First Question

The following employs ideas from Edward Said’s “Orientalism (1978)” to analyze excerpts from Chandra T. Mohanty’s “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses (1988)”. Specifically, this short paper looks at Orientalism’s dichotomous character and Eurocentric discourse to examine Mohanty’s criticism of Western feminist scholarship’s homogeneous perspectives and presuppositions of women in developing countries. To start, in his work “Orientalism”, Said challenges an idea referred to as Orientalism. The term traditionally refers to the Western depictions of non-Europeans from the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and East Asia – which were developed by Western scholars in the arts or the field of comparative literature. Specifically, in Western scholarship of that time, all non-Europeans of Asia fell under one universal identity known as Orientals, and the depictions of Orientals and their cultures consisted of often negative stereotypes: They were depicted as devious, despotic, and most importantly, uncivilized. This begs the question: Why were the Orientals depicted negatively? Critically, Said points out that Orientalism was (a) an exercise of self-affirmation of European identity and (b) reinforced the “civilizing mission”, a rationale for European colonialism at the time. To clarify, the “civilizing mission” refers to a notion that the Europeans must spread their civilization to those who were uncivilized and enlighten them via colonization. In the case of the former, Europeans identified themselves by depicting the Orientals as what they were not. Therefore, Orientalism was dichotomous. The Orientals were depicted as the “Other” and labeled as irrational, backwards, and uncivilized, while the Europeans were characterized as rational, modern, and civilized. The Europeans put forward their race as superior above all others.[1] This was problematic: This sense of Eurocentrism or racial superiority was then employed to justify European colonial ambitions and expeditions.

Mohanty’s work criticizes Western feminist texts written by Western scholars like Fran Hosken, Maria Cutrufelli, and Juliette Minces. Specifically, Mohanty criticizes them for their homogeneous perspectives and presuppositions of women in developing countries. These scholars depict women in these countries as poverty-stricken, uneducated, tradition-bound, and victimized. These views overlook the complexity, diversity, and multiplicity of women in the non-Western parts of the globe. To add, there is also no consideration of class, ethnic, and racial contexts to which these women belong to. Critically, Mohanty notes that the overgeneralization of women in developing countries stratifies all women into two opposite groups: (a) Western women, who are universally educated and have control over their bodies and sexuality; and (b) women from developing countries, who are universally uneducated, victimized, sexually battered, and in desperate need of salvation. To be speciifc, Mohanty refers to the works of Hosken and Lindsay and their portrayal of all African and Middle Eastern women as victims of male violence, and their male counterparts as individuals who collectively want to assure female dependence and subservience.[2] Mohanty also refers to the works of Minces, who makes the case that since the only social structure a Muslim woman is familiar with is a tribe or family, she can only identify herself as a mother, wife, or sister.[3]

Critically, Western feminist scholarship appears to mirror the characteristics of Orientalism. Aforementioned, Orientalism puts forward a dichotomous classification of the world, and labels all non-Europeans of Asia as inferior to the white European race. As described by Mohanty, the works of Hosken and Lindsay narrows all individuals of African and Middle Eastern backgrounds as either (a) women who are victims of male violence, or (b) men who want to make women dependent and subservient. This sort of assessment completely disregards the uniqueness and diversity of cultures that span in continental Africa and Middle East. This is also the case of Minces’ work. Minces narrows all Muslim women as helpless and puts forward an idea that they are almost all forced to be loyal to either their tribes or families. Critically, Minces fails to consider that there are Muslim women across many parts of the globe and cultures.

Critically, this dichotomous way of classifying women in developing countries in Western feminist scholarship could be an extension of Orientalism in the modern era. Any work that subscribes to Orientalism has been ruled out as inaccurate and unreliable for further academic research – as it mostly consists of Eurocentric prejudice against non-Europeans in Asia and their cultures. However, this European thought has been highly integrated into scholarly works for over two centuries. It is then feasible to consider that the Orientalist thought still remains in the way the West thinks about the East.

 

Question Two

The following solely refers to Bruce Cumings’ “Colonial Formations and Deformations: Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam (1999)” to examine the economic considerations the Japanese empire took when colonizing Korea, and its effect on the colonial-economic legacies the Japanese left behind in the Korean nation-state. Specifically, this short paper argues that Japanese colonialism did indeed contribute to South Korea’s export-oriented economic prosperity. However, at the same time, this does not indicate that Korea’s economic success would have been compromised by the absence of Japanese colonial rule.

