University of Leicester
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New national history and the shaping of Taiwanese identity: representing Taiwan at the National Museum of Taiwan History

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posted on 2016-05-11, 12:19 authored by Shih-Hui Li
Since the 1970s, Taiwan has been gradually moving towards a new transitional stage in which many new paradigms have been established in guiding the future of this island. Firstly, in searching for Taiwanese local cultures and history that were marginalised within the traditional China-centred singular national discourse, Bentuhua or Taiwanisation has become the mainstream intellectual current during the past 40 years. Secondly, due to a rapid and peaceful process of political democratisation, Taiwan has established a contemporary constitutional democratic state in which the national boundaries of the ‘Taiwanese people’ have been expanded in redefining Taiwan as a multicultural, poly-ethnic ‘nation state’ with a pluralistic and inclusive national identity. In the light of ‘reconstructing Taiwan’ – Bentuhua, democratisation, anti-authoritarianism and the rewriting of national history – this thesis takes the newly-built National Museum of Taiwan History (NMTH) as its case study. Viewing the NMTH in the context of a transitional Taiwanese society in which the old paradigms of history-making and national identity are transforming, this thesis analyses the NMTH’s political missions, knowledge-shaping practices, historical representation, public roles and social concerns in order to contribute a comprehensive explanation of how Bentuhua has become the guiding principle for building new national museums in Taiwan and for developing the new public role of Taiwan’s national museums. Combining the external social and internal institutional contexts, this thesis is the first to examine Taiwan’s national museums from the research angle of Bentuhua and Taiwan’s democratisation, which provides a clear picture of new and emerging situations in Taiwan during the past 20 years. In the case of the NMTH, Taiwan’s unique national history and social contexts such as rapid democratisation, negotiation of ethnic relationships and the localisation of national identity are presented. All these new developments of Taiwanese society furnish contemporary Taiwan with a new and significant case study in dealing with the issue of identity politics in national museums.



Knell, Simon; Watson, Sheila

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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