Cultural Appropriation or Swiftian Satire? Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado

“The Mikado.” Illustrated London News, 4 Apr. 1885

| by Masaki Morisawa, Senior Product Manager, Library Reference, Tokyo |

Last year, an American high school student’s twitter account flamed up when she posted prom pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam, or Chinese dress. Some Asian Americans accused her, who is not of Chinese descent, of cultural appropriation. “My culture is NOT your [expletive] prom dress,” wrote one particularly upset commenter. Others, including many Asians living in Asia, defended her actions and dismissed such criticism as irrelevant.

While “cultural appropriation” is a fairly recent term, similar debates have arisen in the past where the borrowing of “exotic” elements from foreign cultures have been criticised as offensive or disrespectful. One such example is Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Mikado, a work that is often hailed as the duo’s masterpiece, yet at times has stirred controversy due to its use of Japanese costume and settings. In this post I would like to take a look at the history of Mikado performances and the controversies surrounding them.

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Our Berlin Wall Piece: How to Gather and Analyse Primary Sources for a Research Project

laptop and books

│ by Kyle Sheldrake, Strategic Marketing Manager – Insight and Development │

Primary sources are a valuable resource in research projects, and digitised primary sources combine two advantages: the speed of identifying sources via targeted searching with having thousands of sources at your fingertips whenever they’re needed. The process of creating our Long Read on the Berlin Wall reminded me a lot of the essay writing process at university, so I thought this would be a good example to explain how to break down the process of gathering and assessing primary source material for a research piece, as this may be helpful to our student readers looking to incorporate primary sources into their essays.

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