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Multi-layered Colonialities and the Making of Modern Taiwan: A Critical Comparison between the Peace Act Incident and Kaohsiung Incident

  • Author(s): Su, Hsuan-An
  • Advisor(s): Brysk, Alison
  • Ghosh, Bishnupriya
  • et al.
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Abstract

This thesis re-examines two significant socio-political movements in pre- and post-WWII Taiwan in which two generations of Taiwanese activists sought licensed reformation for self-determination instead of overthrowing the alien regimes. By studying the Peace Act Incident (1923-1925) and Kaohsiung Incident (1979-1980), I aim to illuminate such moderate resistance mode as a historical category of anti-colonial struggle and the structural conditions under which such mode was produced. My studies use verdicts, newspapers, and other trial records to reconstruct the legal-political debates. The magazines the activists published also allow us to understand how they utilized modern Western progressive values, such as human rights and democracy, as discursive strategies to construct the nation of Taiwan and defy Japan’s and Kuomintang’s oppression.

The comparative historical analysis of the two incidents shows the similarities of governmentality between imperial Japan and autocratic Kuomintang. Both regimes created constitutional states of exception which empowered them to suppress dissidents legally. Restricted by these structures, Taiwanese activists attempted to demand self-rule within the colonial legal-political institutions. However, both authorities viewed Taiwanese pursuit of home rule as separatism and trialed the two incidents’ activists publicly. The public trials were social drama arranged to delegitimize the oppositional movements and prevent them from becoming effective political agents. Yet, the defendants’ and their barristers’ eloquence not only justified the activisms, but also delegitimized the authorities’ autocracies. Through media, the trials aroused Taiwanese society’s moral shock and earned the activisms popular support. To conclude, court is the main arena for modern Taiwanese anti-colonial struggles and nationalistic movements.

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This item is under embargo until October 25, 2021.