Here’s a shot from the October 8th visit of about a dozen students from Chou University in Tokyo, Japan. This pictures shows me two things: getting a crowd of students from different countries together is a lot of fun and, much to my surprise, a selfie stick is actually useful!
The students are this year’s members of the Takeishi seminar, a class that comes to Boston every year to speak — usually hilariously — about some aspect of Japanese life. Every year IGS and the Japanese program collaborate to welcome the students, so do look out for this in years to come if you’re interested in Japan.
Last Tuesday, four students with recent experience abroad came together to discuss a common theme in the unique countries of their specialty: the rise of extreme right-wing nationalism.
The event featured Viktoria Bedo on Jobbik in Hungary, Nick Kodama on Abe’s Japan, Jill Martin on India’s Narenda Modi, and Michael Pizziferri on France’s National Front — four different nationalisms across greatly differing cultures.
In Hungary, Viktoria explained, the Jobbik party has crafted a language of victimization that revises history in a way that is appealing to Hungarians, often to the detriment of other groups within the country, including Jews and Romanies. They also reject the EU, blaming the West, whom Hungary has often felt excluded from, for modern woes.
Michael, it turned out, had seen something similar during his semester in France. There the National Front glorifies French-ness by speaking to a history of victimization (in this case, France’s lost colonial power and recent economic woes) and by blaming and excluding minority groups. The Front is also deeply anti-EU, though,ironically, the party now holds a great deal of France’s seats in the EU parliament.
Nationalism in Asia seemed more mainstream and less disgrunted. Returning from Japan, Nick described the social issues that had brought Shinzo Abe to power. Japan, Nick noted, is nervous: it faces an aging population, falling birthrates, and the decline of an electronics industry that had earned Japan’s wealth after World War II.
In Japan, Nick noted, nationalism was not rising: it had never really left. But Japan’s nationalist movements, Nick stressed, are mostly reserved and pragmatic — a far cry from the extremism of the movements in Hungary and France.
Finally, Jill Martin spoke on Prime Minister Modi in India, who is supported—like the Jobbik party—primarily by the youth. In this case, the National Congress Party took a stand against the rampant corruption in India for their rise. They also promise to create jobs for regions suffering from high unemployment.
Jill recalled one young Indian man who voted for Modi, and, when asked why he supported him given Modi’s now well-publicized miss-handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots. His answer was that Modi promised a better future.
Despite her friend’s optimism, Jill worried about the overt Hindu character of Modi’s political party, the BJP. India, she noted is a deeply religious country of many faiths that has thrived under secular governments. The BJP, Jill worried, might upset India’s delicate balance between belief and tolerance.
Conversation then turned to the many forms nationalism can take, especially the striking difference between optimistic patriotism and darker visions.
Thanks to Viki, Michael, Nick, and Jill — and the audience — for a great conversation! And look forward to seeing you all for more as the year unfolds.
Tuesday’s “Meet the Majors/Welcome Back, Seniors” was a lot of fun: great to have the Class of 2015 back on campus, telling stories and sharing tips on getting the most out of IGS. And how great to see so many first-years and sophomores interested in the major!
My thanks to everyone who spoke, but especially to Rohan Narayanan for his spoken-word poem about his time in Ghana: what a gripping, frenetic trip down memory lane…or maybe memory highway?
Speaking of recording one’s time abroad…we have some winners for the photo and blog competitions! The UDRs picked the best pics. They were:
Ally Eller’s powerful shot at the gates of Auschwitz:
As Ally writes:
“As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, this generation needs to be able to tell their stories, and part of that is facing the horror they went through. To me, this picture shows that, though 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, we aren’t gone, we’re thriving, and remembering this piece of our history so nothing so horrible happens again.”
If you want to read more about Ally’s trip, check out her blog post: this entry also made her a co-winner of the blogging prize for the night!
And it turns out that Rohan’s a talented photographer as well as poet: here’s one of his shots from Ghana. As Rohan writes:
“The picture was taken right by Cape Coast Castle in the Central Region. The castle, which was used a slavers castle, is a historical site. This is a fishing village right outside the Castle. I remember being somewhat shocked by all the hustle and bustle. It was early morning and I hadn’t yet grown accustomed to all the bargaining and commotion involved with Ghanaian trading and public life. I was so drawn in by all the colors and the incredible diversity of age and focus of each person.”
Our last winner was Joe Crook’s gorgeous shot of a beach in Vietnam. As Joe writes:
“This picture was shot on Cham Island (Cu Lao Cham), which is located off the coast of Hoi An in central Vietnam. The small bowl-like objects scattered about are actually a style of traditional Vietnamese fishing boats known as Thung Chai. Local fishermen use them to transfer between larger boats and land, carry supplies, and to cast and catch fishing nets…If you look closely, you can see none of them are tied up or locked down, which speaks to the Vietnamese sense of trust and community.”
Finally, the other co-winner in the blogging category was Mia Katan, currently abroad in Uganda on an SIT program in conflict resolution. Mia’s been traveling around the region and filing sharply observed posts wherever she goes.
Looking forward to seeing more of you all as the year unfolds!