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December 06, 2005

Comments

Julian Elson

Well, some (like William Upski Wimsatt) have taken on the "Wigger" epithet as a badge of pride. In "Bomb the Suburbs," Wimsatt had a chapter called "In Defense of Wiggers," I believe.

Though one can't ignore what the "w" in "wigger" would be if the person happened *not* to be white.

Frank McGahon

"why is it that white people who get into "black" (i.e. African-American) culture are labelled derisively as "Wiggers" [...] but a black person who tries to act "white" or an Asian who acts "westernized" is regarded as acting perfectly in accord with the natural order of things?"

I don't know if this is right. The sort of person, black or white, who disparages a "Wigger" will typically disparage a "Coconut" too. I'd suggest that the reason for these taboos has more to do with cultural conformism and a tendency to think platonically* than some sort of notion that "white culture" (whatever that is**) is some sort of default.

* Such as appeals to "authenticity" or "realness" or, as in the tv ad for Sprite which featured a youth coming up a cropper trying out the baggy trousered look: "Don't try to be someone you're not"

** Racists who happen to be, say, Italian-American will still tend to prize Italian-American culture more so than some sort of default "white culture"

Abiola Lapite

"The sort of person, black or white, who disparages a "Wigger" will typically disparage a "Coconut" too."

Maybe on the black side, but I don't see anywhere near as many white bashers of "Wiggers" condemning blacks for failing to "keep it real", and the same goes for those who spit out "Japanophile" or "Asiaphile" as if it were some sort of perversion - they usually have no problems with Asian immigrants speaking fluent English and holding Thanksgiving dinners.

"I'd suggest that the reason for these taboos has more to do with cultural conformism and a tendency to think platonically* than some sort of notion that "white culture" (whatever that is**) is some sort of default."

If it were mere cultural conformism driving such thinking, one would imagine that people who say such things would actually be ecstatic that others were conforming to their ways of doing things - isn't that what all the condemnation of "multiculturalism" is supposedly about? You mention appeals to "authenticity" and "realness", but such exhortations strike me as more defensive than anything, as if someone from outside one's own subgroup wanting to partake in the culture were as unnatural as a dog trying to walk on two legs, which gives rise to all sorts of suspicions on the part of those who take it upon themselves to act as "authenticity" police. Members of a confident culture would simply take it for granted that everyone else would *obviously* want to be just like them - take "mainstream" America today, Britain in the heyday of colonialism or China until the 19th century.

Frank McGahon

"If it were mere cultural conformism driving such thinking, one would imagine that people who say such things would actually be ecstatic that others were conforming to their ways of doing things - isn't that what all the condemnation of "multiculturalism" is supposedly about?"

What I'm getting at is the notion of conforming to the platonic characteristics of whichever group you are assigned to rather than general conformism to a default culture.

"You mention appeals to "authenticity" and "realness", but such exhortations strike me as more defensive than anything,"

I'm thinking of the way, (within-group) "realness" is prized. I don't think this is particularly defensive, it doesn't say so much about those outside the group but it does posit some sort of "essence" for which group members ought to strive. This has the tendency to reinforce group norms, good and bad.

Abiola Lapite

"What I'm getting at is the notion of conforming to the platonic characteristics of whichever group you are assigned to rather than general conformism to a default culture."

But that's the thing: while, say, black Americans may have this platonic conception of "blackness" and "whiteness" in mind when condemning "wiggers", most white people who express contempt for the phenomenon don't seem to share such a conception, as they generally don't have a problem with people of other races or ethnicities acting "white"; in fact, I don't believe I've ever run into a single such white person in my entire life.

"I don't think this is particularly defensive, it doesn't say so much about those outside the group but it does posit some sort of "essence" for which group members ought to strive."

