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This article is taken from PN Review 93, Volume 20 Number 1, September - October 1993.

New World Maps Nicolas Tredell

Culture and Anarchy (1869); Culture and Society (1958); Culture and Imperialism (1993). The conjoined terms in the titles of these books represent divergent ways, which developed at different historical moments, of understanding culture and its significance: Matthew Arnold saw culture as the antidote to anarchy; Raymond Williams analyzed the way in which the idea of culture had been seen as split from, but integrally related to, society; Edward Said regards culture as inseparably bound up with imperialism. There is a fourth conjunction which, like a dark trace scrawled in dried blood, underlies all of these, and which is indicated in Walter Benjamin's famous statement, quoted by Said in his book, that 'there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.' The conjunction of culture and barbarism, in which culture is seen not as the antithesis of barbarism but as its accomplice, bears a particular relationship to Said's coupling of culture and imperialism; for Said makes the trace of barbarism appear beneath that of imperialism, as if he were rendering visible the hidden writing on a palimpsest, and he causes the blood in which it is written to flow again.

Culture and Imperialism is a work that will reshape thinking about culture, as surely as Culture and Anarchy and Culture and Society did. But it is more explosive than either of those texts, and more international in its reach. The English reader, even a liberal-minded one, might well feel his ...

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