The Great Exodus from China
Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan
Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang is Associate Professor of East Asian History, Department of History, University of Missouri-Columbia, USA . His book The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory and Identity in Modern Taiwan was publisehd by Cambridge University Press in 2021 and it won the 2021 Memory Studies Association’s First Book Award.
In this conversation, Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki discusses with Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang his award-winning book. Yang’s book covers one of the least understood forced migrations in modern East Asia—the human exodus from China to Taiwan following the Nationalist collapse and Chinese Communist victory in 1949. Peeling back layers of Cold War ideological constructs, the book tells a very different story from conventional historiographies the Chinese civil war, Chinese revolution, and Cold War Taiwan. Underscoring the displaced population’s trauma of living in exile and their poignant “homecomings” four decades later, Yang presents a multiple-event trajectory of repeated traumatization with the recurring search for home, belonging, and identity. By portraying the Chinese civil war exiles in Taiwan both as traumatized subjects of displacement and overbearing colonizers to the local peoples, Yang’s work challenges the established notions of trauma, memory production, diaspora, and reconciliation. It speaks to the importance of subject position, boundary-crossing empathic unsettlements, and ethical responsibility of researching, narrating, and representing historical trauma.
Julie Yu-Wen Chen is Professor of Chinese Studies at the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki (Finland). Dr. Chen serves as one of the editors of the Journal of Chinese Political Science (Springer, SSCI). Formerly, she was chair of Nordic Association of China Studies (NACS) and Editor-in-Chief of Asian Ethnicity (Taylor & Francis). You can find her on University of Helsinki Chinese Studies’ website, Youtube and Facebook, and her personal Twitter.
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