It may not say so much *overtly*, but I think taking a closer look at how it arose and the terms used by those who espouse it tells you a great deal - what else can all the references to white people trying to "steal"* black culture mean other than that it is some sort of delicate flower which could not survive without vigiliant protection? One doesn't need to go in for such defensiveness in order to simply maintain an "us vs. them" barrier - the British and the French were able to do so just fine even as they were molding their colonial subjects into imitation Britons and Frenchmen, while "acting white" doesn't really do much to get one invited to join white fraternities or attend Westchester county society events. Wishing to foist one's norms upon others even while considering them eternal outsiders has been the dominant way of the West for the last 200 years (and even longer if you count Christian attitudes towards Jewish conversos), and the cultural defensiveness I'm getting at simply can't be explained away as just a way of keeping group barriers up.

*As if culture were something that could be "stolen" merely by being imitated.

Andrew Reeves

The thing is, there are guys who find East Asian culture absolutely fascinating, and then there is a certain class of guys that is just creepy. I am referring to the "I only date Asian women and by the way half my hard drive is taken up by hentai" class of people.

Abiola Lapite

But we aren't talking about the latter case, as the post by Joi Ito I linked to more than make clear. A foreigner who attempts to assimilate to Japanese ways when in Japan is regarded as a "hen na gaijin", especially if the effort appears "too" successful - obsessive sexual fantasies about Asian women has nothing to do with it (not that the Japanese seem to mind all that much about those types of gaijin in any case).

Pearsall

There's a class element to it as well, though, isn't there? By this I mean the sort of stigma attached to a white person who adopts hip-hop as a key part of their identity is entirely absent in someone who gets seriously into, say, jazz or soul or rnb (of course, the goalposts as to what is too beyond the pale have been constantly shifting over the last century).

Abiola Lapite

"There's a class element to it as well, though, isn't there?"

Exactly, which is what I was getting at when I said the "Wigger" and the "Japanophile" were "thought of as some sort of reprobate intent on culturally debasing him or herself." An art form like jazz is sufficiently "bourgeoisified", intellectualized and dead to mainstream black interest to take interest in without losing face, but get too much into something like hip hop, which lots of actually breathing black people still like, and you open yourself to all sorts of attacks. I think much the same thinking is at work with people who laugh at others who seem "too" fascinated with Asian culture: it's like "Why would this dude be wasting his time on this inferior stuff?"

dsquared

god it's a shame that you have such a scunner against Foucault and Lacan; if you can keep a clear head with respect to the technical terms, you'd find that so much of what you're trying to say here is crystal clear there.

Jim

"but a black person who tries to act "white" or an Asian who acts "westernized" is regarded as acting perfectly in accord with the natural order of things?"

There may be a generational difference - ten years ago a black teacher compalianed during a conversation that it was as if black kids were being pushed into a caste identity by the other kids of all colors in the school. I know that is just one anecdte, but I suspect you would find a many, many such anecdotes.

But I agre that there is a default setting. I think there aare at lest three rather than just the Euro default setting. Foreigners may not get a very warm reception of their efforts to speak Japanese, but the situation is entirely different in China, and for a simple reason. I have never once had anyone comment one way or another when I use Chinese other than perhaps some expression of relief. It is not at all unusual for foreigners to speak better Mandarin than native Chinese, for obvious reasons. It is also not unusual to find Chinese speaking to very young white kids in Chiunese around here, the underlying assumption being that the child has not be so deformed by another culture to have forgotten Chinese. The simple reason for this difference is the differnece in self-image between China and Japan. the Japanese consider themselves a chosen group, closed membership, and still see their country as just a small group of small islands. The Chinese on the other hand have the historical experience of a huge numbner of ethnicities absorbing and adopting and contributing to Chinese culture.

I think people who deal with Arabs on any level have a simialr experience. Any assimialtion is a cuase for congratulation; you are entering on the right way.

Back to the Euro norm - I bet it has more to do with assimilating to some generic, pan-European culture, not assimilation to an actual culture of an actual tribe, such as the Saxons, insular or continental, or some specific ethnicity. In other words, if an African adopts general European cultural norms, that is arrogantly assumed to be the natural default setting, but if he tries to learn Irish, or to mimic specifically English or Welsh or Provencal or Danish quirks, people would find that odd.

Abiola Lapite

"It is also not unusual to find Chinese speaking to very young white kids in Chiunese around here, the underlying assumption being that the child has not be so deformed by another culture to have forgotten Chinese."

