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Re-conceptualizing Taiwan: Settler Colonial Criticism and Cultural Production


This dissertation examines a diverse body of postwar cultural production in Taiwan (1945 to the present), including literary, cinematic, and other forms of media texts, through the lens of settler colonial criticism. Taiwan, an island whose indigenous inhabitants are Austronesian, has been a de facto settler colony due to large-scale Han migration from China to Taiwan beginning in the seventeenth century. However, the prevailing discourse in Taiwan, particularly in the field of Taiwan literature studies, has been “postcolonial,” articulating Taiwan either in terms of the end of the Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945) or the lifting of the Martial Law (1949-87), neither of which acknowledges the continued colonization of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, Taiwan has long been excluded from the global arena of settler colonial studies. Owing to the twofold invisibility of Taiwan as a settler colony in both local and global contexts, I employ the analytical framework of settler colonialism—a specific colonial formation whereby settlers displace the indigenous residents and take over the land—so as to address the discursive limits and academic blind spots described above. More specifically, this research project mobilizes settler colonial criticism to critically reflect on various media/genres of contemporary cultural production by Han Taiwanese authors as settlers in order to challenge current academic trends and the Han settler structure of Taiwan. In so doing, this dissertation not only fills in the gaps of the postcolonial paradigm in Taiwan but also provides significant insights for global settler colonial studies based on Taiwan’s unique experience. As such, it contributes to the redistribution of knowledge production in Taiwan’s intellectual sphere, partaking of the recent calls for “indigenous transitional justice” as a means of decolonization. In this sense, to re-conceptualize Taiwan as a settler colony through examining its cultural production is not only to re-situate Taiwan onto the world map of settler colonial studies but also to reimagine a new form of relational ethics between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Taiwan.

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