Forming Counter-Hegemonic Identity through Narration: Personal Stories, Historical Narrative, and the Transformation of National Identity in Taiwan

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: Booth 62
Distributed Paper
Chun Chiao YEH , Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
A-chin HSIAU , Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
Over the past four decades, Taiwan has undergone a dramatic political transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. Accompanying this transition is a major change of the sense of national identification when hegemonic Chinese nationalism has increasingly given way to local Taiwanese consciousness. A series of survey data show that the percentage of people who identify themselves as being Taiwanese has risen from 17% in 1992 to 57.5% in 2013, while the percentage of people who identify themselves as being Chinese drops from 25.5% to 3.6% in this period. Yet few researches have been made on how common people formed a counter-hegemonic national identity on the personal level during the period. To investigate this transformative dynamics, we draw on the theoretical perspective of “narrative identity” to analyze a large number of “letters to the editor” describing personal experiences of identity transformation which were published in two major Taiwanese newspapers during the period from 1994 to 2004, when the change accelerated sharply. We find that a special historical narrative which consisted of a distinctive historical outlook and story line and displayed unique values and emotions served as a common framework of reference for those who began to discredit Chinese nationalism to reassess their individual life history and make sense of their connections with the destiny of Taiwan. It was critical to the formation of the counter-hegemonic Taiwanese identity. We argue that counter-hegemonic identity is typically effectively created and sustained when an elite-derived historical narrative had popular resonance in the sense that it demonstrates a remarkable ability to explain the marginalized and suppressed life experience of ordinary people. Our analysis also shows that the act of narration or story-telling is a key mechanism through which linking individual to society, the present to the past, the micro to the macro, and agency to structure.