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III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 14-18 de julio de 2004


Oriente y Occidente


MESA Q. ORIENTE Y OCCIDENTE

Jacob Kovalio (Carleton University, Canada)

"Japan from Kurofune (Black Ships) to Orientalism"

2003-4 is the 150th anniversary of Japan's astounding modern national journey from feudal backwater on the remote northwestern edges of the Pacific Ocean to an impressive number of Asian firsts and global achievements constitution-based monarchy, major industrial power, major military power, only colonial power, postwar global economic, technological ,trading , foreign aid , cultural and longevity leader , etc.

Japan practically rejoined the world in February 1854 ,with the signing of a friendship and trade treaty with the United States, ending 215 years of sakoku (isolation) under the Tokugawa shogunate.

Each nation is exceptional in its own right. Japan's exceptionalism is strikingly evident in the quality of its modern evolution a nation the size of France, but with a population 50% larger, 85% mountains, almost 70% forests, , whose only large natural resources are earthquakes and volcanoes, is at the dawn of the 21st century a global economic powerhouse and the nation with the top GNC (Gross National Cool) in Asia Pacific. No less importantly, Japan has successfully maintained its identity- evidence of the pivotal importance of the cultural and societal elements in national development.Already in 1918, in his Fifty Years of New Japan, Okuma Shigenobu, democrat, nationalistic statesman and educator, confidently observed " Japan's general progress during the short space of half a century (since 1868) has been so ...swift that it presents a spectacle rare in the history of the world. For twenty centuries the nation has drunk freely from the civilizations of Korea, China and India...The Japanese have then welcomed Occidental civilization while preserving their Oriental civilization ." (italics added)In Asia Pacific

the twentieth century may be seen as a Japanese century, politically and militarily until 1945, economically and technologically since 1960.

Japan, while being the quintessential model of how to cope with other cultures (China, the West) while maintaining its own distinctiveness, like all other nations- Asian, African, Moslem, Western- has practiced cultural supremacism and racism in its relations with the rest of the world, particularly until 1945.

I am a professional historian and specialist of Asia - a proud Asianist or Orientalist- as well as a historian of the world . 2003 was the 25th anniversary of the publication of Edward W. Said's Orientalism, a masterpiece of sorts. Armed with blunt ethnocentrism reinforced by the ignorant arrogance of the upper class in his ancestral society , from which he was unable to free himself and help it develop , even after 50 years of intellectual freedom in the West which he grossly abused - and cleverly taking advantage of the scourge of political correctness , Said mangled history shamelessly in his book "Islam excepted , the Orient for Europe was until the 19th century a domain with a continuous history of unchallenged Western dominance.!!This is patently true of the British experience in India, the Portuguese experience in the East Indies , China and Japan..(except for) the occasional native intransigence to disturb the idyll, as when in 1638-39.... Japanese Christians threw the Portuguese out of the area."!! (italics added) The late Columbia University English lit prof turned propagandist aiming at the destruction of Western democracy, has had a large support base in Japan, like elsewhere, particularly in universities , among fellow practitioners of "three anti" ism - anti-Westernism, anti-Americanism, anti-"Zionism"- which have now become one.