Academic freedom or racism in disguise? Dr. John Dower was caught in the central of debate of an MIT open course in Japanese history. In the online content of the course, project 'Visualizing Cultures', he portraits an arising Japan that was set to save the Asian countries and people from brutal ruling and occupation of westerners. What a illusion while in reality millions people was brutally killed by the Japanese invasion army. It's a history that will never leave the nightmare of Chinese, Korean, Filipinos, Vietnamese and many more. As a history professor in Japanese history, Dr. Downer should have known better. Either he's an idiot, which is not very likely, or he is just pretending. He had gone through the most rigours training on how to stay unbiased in doing research. The only logical explanation left is that he is a racist. Picture: David River.
'Skydive' of MITBBS told us why Dr. John Dower was a racist by examining the class notes Dr. Dower put online:
"Old" China was the Anti-West, the Anti-Modern (a notion China's own Communist leaders would later embrace with a vengeance themselves). As a consequence, while the corpses were unmistakably and brutally Chinese, they stood for a great deal more as well.
When the prints they showed were filled with died bodies of Chinese people defending their homeland, Dr. Dower denounced them to be more 'brutal' than the enemy. What kind of shit is in his mind?
From the Japanese perspective, the denigration of the Chinese that permeates the Sino-Japanese War prints was really secondary to the obverse side of this triumphal new nationalism. It was secondary, that is, to the story of the surpassing discipline and self-sacrifice of Japanese from every level of society. That is why many of the most memorable war prints do not depict the enemy at all, but rather focus on the Japanese alone. Sometimes they are simply battling raw nature
(the fierce blizzards and turbulent seas), sometimes simply shown in control of the powerful machinery of modern warfare. Always there is a celebration of brave men engaged in a noble mission?athrowing themselves against an ominous, threatening, but also thrillingly challenging and alluring world.
The inherently racisim behind a stone faced college professor is that 'advanced' people have right to kill people not that advanced at the time. Dr. Dower must not be sorry for the dead Indians falling victim of 'civilized', 'advanced' and 'sophiscated' westerners. Dr. Dower's theory is that if a nation/people is not as 'educated' from the western perspective, they they are deemed to be shot in their own house. For years, Dr. Dower just can't wait to quote this theory from a second mouth.
Kokunimasa offered a harsh “Illustration of the Decapitation of Violent Chinese Soldiers” that included a lengthy inscription. The benevolence and justice of the Japanese army, this text explained, equaled and even surpassed that of the civilized Western nations. By contrast, the
barbarity of the Chinese was such that some prisoners attacked their guards. As a warning, the Japanese—as depicted in the print—had beheaded as many as thirty-eight rebellious prisoners in front of other captured Chinese. The Rising Sun military flag still fluttered in one panel of Kokunimasa’s print; the stalwart cavalry officer still surveyed the scene; the executioner still struck the familiar heroic pose with upraised sword. The subject itself, however, and severed heads on the ground, made this an unusually frightful scene.
When describing a print of Japanese imperial army brutally beheading Chinese POW, Dr. Dower was as calm as he's walking through the Philadelphia garden show. However, the words he used on Japanese are: benevolence, civilized, heroic; while the words he used on Chinese POW are: barbarity, violent, rebellious. Which institution did he received his PhD training in history? Bravo for them to create a monster who can preach for God and drink human blood at the same time, in a stone face.
MIT CSSA's letter to the President of MIT:
Dear President Hockfield,
On behalf of the Chinese Students and Scholars on MIT campus, CSSA felt compelled to express our horror at the way Visualizing Culture depicts the art of the war. We are shocked that such cultural insensitivity could have occurred at the Institute and want to make our concerns known to the MIT administration.
Please find below the text of an email detailing our official response, sent to the professors of the OCW course.
Huan Zhang, President of MIT Chinese Student and Scholar Association
Lin Han, Vice President of MIT Chinese Student and Scholar Association
Though we are the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA), we come from an assortment of backgrounds and cultures. We value the diversity within our own group, and we are most grateful for the support and benefits the culturally-diverse MIT microcosm has afforded us and our members. However, the "Throwing off Asia" exhibit recently Spotlighted on MIT's homepage has shaken our confidence in the cultural sensitivity we have come to associate with this accepting environment. The exhibit has left us disappointed at the nonchalance with which this emotionally provocative and demeaning material was presented, as we struggle to understand how such negligence could have been overlooked at the Institute.
