Heritage and the Politics of Culture
The proposed panel explores how the European cultural heritages are related to the local identity formation in Asian societies by examining the cases in both Taiwan and Vietnam. The first two presenters look at the introduction of the Latin or Roman script brought by the European missionaries into Vietnam and Taiwan for the local vernacular written systems. Vietnam finally adopted the Roman script as the “national language script” (Chu Quoc ngu) after independence, abandoning the logographic writing system (Chu Nom) which had been widely used since the 15th century by Vietnam’s cultured elite, including women, for popular works. In the case of Taiwan, the use of Roman script was largely confined to the Christian community, mainly the Presbyterian Church, even though in both Vietnam and Taiwan the Roman script once served as a tool for cultural enlightenment. In the recent past few decades, the Roman phonetic script in Taiwan has been appropriated into a cultural symbol of Taiwanese political movement, especially as a cultural symbol for the political struggle against the dominant Chinese Nationalists, who insist on the superiority and exclusive usage of Chinese ideograms on the island after the end of World War Two. The third presenter focuses on the local appropriation and interpretation of Dutch cultural heritages in Taiwan by looking at the naming of places, landscapes and the popular deity in the context of post-Cold War era, especially after the lifting of martial law in 1987. Special attention is given to how the local communities struggle to construct their own identity based on their understanding of the past, especially the Dutch episode in local areas.