Transforming contested sites of memory (lieux de mémoire)
In recent years acts of vandalism targeting the physical remnants of the personality cult of former authoritarian leader Chiang Kai-shek have occurred more and more frequently in the Republic of China. The assessment of Taiwan's authoritarian past and the late dictator's responsibilities in the White Terror and 228 Incident often manifests itself in terms of iconoclastic interventions of Chiang's physical manifestations which displays the emotional potential these relics and spaces contain.
... ous iconoclastic measures, implemented by state actors as well as dissatisfied civilians, regularly aim at these contested sites of memory, revealing the relevance of this phenomenon. Especially during the yearly anniversary of the 228 Incident students and activists take the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction through vandalism. This paper will examine in the form of a case study one of these contested sites, namely the resting place of the generalissimo. The Cihu Mausoleum was the object of various iconoclastic measures. The thesis will analyse how four instances of iconoclasm transformed the Mausoleum's different dimensions as a site of memory, that is material, symbolic and functional. The chosen interventions are as follows: total closure under DPP administration in 2007, re-opening under KMT administration in 2008, activists' protest and vandalism in 2018 and finally partial transformation under DPP administration in 2019. The Transitional Justice Commission promoted by Tsai Ing-wen, as well as Chen Shui-bian's QuJianghua agenda will be classified as iconoclasm from above, while the vandalism fits into the category iconoclasm from below. The thesis argues that three of the discussed instances were overall ineffective, whereas the physical alteration under Tsai Ing-wen being the most successful and reflective one.