But what could be more normal than that a barbarian should wish to become culturally Chinese (or British, or French, or Roman ...)?

"the Japanese consider themselves a chosen group, closed membership, and still see their country as just a small group of small islands."

I agree with the rest of this statement except for the "chosen" bit: as much as this is put about, especially in "Nihonjinron" type publications, the actual behavior of ordinary Japanese people doesn't suggest anything of the sort, and the degree of fascination and awe displayed to things Western - and especially American - is such that even the most hardcore green-tea-sipping, kendo-practicing, Zen meditating "Wapanese" seems a piker by comparison. People who imagine themselves chosen and superior act as ugly American tourists abroad do today, and European imperialists did not so long ago, i.e, they expect everyone else to accomodate them and display an intimate understanding of their "obviously" superior way of life as a matter of course.

Most Japanese intimations of cultural superiority actually smack of the kind of aggressive assertions made by people who feel themselves to fall short rather than genuine confidence - why else would someone take exception at a foreigner paying him the courtesy of trying to act as any civilized person would in his own culture? The degree to which modern Japanese culture has been shaped from up high by elites seeking to appear "civilized" in Western eyes is incredible: just read the latter chapters of the book here

http://www.east-asian-history.net/textbooks/172/index.htm

and see for yourself to what extent modern Japanese behavior is a reflection of this tendency. That's hardly the mark of any sort of genuine belief in cultural superiority. Indeed, if the Japanese really *had* been that convinced that theirs was a uniquely superior civilization, they likely would have taken the course Qing dynasty China did, ignoring the foreign barbarians who couldn't possibly have anything to teach until it was too late to secure their autonomy.

Jim

"But what could be more normal than that a barbarian should wish to become culturally Chinese (or British, or French, or Roman ...)? "

Exactly my point. Or that an infidel should want to become an (real)Arab? So there are at least three of these default settings running around. Isn't that a recipe for chaos? So that may be the solution; chaos leads to some new, more general default setting, the way English evolves.

"I agree with the rest of this statement except for the "chosen" bit: as much as this is put about, especially in "Nihonjinron" type publications, the actual behavior of ordinary Japanese people doesn't suggest anything of the sort.."

If you mean to say that feeling "chosen" should lead to a sense of superiority, that may seem logical, but it ignores something. Being chosen mean being separated form the mass of others. Humans are primates and separation form the group is the definition of inferiority and worthlessness for a primate. It kills. It doesn't matter what gloss you put on it or talk yourself into - you are odd man out. This is why Jews in Western Europe assimilated with such alacrity as soon as assimilation became possible, during the Enlightenment. Witness the vehemence of the reaction among certain groups of Jews. (Before then no one in Europe expected or wanted Jews to assimilate; they wanted them to vanish. Spain is the exception and for a reason. It wasn't culturally part of Western Europe until 1492 for the most part and even then not really until joining the EU.) Mormons have noted the same thing about their group. So being chosen means feeling inferior despite all the protestations to the contrary.

That tendency for imitation you mention is very marked. I think a sense of absolute uniqueness licenses it. If you are absolutely and essentially unique, it doesn't matter how much you imitate anyone else; you will still always be who you are. The Jews are another example again.

"they likely would have taken the course Qing dynasty China did.."

There's a fly right in the middle of that pointment. The Qing ruling family was hyper-Chinese because it had to; it was foreign. Southern Chinese were much more open to foreign influences, and not just Westrn ones. They had had at least 1,000 years of trade contact outside the country by then.

Chuckles

Okay - I write as a self confessed user of the terms Japanophile and wapanese.

Never use the term wigger though. Let me explain.

I use the term Japanophile and Sinophile in a quasi-academic sense - in the same sense that I would use the word "sovietologist" or "Africanist" for a white person.

I use the term "wapanese" for a certain, almost bothering on creepy kind of white person...you know the type who has a fetish for all things Japanese.

I do not think my use of the terms sinophile and japanophile are derogatory. Indeed, within Africanist circles, there are also people like Ulli Beier and Susanne Wenger etc that are referred to as "Yoruboids" - the term is entirely affectionate, from where I am standing.

