Unmoored, Unclaimed, Unsinkable: Interrogating Ideas of the Nation in Modern Taiwan

Lee, Aidan, Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, University of Virginia
Lee, Aidan, History, University of Virginia

Taiwan has faced national identity issues for more than a century, starting in the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945), through the arrival of the Chinese nationalists with Chiang Kai-shek in 1945, to contemporary calls for independence. In this essay, I explore various representations of Taiwanese identity in the colonial and modern era(s), and of the contexts in which these representations proliferated. My analysis centers on four popular works of historical fiction: Wu Zuoliu’s autobiographical novel Orphan of Asia (1946), Hou Hsiao-hsien’s film A City of Sadness (1989), and Wei Te-sheng’s films Cape No. 7 (2008) and Seediq Bale (2013). A comparison of these works with respect to their depiction of Japanese and Chinese imperialism reveals that the limits of the nation-state conception cannot fully account for Taiwanese cultural and political complexity. Indeed, I show that these works characterize Taiwan as a "post-national" space that resists traditional ethno-nationalist narratives, and as home to groups of people who at times admired, and at times despised, the cultural legacy of their imperial hegemons.

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
East Asia, Taiwan, History, Literature, Film, National identity, Theory of History, Anthropology, Cultural History, Cultural Identity, Colonialism, Japan, China, Twentieth Century, Post-colonial, Post-national
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