Recently I have read the following book, its main points are:
Book Title: Melissa Brown. 2004. Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
Chapter 1.- since 1999 Taiwan had started to assert its claim over sovereignty in terms of the social basis of its identity. The complex ways in which identity underlay the political debate over Taiwan’s future relationship with China was the subject of the book (p.2).
- the examination the border of identities. The question on How borders were drawn and how people cross them – could help answer the question on how could we get to the reality underneath the political rhetoric. How did we know what identities ordinary individual in Taiwan and China had? (p.3)
- a similar identity changes happened before and after 1949 in China’s Hubei showed that changes in Taiwan in ethnic identity were not unique to Taiwan (p.3).
- “narratives of unfolding” were not history, nor were they simply a biased interpretation of past events; they are ideologies – a conscious falsification, a conscious selection of some of the available evidence to serve a political purpose (p.6).
- identities must be negotiated; they were not simply a matter of choice, because identity formation in individuals and groups derived from their interaction with the social and cultural context in which they lived in (p.13).
- if we were to use Confucian criteria related to ancestor worship to classify people as Han, Taiwanese would turn out to be more Han than Chinese in post-cultural revolution 1967. Tu Wei-ming argued that the periphery such as Taiwan, Hongkong were more Confucian than the PRC (p.29).
- chapter 2- the goal was to provide a historical overview of Taiwan that included plains Aborigines from the early 17th century to end of the 20th century (p.36).
- the villages Toushe, Jibeishua and Longtian in Taiwan were descendants of plains aborigines that maintained an aborigine identities in spite of some intermarriage with Hoklo through the Qing period until after the Japanese colonial government mandated a ban on foot-binding. The aborigines took on a Hoklo identity in the 1930s and the author called this recent identify change “the long route to Han” (p.66).
- chapter 3. the author reconstructs when and how the changes in identity in these 3 villages had occurred (p.67).
- except for the gendered practices of foot-binding and chewing betel among women, Toushe, Jibeishua, and Longtain appeared culturally very like poor Hoklo villages. But they were still regarded as savages by non-aborigines; they were not conferred with the Hoklo identity. It indicated that cultural practise were not enough to confer ethnic identity (p.92).
- why older identities was preferred? The whole point of constructing narratives of unfolding was the presumption that antiquity conferred authenticity (p.132). Yet actual historical development of recent identities could be traced and they showed all too clear that identities were closely tied to socio-political circumstances.
- chapter 4. the book explains that mixed population used ancestry, not culture to claim Han identity, probably through the use of Han surname as “the short route to Han”. They changed identity before they culturally changed towards the Han model (p.134).
- the late 17th century identity changes were important to consider a new narrative of Taiwan’s unfolding for 2 reasons. First, people in Taiwan today accept this older identity changes more readily because people view antiquity as conferring authenticity. The second reason why short-route identity changes (by marriage) was important for the consideration of a new narrative of Taiwan’s unfolding was its cultural impact on Hoklo Taiwanese culture (p.135).
- in the present day, in order for the Taiwanese not to be considered as simply another regional variety of Han, Taiwan’s narrative must show the distinguished new Taiwanese identity as uniquely different, it was actually the long-route pattern which appeared to be unique to Taiwan and could provide a basis for claiming a difference (p.165).
- chapter 5, the book introduces the identities changes in the Tujia (natives) in Enshi of Hubei. It was used to compare with the situation in Taiwan because it had similarities to the new narrative constructed about Taiwan’s past. It showed that identity changes were not unique to Taiwan (p.167).
- with the founding of PRC, identity change in Hubei took a different turn, undoing short-route identity changes. Many ‘locals’ in Hubei was classified as Tujia in the 1950s. Most notably, officials in Hubei concluded that intermarriage between Han patrilineal ancestor and non-Han matrilineal ancestors led to de-sinicization. Yet the PRC denied such de-sinicization occurred in Taiwan (p.168).
- chapter 5 the book reconstructs identity and cultural changes among Tujia and their ancestor in Hubei.
- in Hubei on the concept of local and outsiders, there were two important conclusions. First, the border between locals and outsider shifted with each new wave of immigrants, people already there became ‘locals’ to the new immigrants. The second important conclusion was that knowledge of these historical shifts in identity was preserved in genealogies and oral histories (p.185).
- in many practices and beliefs relating the parental authority, locals in Enshi differed significantly from Confucian-derived element of Han culture. Thus in spite of local’s sense of themselves as Han; the government felt strongly that they were not Han (p.205).
- what happened in Enshi provided some insight into the PRC’s reaction to Taiwan’s new narrative. The PRC did not deny that de-sinicization was possible; it denied that cultural changes had gone far enough to warrant a change to non-Han identity (p.210).
- the author investigates how culture, power and migration each impacted identity differently. Ideologies in the form of ‘narratives of unfolding’ talked about identity in terms of culture, demographic condition that would affect social experience (p.210).
- chapter 6 talks about why culture, social power, and demographic condition had different influence on people (p.210).
- The ‘Taiwan problem’ – the question of whether Taiwan should be a part of Chinese nation was a political issue. Moreover, it was fundamentally an issue of identity. Identity was political as proved by this book (p.211).
- in the concluding chapter, the book would first examined the ideological terms of debate as well as actual experience which influenced the choices, and action of people and government. The chapter examines them in a theoretical level and then used a theory to discuss the real-world political implication of the new Taiwanese identity (p.211).
- the author combines cognitive, evolutionary, interpretive, and postmodern insights to suggest that choices were influenced differently by culture meaning, social power, the cognitive structure and operation of the brain, and demographic trend (p.228).
- analysis of the underlying identity issue in the ‘Taiwan problem’ showed how difficult it would be to work out the political impasse over Taiwan’s future. Identity was the negotiated product of the interaction between what people claimed for themselves and what others allowed them to claim. (p.245).