MIT’s online exhibit of Japanese woodprints

…and the hysteria it fomented among a group of angry young people is the subject of some intense discussions up in the Duck Pond, here and here and here. Very interesting.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 13 Comments

The Chinese Student and Scholars Association should not be confused with the MIT Chinese Student Club. The CSSA is an organisation for mainland grad students studying at MIT and is not representative of the greater Chinese community at Tech.

April 28, 2006 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

While Dave’s posts are brilliant, the letters issued by CSSA has nothing wrong either. Anyway, being or not being offended is a very subjective matter. Being raised as a Chinese in China and growing in US are completely different life experiences. The requests by MIT CSSA (the author should provide more proper historical context and background etc..) are reasonable. The responses of MIT are acceptable as well. This incident actually promotes the communication between professors and Chinese students. It’s a good thing. In my eyes, this case can be closed as long as two professors agree to improve the context.
But I am not all that comfortable to let this famous Chinese history professor lecture me with his 7 page long attacking letter, as not comfortable as to read the hatred posts and emails by some immature Chinese. By accusing Chinese students being narrow and self-centered in the end of his letter, he shows his own and exactly the same characteristics.

April 29, 2006 @ 12:56 am | Comment

I’m not sure what’s so “interesting” about a bunch of immature Chinese students with too much time on their hands.

April 29, 2006 @ 2:47 am | Comment

boo, the interesting thing is the discussion it triggered in my forum. Dave’s posts are superlative. Did you read them?

Chinese students, narrow on the topic of Japan? Perish the thought. Unfortunately, some very vocal Chinese students can easily give people the impression that yes, Chinese students are narrow when it comes to Japan. Did you see ESWN’s collected BBS quotes from these broad-minded Chinese students, which I pasted in one of the posts in the forum? Damn straight they make Chinese students appear narrow, whether the majority is or is not.

April 29, 2006 @ 4:20 am | Comment

My opinion is similar to Lin’s. Whatever the reactions this incident has garnered from some crazed anonymous bbs commentators, the response from the MIT CSSA collective has been reasonable. Overly sensitive, maybe – considering that there was absolutely nothing wrong to the original exhibit that I saw. (In fact, I wish it hadn’t been temporarily taken down, as it was quite illuminating.) But reasonable and using appropriate channels of recourse.

But the more the unreasonable and vociferous reactions are highlighted, the more everyone gets painted with the same brushstroke.

April 29, 2006 @ 12:33 pm | Comment

I am confused. What eaxctly is CSSA’s response? I read their letter, and if that letter was the response, then I won’t say it has been reasonable. There shouldn’t have been any response from CSSA at all. Coz there was nothing wrong with the original website whatsoever. I simply don’t understand what is the problem with these MIT students. Please, can some Chinese tell me, I am so confused. I am Chinese, too. I just don’t get it.

April 29, 2006 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

>>But the more the unreasonable and vociferous reactions are highlighted, the more everyone gets painted with the same brushstroke.

Well, did you actually read MIT BBS on this topic? 99.9% of the comments were apoplectic, proving either that these people can’t read or didn’t bother to actually look at the MIT course in question — the whole purpose of which was to illustrate how racist and narrowly nationalist the Japanese prints were and how they were used for propaganda purposes. The Japanese professor received scores of death threats and threatening emails.

> Please, can some Chinese tell me, I am so confused.

Blind nationalism confuses me, too. The most insane thing about this episode is that if a Chinese professor put up the same exact site, he would have been hailed for exposing Japanese racism and brutality by the same people who called for the two professors to be fired (if not killed). Truly mind boggling.

April 29, 2006 @ 10:41 pm | Comment

Lin, I tried my best to make clear that I make distinctions between the reactions of the CSSA, Panzi, Panzi’s copied letters, and so on. I think the CSSA is acting very appropriately – specifically they sought a dialogue with the faculty and reached a consensus. That’s constructive behavior, not the uncompromising nationalism that seems to be coming from outside MIT. The CSSA, if I recall, made clear they didn’t want any of this hate mail nonsense, and is treating this first and foremost as being a student-faculty issue, as they should.

Should the MIT faculty apologize at all in the first place? I leave that to them precisely because this is a student-faculty issue first, and building dialogue and trust should come before any political sentiments.

I personally think this is primarily an emotional issue, and a dialogue between MIT faculty and students will address that better than making some political statement out of it. Nothing in the arguments I’ve seen for why the exhibit was offensive, however, goes beyond making hyperbolic comparisons to Nazis, taking offense to the use of the word “art” or demanding disclaimers where one is unnecessary and/or irrelevant.

I have been wondering, though, about cross-strait relations between Taiwanese and Chinese student clubs on US campuses. Alot of schools have one of each… does this become an issue? Any Chinese students in the US…. Panzi?

April 29, 2006 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

Z, I consider the response from the CSSA collective body “reasonable” because it sought to use the appropriate dispute resolution measures, and for small mercies I’m thankful. Even I wrote in my first post that the response was unnecessary. I guess the Chinese MIT students feel the exhibit still needed additional context, however.

88, I did read the MIT bbs, and then some. But clearly the more extreme commentators don’t represent the majority of the mainland Chinese students at MIT, or else the response from the CSSA would have mirrored those comments.

April 30, 2006 @ 12:28 am | Comment

To me it seems like a case of appropriate measures with extreme nationalism as the background.

April 30, 2006 @ 8:19 pm | Comment

Isn’t the real point the stunning hypocrisy of the Chinese vis-a-vis history? They are only interested when it pushes their racist anti-Japanese agenda and look the other way on tibet, xinjiang, the korean war, the great leap forward, the cultural revolution, tiananmen etc etc….

from my experience of 4 years in China, panzi reflects the common attitudes of the Chinese, who strike me as ignorant, arrogant and narrow minded for the most part, an ignorance and arrogance further pushed and encouraged by the communist party. that is why i am so so happy to be leaving in 3 months. before coming to china, i never thought i would grow to detest a country in the way that i have here. i look forward to their economic collapse – perhaps then they will have undeniable proof that everything that has gone wrong in China is due to the Chinese and not the foreigners.

April 30, 2006 @ 9:33 pm | Comment

Yeah, get out of there, Si. If your experience in China has poisoned you to the extent you’d wish ruin on innocent people, then you leave to get out of there now, for your own peace of mind.

Joh, when isn’t nationalism extreme?

May 2, 2006 @ 4:58 am | Comment

I apologise. It was over the top, but I commonly meet people like panzi in china and they upset me greatly. I don’t really wish economic collapse on them. I was too strong and I am sorry.

May 2, 2006 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

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