I have experienced the Japanese cringing thing. I have experienced it with Koreans also. My opinion has always been that the reason they act that way is because they feel that I am "botching" up Japanese or Korean or Chinese culture - whichever the case may be. It is the quest for authenticity which leads them to question my seemingly "contrived" motions to appear acceptable to them.

Of course, were one to delve into the psychoanalysis of it; it would reveal, perhaps, a self loathing on the parts of Japanese and Koreans - who obviously could not fathom *why* I would want to go Korean or Japanese.

It speaks again, to the insularist nature of these communities and the fact that they feel violated by outsider penetration.

The irony is of course, that Yorubas for instance, do not disparage whites who go native; but over the years, folks of European descent see cause to disparage Africans going Western - the whole "stay as you are" thing being in play here.

I do not think that it is so much of a western-norm thing going on.

There are many blacks who act "white" that are derided - Indeed, the epithet of "acting white" originated amongst Europeans! So I would not say that it is universally regarded that those acting white are in accordance with the norm - In fact, I have seen many such people, Asians and Africans despised by whites and others!

Furthermore, I think Japanese, Koreans etc tend to regard the Philiacs as being "poor" - i.e. if *your* own culture was that great, why would you need to imitate ours? Since you are imitating ours, you must really be a nobody where you come from, hence, we will not respect you. etc etc etc.

Abiola Lapite

"I use the term "wapanese" for a certain, almost bothering on creepy kind of white person...you know the type who has a fetish for all things Japanese."

Why is it any more of a "fetish" to like all things Japanese than it is to want to speak English, watch Hollywood blockbusters, eat Häagen-Dazs ice cream, buy Louis Vuitton handbags, read Harry Potter novels, visit New York, etc.? This is just what I'm getting at, the stigmatization of a passionate interest in another culture which is taken as perfectly normal when directed westwards.

"There are many blacks who act "white" that are derided"

Sure - but almost entirely by other black people obsessed with "keeping it real."

"Indeed, the epithet of "acting white" originated amongst Europeans!"

No way, Jose. "Acting white" as a slur is as African-American in origin as scat-singing.

"I think Japanese, Koreans etc tend to regard the Philiacs as being "poor" - i.e. if *your* own culture was that great, why would you need to imitate ours? Since you are imitating ours, you must really be a nobody where you come from, hence, we will not respect you. etc etc etc."

Again, what is this other than self-loathing? If I believed my culture superior to yours, I'd expect you to surrender your practices wholesale for mine, not despise you for wishing to emulate my own tradition.

Julian Elson

American tourists don't act particularly ugly abroad, according to an expedia survey. British tourists are the worst, Germans are the best, but Americans are somewhere fairly near the top (second, after Germans).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/2138252.stm

My guess is that this is because only a small fraction of Americans actually have passports (10%, IIRC), compared to European countries, so Americans, while we may be GENERALLY arrogant and rude, only "export" a small, self-selected group with an unusual interest in foreign matters, whereas the British export a larger, less intensely selected fraction.

Abiola Lapite

But I wasn't discussing which countries have the worst tourists; I was pointing out the indisputable fact that Americans abroad generally expect that the people of other nations will cater to American customs even in their own country, and aren't in the least shy about loudly bitching in front of the "foreigners" [sic] who can't "even speak English" about how things are so much better back home in Abilene or wherever, before proceeding to patronizingly repeat their demands very SLOWLY and LOUDLY to the "foreign" victims of their attention, as if shouting would make them better understood. Like it or not, this *remains* the reality of how the average American on holiday overseas tends to be, and there are very good reasons why more culturally sensitive sorts resort to camouflaging themselves with Maple Leaf backpacks when abroad. If I had to count the number of times I'd been in a tube train with a bunch of loud Americans seemingly intent on sharing their business with half of London I'd need an abacus to keep score.

That Brits, Germans and others have even more obnoxious traits of their own aplenty doesn't detract from this at all - it's a fact that Americans abroad are on the whole extremely loud and arrogant despite rarely having even the rudiments of an understanding of the local language wherever they are. Their major saving grace is their spending power and much greater propensity to tip, which makes them a lot more bearable to tourist businesses than violent, cheapskate, drunkard Brits and Germans just looking to get sloshed on a package holiday.

