East Asian Stereotypes

An interesting exploration. I expected to find more in books and journals than I did, and didn't anticipate the great variety of webstuff... foolishly. Which is to say that it took me a while to think clearly about what I was really looking for, and to recognize that "stereotypes" is a convenient contemporary cover term for what once appeared under the rubric of National Character.

Here's some of what I found, which as you'll see sprawls over a lot of territory:

Savages, Swine and Buffoons (WW II Propaganda compared: Italians, Germans and Japanese as The Enemy)

Japanese Stereotypes Harm Cultural Understanding by Kayoko Sato

American misconceptions about Japan FAQ

The Japanese Version Study Guide (accompanies the documentary film of the same name,
VIDEOTAPE DS821.5 .U5 J36 1991)

Judging a Book by Its Cover from Beijing Scene

You know you're Asian if..., Chinese Stereotypes! (and more from the same site)

Stirring the alphabet soup: Campus inter-group conflict perpetuates Chinese stereotypes By Jenny Hsieh

Novelist Amy Tan reinforces Chinese stereotypes by BRIAN LAM

more on the Ching Collection of trade cards, from Chinese Historical Society of America

The Overseas Chinese: Stereotypes and Revisions By Hugh M. Lewis

There are common false stereotypes and misconceptions about the Overseas Chinese that deserve to be corrected:

An Introduction to Malaysian Chinese Ethnoculture Hugh M. Lewis

Chinese Immigration to Canada between the Mid-19th Century to Exclusion in 1923 by Janson Chan

The Chinese who came faced atrocious racial discrimination from not only the general public, but the state that sanctioned it. Chan (1983) maintains that discrimination was based on an ideology of racial superiority which became a distinctive feature of the British Empire. (p. 15) The Chinese came because of pressures at home and the opportunities abroad, not knowing the level of intolerance that would greet them. Canadians need to know about our dark past and the ill-treatment of Chinese in Canada. It is up to Canadians to learn from this dark chapter in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. We need to investigate the underlying reasons behind the ill-treatment. The main reason for mistreatment of the Chinese people during the mid-19th century was a mentality that Anglo-Europeans were superior to other races which provoked an outcry against the arrival of this ethnic minority. The white population's discrimination against the Chinese were based on false assumptions and stereotypes. This, coupled with mounting public pressure, eventually led to total exclusion in 1923.

Coping with Problems Caused by Stereotypes in Japan Mario McKenna --this one is from Stereotype and Discrimination Activity Websites

...what we can deduce from the comic book experience is that the images of childhood, received in comic book form and reinforced in play are very powerful in shaping subsequent attitudes and ideas, in short, one's adult mindset. In this respect the child is father to the man. The proof that these very images have become cemented in the public consciousness was laid to bare a few years ago on the fiftieth anniversary of the Japanese surrender when, as one British newspaper put it, the public chose to indulge their "current fascination with the inscrutable, unapologetic East."

Panel discussion on and by foreigners in Japan

You are stupid and will never know Japan. You do not and cannot speak Japanese. You are a hamburger-eating, gun-wielding Christian American. Sound familiar? Welcome to the world of Japanese stereotypes.


National Character

on Lithuanian 'National Character'

"...In heaven, all the policeman are English..."


Mentality is the unity of group's or individual's behavior, thinking, feelings, attitudes, trends, it is formed with the influence of traditions, culture, social structures and the whole environment of human being and at the same time it influences the process of their formation

"Cultural Values" lecture outline (Terrence H. Witkowski)

The Chinese National Character—A Japanese View By Zhou Zuoren (1926)

The Ugly Chinaman (excerpts) By Bo Yang

Bits of my own past keep resurfacing... while looking for materials relevant to Alex Inkeles' National Character: a psycho-social perspective (which discusses "modal personality"), I ran across this:

The concept of modal personality was conceived of by Cora DuBois, one of the first ethnographers trained in psychological methods, in her book, The People of Alor. Psychological anthropologists found this approach more acceptable than basic personality structure because it expressed the character of a group as being the most frequent type encountered, rather than generalizing that traits were absolute or that all of the members of a culture have the same personality structure. This was better suited to the ethnographic data collected because of the wide range that the data encompassed. Other anthropologists who worked to refine Modal Personality included Anthony F. C. Wallace, Thomas Gladwin and Seymour Sarason.
Cora DuBois was one of my teachers as an undergraduate, a grand lady with no tolerance for nonsense...

Have the Chinese People Changed Their Social Behavior? Findings from a 1999 Survey (Xia Lollar)

Music of Japan Today: Tradition and Innovation (Gregory Shepherd)

Any discussion of contemporary Japanese music scholarship must take into account a disturbing movement known as nihonjinron (roughly, 'the question of the Japanese people') which has come to permeate virtually every aspect of modern Japanese culture. Reminiscent of Japan's World War II propaganda, nihonjinron is an attempt on the part of its writers to glorify Japan and Japanese culture, often at the expense of truth. In Japanese musicology, as in other fields, scholars are able to postulate the most absurd theories and find almost unquestioned acceptance of such theories, merely because they portray Japan in favorable light. This paper will give examples of nihonjinron and, perhaps more importantly, take up two questions: Why have nihonjinron writers been able to get away with what are often quite racist theories and not be challenged by their peers in Japan? And: Why have Western Japan specialists, many of whom speak, read and write Japanese, shown such reluctance to criticize nihonjinron, when the movement flies in the face of every tenet of rigorous, scientific scholarship?

...and look again at Identities, national and ethnic: uniqueness, essence, myths for more on Nihonjinron

I happened on this, from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Journal & Miscellaneous Notebooks, an entry from 1824:

The closer contemplation we condescend to bestow, the more disgustful is that booby nation. The Chinese Empire enjoys precisely a Mummy's reputation, that of having preserved to a hair for 3 or 4,000 years the ugliest features in the world. I have no gift to see a meaning in the venerable vegetation of this extraordinary people. They are tools for other nations to use. Even miserable Africa can say I have hewn the wood and drawn the water to promote the civilization of other lands. But China, reverend dullness! hoary ideot! all she can say to the convocation of nations must be --"I made the tea."
(cited in Miller The Unwelcome Immigrant, E184 .C5 M5 1969)
also in Miller 1969, citing a New England China trader on Chinese music:
...a mass of detestable discord, musique infernal... 10 jackasses braying, 5 braziers pounding on the copper boiler of a steamboat, 30 bagpipers and a sexton to pull a cracked bell (pg. 28) --and compare Hector Berlioz: "...I shall not attempt to describe these wildcat howls, these death-rattles, these turkey cluckings, in the midst of which, despite my closest attention, I was able to make out only four distinct notes." (http://www.puk.ac.za/musdocs/crumb/future.html) (and more of Berlioz' opinions...)