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Identity Reconstruction: When Democratization Meets Globalization

  • Author(s): Chen, Rou-lan
  • Advisor(s): Dittmer, Lowell
  • et al.
Abstract

National identity is one of the most theoretically important and frequently used concepts for understanding the dynamics of political transition, social conflicts, and economic development in Taiwan. A brief review of national identity theories indicates its multidimensional quality. However, relatively little empirical research has been done to prove the multidimensional concept of national identity. Conceptual haziness has created serious problems in the study of Taiwan's identity politics. Hence, the insufficiency of current research leads to the first goal of this study that is to conceptualize a multidimensional concept of national identity. To test for the suggested two-dimensional national identity, this study uses confirmatory factor analysis to uncover dimensions of national identity. Our analysis is shown to agree with a two-dimensional (primordial and political) structure of national identity. On the one hand, national identity is characterized by a belief in common descent, a sense of difference from other ethnic groups, and a pride in one's own ethnic community. On the other hand, national identity is a political artifact constituted by nationhood and a desire for citizenship. Second, the two dimensions of national identity are proved to be complementary. Third, and most important, our findings share similarities with the constructive perspective that operational definitions of national identity carry different meanings at different times. The concept of national identity in Taiwan is context-dependent; conditional on the democratization process and cross-strait interactions. We have proved that the concept of national identity is two dimensional and changeable over time. Now we must focus on the questions of why and how national identity changes. The second part of this dissertation emphasizes the ways in which national identities have been changed. There have been various approaches in academic discussions to investigate the conditions which conducive to identity changes. To break the individualist approach that currently dominates the field of national identity, the main goal is to incorporate macro-level factors into micro-level studies to explain identity change. The general findings can be summarized by stating that identity formation and change in Taiwan has to be understood not only in terms of individual characteristics, but also in relation to structural influences. Particularly, the democratic transition and a rising China have brought about various types of mechanisms, which force individuals to search for a new identity that can adequately represent their inner ego in response to sociopolitical changes.

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