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#258075 - 05/29/06 02:19 PM Asia as "The Other"
aoishi Offline
Member

Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 123
Loc: Massachusetts
Many books have been devoted to this subject.
Basically, I'm talking here about how "The Orient" is used, consciously and unconsciously, as a means to define ourselves. By looking at Asia and defining them as a sort of monolithic alien, we are really attempting to delineate what we are.
I was reminded of this when I saw, on another thread here, mention of a book about Japan by a person named Kerr. This person probably has a brilliant thesis about how Japan has changed drastically and is in trouble, danger of losing its cultyure, etc. etc.
I have seen this meme over and over. Another common theme (back in the 80's when Japan was an economic powerhouse) used to be that the Japanese are succesful, but not happy.

The point is, in most of these cases, we were using "Asia" to define, justify, or otherwise manipulate our own sense of ourself. In the above case from the 80's, it was our way of assuring ourself that we were not "losing to Japan" because we were happier.

Any else have any thoughts or opinions on the subject? Japan is old news now, but what about China? How do the views expressed about China in the popular media actually reflect how we wish to see ourselves as a society?

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#258076 - 05/29/06 03:09 PM Re: Asia as "The Other" [Re: aoishi]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
interesting topic.

The current sterotype view of China seems to be shaped a bit thru how large western corporations do business with her. the image of large sweatshops producing high quanity low quality products at a fraction of the labor cost if made at the sponsoring country. so naturally (and unfairly) that image produces a view associating low quality with China...in order for the person with that view to somehow feel they live in a country producing 'higher end' products and therefore a higher quality society.

when in fact, China has as much, if not equal technology and high-tech jobs as the next country. They have a standalone space program, all branches of modern military, nuclear power, stem cell research, biotech, microprocessor design, etc..

Another Asian country stereotype was the notion of less creativity being taught in public schools. The image of asian countries having uniforms, strict discipline and rote memorization of school material at the expense of self-expression was the rationed image to explain why the U.S. performance in education was behind the global curve.

From what I saw of public school while living in Japan (doesn't speak for all asian countries in the least), the kids seem to do about the same amount of Art projects, alot more music, and about the same amount of plays,stage performances, etc.

but my experience only compares a small part of Japan (Kansai area) to a certain corner of the US (New England).

hardly enough scope to make generalizations of the differences between East and West, but enough to know the common stereotypes don't match my experience. and with China, I draw from less mainstream info, no direct experience, just semi-informed opinion.

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#258077 - 05/30/06 03:41 AM Re: Asia as "The Other" [Re: Ed_Morris]
kusojiji Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 09/28/03
Posts: 648
Loc: kokokokokoko
Quote:

interesting topic.

The current sterotype view of China seems to be shaped a bit thru how large western corporations do business with her. the image of large sweatshops producing high quanity low quality products at a fraction of the labor cost if made at the sponsoring country. so naturally (and unfairly) that image produces a view associating low quality with China...in order for the person with that view to somehow feel they live in a country producing 'higher end' products and therefore a higher quality society.

when in fact, China has as much, if not equal technology and high-tech jobs as the next country. They have a standalone space program, all branches of modern military, nuclear power, stem cell research, biotech, microprocessor design, etc..

Another Asian country stereotype was the notion of less creativity being taught in public schools. The image of asian countries having uniforms, strict discipline and rote memorization of school material at the expense of self-expression was the rationed image to explain why the U.S. performance in education was behind the global curve.

From what I saw of public school while living in Japan (doesn't speak for all asian countries in the least), the kids seem to do about the same amount of Art projects, alot more music, and about the same amount of plays,stage performances, etc.

but my experience only compares a small part of Japan (Kansai area) to a certain corner of the US (New England).

hardly enough scope to make generalizations of the differences between East and West, but enough to know the common stereotypes don't match my experience. and with China, I draw from less mainstream info, no direct experience, just semi-informed opinion.





I wonder where the blurry line is between stereotype and very loosely generalized fact in perceptions. People from all countries make broad generalizations and categorize nations and peoples in (mostly) unproductive and unrealistic ways. But perhaps these generalizations become self-perpetuating at some point. People from all places tend to take on the persona of the expectation of their country to a certain degree when traveling abroad. I've seen plenty of Americans trying to act more 'American' overseas than they would probably bother to do at home. I've seen the same behavior of other nations' people while abroad as well. Conversely, this general tendency can even extend to being critical of one's own country. Some people reflexively express agreement with the most negative stereotypes of their own country while abroad in order to win favor as "not one of 'those' types". People will pre-emptively express sympathy with stereotypical criticisms of their country in order to defensively position themselves for acceptance within the new cultural environment they are entering, assuming that this is the safest route to security. I have never heard more about how "arrogant" Americans are than from Americans, and I have never heard more about how uncreative schools in Korea are than from Koreans. Ironically, the Americans who go to Korea are perhaps more disposed to see the positive creativity in Korean schools than Koreans would claim, and Koreans (just to use an example) are more ready than many Americans to note that not all, or even anything approaching a majority, of the people they meet in America are arrogant. How we perceive others and ourselves and where reality and expectations blend and impose themselves on each other is very interesting.
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#258078 - 05/31/06 12:03 AM Re: Asia as "The Other" [Re: kusojiji]
aoishi Offline
Member

Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 123
Loc: Massachusetts
Kusojji,

Hi there. You made a really insightful statement when you said:

>People will pre-emptively express sympathy with stereotypical criticisms of their country in order to defensively position themselves for acceptance within the new cultural environment they are entering, assuming that this is the safest route to security.

I think there's a lot of truth to that but it may also be due to the fact that the people that we tend to meet and discuss these things with are "travellers" or "nagaremono" and already may have a tendency to view their own culture negatively or have a overly naive view of the culture they are enamored with.

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#258079 - 07/08/06 05:43 PM Re: Asia as "The Other" [Re: aoishi]
trevek Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/15/05
Posts: 3337
Loc: Poland
Cool thread, I shall think about it before I answer.

Meantime, a link to the most influential book on Orientalism, by Edward Said. it's about M.E. but still useful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism_(book)
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#258080 - 08/11/06 08:27 PM Re: Asia as "The Other" [Re: trevek]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!
Prolific

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
bump
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