Becoming Taiwanese: Negotiating Language, Culture and Identity

Ying-Chuan Chen, Université D'Ottawa / University Of Ottawa, Université D'Ottawa / University Of Ottawa
2013
Between 1945 and 1987, as part of its efforts to impose a Chinese identity on native-born Taiwanese and to establish and maintain hegemony, Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) government pursued a unilingual, Mandarin-only policy in education. This thesis studies the changing meaning of "becoming Taiwanese" by examining the school experiences of four generations of Taiyu speakers who went to school during the Mandarin-only era: 1) those who also went to school under the Japanese; 2) those who
more » ... se; 2) those who went to school before 1949 when Taiwan was part of KMT-controlled China; 3) those who went to school during the 1950s at the height of the implementation of KMT rule; and, 4) those who went to school when Mandarin had become the dominant language. Two data types, interviews and public documents, are analyzed using two research methods, focus group interviews as the primary one, and document analysis as the secondary one. This research found that there is no direct relationship between how people negotiated language, hegemony and Taiwanese identity. First, as KMT hegemony became more secure, people's links to their home language became weaker, so their view of Taiwanese identity as defined by Taiyu changed. Second, as exposure to hegemonic forces deepened over time, people were less able to find cultural spaces that allowed escape from hegemonic influences, and this, along with other life-course factors such as occupation, had an impact on their contestations of language and identity. The study recognizes the role of human agency and highlights the interactive and performative aspects of identity construction. The results reflect the different possibilities of living with hegemony in different eras, and also show that Taiwanese identity is not fixed, nor is there a single, "authentic" Taiwanese identity.
doi:10.20381/ruor-3172 fatcat:fx6yjxieaneate5fdq3faims7y