Envisioning Taiwan

Fiction, Cinema, and the Nation in the Cultural Imaginary

Envisioning Taiwan

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 19 b&w photos Published: October 2004

Author: June Yip

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

In discussions of postcolonial nationhood and cultural identity, Taiwan is often overlooked. Yet the island—with its complex history of colonization—presents a particularly fascinating case of the struggle to define a “nation.” While the mainland Chinese government has been unequivocal in its resistance to Taiwanese independence, in Taiwan, government control has gradually passed from mainland Chinese immigrants to the Taiwanese themselves. Two decades of democratization and the arrival of consumer culture have made the island a truly global space. Envisioning Taiwan sorts through these complexities, skillfully weaving together history and cultural analysis to give a picture of Taiwanese identity and a lesson on the usefulness and the limits of contemporary cultural theory.

Yip traces a distinctly Taiwanese sense of self vis-à-vis China, Japan, and the West through two of the island’s most important cultural movements: the hsiang-t’u (or “nativist”) literature of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Taiwanese New Cinema of the 1980s and 1990s. At the heart of the book are close readings of the work of the hsiang-t’u writer Hwang Chun-ming and the New Cinema filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien. Key figures in Taiwan’s assertion of a national identity separate and distinct from China, both artists portray in vibrant detail daily life on the island. Through Hwang’s and Hou’s work and their respective artistic movements, Yip explores “the imagining of a nation” on the local, national, and global levels. In the process, she exposes a perceptible shift away from traditional models of cultural authenticity toward a more fluid, postmodern hybridity—an evolution that reflects both Taiwan’s peculiar multicultural reality and broader trends in global culture.


“June Yip’s book on contemporary Taiwanese fiction and film is a readable and theoretically-informed treatment that has aspirations to cover the Taiwan xiangtu literature movement and the emergence of New Taiwan Cinema.” — Christopher Lupke, Chinese Literature

"Extraordinary. . . . Yip proposes that this lack of an agreed status that supposedly bedevils Taiwan may not be such a bad thing. . . . Far from being a territory sidelined from international affairs, . . . hi-tech, multicultural Taiwan may be blazing a trail into the future of all mankind. . . . The concept is a fascinating one. . . . Yip is to be congratulated. If the idea gains currency, it could set the cat among a wide variety of pigeons." — Bradley Winterton, South China Morning Post

"[T]his book offers more solid scholarship and more readable prose than Dai Junhua's Cinema and Desire. . . . Recommended." — P. F. Williams , Choice

"The book identifies and analyses in a rather convincing and well-documented manner the most crucial texts of the formation of a new Taiwan." — Ping-Hui Liao, The China Quarterly

"Through close readings of 'nativist' Taiwanese literature of the 1960s and 1970s and of the Taiwanese New Cinema of the 1980s and 1990s, Yip offers a distinct national Taiwanese identity independent of historical Chinese control and the further influx of Japanese and Western influences." — Terry Hong, Asian Week

“A splendid book on Taiwan, its culture, and its unique situation in the world.” — Fredric Jameson, Duke University

“June Yip forcefully argues why and how modern Taiwanese literature and cinema matter for our understanding of an array of modern and postmodern issues ranging from national identity to cultural politics and from an indigenous search for roots to global circulation of cultural and economic capital.” — David Der-wei Wang, author of The Monster That Is History: History, Violence, and Fictional Writing in Twentieth-Century China


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

June Yip is an independent scholar living in Los Angeles. She has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and an M.A. in Cinema Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she has taught Chinese film.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Envisioning Taiwan in a Changing World 1

1. Confronting the Other, Defining a Self: Hsiang-t’u Literature and the Emergence of a Taiwanese Nationalism 12

2. Toward the Postmodern: Taiwanese New Cinema and Alternative Visions of Nation 49

3. Remembering and Forgetting, Part I: History, Memory, and the Autobiographical Impulse 69

4. Remembering and Forgetting, Part II: Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Taiwan Trilogy 85

5. Language and Nationhood: Culture as Social Contestation 131

6. The Country and the City: Modernization and Changing Apprehensions of Space and Time 181

7. Exile, Displacement, and Shifting Identities: Globalization and the Frontiers of Cultural Hybridity 211

Conclusion: From Nation to Dissemi-Nation: Postmodern Hybridization and Changing Conditions for the Representation of Identity 230

Notes 249

Bibliography 325

Index 345
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Winner, 2009 Modern Language Association Prize to an Independent Scholar

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3367-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3357-9
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