Getting to Know Taiwan: Borrowed Gaze, Direct Involvement and Everyday Life

Zemanek, Adina Simona orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7960-8646 (2019) Getting to Know Taiwan: Borrowed Gaze, Direct Involvement and Everyday Life. In: Positioning Taiwan in a Global Context: Being and Becoming. Routledge Research on Taiwan Series, 1 . Routledge, London and New York. ISBN 9780367077129

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Taiwan’s openness to outside influences which have shaped its history and present-day culture has been a conspicuous topic in the recent identity discourse, and is also a method self-reflexively employed for formulating this discourse itself. This study combines text analysis and interviews to discuss several strategies for knowing and representing Taiwan and its history, which involve various kinds of gazes and audiences, both local and foreign. A series of postcards for a local public reproduces antique maps, which inscribe Taiwan within networks of foreign political interests and colonial domination. The series diverts these outsider’s gazes for the local purpose of conveying a message related to the island’s subjectivity in history. At the same time, however, they also uphold individual, sensorial, on-site experience as primary means for obtaining knowledge about Taiwan. A similar strategy is exploited by many other tourist souvenirs, which propose a ‘hands-on’, experiential and performative epistemological mode and a micro-scale, community-based view of Taiwan’s history to foreign consumers. Such definitions of Taiwan centerd on everyday material culture, individual experience and small-scale history reflect recent global trends and foreign audiences’ expectations. However, they are also interlinked with significant local discourses and are widespread in a wide array of popular texts not related to tourism, intended for local audiences but also endorsed and promoted abroad by state institutions. The last part of this chapter underscores these discoursive connections and critically appraises the de-colonizing potential of such definitions, as well as their contribution to debates regarding a national culture.

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