Prof. Seng Ong, whose research interests are linked to the theories of cultural differences and the politics & cultures of empire and globalization, teaches ‘Global Perspectives of Japan’ to Year 1 students during Term 2, in our Global BBA program.

In this course, students will learn about how the world, particularly Europe and America, has viewed Japan throughout history, how those perspectives have evolved and how many of them still remain today. To gain such an understanding, the contents will be based on ideas that find roots in globally circulated stereotypes in relation to their broader historical, ideological and contemporary contexts as well. Starting with the former and how the historical factors have influenced people’s mind and behavior and to an extent, even nowadays, themes will move onto more current phenomenon such as the country’s technological advances and influence in creativity through fashion, design and art as well as its subcultures. Throughout this course, one theory will remain recurrent: ‘Orientalism’.

Coupled with the Participant Centered Learning and the great diversity of our Global BBA program, students will have the opportunity to share various ideas and perspectives towards Japan, as the purpose of this course is to develop their skills in cross-cultural analysis and in critical thinking. Furthermore, students will be able to gain a better awareness of world history, and their intellectual and ethical responsibilities in multicultural contexts. Essentially, these match with the 4 Learning Goals of our university: Critical Thinking, Diversity Awareness, Ethical Decision Making, and Effective Communication.

The case that students had to prepare for Week 4 was an American propaganda film from 1945 with an anthropological portrayal of the Japanese society during World War II. In the Global BBA program, students must always prepare the case prior to the class and answer the assignment questions; so, for this day, the questions were about the aspects of the Japanese society seen in the movie, which guided the students to think about how the notions of the Orientalism concept studied in class also appear in this movie.

During the class discussion on this day, some of the key Japanese aspects from the movie that students noticed were: a totalitarian society with education as a way of social control, dedication to culture, a traditional life with work and customs, gender hierarchy and inequalities, Shintoism as religion which is the heart, brain and soul that dictates everything in the nation, bushido and Emperor worship.

The instructor, by making the students pay careful attention to the tone and language of this documentary, led them to rethink how the racism is visible in the supposedly neutral standpoint of the film, how it’s also hidden under actual patterns and logics of the Japanese society and how it dehumanizes the Japanese society. Taking in the context is important as this is due to being a propaganda movie during World War II, despite how it attempts to be a scientific documentary through the neutral narrative voice, observations and the data being given.

Ultimately, in this course, the instructor provokes the students to think critically and pushes them to review and reorganize their discourse of Japan. Whether it’s to work in Japan, conduct business with a Japanese entity or for other reasons, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of what lies beneath the world’s third economy and how it’s viewed by the world.

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