Ian Buruma

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Ian Buruma
Ian Buruma (2015)
Ian Buruma (2015)
Born (1951-12-28) December 28, 1951 (age 66)
The Hague, Netherlands
Occupation Writer, historian
Nationality Dutch
Genre Nonfiction
Subject China, Japan, Occidentalism, Orientalism

Ian Buruma (Chinese: 馬毅仁, born December 28, 1951) is a Dutch writer, editor and historian who lives and works in the United States. In 2017, he became editor of The New York Review of Books, but left the position in September 2018.

Much of his writing has focused on the culture of Asia, particularly that of China and 20th-century Japan. He was the Paul W. Williams Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College from 2003 to 2017.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Buruma was born and raised in The Hague, Netherlands, to Sytze Leonard "Leo" Buruma, a Dutch lawyer and the son of a Mennonite minister, and Gwendolyn Margaret "Wendy" Schlesinger, a Briton of German-Jewish descent.[2][3][4] He studied Chinese literature and history at Leiden University, and then Japanese film at Nihon University in Tokyo, Japan.[5] Buruma has married twice, both with Japanese women. He and his first wife Sumie Tani had a daughter Isabel and have divorced. He and his current second wife Hotta Eri have a daughter Josephine.[6][7] Buruma is a nephew of the English film director John Schlesinger, with whom he published a series of interviews in book form.[8]

He lived in Japan from 1975 to 1981, where he worked as a film reviewer, photographer and documentary filmmaker. During the 1980s, he edited the cultural section of the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong. He later traveled throughout Asia working as a freelance writer. Buruma is a board member of Human Rights in China and a fellow of the European Council of Foreign Relations. Buruma has contributed numerous articles to The New York Review of Books since 1985.[5] He held fellowships at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (1991) and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. (1999), and he is a fellow of St Antony's College in Oxford, UK. In 2000, he delivered the Huizinga Lecture (on "Neoromanticism of writers in exile") in the Pieterskerk in Leiden, Netherlands.

From 2003 to 2017, Buruma was Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights & Journalism at Bard College, New York. In 2017, he became editor of The New York Review of Books, succeeding founding editor Robert B. Silvers.[9][10] In September 2018, he left the NYRB position, in the wake of a controversy over an essay by Jian Ghomeshi in which the Canadian talk show host, among other things, claimed that accusations of sexual violence made against him by more than 20 women were “inaccurate”.

In an interview with Slate magazine, Buruma defended his decision to give Ghomeshi a platform for these claims and denied that the article was misleading because it failed to mention that Ghomeshi issued an apology to one of the victims. He also denied that the title "Reflections from a Hashtag" was dismissive of the #MeToo movement: "I’m no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be? All I know is that in a court of law he was acquitted, and there is no proof he committed a crime. The exact nature of his behavior – how much consent was involved – I have no idea, nor is it really my concern."[11] Buruma subsequently left The New York Review of Books after some commentators' were upset at his defense of the article.[12]


Buruma argues for wholehearted British participation in the European Union because they are the "strongest champions in Europe of a liberal approach to commerce and politics".[13]


In 2008, Buruma was awarded the Erasmus Prize, which is awarded to an individual who has made "an especially important contribution to culture, society or social science in Europe".[14]

He is among the 100 top global thinkers of 2010, as selected by the Foreign Policy magazine.[15] Foreign Policy explained his contribution as a public intellectual:

Many liberals these days seem at pains to establish their bona fides as tough-minded hawks when it comes to global threats, but the Dutch man of letters has made a career out of affirming the classic liberalism of the open-door variety. His writing in recent years has attracted the ire of critics who think he equivocates on the dangers of radical Islam, but Ian Buruma made his response this year with a typically judicious and politically relevant book, Taming the Gods, that reflects on the Western capacity for religious pluralism. According to Buruma, Western society is robust enough to embrace even illiberal practices, so long as these are not violent. "Living with values that one does not share", he wrote in a recent column on France's burqa ban, "is a price to be paid for living in a pluralist society".

In April 2012, he was awarded the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life at the Princeton Theological Seminary.[16]

Buruma has won several prizes for his books, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for Theater of Cruelty.[10] He has held a number of editorial and academic positions and has been termed a "well-regarded European intellectual".[5] He has also been a regular contributor to Project Syndicate since 2001.



  1. ^ "Bard Faculty: Ian Buruma". Bard College. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Grimes, William (13 September 2006). "Bumping Into Boundaries in a Land of Tolerance (book review". New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  3. ^ https://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/book/their-promised-land-my-grandparents-in-love-and-war
  4. ^ https://www.enotes.com/topics/ian-buruma
  5. ^ a b c Peter Collier. "Backbone, Berman, and Buruma: A Debate that Actually Matters" Archived 2008-11-21 at the Wayback Machine., World Affairs Journal.
  6. ^ https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/A-new-cosmopolitan
  7. ^ http://www.scmp.com/article/678906/objective-subjects
  8. ^ "Conversations with John Schlesinger". Random House. 
  9. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer. "Ian Buruma Named Editor of The New York Review of Books", The New York Times, May 18, 2017
  10. ^ a b "Contents: Contributors", New York Review of Books, August 17, 2017, Vol. 64, No. 13
  11. ^ Chotiner, Isaac. "Why Did the New York Review of Books Publish That Jian Ghomeshi Essay?", Slate, Sept 14, 2018
  12. ^ Vanderhoof, Erin. "How Ian Buruma’s New York Review of Books Ouster Became Inevitable", Vanity Fair, September 19, 2018
  13. ^ "In praise of Englishness". The Economist. 23 October 2001. 
  14. ^ "Former Laureates: Ian Buruma, 2008". Praemium Erasmianum Foundation. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers", Foreign Policy, 29 November 2010.
  16. ^ "The Kuyper Prize". Princeton Theological Seminary. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  17. ^ Online version is titled "Are China and the United States headed for War?".

External links[edit]