China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Studies of language and nationalism in China have made remarkable strides in the past decade, moving beyond the utopian hopes of the language-planning literature that peaked in the 1970s and the standardization-as-oppression narratives that followed in the 1980s. Recent scholarship has shown how national standard languages are not simply chosen, but rather made and remade by the people who use them. Created for one set of purposes, a national language passes from its creators to its inheritors, ultimately becoming something altogether different. Drawing from socio-historical, literary, and linguistic anthropological viewpoints, this panel examines developments in republican China and postwar Taiwan. We show how identity-formation, notions of national development, and strategies of cultural production transformed Mandarin from a nationalist project of standardization to a linguistic tool that can be incorporated in diverse ways into the cultural repertoire of its ever-increasing number of speakers. From a socio-historically-informed perspective, Jeffrey Weng examines ideologies linking literacy to national strength that drove the propagation of Mandarin in both KMT- and CCP-controlled regions the 1930s. Adopting a meso-level linguistic anthropological analysis, Spencer Chen explores the voice-acting industry in postwar Taiwan to unpack the complex ‘pulls’ of language standardization between the state and cultural industries. Taking a micro-level approach, Hiroko Matsuzaki discusses the teaching of Taiwanese literature in high schools amid the KMT's Mandarin-promotion and Japanese-suppression efforts in pre- and post-democratization Taiwan, while Carl Kubler investigates the practical dimensions of teaching language and fostering national identitification among children in Communist-controlled areas of wartime China in the 1940s.