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Táňa Dluhošová - Censorship as Procedure and Practice in the Early Post-war Period Taiwan

After 50 years of Japanese colonial rule, Taiwan was politically reintegrated into China and went through a period of political, administrative, and social readjustment in the early post-war years. The experiences of this period exerted a crucial influence on subsequent historical events and developments. It can be divided into two parts separated by the watershed of the 2.28 Incident of 1947, an uprising against immigrants from the Mainland and the Kuomintang (KMT) government, the suppression of which announced the beginning of the White Terror (1949–87).

In debates about early post-war cultural policies, including policies toward literary production, scholars tend to discuss measures aiming at the sinicization of Taiwanese society and responses from among the Taiwanese population, which are understood as expressions of pervasive opposition to Mainland Chinese cultural features (e.g. Huang Yingzhe 1997, 2002 and Chen 2002). The sinicization policies, however, only lasted up to the time of the 2.28 Incident and were afterwards replaced by different strategies to control cultural production. These new policies have so far failed to attract scholarly attention.

This presentation will explore how state agencies used their various means of exercising power and projecting authority in order to shape the literary production and the literary scene in Taiwan during this unique period, which witnessed the first signs of the looming authoritarianism that was to cast its shadow over the following decades.

Adding to existing scholarship which investigates the consequences of the purges of high-profile intellectuals after the 2.28 Incident (Cai Shengqi 2005, He Yilin 1997), the presentation shall probe deeper into the problem of censorship as a specific way of (1) exercising state control over published contents which challenged the KMT’s ideology as well as (2) a means to limit the freedom of agents in the literary field. I will examine this problem from three complementary perspectives:

1) Legal: What relevant legislation was issued during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) in Republican China, and what were the provincial bylaws from the post-war period which regulated and controlled the publishing industry? The legal framework will show to what extent the newly acquired territory of Taiwan was, from a legal perspective, treated differently from other provinces on the Mainland. This is of great importance, since the secondary literature usually discusses regulations which controlled print media in the period from 1949 to 1960, but rarely considers the early post-war situation (e.g., Lin Guoxian 2014).

2) Institutional: The legal framework provides the necessary background for an analysis of institutions which exercised state control over cultural production. The secondary literature mentions mandatory registrations with the Committee of Propaganda of the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Office in 1946 as a tool to monitor the print media and cultural production in the post-war period. (Cai Shengqi 2005, Xu Yaxiang 2009, Huang Yingzhe 2007) But what other means of control were there? How did censors from the Propaganda Committee operate during their assignments to the editorial offices of the main newspapers? What did they report to, and how did they communicate with their superiors? According to which norms did they attempt to shape published contents? These questions will be answered by a close inspection of archival materials held by the Academia Historica (Guoshi guan). In addition, the presentation will shed light on how control mechanisms were altered after the 2.28 Incident as a result of changes in the government structure, a process so far not discussed in the secondary scholarship at all.

In sum, this presentation will outline specific systems for exercising power in the cultural realm of the early post-war period with the aim to limit the range of ideas that could be publicly voiced. The presentation introduces state strategies to control the media and literary production, which were the basis for more severe restrictions imposed by the authoritarian state after 1949. It also explores counterstrategies devised by actors in the literary field in response to attempts at state control.

Perhaps even more importantly, the presentation pursues multiple angles, innovatively combining legal and institutional perspectives with individual experiences, thus contributing to broader discussions on censorship in different societies and times (as, e.g., in Darnton 2014).

Táňa Dluhošová, specializes in early post-war Taiwanese culture and literature. After several years of working for the CCK Centre in Prague and teaching in Brno, Dluhošová finished up her PhD dissertation about  the post-war literary field in Taiwan. Her main 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.



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Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies

Department of East Asian Studies
University of Vienna
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1090 Vienna Austria

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