Home to the (post-)colonial deities: the transforming colonial Shinto shrines in post-colonial Taiwan and the ideological engineering(s) in motion

Wing Man Liza, Kam

- completed -

The project investigates the Shinto shrines constructed by the Japanese colonizers between 1895-1945 in Taiwan. It inspects firstly, the underlying ideas of these colonial-symbolism-embodied-in-religious-space; then it proceeds to examine their physical transformations since Japan lost the Pacific War and left the colony in 1945, hence these shrines’ changing roles played at different stages of ideological engineering implemented by the post-colonial authorities in Taiwan. The project interrogates the changing perceptions as perceived by the current quotidian users of these former colonial spaces. While their current kaleidoscopic usage is easily perceived as carefree adoption of convenient resources or even colonial nostalgia, the project concludes that, such broad range of re-appropriating the ‘colonial infrastructures’ is in fact, a form of enunciation of Taiwanese people’s right and autonomy to cultural discourse—after the Japanese and mainland Chinese had monopolized such right since decades ago.

Inquiring into theoretical works on space, identity and colonialism and aided with site visits, narrative interviews with informants of different age groups and backgrounds, local historians and everyday space users, the project seeks to identify the causal linkage between the shrines’ material/imperceptible existence, their conferred/perceived symbolisms and their material/ symbolic transformations—and to reflect on the notion of decolonization. Through investigating the continual re-appropriation of the colonial Shinto shrines in Taiwan’s unique contemporary setting in geopolitical, societal and cultural terms, the project contributes to enrich the current scholarships on colonialism-- mainly Eurocentric-- and ultimately, to shed light on the genealogy of the emerging nationalistic sentiments in Taiwan. 

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