The body that can(not) represent us: Tian Chi-Yuan’s White Water and modern Taiwanese theatre
ABSTRACT The denial of Taiwan’s status as a nation by international communities has long-served as a catalyst for Taiwanese theatre practitioners’ pursuit of an expressive body that responds to complex national identities. Taking Taiwanese society as the basis for considering the irreducible complexity of postcolonial struggles vis-à-vis the power relations of neoliberal cultural production, in the theoretical framework of this paper, I propose a biopolitical reading of modern Taiwanese theatre. In particular, to reveal the constructedness of the idea of the body, I foreground the embeddedness of theatre in local society and scrutinize the interplay between an imagined body and the theatre through Taiwanese practitioner Tian Chi-Yuan’s (1964-1996) White Water (or Baishui, 1993). Using this work as a case study, I focus on his experiment of intercultural bodily gestures through which the fabrication of national identity is both revealed and questioned. I consider Tian’s practice of integrating cultural traditions expressive of the dynamics of decolonization with the experiment in reconfiguring the local body—a practice that positions the theatre in Taiwan as an experimental and cathartic site for pursuing an epistemological change in identity formation. Thus, the theatre constitutes a performance of a necessary identity-burdened space between history and memory, struggling to renew itself in distinctive contexts.
KEYWORDS: Biopolitics; body; modern theatre; identity; performance
Notes on contributor
Wei-Chih Wang received a PhD in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies from the Pennsylvania State University in the United States in 2016. His research interests include modern Taiwanese theatre, postcolonial studies, and theories of memory, performance, and the body. He is currently an assistant professor of Taiwan Literature at National Tsing Hua University.