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Durham e-Theses
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Popular Music in Taiwan: Language, Social Class and National Identity

HSIN, MEI,FEN (2012) Popular Music in Taiwan: Language, Social Class and National Identity. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This project explores how longstanding conflicts in Taiwanese society have been reflected in the development of popular song in Taiwan in the period of martial law from the late 1940s to the late 1980s, and in the light of the periods of colonisation experienced by the country (i.e. Japanese colonial rule from 1895-1945, and the rule of the Chinese Nationalists from 1945-1987). The research methodology employed is sociological as well as historical and ethnomusicological in orientation.
It is argued that popular song offers a significant focus for two main reasons: (i) it is a shared medium through which ordinary people interpret and make sense of their everyday life experiences; and (ii) it provides a rich resource in terms of the diversity of linguistic usage in the two main language groups in which popular song is produced in Taiwan – Mandarin Chinese and Minnan-Taiwanese, each of which has come to represent conflicting attitudes to social class and national identity. Genres of popular song like the ‘patriotic popular song’, the ‘campus song’, the love song, ‘dialogue’ songs, and songs of migration and separation are examined and interpreted in relation to the larger historical and political context of this period.
The dissertation is organised into two parts. Part I (Chapters One to Three) focuses on how the Chinese Nationalist government propagated a particular version of Chinese cultural hegemony through cultural policies, control of the mass media and the education system, and support for the notion of ‘patriotic popular song’. Part II (Chapters Four and Five) explores the post-war period by examining Taiwanese-language popular song and its musical structures and lyric narratives, together with the starkly contrasting world-view that emerges from these songs.
Through an examination of popular songs and their lyrics in the period of martial law it is shown how the split in Taiwanese society is represented in the songs of these years of change – the move from the countryside to the cities, the role of work, the differing social status of immigrant Chinese and indigenous Taiwanese, and the status of women. What emerges from this study is an awareness that the conflict is not only that between the immigrant Chinese and the indigenous Taiwanese communities, but also the conflict of identity within the Taiwanese Minnan-speaking community itself.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Taiwan, popular song, social class, national ideentity, Chinese, Taiwanese, language
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 Apr 2012 14:19

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