Contesting Hegemonic Language through Films: A Study of the Vicissitudes of Taiwanese-Dialect Cinema

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: Booth 62
Oral Presentation
Chih-Heng SU , Department of Sociology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
This paper examines the cultural warfare over national languages through investigating the rise and fall of Taiwanese-dialect cinema, which was identified as a counter-hegemonic project against the monolingual ideology in Taiwan. How did Taiwanese-dialect cinema manage to rise in the 1950s while the émigré regime KMT officially banned the use of Taiwanese-dialect? Even more curious, why did the dialect cinema suddenly die out ten years later? In this paper, I will argue the Taiwanese filmmakers intentionally resisted KMT’s language policy through skillfully acquiring overseas capital to produce dialect films, which were highly popular among overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. In the climate of Cold War, the KMT on one hand had to maintain legitimacy domestically, and fought against the Communist Party of China (CPC) to win over overseas Chinese on the other. The unexpected success of Taiwanese-dialect cinema was turned into KMT’s asset to secure overseas Chinese support, and hence the dialect filmmaking was tolerated. After discovering other ways to win over overseas Chinese, the KMT manipulated regulations on filmmaking and initiated a national language campaign to stigmatize the usage of Taiwanese dialect, all of which led to the demise of Taiwanese-dialect cinema.