“The Miracle on the Han River” is a common term used by South Koreans to refer to Korea’s postcolonial export-oriented economic success, which sparked the city’s rapid industrialization, technological advancement, high standard of living, and rise as a cultural hotspot of the Asia-Pacific.[4] Korea indeed prides itself with its “Asian Tiger” class economy[5]: Its capital city Seoul has a GDP (PPP) of USD $846 billion (2014), which is the fourth largest metropolitan economy after Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles; the Korean capital is also a global leader in high-tech sector industries like semiconductor and automotive as well. [6] This then begs the question: What explains the economic success of Korea, a state that once had a GDP per capita of USD $60 only half a century ago. [7]

According to the Developmental State Thesis (DST), states late to industrialize like Korea needed a plan-rational model of development whereby the state took on developmental functions. [8] Therefore, for DST scholars, Korea’s economic “Miracle” was a result of Korean state-led and planned macroeconomic process. The Korean nationalistic discourse, which was founded upon anti-Japanese colonialism sentiment, conveniently subscribes to the DST as a means to explain the Korean nation-state’s economic “Miracle”. To add, Korean historiography relegates any economic contributions the Japanese have made in Korea as incidental to the ruthless pursuit of Japanese interests. The Korean status quo on Japanese colonialism is that Japan aborted Korea’s drive for modernization, rather than merely distorting it.[9]

To start, Japan annexed Korea following the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910. Korea’s economy in the first two decades of Japanese colonial rule did not experience a significant change: The agricultural sector dominated Korea’s economy. This was because Japan saw Korea as a source of agricultural exports like rice. However, this often raised the domestic prices of agricultural products, and hurt the low-income class of Korea. However, from the 1930s and onwards, Korea saw a significant industrial growth. This was largely due to a shift in Japan’s national interests: Japan needed its colonies to be more self-sufficient and aid its industrial-demanding war preparations.[10]

To be specific, Korea’s industrialization was first initiated by the Japanese Government General’s Industrial Commission of 1921, which called for the development of Korean textile industries – to sell in both domestic and international markets. This was not purely for Japanese economic interests, but for the Korean nation-state as well. The industrial growth climbed at a rapid rate. By 1936, heavy industries accounted for 28 percent of total industrial production in Korea – by 1945, the number had tripled.[11] And, postcolonial and -war Korea continued to embrace Japanese policies on industrial and economic growth, education, military affairs, and civic culture and landscape.

However, Cumings points out that Korea had started its modernization process in the 1880s, decades before the Japanese takeover. In fact, Korea’s capital Seoul was the first city in East Asia to have an electrical grid, trolley cars, sewage systems, telephone lines, and telegraph systems all at the same time. These were all installed by American firms and King KoJong, the reigning monarch of Korea at the time, embraced modernization or Westernization. Korea’s modernization only stagnated after the 1900s due to Japan’s slow penetration of Korea’s autonomy.[12] This then begs the question: Would Korea have industrialized and set the foundations for its economic prosperity in the future if Japan did not colonize the nation-state?

Critically, Korea’s economic trajectory was highly dependent on how the Japanese empire wanted Korea to serve its national interests. Korea remained as an agriculture-based economy and shifted to an industrial one only when the Japanese shifted its national interests and started war preparations. To aid Korea’s industrialization, Japan established various economic institutions as well – institutions that remained in use after Korean independence. Therefore, Korean nationalistic discourse or historiography cannot be dismissive of the economic contributions the Japanese brought and left to Korea. These economic legacies would later serve as the foundation for Korea’s export-oriented economic prosperity. As Cumings points out, Japanese economic plans and activities in Korea were intended to mostly benefit the Japanese, but for Koreans as well. Japan wanted Korea to be self-sufficient.

However, this should not lead to the idea that Korea was economically prosper in both its colonial and modern era due to Japanese colonialism. Aforementioned, Korea was in the process of modernization and this was put into a halt due to Japan’s interference in Korea’s domestic affairs. However, at the same time, modernization does not necessarily equate rapid industrial growth or economic prosperity. The question of whether Korea’s economic prosperity would have been compromised with the absence of Japanese rule requires an extensive examination of hypothetical geopolitical and economic circumstances. Nevertheless, Korea embraced the economic institutions it had adopted during its colonial era and continued to make use of them after its independence and the Korean War (1950-53). These institutions aided Korea’s economic trajectory to climb upwards and eventually, led to “The Miracle on the Han River”.

[1] Fujitani, T. (2015, September 24). Orientalism. Lecture presented in Sidney Smith 1072, Toronto.

[2] Mohanty, C. (2011). Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. Feminist Review, (30), 66-67.

[3] Mohanty, C. 70.

[4] Kim, E. (n.d.). History, Biography, and the Miracle on the Han. Retrieved October 19, 2015, from http://mdp.berkeley.edu/history-biography-and-the-miracle-on-the-han/

[5] An “Asian Tiger” is a term used in reference to the advanced and high-income Asian economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

[6] Parilla, J., Trujillo, J., Berube, A., & Ran, T. (2015). Global MetroMonitor (2014): An Uncertain Recovery. Retrieved October 19, 2015, from http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports2/2015/01/22-global-metro-monitor

[7] The Korean Economy – the Miracle on the Hangang River. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Economy/The-Miracle-on-The-Hangang

[8] Leftwich, A. (2007). Bringing Politics Back In: Towards a Model of the Developmental state. Journal of Development Studies, 31(3), 400-427. Retrieved October 19, 2015, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220389508422370?journalCode=fjds20

[9] Cumings, B. (1999). Colonial Formations and Deformations: Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In Parallax Visions Making Sense of American–East Asian Relations at the End of the Century (p. 70). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.

[10] Fujitani, T. (2015, October 8). Empires and Freedom II. Lecture presented in Sidney Smith 1072, Toronto.

[11] Cumings, B. (p. 75).

[12] Cumings, B. (p. 72).