Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities

Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities

Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities

Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities

Synopsis

"In this eye opening book, Melissa Brown shines an illuminating light on the divisive political issues now facing China and Taiwan as both struggle over how Taiwan's future will be decided. If identity has profoundly and rapidly changed in Taiwan over the past fifteen years, as she persuasively argues, extraordinary skill, patience, and luck will be needed on both sides if a mutually acceptable political settlement is ever to become a reality."--Ramon H. Myers, Senior Fellow and Consultant to Hoover Archives, Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Excerpt

This book makes several bold theoretical claims. Moving from the more specific to the more general, they are: identity is based on social experience, not cultural ideas or ancestry; cultural meanings and social power constitute two distinct, though interacting, systems that affect human behavior and societies differently; demographic forces such as migration affect human behavior and societies in yet another way; and human cognition—both cognitive structure and decision-making processes— mediate the influences of culture, power, and demographic conditions. In arguing these claims, I weave together theoretical perspectives from across the postmodernism-science divide to produce a synthesis that, hopefully, provides a clearer picture of the processes shaping human behavior and societies.

These theoretical claims are grounded in empirical case studies of identity changes in Taiwan and China. In fact, the case studies take precedence until the concluding chapter, primarily because the theoretical claims are most easily explained with ethnographic illustrations. Chapter 1 introduces the context of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China (PRC), and more specifically the debate between them over Taiwan's identity and future. I do discuss some theoretical issues relating to identity here, primarily to alert readers to key issues to be examined in the case studies. Chapter 2 provides a historical sketch of Taiwan's political history, with particular attention to plains Aborigines. Chapter 3, the ethnographic heart of the book, contains the most detailed of the case studies.

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