Memories of Political Incarceration in Contemporary Taiwanese Fiction

14:00 to 15:45
Higher Seminar

The Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Stockholm invites to this seminar with Dr. Serena De Marchi.

In Taiwan, the years from 1949 to 1987 have been characterized by systematic government abuse, violent dissent suppression, and overall disregard of civil and human rights. During this time, which later came to be known as White Terror, the authoritarian state-party, Kuomintang (KMT), was particularly preoccupied with suppressing any form of (real or perceived) political dissent. As a result, targeted suspects – not only actual political activists but also ordinary citizens – “disappeared” and were shipped to the infamous penal colony on Green Island, off Taiwan’s southeast coast. After the lifting of martial law, in 1987, Taiwanese society and institutions gradually opened to a public discussion of that national trauma. Literature was – still is – one of the vehicles through which that memory could be creatively evoked and narratively re-elaborated. This paper looks at two Taiwanese short stories, namely Zhu Tianxin’s Once Upon a Time There Was an Urashima Tarō (1990) and Huang Chongkai’s Dixon’s Idioms (2017). Both texts, though published almost thirty years apart from each other, focus on the trauma of political persecution during the White Terror era and the burden of remembering. The aim of this paper is to explore and compare the polymorphous evocations of Taiwan’s past by examining the intertextual fabric – in terms of stylistic replication, plot re-enactments, characters’ conjuration, and so on – that these two pieces of fiction, independently and convergently, weave together.

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The Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

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