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Democracy on Trial

Social Movements and Cultural Politics in Postauthoritarian Taiwan

By Ya-Chung Chuang

Publication Year: 2013

Democracy on Trial is an attempt to begin to negotiate the problem of writing about and understanding democracy and social movements in Taiwan, and what they can tell us about a place and country that for me is both home and the field, an object of study and yet also an area of hope and engagement. "Democracy on Trial is as impressive for its conceptual sophistication as it is for its ethnographic depth. Chuang’s personal experiences and engagement with the movements he describes and analyzes bring to life the wealth of documentary and ethnographic data. The study should be of interest not just to Taiwan scholars and readers, but also those interested in issues of democracy in China and East Asia, the politics of Taiwan-PRC relations, and social movement scholars and activists." -- Arif Dirlik, Author of Culture and History in Postrevolutionary China: The Perspective of Global Modernity

Published by: Chinese University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x


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pp. x-10

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pp. xi-xiii

During my fieldwork I had working relationships with several organizations such as the Labor Front, the Taipei Women Awakening Association, the Taipei Association for the Promotion of Women’s Rights, the Chilin Education Foundation, the Humanist Education Foundation, ...

Reprint Permission

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pp. xiv-14

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pp. xv-xx

It seemed “natural” in some ways for me to go back to Taipei for my fieldwork on social movements more than a decade ago. For one thing, as a non-Western doctoral student of anthropology in the United States, it was still widely taken for granted that “we” as “anthropologists of color” would return to where we grew up for research ...

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pp. 1-22

Taiwanese democracy hit a wall in 2006, as a perfect storm of a presidential scandal was looming ahead in the seas of public opinions. A chain of exposés from the media implicated President Chen Shui-bian’s aide and family in allegedly unlawful activities such as bribery and insider’s trading. ...

I. State and Civil Society

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pp. 23-24

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1. Democracy’s Dawn: “Quiet Revolution” in a National Crisis

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pp. 25-42

The first three years of the 1990s marked an important moment for democracy to take root and form in Taiwan. In 1990, thousands of college students protested in Taipei, demanding immediate reelections for the Guomindahui (the National Assembly) and Lifayuan (the Legislative Yuan), ...

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2. Democracy in Action: The Making of Social Movement Webs

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pp. 43-70

In May 1997, thousands of demonstrators marched and shouted slogans on the streets of Taipei. The cause of the demonstration was the death of Pai Hsiao-yen, the teenage daughter of a popular talk show hostess. Pai was kidnapped on April 21, and her body was found one week later after a failed ransom delivery and a bungled police rescue attempt. ...

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3. Talking Democracy: From Normalized Political Processes to Politicized Everyday Life

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pp. 71-88

When the exiled generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek vowed to pursue democracy (zhueqiu mingzhu) in his annual national day addresses in Taipei, nobody with a clear mind believed that the promise was serious. At that time, when war seemed ever imminent, democracy was but empty rhetoric, ...

II. Identity and Ethnicity

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pp. 89-90

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4. Reflexive Democracy: Bentu and Its Discontent

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pp. 91-116

This chapter discusses a prime form of identity politics in Taiwan—namely, bentu identity. This identity question in Taiwan responds to changing state power closely intertwined with a rapidly transforming global condition. During the predemocracy era, the politics of bentu represented a search for an indigenous space ...

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5. Democracy as Dream: Ethnicity and the Politics of Recognition

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pp. 117-140

Ethnicity (zuqun) is Janus-faced in Taiwan’s postwar politics. The first face presents an image of love and hate. During the long period of martial law, ethnicity was nonterminology, and its closest similitude, zu, was mentioned only when the great and loving nation needed and summoned its thankful constituent family members. ...

III. Place and Politics

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pp. 141-142

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6. (En)gendering Democracy: Shequ and Urban Neighborhood Organizing

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pp. 143-174

One summer afternoon, June 12, 1995, a college student walked home aft er class, as she did everyday, routinely going through a neighborhood park she had been walking through since she was a child. She was shocked to notice a newly made bulletin board outside the park announcing that a section of it would be demolished to make way for a new road. ...

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7. Walking Democracy: Street Life and Local Politics in a Taipei Neighborhood

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pp. 175-198

Walking was once a nightmare in Taipei. Imagine an office worker rushing to work on foot and in his way there is a monstrous row of motorcycles blocking the sidewalk. Frustrated, he looks around, only realizing that vehicles parked on the roadside prevent all detours. ...

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Epilogue: Democracy Unbound

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pp. 199-208

After all the chapters detailing the effect of democracy on Taiwanese politics, this epilogue seeks to return to an unavoidable question—that is, how this young democracy with its successes and downsides is going to be significant to a possible notion of Chinese democracy in the PRC. ...


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pp. 209-238


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pp. 239-258


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pp. 259-270

E-ISBN-13: 9789629969202
Print-ISBN-13: 9789629965464

Page Count: 292
Illustrations: N
Publication Year: 2013