2015 Sophia Symposium

Empire and Aftermath: New Perspectives on the Legacies of the Japanese Empire

Evan DAWLEY (Goucher College)

“Colonial Legacies and the Reassertion of Taiwanese Consciousness under Chinese Rule”

Living under Japanese rule for five decades, indigenous residents of Jilong and other cities went through multiple processes of identity formation and reconstruction. Thus, the creation of a new Taiwanese consciousness (or consciousnesses) was among the most significant legacies of the period of Japanese rule as the Taiwanese faced the nation-building projects of a new set of external rulers. Upon gaining control of Taiwan in 1945, the Republic of China faced two daunting tasks: reconstructing the island’s heavily damaged cities and assimilating the residents to a Chinese national identity. Most Nationalist officials approached these projects with a combination of limited knowledge about Taiwan’s recent past and a relative lack of concern with Taiwanese interests. Instead, they relied on a conviction that state-led developmentalist programs would achieve the former goal, and that a range of educational and social reforms would accomplish the resinification of the population. An examination of the process of rebuilding the northern port city of Jilong sheds new light on how Taiwanese defended the collective identity that they had forged during the decades of Japanese rule. This identity was primarily ethnic in character, in that it accommodated to the political context of successive nation-states without adopting the imposed nationalist consciousness. This paper will concentrate on how Taiwanese used religious institutions and practices to defend their ethnic community in the face of Chinese efforts to transform them.