Creation and recreation of the imagined community of Taiwan: the critical analysis of high school history textbooks (1949 to 2011)
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This study aims to explore how the imagined Chinese community, as the nation of Taiwan, was created and recreated between 1949 and 2011, to become the Taiwanese community. The theoretical concept of the ‘imagined community’, which is interconnected with the concepts of ‘invented tradition’ and ‘banal nationalism’, has been used to suggest a sociological interpretation of the transformation of people’s self-identification from ‘Chinese’ to ‘Taiwanese’, as a kind of reflection of the changing nation of post-war Taiwan. The social phenomenon of Taiwan residents’ changing self-identification raises a key concern, namely, has the nature of the nation in Taiwan changed? Junior and senior high school history textbooks (1949 to 2011), which can be regarded as representing the officially invented history, were used as resources, and analysed together with data gathered during interviews with twenty-five history teachers, who had not been screened for age or ethnic differences. The history textbooks provided content for a case study, comparable to that of the theoretical concept of the ‘invented tradition’. This could be regarded as ‘banal nationalism’, through which the life environment is subtly shaped and reshaped to become the ‘imagined community’, namely, the ‘national’ environment. The interviews with teachers were intended to help the researchers understand how the content in history textbooks had been taught, in order to explain how, or whether, the society undermined or reinforced the officially structured ‘imagined Taiwanese community’. The two approaches – one of which could be regarded as a top-down power, while the other could be considered as a social force – jointly provided the research framework and a perspective consistent with the changing social phenomenon of the increasing ‘Taiwanese’ identity among members of the population. This study concluded that ‘Taiwan’ has been produced and reproduced from the local identification to the national. The research results show that the meaning of ‘China’ and ‘Taiwan’ changed during three time periods: from the 1950s to the late 1980s, from the 1990s to the 2000s, and from the 2000s to 2010 and later. Through this process, mainland China and Taiwan were identified as one Chinese nation-state, beginning in the 1950s to the late 1980s, as one nation but two states, from the 1990s to the early 2000s, and finally, as two nation-states, from the early 2000s to 2010 and later. This research explored how ‘Taiwan’, an ‘imagined community’, has been shaped over time. Teachers further manifested ‘Taiwan’ as an explicit concept of national identity by providing other examples, in addition to the content in textbooks, and noting distinctions between ‘China’ and ‘Taiwan’. Theoretical logic is coherent with this empirical investigation, and this study provided the perspective to interpret how the state worked as a top-down force cooperating with society’s bottom-up perseverance, to invent ‘Taiwanese’ national history, through which the national identity of Taiwan was manifested.