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Henning Klöter - Negotiating Language from Below

Huang Shihui and Nativist Literature

During Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945), the Japanese government implemented a monolingual language policy aimed at establishing Japanese as the national language of colonial Taiwan and the dominant language ofeducation. Various Taiwanese intellectuals opposed this policy by promoting the Taiwanese local language known as taiwanhua or taiyu ‘from below’, i.e. without the backing of official language planning agencies. Their aim was to establish Taiwanese as an accepted medium of literary composition. One well-known representative of this movement was Huang Shihui (1900-45), the initiator of the so-called nativist literature.

Most previous studies analyze Huang Shihui and other proponents of nativist literature as figures of Taiwan literature history. This perspective, I will argue in my talk, ignores many important aspects of Huang Shihui’s work and overemphasizes his position in literary contexts. As a matter of fact, Huang himself has not written a single literary work of any lasting significance. I claim that a close reading of Huang Shihui’s essays from the perspective of language planning will lead to a more satisfying analysis, capturing various dimensions of his language policy and providing us with a more nuanced understanding of his ideological convictions. I will conclude that Huang’s role as an ideological trailblazer of a distinct Taiwanese cultural identity is overemphasized in previous studies. Instead, dichotomies like “pro-Taiwanese” vs. “pro-Chinese” do not apply to his sociolinguistic agenda.

HENNING KLÖTER, born in 1969, studied Sinology, German Studies and Political Science at the Universities of Trier, Münster in Germany and Leiden in the Netherlands. He received his doctorate from the University of Leiden in 2003, after which he worked at the University of Bochum and the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. In 2010, he earned his post-doctorate at the University of Bochum, where he collaborated on the development of specialised didactic degree programmes among other projects. From April of 2012, he had held a professorship for Chinese in the areas of translation, linguistic and cultural studies at the University of Mainz.

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Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies

Department of East Asian Studies
University of Vienna
AAKH-Campus, Hof 2, Entrance 2.3
Spitalgasse 2
1090 Vienna Austria

Contact: Astrid Lipinsky
T: +43-1-4277-43844
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Lastupdate: 21.03.2015 - 00:36