[KS] Library of Congress Korean Controversy /"Suspect of Nationalsim"

David Kosofsky kayaksky at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 20 12:33:50 EDT 2008

Hoping not to extend what is probably an unproductive diversion from more important matters under discussion on this list, let me give a quick response to Professor Eugene Y. Park, who thoughtfully shared:
> My comments on David Kosofsky's explanation of his use of the word,
There seems to be a misunderstanding here. I wasn’t at all explaining my use of the word `nationalism’. That is a term I would put in the category of words that have passed the critical-mass point of polysemy beyond which their use inevitably leads to more confusion than clarification. I simply wanted to offer a gentle counter to Professor Kim-Renuad’s statement that 
>when people of Korean origin speak, too often they are subject
> to this kind of scrutiny and immediately suspected of nationalism.
by showing those textual elements in the posting itself that might lead a reader, with no awareness of the poster’s nationality, to sense that the posting was informed by a nationalistic perspective.  As I took pains to mention, I don’t consider such a perspective to be inappropriate to list discussions or necessarily inconsistent with useful discourse.
Very usefully, and admirably, Professor Park gave a clear statement of what he understood me to be saying, and requested correction for anything he had misconstrued:
>Please correct me if I got this wrong, but this must be it:
1>) there's a controversial issue;
>2) person A expresses his/her position;
>3) based on person A's choice of words, we assume that (s)he must be a
>"nationalist" as those words happen to be those used by a particular
>nation's newspaper opinion column; and
>4) the above justifies a "special 'scrutiny,'" that is to take person A's
>"nationality" into consideration in concluding that (s)he is a
In keeping with his request, I offer the crucial correction.  His misunderstanding of what I wrote (and as with all misunderstandings, the blame should be divided between the two communicating parties) is in item #4. 
 I was far from saying that when there is textual evidence of a nationalist perspective, the text or its author requires special scrutiny.  What I did say, in response to Professor Kim-Renaud, was that a reader’s perception (in this case mine) of a nationalist tendency in a given text (in this case Hana Kim’s) was not necessarily the product of any special scrutiny motivated by an awareness of the author’s nationality.  Rather it could be a direct response to the text itself.
My sense is that Professor Park is concerned that important ideas and contributions are often dismissed by people who, for whatever reason, label them `nationalistic’.  I think that concern (rather than any `straw-man’ rhetorical ploy) may have prompted his misunderstanding of the point I was trying to make.
I fully appreciate his concern.  Looking into my own heart (following the advice of Confucius), I do find a tendency, when presented with a text that manifests a strong nationalist perspective, to respond with the very opposite of `special scrutiny’, i.e., disregard and dismissal.  This tendency, no more worthy than any other prejudice, can be an obstacle to understanding and learning. Without reference to the specific instance of Hana Kim’s posting, I think Professor Park’s concern is justified, and I take it to heart.
David Kosofsky
New Orleans, LA

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