This essay examines how the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) controversy hardened identities in terms of the time-worn template of geopolitical conflict of national stereotypes. It critically analyzes the Chinese students' response to the Visualizing Cultures project by putting it in the context of the People's Republic of China's (PRC) patriotic education policy that securitizes culture by focusing on identity as difference in a zero-sum game that distinguishes civilization from barbarism, and China from the rest of the world. It critically analyzes the professors' response to the controversy by highlighting how meaning is not only produced by the author; it is also consumed by various audiences that bring diverse sets of experiences into meaning making. It concludes that the controversy is less about content and more about who controls knowledge production and distribution.

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