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MIT Faculty Statement on the Visualizing Cultures Web Site

As faculty members of MIT, we endorse in the strongest terms the scholarly value of the Visualizing Cultures project directed by Professors John Dower and Shigeru Miyagawa. This prize-winning web site was created by two of the world’s leading scholars. By going to visualizingcultures.mit.edu, readers of this letter can see for themselves how, by bringing together textual explanation with thousands of images, the web site explores in detail the development of Japan’s relationship to Western powers and China since the mid-nineteenth century.

It also evokes broader questions about the cultures of war, imperialism, and nationalism. Many of the subjects it analyzes are painful to recall, but since the authors are professional scholars of the highest caliber, the site in its entirety enlightens everyone who examines it carefully about the deepest questions of social and historical change. Because it brings advanced technology together with humanistic research, it is a jewel of the MIT curriculum, and the Open Course Ware project makes it available to the entire world.

A small group of individuals took one image on this site out of context and broadcast it across the Internet. By doing so, they fomented an email campaign directed against MIT’s educational mission that quickly exploded out of control into a global incident. The site was temporarily shut down in response to these attacks. Some critics claim that the site endorses Japanese racism and militarism and therefore urge that it be permanently shut down or substantively revised. In fact, the site describes and strongly condemns the racist propaganda that supported Japanese militarism.

The challenge to this project threatens the core values of MIT’s educational and research mission. We commend the eloquent statement from President Susan Hockfield in support of the project. We call on all interested parties to join with us to ensure that the Visualizing Cultures web site will remain in its entirety and be protected against any future attacks. We also express our strong sympathy to Professors Dower and Miyagawa for the ordeal they have suffered, and reaffirm our commitment to MIT’s basic values of academic freedom and scholarly integrity.

Signed,

Hal Abelson, Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Alice Amsden, Barton L. Weller Professor of Political Economy; John Belcher, Class of 1922 Professor of Physics, MacVicar Faculty Fellow; Rafael Luis Bras, Edward A Abdun-Nur Professor Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; David M. Ciarlo, Assistant Professor, History Faculty; Joshua Cohen, Professor of Philosophy, Political Science; Isabelle de Courtivron, A.F. Friedlaender Professor of the Humanities, MacVicar Fellow, Foreign Languages and Literatures; Jesus Del Alamo, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Macvicar Faculty Fellow; Peter Donaldson, Professor of Literature; Howard Eissenstat, Lecturer, History Faculty; Michael Fischer, Professor of Anthropology and Science Technology Studies; Deborah Fitzgerald, Professor of Science, Technology and Society, Associate Dean, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Suzanne Flynn, Professor of Linguistics; Daniel Fox, Associate professor of Linguistics; Lorna Gibson, Matoula S. Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chair of the Faculty; Loren Graham, Professor of the History of Science; Stephen Graves, Abraham Siegel Professor of Management; Hugh Gusterson, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Science Studies; Morris Halle, Insitute Professor Emeritus, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy; Ellen Harris, Professor of Music; James Harris, Professor Emeritus of Spanish and Linguistics; Wesley Harris, Head, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Irene Heim, Professor of Linguistics; Harold F. Hemond, William E. Leonhard Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Diana Henderson, Associate Professor of Literature, Secretary of the Faculty; Jean E. Jackson, Head, Anthropology; Meg Jacobs, Associate Professor of History; Patrick Jaillet, Edmund K. Turner Professor, Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Kenneth Keniston, Mellon Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, Society; Michael Kenstowicz, Professor of Linguistics; Samuel Jay Keyser, Professor Emeritus, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy; George Kocur, Civil and Environmental Engineering