Blog post: The Pressure of Westernization/Modernization

From class discussions/lectures as well as the readings this week, one theme stuck out to me as we learned about different regions of the world and their experiences during the early 1900s. This theme had to do with the perception that western culture was superior to others, such as East Asia, and Latin America. After listening to Professor Holt’s lecture on Rio De Janeiro, as well as reading Fukuzawa Yukichi’s “On De-Asianization”, I found the viewpoints of both the Japanese and Brazilians to be very similar.

Looking at Yukichi’s work, it was very clear to see the bias he had against the rest of Eastern Asia due to their lack of westernization. Yukichi states “This should be regarded a great misfortune for our country of Japan. To plan our course now, therefore, our country cannot afford to wait for the enlightenment of our neighbors and to co-operate in building Asia up” (Yukichi 133), meaning Japan could not wait to westernize for the fear of a bad image in the eyes of western nation-states. They saw western culture as superior to their own; so much so that they were willing to abandon their own to westernize. Likewise, with Professor Holt’s lecture on Rio De Janeiro, it was clear that the city, along with many others in Latin America, wanted to mimic the western society. I found it interesting how they spent tons of their money in order to built a more European looking city.

I believe that regions who had not yet westernized/modernized responded like this for the fear that if they did not get up to the standards of the European superpowers, they would get treated like such. I think this apprehension is correct considering the experiences of African nations throughout this time. I thought it interesting how European nations came together to split up Africa during the Berlin Conference. This partly due to the lack of modernization found in Africa at the time.

Overall, I think that the theme of pressured westernization is very prevalent in regions around the world. Due to the experiences of imperialism in Africa, I understand region’s want to westernize due to their apprehension of European forces. It is interesting however, to observe the Japanese viewpoints of other Eastern Asian nations. I think it can play into the perception of western dominance of this era.

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