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London School of Economics and Political Science
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Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Re-constructing the Literary Field in Early Post-war Taiwan Literature: a quantitative study on the publication patterns of the contributors

With Táňa Dluhošová, Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective

Date: Monday 27 April 2015, 6.30pm to 8.30pm

Location: Room 1.02, Clement House, LSE

Chair: Dr Fang-Long Shih (LSE Taiwan Research Programme) 

Discussants: Dr Atsuhide Ito (Southampton Solent University and Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London; Mr Stuart Thompson (SOAS)


This study aims to analyse the literature and the literary field of early post-war Taiwan (1945–1949) from a quantitative perspective, with a view to contributing to digital humanities studies. During this period, Taiwan was politically reintegrated into China after 50 years as a Japanese colony, and this exerted a crucial influence on later historical events and developments.

Our framework is based on the theory of ‘the literary field’, as formulated by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. The literary scene is understood to be a structure created by relationships among various agents who aim to attain the dominant position in the field by accumulating the largest amount of symbolic capital. This is defined by Bourdieu as prestige, but it is here argued that in the Taiwanese context the concept should be more appropriately understood as a combination of prestige and political clout. To occupy the dominant position enables agents to define Taiwanese identity, culture, and literature (especially vis-à-vis China).

While current secondary scholarship tends to focus on a few prominent figures or groups whose legacy has been endorsed retrospectively by the dominant historical reconstructions of the time in question, this study will reconstruct the contemporaneous literary field on a broader empirical basis. Based on the manual collection of catalogue information for the periodicals during this period, we aimed to reconstruct the literary field via investigating the grouping patterns of the contributors according to the periodicals in which they were published. This is an initial effort for a future, bigger, project of based on an even more rigorous quantitative corpus-based approach that will include the contributors’ linguistic patterns. So far, 47 post-war periodicals (including journals and supplements) have been collected as the basis for our quantitative analysis. A total of 563 contributors were included in our final dataset, all of whom had been published in more than one periodical among the 47. We adopted two exploratory statistical methods, Principal Component Analysis, to investigate the possible underlying structuring of these contributors based on their publication records in these 47 periodicals. The analysis will highlight which periodicals were prominent in contributing to the clustering of the contributors.

The implications of this study are two-fold. First, a rather innovative methodology aligned with the growing interest in digital humanities is introduced to identify agents and interpret their habitus in the literary field. Second, the approach sheds light on the question of what constitutes symbolic capital, and it contests Bourdieu’s theory, designed for the 19th century literary scene in France, by applying it to another context and questioning the autonomy of the early post-war literary field.

About the Speaker

Táňa Dluhošová has been a research fellow at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences since 2013, where she edits a journal, Archiv orientální. Her engagement on the board of the European Association of Taiwan Studies resulted in the organization of numerous conferences and workshops at different institutions in the Czech Republic. For her contribution to the propagation of Taiwan Studies in Eastern Europe, the French-Taiwanese Cultural Association awarded her with its Annual Prize in 2012. Her main research interest is to reconstruct the relationships of prestige and power that shaped the activities of Taiwanese writers between 1945 and 1949, on the basis of a comprehensive study of literary journals and supplements. In the future she is planning to expand her research on the creation of symbolic capital to include other areas of post-war cultural activities. She has published a monograph on Bai Xianyong’s short stories, as well as articles on early post-war Taiwan literature.

About the Discussants

Atsuhide Ito is senior lecturer in BA Fine Art at Southampton Solent University and associate lecturer in Foundation Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.  Atsuhide is an artist and dustlogist. Through the methods of social engagement and re-enactments, he blurs the boundary between reality and fiction and questions already established narratives between the past and the present and attempts to alter unfolding narratives of the present.  The most recent work entitled Megan Montgomery in Conversation with Lewis Oppenheimer, while using an interview as an artistic medium, examines nuclearity and political activism.  Currently Atsuhide is taking part in the project The Almshouse Tempera Project in which the transgender and trans-historical interventions are practiced under the theme of precarity,  The article 'Uto-Pianist' was published in the journal Seismopolite in 2013. The most recent conference paper, 'Is an Art School a Military Academy?' was presented in the London Graduate School conference in 2015.

Stuart Thompson was formerly Lecturer in Asian Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He is also a committee member of the LSE Taiwan Culture Research Programme, where he has been the Chair of the London Taiwan Seminar since 2003. He taught a variety of courses, but focused on Chinese culture and society, and devised courses on the anthropology of education. He was also Convener of, and a teacher on, the interdisciplinary MA Contemporary Taiwan course. He has been researching Taiwan since his initial fieldwork in 1980. He specializes in the study of education, cultural literacy, social aspects of food, and death-related rites and representations. He is co-editor of Consuming China (Routledge, 2006), and of Re-Writing Culture in Taiwan (Routledge, 2009).




Tana Dluhosova
Atsuhide Ito
Stuart Thompson