Date of Award

Spring 1987

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

America’s initial diplomatic encounter with Japan proved to be a prophetic view of the relationships that would follow between the countries. In the mid-1800s, international understanding was hindered because America’s ambitions served expansionist interests and not intercultural education. Multiple communication avenues alienated the two countries rather than constructed paths toward mutual appreciation. Diplomatic communique, business reports, and sailors' letters misrepresented the Japanese social system. The tragedy of America’s blindness in relationship to Japan's people and culture produced a national attitude of racism, an attitude that has promoted selective interpretation since the 1800s. Various selective processes were set in motion to structure stereotypes and prejudice. Samovar, Porter, and Jain contend that "selective perception, selective interpretation, selective retention, selective recall, and selective relay” perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices that once formed tend to persist. (Samovar, et al, p. 126) t The eighteenth century Americans noticed and interpretated the
Japanese cultural differences as primitive and alien; they remembered and shared the experiences that emphasized difference rather than commonality. Prejudice affected American beliefs and attitudes. "Stereotypes and prejudices usually predispose us to act toward members of other cultures in ways that inhibit meaningful intercultural communication." (Samovar and Porter, p. 128) To be sure cross-cultural interaction between the United States and Japan increased anti-Japanese sentiment. • In the 1930s and 40s, the United States denounced the Nazi theories of Aryan supremacy yet imposed black segregation and maintained an immigration policy biased against all nonwhites. "The Hearst newspapers declared the war in Asia totally different from the threat in Europe, for Japan was a 'racial menace' as well as a cultural and religious one. . . . Popular writers described the war against Japan as 'a holy war, a racial war of greater significance than any the world has heretofore seen.'" (Dower, p. 7) The propaganda intent to stir Americans is evident in the words "of greater significance," however, the emphasis on the Japanese as a “racial menace" marks all Japanese as enemies. A concept of contrast since t the hatred against the Nazis was not a hate directed at all Germans.

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