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Unpacking identities: performing diasporic space in contemporary Taiwanese theatre

By Shu-Mei Wei


My thesis interrogates the complex and indeterminate nature of Taiwanese identity as it is articulated in post- I 980s Taiwanese theatre productions. I argue that Taiwanese identity is negotiated in a 'diasporic space' that has manifestations through cultural hybridity, spatio-temporal disruption and homing in travelling. \ud Initially, I establish the conceptual framework of diasporic space through critical investigations of the sociality of modem diaspora, post-dolonial notions of cultural difference and hybridity (Homi Bhabha) and space-time dynamics as elaborated in Foucault's conception of heterotopias. The subsequent chapters consist of performance analyses and provide dramatic illustrations of these theories as they are imbricated in diasporic space. \ud Subsequently, I examine the appropriation of Beijing Opera aesthetics in a Taiwanese context, and argue that it engenders a hybrid identity by defying the totalising force of Chineseness. I also consider how national space and its attendant essentialist identity is attempted via a sacralised home of homogeneous constitution, thus arguing for the impossibility of identifying a stable national cultural identity due to infracultural differences in the diasporic community of. Taiwan. To fully account for the lived experience of the Taiwanese, I then explore the dialectic force of history that shapes the cultural imaginary of home and identity in ten theatrical productions. I argue that, rather than being bound to a fixed home/land, Taiwanese identity is mediated in the spatio-temporal difference between the homes in the past in China and the present in Taiwan.\ud In addition, I examine the internal conflicts in present-day Taiwan that are unfolded through stories depicting everyday life. The Taiwanese constantly travel in and out of the present locality, and each journey in its own particularity touches upon broader cultural politics of locating home identity. Probing the various manners in which these chosen performances locate Taiwanese identity, I evaluate their achievement in presenting a multiplicity of theatrical possibilities and alternative perspectives of cultural reality that helps envision a 'new' 'diasporic' understanding of homing through travelling, inhabiting shifting moments and movements when/where identity is always being re-configured

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