«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»
1999.42 Curatorial projects such as these show the ambiguous relationship between the new political power and suggest that different political ideologies determine how things can be arranged and recognised variously in Taiwan’s highly politically-sensitive society. Politicians with different ancestral backgrounds have different policies in terms of art and culture; they have different views of looking at history and how they consider Taiwan’s political Liao Ping-Hui asserted this argument in her essay, Rewriting Taiwanese National History (1993), and I have found several publications to support this statement. The publications include Ma, Chi-Hua. The Studies of 28 February Incident. Taipei: Association of Public Orders, 1987; Jiang, Chung-Lin. ‘The Truth of the 228 Incident: The Shameful Trauma’, in Chung-Wai Journal, Vol 42, No 4, 1987, pp 56-61; Yen, Yen-Tsun. ‘Personal Experience in the 228 Incident and Its Analysis’ in Biographical Literature, Vol 50, No 6, 1987, pp 40-44.
The reason why I chose this film as an example is to emphasise the fact that the production of films represents and examines the politics, colonial history and even ‘present-day realities’ of Taiwan much earlier than fine art exhibitions (the first 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition was held in 1996). In fact, A City of Sadness (1989) is one of the three works, which form the series, Taiwan Trilogy. The other two films are The Puppetmaster (1993) and Good Men, Good Women (1995), which examine ‘the Japanese Occupation’ and the ‘White Terror’, respectively. See Yip, op cit, pp 86-87.
The fourth 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition in 1999 was organised during the mayorship of Chen, but was on show when Ma won the election as the city mayor instead of Chen.
M. Turner, © 2008 location within the world environment. Ultimately, different cultural policies are determined by what the authority defines as the sovereignty of Taiwan and the ideas of being Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese. In addition, this is complicated by the fact that the Taiwanese living in different regions (e.g.
Taipei city and Kaohsiung city) consider their national identity differently.43 The complexity of Taiwan’s history, since the 17th century, has created an exceptionally unusual social and political background. The lifting of martial law and the change in the political climate have encouraged artists and curators to represent their history and identities through the means of art.
However, before looking at the 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition in 1997, I shall address the issues of nation and national identity in Taiwan.
Nation and National Identity Liao Ping-Hui argues that Taiwan has a ‘totally different cultural experience than the rest of the world’.44 It went through different colonial periods and its society is composed of different races and genealogy. Different races and Research has been conducted which shows that in Taiwan, different regions have different support for different political parties and that they have diverse views of political policies towards either independence from, or union with Mainland China. Different political support can therefore be seen as having different views of national identities. According to Chen Po-Wei’s research, ‘(Taiwan-born) Taiwanese tend to support the DPP rather than the KMT whilst Mainlanders tend to support both the KMT and the People First Party [established in 2000]; the DPP supporters tend to consider themselves as “Taiwanese” and “Independent”, whilst the KMT supporters tend to label themselves as “Chinese” and “Unified”’. Furthermore, according to the result of the mayoral elections in recent years, ‘Kaohsiung city has become a representative government of the DPP and Taipei city has been under the political power of the KMT’. Thus, I propose that there are heterogeneous views towards political and national identity in different regions of Taiwan. See Chen, Po-Wei. The Preference of Voters - Party Preference Between Taipei and Kaohsiung Metropolises: a Case Study of 2002 Mayor Elections. MA Dissertation. Taiwan: National Chung Cheng University Department of Political Science, 2005, p 56 and Wang, Chih-Yao. An Analysis of Chinese Consciousness in the Development of Taiwan’s Society and Politics, 1988-2000. MA Dissertation. Taiwan: Chinese Culture University Graduate Institute of Chinese Studies, 2002, pp 85-98.
Liao, op cit, p 286.
M. Turner, © 2008 ethnic groups came to the island at different periods of time with their own cultural heritages, and this situation resulted in the chaotic social phenomenon which I discussed at the start of this chapter. For more than 400 years, the Taiwanese have been drifting between different periods of political and cultural domination and thus, there exists ambivalence in terms of nation and culture due to Taiwan’s layered colonial and cultural history.
Regarding the idea of ‘ambivalence’, I shall discuss the definitions of its adjective, ambivalent. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘ambivalent’ means ‘having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone’.45 In other words, being ambivalent is the state of being uncertain of one’s will, where one cannot identify definite likes or dislikes. For Homi Bhabha, the term, ‘ambivalence’, refers to the complex mixture of repulsion and attraction in the relationship between the colonised and the colonisers.
Moreover, ‘ambivalence’ is often used by Bhabha to describe the indeterminacy of the state of mimicry. In The Location of Culture (1994), Bhabha asserts that ‘[…] the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence; in order to be effective, mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference’. 46 For Bhabha, the ambivalence of mimicry has been transformed into uncertainty, which demonstrates the situation of being ‘almost the same, but not quite’.47 The shifting political authority in the island determines the choice of the term, ‘ambivalence’, in the content of Taiwan’s identity of nationhood and culture. A fixed idea of what
Pearsall, Judy (ed). The Concise Oxford Dictionary. Tenth Edition. Oxford and New York:
Oxford University Press, 2001, p 41.
Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994, p 122 Ibid., p 123.
M. Turner, © 2008 Taiwan is, does not exist apart from its geographical location on the world map.
While Taiwan is made up of different layers of immigration history, colonial experience, diverse ethnic/cultural backgrounds and many of those who are ‘in-between’ (e.g. the offspring of different groups), the concepts of ‘new Taiwanese’ (Xin Taiwan Ren), proposed by Lee Teng-Hui in 1995, strategically include all of the differences and uncertainties, which aim to develop a more visible entity and a new understanding of national identity on the island.