Chuckles

[...Why is it any more of a "fetish" to like all things Japanese than it is to want to speak English, watch Hollywood blockbusters, eat Häagen-Dazs ice cream, buy Louis Vuitton handbags, read Harry Potter novels, visit New York, etc.?...]

I see the point. I confess I get an intuitive red light when I encounter people like that even though I can advance no argument against their dispositions. I am the same way also with Japanese people that I feel obsess over the West. I will point out that the West is undeniably a locus of power, economic and otherwise. So I guess it is "natural" for people to gravitate towards it. In that sense, it would seem "unnatural" for anyone to gravitate way from it.

[...Sure - but almost entirely by other black people obsessed with "keeping it real."...]

I do not deny that this is the case. But the criticism of achieving black people as "uppity Negroes" came and in my mind, still comes first. I view the "keeping it real" class as a set that has internalized criticisms of "uppity Negroes". Criticism of uppityness did not come out from the black community.

[...No way, Jose. "Acting white" as a slur is as African-American in origin as scat-singing...]

I aint so sure about this. I strongly suspect it devolved from criticisms of uppityness which originated from European ideas of what the "real state" of Africans ought to be. In this paper by Roland Fryer, he claims the origin of the phrase is obscure.

http://www.educationnext.org/20061/52.html

There is evidence for its use in some 30s black literature - but I am not convinced that its origins lie entirely in the black community. Nevertheless, it was Fordham and Ogbu that brought it into the now popular lexicon.

[...Again, what is this other than self-loathing? If I believed my culture superior to yours, I'd expect you to surrender your practices wholesale for mine, not despise you for wishing to emulate my own tradition...]

Well - this is psychoanalysis. Not all great people desire worship. Some just desire the opportunity to snob everybody else. It is entirely possible that a great culture might want to meet the demands placed on it by greatness for purity. Exclusive fraternities and sororities are this way. While in a broader sense, self loathing might be involved, greater pyschological wages might be reaped from segregation.


Of course, I cant think of any argument that can be advanced against being Wapanese or a philiac of any sort. But I understand Joi Ito's point. Sometimes its just plain embarassing to witness a cultural faux pas - or to wait apprehensively for it to occur when you are in the presence of a foreigner. It is perhaps rational for people not to expect foreigners to be as adept at their culture. Again, it may seem to the cultural insider that attenpts to "be like one of them" are really cruel comedic jokes being made for the outsiders own personal enjoyment. The reactions to this are very complex and I am hesitant to dismiss all such cringes as being indicative of euronormativeness.

Shame might be involved - for those who feel that an "outsider" has beat them at their own game. But I do see the trend and your criticism of it suggests that cultures and their elements, at least those under consideration, have roughly equal value, at the present time. If I stand more chances of advancing my lot and status in life in my immediate environment by being familiar with Westernisms (or vice versa, Blackisms), I would certainly wonder at those who spend precious time bothering about a whole bunch of stuff that doesnt matter in the long run - or that I regard as being useless to myself or them.

PS:

This:

http://stuartbuck.blogspot.com/2004/08/acting-white.html

also seems to confirm my suspicion that the notion of "Acting white" originated outside the African American community. My position is that it was internalized through the process of suffering and segregational insularity.

Abiola Lapite

"Well - this is psychoanalysis."

No more so than your own claim, and in my case at least, there's a fund of real-world historical evidence to back it up - when the Japanese were busy on their little imperialist spree in the first half of the 20th century they didn't hesitate to impose their language and culture on all the culturally "inferior" peoples they conquered from Manchuria down to Singapore, and even today fellow East Asians are expected to gain mastery of the Japanese way in a manner Westerners are not.

"It is entirely possible that a great culture might want to meet the demands placed on it by greatness for purity."

It is entirely possible that the sun might not rise tomorrow either. This is nothing more than pointless theoretical nitpicking devoid of factual substance or any substantive likelihood of being the truth.

