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Kei Hiruta

Stop Orientalism?: On Boston MFA’s ‘Kimono Wednesdays’

By Kei Hiruta ‘STOP ORIENTALISM’. So says the banner of the protest group, ‘Stand Against Yellow Face’ (SAYF), campaigning against a weekly event at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. The event, called ‘Kimono Wednesdays’, originally encouraged museum visitors to ‘interact’ with Claude Monet’s ‘La Japonaise’ by trying on a replica of the kimono… Read More »Stop Orientalism?: On Boston MFA’s ‘Kimono Wednesdays’

Historical Reconciliation in East Asia: How Optimistic Should We Be?

By Kei Hiruta In the latest episode of the Public Philosopher, Michael Sandel invites young men and women from China, Japan and South Korea to discuss national guilt and historical reconciliation. The conversation begins with factual questions concerning, for example, the nature of Japan’s past imperial expansion and the sincerity of the Japanese government’s post-war… Read More »Historical Reconciliation in East Asia: How Optimistic Should We Be?

‘Hello Kitty’, Society, Utopia

Several people have asked me why I wrote a post to defend Avril Lavigne’s music video ‘Hello Kitty’. I’m a little bemused by the question, as I thought my main motive was self-explanatory: it is a part of philosophers’ job to consider when it’s appropriate to use normative terms to blame someone or something. It’s one… Read More »‘Hello Kitty’, Society, Utopia

In Defence of Avril Lavigne: Racism, Cultural Appropriation and the Meaning of ‘Hello Kitty’

By Kei Hiruta

The latest music video by the Canadian singer Avril Lavigne has been accused of racism and cultural appropriation.[i] Bearing the name of the world-famous Sanrio character, ‘Hello Kitty’ shows the pop star singing and dancing in what appears to be a girl’s room in Tokyo. She also explores the city, shopping at a candy store, eating sushi, drinking shochu, and waving at her fans as she strolls in the fashionable Shibuya area. Throughout, she is accompanied by four young Japanese women, acting as backup dancers inside the room and following her outside.Read More »In Defence of Avril Lavigne: Racism, Cultural Appropriation and the Meaning of ‘Hello Kitty’

Two Cheers for Laughtivism

By Kei Hiruta  Political activists are laughing everywhere. They mock the powerful and ridicule the corrupt, whether the target is a Middle Eastern dictator, a North American CEO, or a recently deceased British Prime Minister. On the streets we see the comical and the absurd in service of a demand for greater transparency and accountability.… Read More »Two Cheers for Laughtivism

Charles Camosy versus Julian Savulescu on the Ethics of Abortion

When a believer and a secularist meet to discuss abortion, the result is often a disaster. After a few minutes of polite conversation, they start talking past each other, each failing to appreciate the deep concerns and genuine aspirations of the other. As the discussion continues, they look increasingly uncomfortable and embarrassed, repeating themselves and… Read More »Charles Camosy versus Julian Savulescu on the Ethics of Abortion

Home Alone? On Being Liberal in East Asia

A version of this piece was originally published on  What is it like to be liberal in East Asia, where political leaders repeatedly denounce liberal values for various purposes—from suppressing dissenters to pursuing popular support? I recently had the privilege of visiting the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, where I met academics… Read More »Home Alone? On Being Liberal in East Asia

The Rationalist Prejudice

Professional ethicists seem to love controversy. I myself have been too boring in this regard, but many of my colleagues have provoked heated debate. This often spills out of the safety of academia unto society at large, as many of the past entries in the Practical Ethics blog testify to. And professional ethicists rarely regret… Read More »The Rationalist Prejudice

Joking about ‘the Unluckiest Man in the World’

The BBC and the production company Talkback Thames, after receiving a letter of complaints from the Japanese embassy in London, issued a joint statement of apology about an episode of the popular comedy quiz show QI featuring Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who had survived the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and died last January at the age of 93. The QI host Stephen Fry introduced him as ‘the unluckiest man in the world’ and talked and joked about Yamaguchi’s experience with guest comedians. The news has sparked national outrage in Japan. The conservative Sankei newspaper said ‘any Japanese person would find this disturbing’.

The BBC is of course legally entitled to produce and show controversial programmes. But were they morally wrong to treat Yamaguchi’s story as they did? The answer is ‘yes, but’.

Read More »Joking about ‘the Unluckiest Man in the World’