Despite the fact that the invention of the term, ‘new Taiwanese’, was made for political purposes, the concepts of the term indeed echo the ideas of Bhabha’s ‘mimicry’, which are to go beyond certainty and determinacy in order to cover all differences.48 Before addressing how Lee defines the term, ‘New Taiwanese’, I would like to explore the ideas of ‘nation’ and ‘identity’ and how they have been argued by scholars in postcolonial studies.
Bhabha begins his essay, Introduction: Narrating the Nation (1990) by stating
Nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realise their horizons in the mind’s eye. Such an image of the nation – or narration – might seem impossibly romantic and excessively metaphorical, but it is from those traditions of political thought and literary language that the nation emerges as a powerful historical idea in the West.49 According to Stéphane Corcuff, the concept of ‘New Taiwanese’ is published in Lee’s famous article, Taiwan’s Point of View (1999, in the Japanese language) but it firstly appears in Lee’s public speech to the KMT in August 1995. Corcuff, Stéphane. ‘Taiwan’s “Mainlanders,” New Taiwanese?’ in Corcuff (ed), op cit, pp 186-187.
Bhabha, Homi K. ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ in Bhabha (ed) (1990), op cit, p 1.
M. Turner, © 2008 For Bhabha, the ideas of nation are realised through the mind’s eye and by the means of political ideas and literary writings. Nation and its narratives (even though ambivalent) are metaphorically transformed into literary language in order to be visualised and understood. Bhabha further asserts that ‘[w]hat I want to emphasise in that large and limited image of the nation with which I began is a particular ambivalence that haunts the idea of the nation, the language of those who write of it and the lives of those who live it’.50 The concepts of nation come from how history is written and how nationalists attempt to record the narratives from specific perspectives. However, ‘mind’s eye’ can be interpreted more broadly as a cultural symbol, including political ideology and how people recognise themselves as being in an ‘imagined community’. Bhabha further asserts that ‘[t]he nation’s “coming into being” as a system of cultural signification, as the representation of social life rather than the discipline of social polity, emphasises this instability of knowledge’. 51 Since the 228 Incident until the present day, the Taiwanese have developed their conceptual ‘national state’ by suffering the massacre and then the horror of the martial law period. This imagined nation is separated from that established by the Chinese Nationalist government as it metaphorically exists within Taiwanese people’s minds. The 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition is a physical presentation that reveals this kind of conceptual community and the ‘mind’s eye’ is manifested in artworks rather than narratives.
Bhabha’s definition of nation lies in culture and people’s lives, which is similar
M. Turner, © 2008 to the definition given by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in Empire (2000).
They claim that ‘[t]he concept of nation also served as an ideological weapon to ward off the dominant discourse that figured the dominated population and culture as inferior. […] The nation is progressive strictly as a fortified line of defence against more powerful external forces’.52 For Hardt and Negri, the concept of nation is not only an ideological weapon to defend against the dominant power but also the external forces of the invaded colonisers. Alan
Wachman offers another view on nation and asserts that:
When one speaks of a nation, one invokes a sense of political solidarity that goes beyond community and suggests a tie between social order and political power. […] Beyond any cultural, regional, or linguistic traits the people subsumed by the term nation may share, there is also an implication of political sovereignty.53 Wachman suggests two essential elements to form a nation: geographical territory and political solidarity. Importantly, he emphasises that the concepts of ‘nation’ should go beyond the variance among cultures, regions and languages as they can be ‘shared’ by different peoples within the same political sovereignty and physical territory. Wachman’s perspectives have suggested that despite the fact that there are various groups of peoples with diverse languages living on the island, they actually belong to the same ‘nation’, which actually echoes Lee’s concepts of the ‘New Taiwanese’. Thus, it is obvious to note that especially in Taiwan, the consciousness of nation and nationalism is not produced by nature, rather it is formulated by the élite at different periods Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000, p 106.
Wachman, op cit, p 25, original emphasis retained.
M. Turner, © 2008 when political and social authorities have continued to transform very rapidly.54 Since the lifting of martial law and the successful political shifting from Chiang to Lee, from the late 1980s, the re-interpretation of the myths of Taiwanese national identity has been seriously examined. Having addressed some ideas of the term, ‘nation’, it is now essential to consider the other term, ‘identity’ as it pertains to my argument. There are many different kinds of identity, such as national identity, social identity, cultural identity, racial identity, class identity, familial identity, gender identity, sexual identity, etc. Jeffrey Weeks begins his essay, The Value of Difference (1990) by stating that ‘[i]dentity is about belonging, about what you have in common with some people and what differentiates you from others. At its most basic it gives you a sense of personal location, the stable core to your individuality’.55 Identity is how you distinguish yourself from others and indeed, it is defined based on the conflicts of differences not only between different communities but also within every individual. Jiang Yi-Huah, a professor in the department of Political Science of National Taiwan University, combines the definitions of identity given by John Locke, Aristotle and the Oxford Dictionary with his own opinions and arrives at three definitions: ‘Oneness/ Sameness’, ‘Identification/ Belongingness’ and ‘Approval/ Agreement’.56 According to both Weeks and Jiang, identity concerns how we distinguish Lin Chia-Lung has also suggested that ‘[n]ational identities are not inborn, they are socially and politically constructed sentiments that are subject to change’. Lin, Chia-Lung. ‘The Political Formation of Taiwanese Nationalism’ in Corcuff (ed), op cit, p 227.
Weeks, Jeffrey. ‘The Value of Difference’ in Rutherford, Jonathan (ed). Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990, p 88.
Jiang, Yi-Huah. Liberalism, Nationalism and National Identity. Taipei: Yang Chih Publisher, 1998, pp 8-12.