From Nation to Dissemi-Nation:
Postmodern Hybridization and Changing
Conditions for the Representation
of Identity
The portrait of Taiwan that ultimately emerges from Hou Hsiao-hsi
films departs significantly from earlier, more conventional formulat
of the island’s nationhood—both from the kmt government’s his
cal attempts to integrate Taiwan into a larger Chinese nation and f
the nostalgic rural vision of the island imagined by Hwang Chun-m
and his fellow hsiang-t’u writers of the 1970s. Indeed, it would be
ficult, if not impossible, to trace in Hou’s films the outlines of Tai
as an organic, unified, and stable entity whose cultural parameters
readily definable. Instead, they paint a picture of the island as an incr
ingly complex and hybrid social space, an ever-changing formation
is continually being shaped and reshaped by the multiple languages,
tures, social classes, and value systems with which it comes into con
Unlike his hsiang-t’u predecessors, Hou’s constructions of a Taiwa
imagined community go beyond merely offering a nativist narrativ
nation to counterbalance the Kuomintang’s rhetoric of Chinese ho
geneity and coherence. Rather, they question the very possibility of
tinuing to define a native or authentic Taiwanese cultural identity aga
a foreign other, whether that be the Japanese, mainland Chinese, or w
erners. By simultaneously evoking and undermining the polar binari
of classical nationalism, Hou challenges the essentialist rhetoric
braced by the earlier nativism of hsiang-t’u literature—a strategic rea
ment that moves Taiwan toward a more flexible and meaningful posi
in the arena of global culture by recognizing that today’s world of m
dimensional and multidirectional cultural flows demands acknowl
ment of the myriad differences found within societies—and even wi
individuals—rather than just between them. His films foreground
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