2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Formosan Ideology: Preliminary Reflections on the Formation of the Discourse of National Culture of the Taiwanese National Movement under Japanese Colonial Rule

Rwei-ren Wu

Assistant Research Fellow, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica

This essay investigates the process through which an ideology of Taiwanese cultural nationalism was formed under the rule of Japan’s oriental colonialism. The argument can be summarized as follows. Politically, the pre-war Taiwanese anti-colonial struggle had established an offensive principle of self-determination after the defeat of Dōkakai movement (1914-15). Culturally, however, it underwent a protracted process of defensive search before it could eventually determine what might constitute the foundation of subjectivity. While the political movement had developed rather sophisticated discourses of political nationalism by 1927-1928, the struggle in cultural realm nevertheless fell from an enlightenment optimism of Taisho culturalism in the early 1920s into hesitation and loss of direction after the May Fourth radical anti-traditionalism imported from China brought about a crisis of Chinese cultural identity among many Taiwanese intellectuals in 1923-1926. However, the rise of the “fourth estate” in the latter half of the 1920s suggested to the cultural struggle wandering at crossroads a direction of “popular culturalism” and the possibility of an alternative Han culture. In 1931, the political nationalism collapsed under the crackdown of the Taiwan Government-General, which nevertheless channeled the repressed political energy of Taiwanese nationalists into the realm of cultural struggle and thereby further developed the popular culturalism into a cultural nationalism with the discourse of Tâi-oân-ōe-bûn at its core. This complicated process demonstrates that the ideological formation of the ethnic Han Taiwanese nationalism followed an observable sequence from political self-determination to cultural self-determination, from common destiny to common culture, and from discourse of practice to essentialism.

Ideologically, the Taiwanese nationalists’ cultural critique of the Japanese colonialism, albeit consistently modernist, evolved from a universal modernism of the early and mid-1920s to a modernistic nativism in late 1920s and early 1930s.


Keywords:Ideology, oriental colonialism, differential incorporation, double marginality, anti-colonial modernity, cultural nationalism, linguistic nationalism, Taiwanese nationalism, Taiwanese culture, Taiwanese literature, Taiwan studies, history of Taiwanese political thought