Statement from Professors Dower and MiyagawaWe wish to express our deep regret over the emotional distress caused by some of the imagery and are genuinely sorry that the website has caused pain within the Chinese community. This was completely contrary to our intention. Our purpose is to look at history in the broadest possible manner and to try to learn from this.
One section of the project displays images of Japanese wood-block prints that were used as propaganda during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, and are examples of how societies use visual imagery to further their political agendas. These historical images do not reflect our beliefs. To the contrary, our intent was to illuminate aspects of the human experience — including imperialism, racism, violence and war — that we must confront squarely if we are to create a better world. These complex issues are addressed in the long text that accompanies the images. We must learn from history if we are to have a better future.
Many people who have seen the website, however, have indicated that the purpose of the project is not sufficiently clear to counteract the negative messages contained in the historical images portrayed on the site. Acknowledging this, we have been meeting with members of the Chinese community and others here at MIT to discuss how we might present these materials in a way that more effectively fosters understanding across cultures. In the meantime, we have temporarily taken down this website while these community concerns can be addressed. We wish to make clear that this is a scholarly research project, and there is no art exhibition associated with it.
We are grateful to those members of the MIT Chinese community who have met with us to address this issue and help heal our community. In these discussions, we have been guided by the central values of the university: the free exploration of ideas and the embrace of intellectual and cultural diversity. We are committed to those ideals.
John W. Dower, Professor of History
Shigeru Miyagawa, Professor of Linguistics
and of Foreign Languages and Literatures