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Taiwan Research Programme
Asia Research Centre
London School of Economics and Political Science
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Professor Stephan Feuchtwang
s.feuchtwang@lse.ac.uk|

Political Consumerism in Taiwan: an alternative perspective on the study of national identities

With Ms Chia-Yin Chuang (University of Lancaster)

Series:  London Taiwan Seminar|

Date: Thursday 25 October 2007, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room 116, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Chair: Mr Stuart Thompson (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)

Abstract

This paper offers an alternative outlook on the study of national identities by examining how Taiwanese identities have been recrafted and redefined in and through political consumerism during successive elections. Political consumerism in Taiwan poses interesting questions about the relationship between economic affluence, democratic political practices, and contemporary culture. By illustrating political consumerism in Taiwan, this paper re-explores the political edge and theoretical possibility of studies on nationalism in the context of today's consumer society.

Elections, rather than civil war, have played the key role in both the democratization of Taiwanese society and the narration of Taiwanese identities. By producing political commodities based on political positions, cultural taste and economic calculation, politicians' campaign staff members prompt their supporters (or fans) to consume political commodities (including television advertisements, music and other commodities such as clothes or dolls), and to reconstruct their political appearances, identities and tastes. Fans define their identities through such political consumerism, with the result that national identities and political consumerism become homonymic. Thus, just as fashionable cultural commodities are always changing, so are Taiwanese identities.

About the speaker

Ms Chia-Yin Chuang is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Lancaster University and was a creative consultant in music, design and television advertising for the Taiwanese President (Chen Shui Bian) during the presidential elections. Her experience as a member of the campaign's creative team led her to discover that national identities in today's consumer society are not just established on 'high culture', driven by the rational elements of modernity and codified by national cultural elites. They are also grounded in the political debates, social interactions, cultural habitus and everyday practices of members of the campaign team and the citizens of Taiwan.

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