"If I stand more chances of advancing my lot and status in life in my immediate environment by being familiar with Westernisms (or vice versa, Blackisms), I would certainly wonder at those who spend precious time bothering about a whole bunch of stuff that doesnt matter in the long run - or that I regard as being useless to myself or them."

And how is this any sort of rebuke to the kind of black person who thinks it a pointless waste of time for black people to "act white" by speaking standard English and paying attention in school? The arrogance here is that one's own knowledge and experience suffice to determine what will better the "lot and status" of everyone else - who are you to say that the Japanophiles you look down on aren't gaining more subjective pleasure and doing more to better their material lot through what they're doing than any other alternatives open to them? It stands to reason that they wouldn't be indulging their interests if this weren't so, and indeed many an anime-obsessed expat teaching at an eikaiwa is enjoying a level of respect and female attention as "Charisma Man" he could never have dreamed of as just another pasty-faced nerd back home.

http://www.yakyushop.com/yakyushop/charisma_strip.jpg
http://karatethejapaneseway.com/photos/charisma_man_02s.jpg

"My position is that it was internalized through the process of suffering and segregational insularity."

Whatever its origins, the bottom line is this: those pushing it today are overwhelmingly black, not white, and the overwhelming attitude of white people (as well as other racial minorities) is "Why can't blacks get with the program and adopt mainstream values instead of cultivating their inferior cultural traits and whining about the inevitable failure which stems from it?"

Jim

"Why can't blacks get with the program and adopt mainstream values instead of cultivating their inferior cultural traits and whining about the inevitable failure which stems from it?"

Mainstream values rather than the values of this or that ethnie. If someone labels these values :white", well they can use any term they want, even if it explains nothing. The same mainstream values complaint is aimed at poor whites in their trailer parks.

No one can deny that Japanese and Koreans mimic European or more specificaly Anglo cultural forms, but fundamentally what they are immitating is modernity. So they imitate a lot of irrelvant crap. It si quite typically when people adiopt something useful, tey also adopt associated crap, because they don't think it is so irrlevant. So Mississippian peoples adopted torture sacrifice along with corn cultivation, because to them, it was just part of the technology, and Americans imitated Greco-Roman architecture when they imitated Roamn republican forms of government, and East Asains and everyone adopted Western style uniforms along with Western forms of military organization. Still, what they were adopting and intended to adopt were the forms of modernity, not some supposedly superior exoticisms.

All that aside, there defintely is the presumption that Euro-American whatever is the "norm". Do American field linguists devote more time to Athapaskan languages than to Bantu languages (and why might an American linguist have more interest in Athapaskan than Bantu?) Well, then, they are "neglecting" Bantu languages. Egyptology- now finally after 150 years the main authority in Egyptology is an Egyptian, of all people. Took long enough.

I have to wonder why it is so much stranger for some foreigner to want to act Japanese than for a Japanese. People sometimes just get born in the wrong countries and in the wrong bodies. Then they have to scramble to make up lost time.

Chuckles

Well, your criticisms of determining just how valuable someone's subjective experience is stands.

But I dont think "Japanophile" or "Sinophile" are derogatory and certainly not indicators of racism: Historians and Linguists and enthusiasts of all sorts self identify as Japanophiles or Francophiles or Anglophiles.

Wapanese certainly connotes a negative value judgment - and in this, there really is a whole bunch of leeway. Obsessive behavior generally attracts negative comments - food, clothes, etc. Of course, if someone were to obsess over arachnid anatomy, as opposed to pork chops, his/her behavior would be deemed more acceptable. While disapproval is indicated by "wapanese" - I find it hard to see racism in it - though I do not deny that it might exist.

The focus of criticism of wapanese is not so much the cultural complex that he/she is interested in, as it is the "obsessive" behavior he/she is displaying - a criticism that would apply to sports junkies, groupies, or any other "fan-atic" behavior of that sort.

I think Ito is coming from an angle of aversion to contrivedness, pretensiousness and hypocrisy. Of course you would say - by that standard, a Japanese fellow who tries to shake hands in America is also acting contrived. Logically. But the reality is that Western culture is already normative in several areas and respects that other cultural complexes are not.

