The Birth of the 'Taiwanese'
: A Discursive Constitution of the 'Taiwanese' as a National Identity

  • Yih-Jye Hwang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis provides a genealogical account of ‘Taiwanese’ as a national identity. Genealogy is a way of writing a history of the present that de-familiarises us from what we now take for granted by revealing in detail how things were otherwise. As argued in this thesis, Taiwanese identity, in ontological terms, exists only in discourse. It is a way of talking and doing things relative to what sort of people the Taiwanese are; every word and action contributes to the idea that there is such a thing as ‘Taiwanese-ness’ and helps to substantialise the qualities/features attached to it. This thesis conceptualises Taiwanese identity as having no fixed, essential, or permanent identity; rather, it is formed and transformed continuously in relation to the ways people talk and act. This thesis investigates various social practices/events in post-authoritarian Taiwan that incited people to talk about Taiwanese-ness. Certain things, with different positions, forms and organisations, were said and done, while other alternatives disappeared or were omitted and repressed. With various power relations, different discourses mutually intersected, interacted and competed. The social practices/events selected in this thesis include the production of knowledge, the publication of a comic book, an election campaign, and a political demonstration. It is crucially noted that the social practices/events analysed in this thesis are just a few of the numerous events that occur periodically or repeatedly. This thesis, in sum, is an attempt to understand how various social practices/events enable or disable certain ways through which people make sense of their past and their political lives, thereby coming to terms with their belongings, their allegiances, and their situated-ness. Taiwanese-ness is spoken of, not only literally but also symbolically, and it is this process of being ‘spoken of’ that constitutes the Taiwanese-ness – the birth of the ‘Taiwanese’.
Date of Award18 Feb 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorHidemi Suganami (Supervisor) & Jenny Edkins (Supervisor)


  • Taiwanese
  • national identity

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