello is publicly available, I'd like to read it.

6/02/2009 3:30 AM  
Blogger sunnysardine said...

I am reading the book too. I myself studying industrial and organizational psychology at Taiwan, but actually a Malaysian, find the book to be very inspiring and motivating as I find it to be a good book for someone who tries to find the true identity of an I-O psychologist.

Discuss the book here:

12/28/2009 10:18 AM  

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