The Discursive Construction of Taiwanese National Identity

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Virginia Tech

Since the early 1990s, more and more people in Taiwan have come to view Taiwan itself as a country independent of China. They consider themselves Taiwanese rather than Chinese. Drawing on a social constructionist perspective to nationalism and Laclau and Mouffe's theory of discourse, this dissertation attempts to analyze the discursive mechanisms that have constructed this new collective imagination by many people in Taiwan that now regard themselves as members of an independent Taiwanese nation. The research questions of this dissertation are: how has the post-1949 national identity of Taiwan been discursively transformed since the early 1990s? What are the discursive and institutional mechanisms that have reproduced the Taiwanese national identity? What challenges is the Taiwanese national identity facing? To answer these questions, this dissertation outlines three nationalist discourses and five representations that have been derived from them regarding Taiwan's status, its relationship with mainland China, and the national identity of people in Taiwan. It examines the changes in Taiwan's discursive regime and symbolic economy since the early 1990s, showing how the rise of Taiwanese national identity has been closely related to political leaders' identification with Taiwanese nationalism. I argue that the rise of Taiwanese national identity in Taiwan has been an effect of a discursive contestation among the three major nationalist discourses and the polarization of the discursive field. This dissertation also explores the provincial origin issue---which has been closely related to ethnic tension in Taiwan---and the relations between the nationalist discourses and democratization. In addition, to explore the possibility for a deconstruction of the Taiwanese national identity, I examine the challenges that the Taiwanese national identity faces, focusing on democracy, the Democratic Progressive Party's performance as the ruling party, and the cross-Strait economic integration and political interactions.

discourse, China, national identity, Taiwan, democratization, cross-Strait relations, nationalism