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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
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London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Voices from Two Theatrical Others: labour issues in the theatres of Ireland and Taiwan

With Dr Wei-Hung Kao (National Taiwan University)

Series:  Regional Comparison: Taiwan and Ireland in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 8 July 2010, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Reverend John Scott (LSE and University of Birmingham)


Ireland and Taiwan as two island nations have always been comparable, due to similarities such as their political and economic relationship with their respective mainlands. The former is proud of being a "Celtic Tiger", while the latter is a member of the "Four Little Dragons" of Asia, along with Korea, Singapore, and Japan. In both Ireland and Taiwan, rapid economic growth has owed a great deal to the contribution of the working class, although the voices of this social stratum often remain silent or ignored by a mass media more more interested in dramatic global and national issues. How these lower-status people identify themselves politically and culturally, including the role of ethnic conflicts and the need to heal historical scars, has therefore suffered much neglect. Under the influence of globalisation and trans-national capitalism, it can be argued that the working class, as a social Other, is still, or even more, exploited and marginalised by large-scale enterprises, despite the fact that within their own spheres, blue-collar workers in both Ireland and Taiwan share kinship derived from their subjugation by economic powers.

This paper will therefore discuss contemporary Irish plays that address labour issues, in an attempt to show how playwrights such as Fred Ryan, Sean O'Casey, Brendan Behan, John Arden, Margaretta D'Arcy, and Frank McGuinness, have, since the 1980s, used theatre as a medium to counteract the domination of these exploitative Powers. It will then compare these playwrights with Taiwanese counterparts such as Jian Guo-xian (簡國賢), Song Fei-wo (宋非我), Peng Ya-ling (彭雅玲), and Chung Chiao (鍾喬). These writers all deal with power struggles not only between the classes but within minority communities. They have concerned themselves with those at the very bottom of society, those who are most easily manipulated, least able to resist exploitation, and who suffer from the most difficult and intractable human predicaments.

About the Speaker

Dr Wei-Hung Kao  received his doctorate on postcolonial studies from University of Kent in 2003, and currently lectures at National Taiwan University. His articles on Irish writers have appeared in many distinguished journals and books, including Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, Journal of Beckett Studies, Studies: an Irish quarterly Review, Journal of Theater Studies, Journal of Irish Studies, Fu-Jen Studies, Essays on Modern Irish Literature (2007), Iris Murdoch and Moral Imaginations (2010), Irish Women at War (2010), amongst others. His monograph The Formation of an Irish Literary Canon in the Mid- Twentieth Century (2007), which is based upon his doctoral thesis, was published by Ibidem-Verlag Press. He is completing a new book on the intertextuality of Irish writers within their own native country and with those across national boarder. The paper he will present is part of this project. He is writing on the Irish adaptations of Anton Chekhov's dramas in Anglo-Irish settings.