2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 243

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From Marginality to Liminality: Culture, Geography, and Identity Formation in Taiwan

Organizer: Chienyuan Chen, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Chair: Stephane B. Corcuff, Institut dAsie Orientale, France

Discussant: C. Julia Huang, Stanford University, USA

The recurring theme of imagining and re-imagining identities in Taiwan represents not only the growing anxiety among its inhabitants when the island faces China’s rise, but also the scholarly concerns with new methodology to study Taiwan’s cultural and political transformations. This panel proposes to rethink the identity question in Taiwan by bringing in the geopolitical perspective and looking into the aspects of everyday life. While recognizing the fluidity and heterogeneity of identity (trans)formation across Taiwan’s different temporalities and spatialities, the panel put forward the idea of liminality in understanding these complex processes. Dominic Yang looks into Chinese civil war migrants’ imagination of their native place during the Cold War. The paper illustrates the tension between existing theory of political exiles/diaspora and the mainlander experience. Chien-Yuan Chen focuses on Chinese mainland tourism in present-day Taiwan. Chen investigates what he calls “Baodao syndrome”—the interesting interplay between PRC tourists' imagination of Taiwan and Taiwanese tourist industry's effort to respond to mainland tourists’ quest for “the other China.” Sydney Yueh examines the articulation of womanhood, fashion, and lifestyle through three popular Taiwanese talk shows. She argues that this feminine discourse, which she coined the term “Taipei People,” departs from the usual political debate and offers an alternative view of identity negotiation in contemporary Taiwan. Stéphane Corcuff’s paper sums up the panel by attempting to combine Taiwan’s history with geopolitics to provide a new frame of understanding Taiwan vis-à-vis China and the larger world, hence his conceptualization of “liminality”. Keywords: China, liminality, Taiwanese identity, geopolitics, cross-Strait relations, discourse analysis

Imagined Homeland during the Cold War: Cultural Nostalgia and the Mainlander Native Place Associations in Taiwan, 1962-1987
Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang, University of Texas, Austin, Canada

In the late 1940s and early 50s, millions left home during the Chinese civil war and the founding of the PRC. A large group, many of them Nationalist soldiers and civil servants, took refuge on the island of Taiwan with the KMT. This group and their descedants are commonly referred to as “mainlanders” or waishengren . At first, most of the mainlanders in Taiwan had expected to return home within a few years, anticipating a final showdown between the CCP and the KMT. Nonetheless, the outbreadk of the Korean War (1950-1953) and the stalemate of the two Taiwan Strait Crises (1954-1955, 1958) prolonged the exiled population’s sojourn. This study examines mainlanders’ imagination of their native place in mainland China in the context of Cold War in East Asia. It probes into the activities and cultural production of the “mainlander native place associations” from 1962 to 1987. It suggests that the 1960s and 70s was a crucial period in the transformation of civil war migrants’ collective mentality from “expecting to return” to “cultural nostalgia” . The paper illustrates the discordance between existing theory of political exiles/diaspora and the mainlander experience, and argues for a historical approach to the study of migrant identity and subjectivity. Keywords: mainlanders, native place associations, cultural nostalgia, imagined homeland, Chinese civil war, political migrants, Cold War, Taiwan, KMT, CCP

Baodao Syndrome: Encounters between Taiwan Identities and Imaginations of Chinese Mainland Visitors at Taiwan’s Tourist Destinations
Chienyuan Chen, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

“Formosa,” means “the beautiful island” in Portuguese. “Baodao” literally means “the treasure island” in Chinese. Both are used to denote Taiwan. In 2001, the first term was banned in China’s trademark for the reason that it may recall colonial suffering and thus exerts negative impacts on Chinese society. The PRC considers the second term synonymous with Taiwan, whereas the two continued to be used interchangeably on the island. The difference between the two sides has resulted in controversies. The most well-known case involved a Taiwanese optical company called Formosa Optical, which was forced to change the English translation of their Mainland branches to Baodao Optical. The dispute represents at least two prevalent but conflicting socio-historical imaginations of Taiwan—Baodao and Formosa—nurtured by different historical developments on two sides of the Strait. This paper aims to explore Mainland Chinese tourists’ “Baodao syndrome” in present-day Taiwan. By examining the Chinese travelogues, guide books, and messages posted on the Internet, the paper shows how preconceived imaginations influenced tourists on the island, both the local residents and the Chinese tourists, in their sightseeing experience of various destinations in Taiwan. This paper also explores how different interpretations of history attached to Baodao and Formosa discourses shape the memories and identities, as they create certain “historical familiarity” on the part of the Mainland Chinese tourists before their journeys to Taiwan. Keywords: Baodao, Formosa, Imaginations, Chinese Tourist, Tourism, Historical Familiarity, Identity Formation, Media Discourses

Taipei Chic vs. “Other” Taiwanese: Women’s Talk Shows and the Politics of Identity
Hsin-I Sydney Yueh, , USA

The television talk show is an interesting medium to investigate the symbolic articulations of Taiwanese identity in the context of a genre that is prevalent on TV in contemporary Taiwan. While local political talk shows are a medium to study the symbolic construction of Taiwanese identity, such debating performance on TV seems to narrow the meaning of being Taiwanese and to freeze the definition of what Taiwanese are. Through discourse analysis of the non-political television texts, this paper examines the articulation of womanhood on the work of three prominent Taiwanese talk shows: Come Here, Queen, and University. These shows broadcast one hour every weeknight and attract a great number of female audience members. This paper argues that television talk shows targeting “soft” topics, such as fashion and urban lifestyle, articulate an implicit tension between a discursive group, Taipei People, and desire for assimilation for the remaining Taiwanese. What does it mean to be Taipei People in relation to Taiwanese? This feminine discourse departs from the heated political debate and offers a different view of identity negotiation. The internal contradictions between Taipei People and Taiwanese in the formation of Taiwanese identity reflect the conflict and ambiguity in the larger regional politics. The analysis is conceptually grounded on an understanding of the social role of the talk show and the relationship between media and Taiwanese identity. Keywords: TV talk shows, Taiwanese, urban culture, media, women in Taiwan, politics

From Marginality to Liminality: Taiwan’s Historical Situation of Threshold as a Case Study in Geopolitics
Stephane B. Corcuff, Institut dAsie Orientale, France

A growing perception of Taiwan as increasingly marginal in front of the emergence of China as a global superpower raises the question of the importance of Taiwan as a topic of research as such. However, from the early 17th century onwards, Taiwan has seen its geopolitical role far exceeding the size of its territory or of its population, as other regions of the world that geography and history erected as points of passage situated at the immediate periphery of one or more important power(s). The Taiwan straits is a threshold situated in the vicinity of an Empire that is central to Asia and now the world, and which attracted constant attention since the late 16th century. The geographical entity called Taiwan Strait is short enough for Taiwan to have been heavily influenced by China, to become a conservatory of many of its cultural memory and have a perfectly informed discourse on the center. But the Taiwan straits is also large enough for Taiwan to keep a distance on this heritage and on its informed discourse about China, as well as to explore, as a point of contact, new forms of Chineseness, a new nationality, and a world citizenship that is paradoxically fostered by the lack of political recognition. Far from being marginal, Taiwan is both a conservatory and a laboratory, and due to the sensitivity of the issue, is a topic on which China reveals a lot of itself and on how it views the nation, territory, identity and history. Keywords: China-Taiwan relations, liminality, marginality, Taiwan studies, Taiwan history, geopolitics of the Taiwan straits, globalization, China renaissance