Abiola Lapite

"But I dont think "Japanophile" or "Sinophile" are derogatory and certainly not indicators of racism:"

I can't see these terms as anything *but* derogatory considering the sorts of people who usually spit out such terms, and in what contexts they utter them. Do the definitions here seem fair-minded to you?

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=japanophile

"While disapproval is indicated by "wapanese" - I find it hard to see racism in it - though I do not deny that it might exist."

Considering how it is consciously modelled on "wigger", i.e. "white n***er",

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wapanese

I think the racial prejudice within it is pretty clear: "sensible" white people should not want to be emulating the Japanese, and if their interest goes beyond a certain level it turns "unhealthy." Americans may laugh at those of their countrymen who immerse themselves in French or British culture as pretentious snobs, but this is more a manifestation of cultural insecurity directed at people who seem "more cultured" than they are: those who get "too much" into Asian cultures, on the other hand, are regarded as kooks, losers and weirdos, not arrogant elitists.

"I think Ito is coming from an angle of aversion to contrivedness, pretensiousness and hypocrisy."

No he isn't. There's absolutely nothing "contrived", "pretentious" or "hypocritical" about wanting to do as the Romans do when in Rome, as that's just what any decent person expects when visiting a foreign land, not that the inhabitants should bend over backwards to accomodate his ignorance. If I were in, say, Abeokuta, and saw some visiting white kid who gave me a proper greeting in Yoruba along with the prostration appropriate to someone like him addressing an older person such as myself, I wouldn't call him "pretentious" or any other such term, I'd be *delighted* at his making the effort. If he'd lived in the country long enough I'd even *expect* it of him as the least he could do given his long term residency. In my experience, a white or Asian person who masters Yoruba language and custom - and such people do exist - is embraced into the fold, not despised for somehow going "too far."

"But the reality is that Western culture is already normative in several areas and respects that other cultural complexes are not."

Why? Why exactly is anyone supposed to go along with the flow instead of bucking the arrogant assumption that this is how things ought to be? It isn't as if everything the West does is automatically best, and personally I wouldn't mind seeing bowing entirely displacing the filthy, germ-spreading custom of handshaking as a means of greeting, to name just one example. Westerners who consider their culture normative even in other people's countries are arrogant idiots, while non-Westerners who happily cater to this conceit are self-hating cretins.

On a related note, I've just found this post by someone who calls herself "Tokyo Rosa" which validates what I've been saying about Japanese claims of cultural superiority being mostly bravado.

http://tokyorosa.blogspot.com/2005/07/patronizing-bitch.html

The piggish things a man can get away with in Japan simply by having blond hair and blue eyes are scarcely believable - I know I'd be sceptical about such stories if I hadn't already seen my share at first-hand. A land in which any white-skinned Napoleon Dynamite lookalike with a pulse is treated like an Adonis, and where white models are everywhere in commercials and catalogues, is *not* one which really sees itself as on a par with the West it wishes so badly to emulate, and the irritation at seeing Westerners adhering to Japanese norms of conduct is but a manifestation of this lingering inferiority complex.

Chuckles

[...I can't see these terms as anything *but* derogatory considering the sorts of people who usually spit out such terms, and in what contexts they utter them...]

Quite true - some people use the word as an insult, but the Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanophile

seems more nuanced. I think the problem here is one of guilt by association. My experience has been that when Japanophile is used derogatorily, it is used to condemn starry eyed, childish interest with more superficial aspects.

[...those who get "too much" into Asian cultures, on the other hand, are regarded as kooks, losers and weirdos, not arrogant elitists...]

True...the word has a straightforward meaning but it does seem undeniable that its frequent usage by certain folks may give it a bad flavor.

[...that's just what any decent person expects when visiting a foreign land, not that the inhabitants should bend over backwards to accomodate his ignorance...]

But what if the inhabitants fully expect to bend over backward and accomodate the visitor's ignorance? What if that is what they are used to? In such cases, the foreigner who is "trying too much" would be rebuked.

[...If he'd lived in the country long enough I'd even *expect* it of him as the least he could do given his long term residency...]

Is this expectation common to all Yoruba?

[...Why? Why exactly is anyone supposed to go along with the flow instead of bucking the arrogant assumption that this is how things ought to be...]

