exotic otherness

Hanzis matter, on why Westerners like to get tatoos of Chinese or Japanese characters:

“[…] western people projecting things into the blank slate that the “otherness” of Asia provides. I don’t think the stereotyping is explicitly negative, but it’s not accurate, and it’s narrow, so I think you’d have to say it’s implicitly negative at the very least.

It’s that exotic “otherness” that people want to reference with Asian characters.

A lot of people in the west like to think that Asians have access to wisdom that’s hidden from us, or that the “Asian mind” is somehow different, or even that Asian people have sex tricks that are unknown to us.

This stuff can be really complicated, and I don’t know what you can do about it. If you look at the representation of African Americans in American culture, you see a wide range of images, some of them extremely hateful, and others positive in unrealistic ways.

There’s a long tradition of depicting black people as have access to a primitive yet powerful kind of folk wisdom, for example. You can see that pushed out really hard in a movie like “song of the south”, and more recently in things like the guinan character on “star trek, the next generation”.

It’s quite interesting to see this idea of “exotic otherness” plays about in how Westerners perceive Thai people, including myself. How much of our ideas are true, and how much of them are just projections of our fears and desires?

Here is another interesting quote that ties into the above, from a sex tourist called Alastair quoted in “Travels in the Flesh Trade”:

“”What they are doing, they are doing with their bodies, certainly not with their heart, certainly not their mind and not their spirit. This means you are involved with only a fraction of their being. I think that there is
something about them that is inviolable, and that is why they don’t mind doing sex. It doesn’t compromise the core of them. They have a kind of purity, which I i think only drives Westerners more crazy because we
can’t understand it. I think for us, sex has become the essence of life. That is a Western error and we project it onto everybody else in the world, if it’s sex, it must be authentic; and that is not necessarily true of sex in Thailand. Projection – that’s the secret of it. We see what we want to, but we are not coming anywhere close to the reality of Thai women and that is both stimulating, and ultimately, frustrating.”

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A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

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