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Is it “racist” for non-Japanese to wear kimono? That question has been fiercely debated since protesters entered Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in late June to decry an exhibition encouraging visitors to try on a red uchikake kimono in front of a 1876 painting by Claude Monet of his wife wearing a similar garment.

The original protesters — who, though not Japanese, identified as Asian-American — said the museum was perpetuating a racist stereotype that exoticized Asian culture. That stereotype has its roots in the colonial era, when Europeans viewed non-Western cultures as an oversimplified selection of traits in a way that dehumanized them — known by cultural theorists as an “Orientalist” perspective.

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