People might not be supposed to do this, but they do. And once I understand their assumptions (strongly rooted in historical circumstances) - I am more sympathetic to their actions. Arrogant or not - people believe this and act that way. This is why I hesitate to put down certain actions to the ferment of an inferiority complex - anymore than I am ready to denounce all churchgoers as idiots. People have accepted certain things as normal - and pending insight from the external - they are going to stay that way. This is not active self-hate or euronormativeness. There is a good example. I know of a Japanese girl who visited the United States, saw the Mac and exclaimed - "Ah! So you have MacDonalds here too?" To her, Macu was "Japanese" - as Japanese as Vuitton and Rap.

[...while non-Westerners who happily cater to this conceit are self-hating cretins...]

Thats a large portion of the world. A very large portion. Not that it makes them any less cretinous - but it does explain cultural behavior.

[...and the irritation at seeing Westerners adhering to Japanese norms of conduct is but a manifestation of this lingering inferiority complex...]

How about irritation at seeing Africans conform to this norm of conduct? Or perhaps there is none - perhaps there is only amusement. But again, I have seen the same "uneasiness" directed towards Africans, for instance, who felt more at home talking about Yamamoto Jocho or Motoori Nobunaga than they did about Shakespeare, Austen or even Soyinka. Do Japanese think they are inferior to Africans too? There is this whole polite "why dont you mind your business" "stay in your place" "dont do what you are obviously inept at" thing going on with these attitudes. There are many reasons for that - I demur at putting it down solely to an inferiority complex.

PS:

There are linguists and translators on these pages who are described as Japanophiles. I find it hard to see malevolence in this usage.

http://www.shmoore.com/Der%20Stephenwolf.htm
http://www.proz.com/translators/45939
http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/archives/collections/jlsp/reunion2002_2.doc
http://www.trussel.com/f_hearn.htm
http://www.eureka.edu/emp/jrodrig/webpage/Theory7.htm

dsquared

[Well - this is psychoanalysis]

specifically it's Lacanian analysis and no worse for that.

The answer to the tourists question, btw, is demographic; cohort for cohort, I would guess that American tourists are less popular, but the average age of American tourists in Europe is much older than the average age of European tourists in Europe. Since old people are in general less objectionable than young people, this skews the average. Also, French and Italian children are in general better behaved than British children because they beat them.

Abiola Lapite

"Is this expectation common to all Yoruba?"

If you can show me evidence to the contrary, go right ahead. I have never once heard a Yoruba person complain about a foreigner knowing his or her language "too well."

"But what if the inhabitants fully expect to bend over backward and accomodate the visitor's ignorance? What if that is what they are used to? In such cases, the foreigner who is "trying too much" would be rebuked."

This is just the "that's the way things are" falllacy; how does this make it any more acceptable? Why not just abandon all social critique and efforts to bring about change while we're at it?

"People have accepted certain things as normal - and pending insight from the external - they are going to stay that way. This is not active self-hate or euronormativeness."

Nonsense. Lots of black people accepted it as normal to defer to whites in Jim Crow America, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a manifestation of self-hatred and euronormativeness.

"But again, I have seen the same "uneasiness" directed towards Africans, for instance, who felt more at home talking about Yamamoto Jocho or Motoori Nobunaga than they did about Shakespeare, Austen or even Soyinka. Do Japanese think they are inferior to Africans too?"

It isn't the *Africans* they have an inferiority complex towards, but the *Western culture* they think the Africans ought to be more knowledgeable about.

"There is this whole polite "why dont you mind your business" "stay in your place" "dont do what you are obviously inept at" thing going on with these attitudes."

That didn't stop the Japanese from cramming their language and culture down the throats of the rest of East Asia back in the 1930s, so I'm not about to buy this rationalization of things. Incompetent imitation has never been a bar to expecting people to conform to one's way of doing things.

"specifically it's Lacanian analysis and no worse for that."

If it is Lacanian analysis, then *yes*, it *is* all the worse for that. That confused charlatan has never had anything worth a damn to teach anyone about any subject whatsoever.

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Notes for Readers