The Fabrication Of Asian History

Since the shock loss of my alcoholic Kiwi flatmate, things have been a lot quieter in the Yobbo household. His replacement was in the form of a Japanese exchange student who, despite studying it since year 8, still doesn’t speak what you could call “fluent” English. So, in at least one way, she’s quite similar to the Kiwi.

>From what I can gather, Yukari was studying Linguistics and English Literature at Uni in Osaka, and her final semester at UWA is her last before she graduates. At this point, I’ve gotta say I don’t like her chances.

She can read English without too many problems. The occasional largish word needs translation in the little Star Trek-type device she carries around, but on the whole she does OK. The problem really is that she can’t understand a bloody word her lecturers or tutors say.

>From my experience in business class, The foreign students seem to get by ok, mainly because you don’t need an exceptional grasp of English to calculate compound interest or prepare a profit and loss statement. Unfortunately for Yukari, she’s studying humanities. Not just any humanities subject either – she’s taking Asian studies.

When she first told me she was doing “Asian Studies”, I didn’t think much about it. After all, she is Asian. Sounds like a bit of a bludge, which is what you want when you are an exchange student.

Yukari was reading through some old exam papers tonight and asked me for a definition. No problem! The word? Imperialism.

I was kinda curious to know why she needed the definition. I took a look at the exam paper she was reading – for Asian History 152. The entire course is a study of White Imperialism, Racism, and Globalisation in Asia. Here is page 2 of the final exam paper from last year:

Instructions: Write on two out of the three questions given below

1. Survey the way imperial powers explained to themselves and to colonised peoples the dominant position they (the imperial powers) has acquired on the world stage.

2. Compare the aims and effectiveness of strategies adopted by colonised peoples for the purposes of resisting and throwing off foreign domination.

3. Relate today’s process of ‘globalisation’ to the imperialism practiced in the twentieth century.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to those interested in Uni Humanities that question 2 is answered almost exclusively by the fair chunk of the reading material devoted to celebrating communism in Asia. From Lenin to Ho Chi Minh to Mao – the story of the brave freedom fighter throwing off the shackles of racism is in full flight.

The real problem for my flatmate, though, is that she is struggling to define “Communism”, let alone “Post-Imperialist Globalisation” and other such PoMo left catchphrases that the course is built around. I tried to do my bit by explaining the causes for the growth and decline of Imperialism.

I reached a bit of a snag when I tried to explain that most of the former colonies finally attained independence in the aftermath of WW2. The Japanese Army cleared out whatever colonial powers were still around at the time. She looked kind of confused. Japanese army in Malaysia and Indonesia? Wow!

In any case, it kind of struck me that her knowledge of history probably wasn’t sufficient to form an argument on how racism and capitalism affected the status of workers, women and asian society. You’d think that the first step would be to learn history before analysing it, right? I was certainly surprised that a unit called “Asian History” in a course called “Asian Studies” would leap directly to the blame-whitey part of the course without laying any groundwork first.

The attempt of the course material to equate globalisation with Imperialism could have come straight from the webpage of the World Worker’s Party, but I digress.

I think she’s been misled to the nature of what she’s studying. It’s pretty reasonable to assume that Yukari signed up for the course hoping to learn a bit of history. What she’s learning instead is that it’s not what happened that counts, but the racism and paternalism of Europeans and how communism triumphed over them. I find it hard enough to make the connection myself….but imagine how hard it would be to decipher to PoMo gobbledegook if English was your second language?

(Note: If anyone does have some info about Asian {Women’s Issues, Imperialism, Islam, Culture, Religion, Communism, Gender Equality, Globalisation, basically anything leftist} that is written in plain English and could be understood by a Japanese speaker, please let me know. I don’t even care if it’s blatantly pro-communist. She’ll probably get higher marks.)

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