“Easterners” are not collectivist automatons who are poor at analytical reasoning.

german-vs-chinese-opinions
Figure 1. German (blue) versus Chinese (red) opinions, according to a German art exhibit. The piece was created by a German-educated Chinese woman named Yang Liu. Compare this symbolism with the term “Chinese fire drill”.

Excepted from East meets west: How the brain unites us all [HTML] [PDF] by Ed Yong (via MindHacks):

AS A SPECIES, we possess remarkably little genetic variation, yet we tend to overlook this homogeneity and focus instead on differences between groups and individuals. At its darkest, this tendency generates xenophobia and racism, but it also has a more benign manifestation – a fascination with the exotic.

Nowhere is our love affair with otherness more romanticised than in our attitudes towards the cultures of east and west. Artists and travellers have long marvelled that on opposite sides of the globe, the world’s most ancient civilisations have developed distinct forms of language, writing, art, literature, music, cuisine and fashion. As advances in communications, transport and the internet shrink the modern world, some of these distinctions are breaking down. But one difference is getting more attention than ever: the notion that easterners and westerners have distinct world views.

Psychologists have conducted a wealth of experiments that seem to support popular notions that easterners have a holistic world view, rooted in philosophical and religious traditions such as Taoism and Confucianism, while westerners tend to think more analytically, as befits their philosophical heritage of reductionism, utilitarianism and so on. However, the most recent research suggests that these popular stereotypes are far too simplistic. It is becoming apparent that we are all capable of thinking both holistically and analytically – and we are starting to understand what makes individuals flip between the two modes of thought.

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“Black or white”, “East or West” are not racially or culturally exhaustive.

Black (#000000) and white (#FFFFFF) are opposite colours, because they have opposite RGB values. As these colour names have been used as labels for racial categories, sometimes Americans make the mistake of thinking that black people and white people are opposite races, or that “black or white” is a racially inclusive term.

Although the United States’ history of slavery may be the origin of the false black-or-white racial dichotomy, the mapping of these racial labels on to colour analogues reinforces the notion that “black or white” is racially exhaustive.

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Eastern societies are not more sexually liberated than Western societies.

To perceive Eastern societies as more sexually liberated than Western societies is to perceive the world from a position of extreme white Western male egocentricity. This alleged sexual “liberation” is extracted by filtering the world through both the white Western lens and the male lens.

When white Western men participate in sex tourism in Asia, this so-called sexual “freedom” is purchased through the colonization of the bodies of Asian women. White Western men gain sexual choices they would not have had otherwise, because the sexual choices of economically-disadvantaged Asian women are being severely limited.

In other words, white Western male egocentricity—not the imagined licentiousness of Asian culture and Asian women—is the source of the West’s Orientalist perception that the East is sexually liberated.

In White male seeking sexy Asian women: What is the deal with Western men’s erotic obsession with the East? (Salon), Laura Miller writes:

Bernstein is, as I mentioned, no fool, and so of course he knows and acknowledges this, but there is a sense in which it’s not entirely real to him; he is constantly asking the reader to temporarily set aside any objections regarding the utter powerlessness of the female participants in this “freedom” so that we can contemplate for a moment how liberating it must have been for the men. And he sets great store by the exceptions. Yes, it’s possible that genuinely warm feelings and even love sometimes arose between men and women in these situations, just as it’s possible that African-American slaves and their masters’ families sometimes felt fondness and loyalty toward each other, or that soldiers from an occupying army might befriend local residents. It’s in the nature of humanity that we can occasionally connect in spite of harsh circumstances. But that doesn’t really ameliorate the fundamental injustice of those circumstances.

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