In particular, the vivid images of the wartime atrocities inflicted on the Chinese conjured up haunting emotions of loss and rage, not unlike those emotions people around the world feel toward the much better-known and more talked-about events of the Holocaust. Already, the outcry from MIT's Chinese community has been thunderous, and the distress levels severe. We do understand the historical significance of these wood prints, and respect the authors' academic freedom to purse this study. However, we are appalled at the lack of accessible explanations and the proper historical context that ought to accompany these images.
Phrases featured prominently at the top of the page under Old China, New Japan include "Still, predictable patterns give order to this chaos. Discipline (the Japanese side) prevails over disarray (the Chinese)," and "In short, the Chinese are riotous in every way disgracefully so in their behavior, and delightfully so in their accoutrements." The only circumstance under which these very racially-charged statements might be possibly acceptable is if they are being used to describe the depictions of the images. Yet at first glance, that purpose is far from obvious; instead, the text seems to suggest that it is reporting history itself. The issue of the blatant racism so prominently exhibited in these images and descriptions is not addressed until much further down the page, almost at the end of the article.
In light of this, we at the CSSA would like to request the following:
1) The authors should provide the proper historical context for the prints as an introductory paragraph at the top of the page. This text should include arnings stating that the images are graphical in nature and could be potentially emotionally-damaging. This text should also address the racist sentiment and provide the historical perspective (the woodprints' wartime propaganda nature), with which it encourages readers to bear in mind when browsing through the pages.
2) MIT should pay special attention to the presentation of culturally-demeaning content, particularly to its emotionally-damaging potential. As materials in MIT's lauded Open Course Ware, this online exhibit is accessible by anyone with a computer and an internet connection anywhere around the world. Is this careless disregard for cultural sentiments what MIT wants the world to believe to be MIT's "visualization" of cultures? Is this cultural insensitivity what MIT wants to associate with its quality and breadth of classes?
While we are particularly sensitive to the exhibit's contents, we are certainly aware of their historical significance. We have no doubt that the authors do not endorse the wood prints' contents in any way beyond their artistic and historical value. Nevertheless, we cannot condone the irresponsible nature in which such material has been presented. An exhibit should provoke discussion / debate, but in this case, it could have been done in a more delicate manner that would not involve offending the entire Chinese community. We are ready to confront the past, but we believe that authors have a paramount duty to delivering proper guidance as well.
We welcome continued conversations on this issue, and we eagerly await your esponse.
MIT Official Statement:
Visualizing Cultures is an interdisciplinary research project, history course and educational outreach program that uses historical images and texts of different cultures in order to learn from them. We deeply regret that a section of this web site has caused distress and pain to members of the Chinese community.
Visualizing Cultures is an important and pioneering undertaking by two esteemed members of our faculty, Professor John Dower of the history faculty and Professor Shigeru Miyagawa of linguistics and of foreign languages and literatures. Professors Dower and Miyagawa have MIT's strongest support.
One section of the web site -- Throwing Off Asia -- authored by Professor Dower, refers to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and displays images of Japanese wood-block prints that were used as wartime propaganda. Some of these images show the atrocities of war and are examples of how societies use visual imagery as propaganda to further their political agendas. The use of these historical images is not an endorsement of the events depicted.
Many readers, however, have indicated that the purpose of the project is not sufficiently clear to counteract the negative messages within the historical images portrayed on the site. Professors Dower and Miyagawa have been meeting with members of the MIT Chinese community to discuss their concerns and have temporarily taken down the web site while these concerns are being addressed.
The response from some outside the community, on the other hand, has been inappropriate and antithetical to the mission and spirit of MIT and of any university. This is not only unfair to our colleagues, but contrary to the very essence of the university as a place for the free exploration of ideas and the embrace of intellectual and cultural diversity. In the spirit of collaboration, MIT encourages an open and constructive dialogue.
We need to preserve the ability to confront the difficult parts of human history if we are to learn from them.
Phillip L. Clay